Domestic workers and retirement

Donna Willan Latest, Money cents

Domestic workers and retirement

Our domestic worker is 63 years old and has high blood pressure, so cleaning our house has become too much for her these days. She has shifted to semi-retirement and will stay on one day a week for as long as she can. As she and I started these discussions, I began to realise how tough her situation is.

She has worked as a domestic worker all her life, and once she completely retires she will be expected to live on R1 890 a month state grant. I think we all agree that this is not enough money. She only has one child still alive, he has no work, and she has many grandchildren that she is now responsible for.

She has worked as our domestic worker for eight years, and has been an amazing source of love in our home and kept our house clean.

One option of course is for me to continue paying her a monthly allowance/ pension into her old age or offer her a very large retirement pay-out that she can invest, my household won’t be able to afford this.

The bottom line is that I should have supported her to invest some of her salary every month. If she started when she first become our domestic worker, she would now have eight years of investment to support her. Sure, it wouldn’t be a huge amount, but it certainly would be more than what she has now.

So, looking forward, what could we all do differently? We have employed a new domestic worker two days a week, she is in her mid-forties, the breadwinner for her children, siblings and her mother. What is the best advice I can give her to ensure she is in a different position in 20 years time?

She already has a small amount of savings in a 32-day account, so we agreed that I will pay 5% of her salary straight into that every month – its small but it has 20 years to grow. But… what more could I suggest to her? She is a domestic worker, does not earn much, and has many responsibilities, so we have to work with what is realistic for her.

I have two other initial ideas: firstly, every time I give her an annual increase I will suggest that some of the increase goes into her savings; secondly, I will suggest she invests her money differently as 32-day accounts are good for short term, but not long term. What is a realistic option for her? Where does a working-class person invest a small amount every month for retirement? I don’t know, I need to find out. I’ll get back to you on this in a few months.

In my next column, I am going to share my top tips to ensure Christmas dos not bankrupt us – and yes, we do need to start thinking about it already!


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