Two-Pot or Not Two-Pot

As life expectancy rises and the quality of life improves, South Africans face the pressing need to ensure financial security post-retirement. The Two-Pot System is designed to improve retirement outcomes by ensuring long-term savings are preserved while providing access to funds for short-term needs.

The Reality of Retirement Readiness
As we now live longer, it’s essential for employees to plan as if they’re going to live to 100. Insights gathered from our extensive experience in the industry indicate that maintaining your lifestyle after retirement requires significant financial preparation. Experts suggest having at least 15 times your annual salary as a safe cushion to ensure a comfortable retirement. Even among those who have formally planned for retirement, there is a prevailing lack of confidence in their ability to support themselves long-term, particularly in light of inflationary pressures and the current economic climate.

Overcoming the Temptation to Withdraw
As part of the Two-Pot System, members will be able to withdraw cash from their savings pot once every tax year (called a Savings Withdrawal Benefit). And while having access to a portion of retirement savings is helpful in emergencies, it’s important that employees aren’t tempted to treat their retirement funds as a transactional account. But even if they do, NMG Benefits believes the new system could still benefit members in the long run as it will prevent them from having to take out expensive short-term loans. And, at the same time, being forced to preserve two-thirds of their funds over the long-term (and not cashing in when they change employers) will improve retirement outcomes. This approach encourages better financial planning and promotes long-term financial stability.

Empowering Members with Knowledge
This is the biggest change that the industry has seen in decades, so NMG Benefits believes that the Two-Pot System requires proactive member education and personalised guidance. Especially because fund members will be in the driving seat for all Savings Withdrawal Benefit decisions, as well as the movement of funds between pots. Therefore, members need to understand the core changes to the system, a simple way to interact with their pots to see how much money is in there, and the ability to make an informed decision about what to do with it. They also need to be guided through the withdrawal process so they know whether they qualify for the withdrawal and what to expect next.

Before making the decision to withdraw, it's crucial for members to be well-informed or consult with an expert who specialises in retirement planning. This ensures that they will have the correct amount of money saved when they retire and that their resources will be handled in a safe and predictable way.

Innovating Financial Education with SmartAlec
NMG Benefits has been using WhatsApp to educate members about financial literacy for the last 3 years. Our financial education chatbot, called NMG SmartAlec, helps members understand over 100 important financial concepts that are needed to make informed financial decisions. It is available in 4 South African languages, and uses a wide range of local stories and gamification techniques to drive engagement and progress through the content. Our clients appreciate the measurability of impact, and the ability to empower staff working in remote locations as the digital learning experience only requires a small amount of data and a WhatsApp application.

Our Two-Pot Innovations Put Members in the Driver Seat
Using our experience with SmartAlec over the past 3 years, we have built a personalised, guided experience over WhatsApp to support members with their Savings Withdrawal Benefit decision and enable them to initiate the transaction digitally and in real-time.

It includes multi-factor ID verification, structured education using bite-size explanations and examples, the ability to see their pot balances, an opportunity to check whether they would qualify for the withdrawal given all the rules and deductions, as well as a guided withdrawal experience where their expectations are managed regarding timelines, fees, taxes, and long-term implications.

Better Outcomes for All
Our goal is to empower members and increase their satisfaction while relieving the burden on HR personnel and administrators who will be managing an influx of queries, confusion, concerns, and complaints. By providing a streamlined and user-friendly channel, HR and administrators can focus on more strategic tasks, knowing that members have the tools and knowledge they need to make informed decisions about their retirement savings.

T&Cs apply. NMG Consultants and Actuaries (Pty) LTD is an authorised financial services provider FSP 12968

Why an independent financial planner matters?

In today's increasingly complex financial landscape, individuals need more than just basic savings accounts and insurance policies. To navigate this intricate environment and achieve their financial goals, people require comprehensive, unbiased advice. This level of guidance can only come from an Independent Financial Planner (IFP) who can help create a holistic financial plan tailored to each individual's unique needs and circumstances.

Unbiased advice vs. product sales

Understanding the distinction between a 'tied agent' and an IFP is crucial. A tied agent, affiliated with a specific company, can only sell that company's products and cannot charge for advice. Their primary goal is to sell products from their employer, often leading to a conflict of interest. In contrast, an IFP operates independently and can offer advice on a fee basis without being obligated to sell any product to earn an income. This independence allows IFPs to prioritise their clients' best interests over sales targets.

Imagine visiting a doctor who is paid based on the medication they prescribe rather than the accuracy of their diagnosis. You would likely receive a lot of unnecessary prescriptions. Similarly, a tied agent might push products that earn them a commission, while an IFP would focus on diagnosing your financial needs and providing unbiased advice. For instance, if you are concerned about saving for retirement but have a high level of interest-bearing debt, an IFP would advise paying off the debt before investing in a retirement plan, even if it means earning less commission in the short term. This unbiased approach ensures that clients receive advice that truly benefits their financial health.

However, when the time is right to discuss investment products, IFPs are not limited to selling the products of a single company. They have the flexibility to mix and match products from various providers to create a financial plan tailored to individual needs. This flexibility allows IFPs to design a more diversified and effective investment strategy. Additionally, IFPs can manage existing investments without incurring unnecessary costs or tax penalties, further enhancing their clients' financial wellbeing.

What is the difference Between an IFP and a CFP®?

An independent financial planning (IFP) offers a holistic view of an individual’s financial situation, often acting as the conductor of the financial orchestra. They coordinate with accountants, attorneys, bankers, and even risk and audit resources to ensure that all aspects of their clients' finances are in harmony. Certified Financial Planners (CFP®s) take this expertise a step further. They have pursued advanced studies and qualified as professionals through a rigorous Board Examination process, similar to that of a Chartered Accountant. This qualification enables CFP®s to handle complex estate planning, retirement planning, investment strategy, and intricate tax matters, both domestically and offshore.

This integrated approach is especially valuable for individuals who need to balance personal tax planning, investment strategies, and estate planning. By partnering with CFP®s, individuals can ensure that their financial goals, whether building multi-generational wealth or securing a comfortable retirement, are achieved. The expertise of CFP®s ensures that all elements of a financial plan are optimally aligned to serve the client's best interests.

What to look for when partnering with an independent financial planner?

When seeking a CFP®, the Financial Planning Institute (FPI) website is a good place to start. The FPI maintains a database of qualified IFPs and CFP®s and ensures that these professionals obtain the requisite 35 continuing professional development (CPD) points every year. In contrast, agents need just 18 CPD points. This ongoing education ensures that IFPs and CFP®s stay current with the latest financial strategies and regulatory changes, providing their clients with the most up-to-date advice.

An IFP should also be able to demonstrate two critical aspects: succession planning and professional indemnity (PI) cover. Succession planning means that in the event an individual IFP with whom a client has a relationship passes away or retires, there is a plan in place to ensure the client’s matters are continuously managed. This continuity is vital for maintaining the stability and consistency of the client’s financial planning.

Professional indemnity (PI) cover is a type of insurance that protects policyholders, in this case, the IFPs, and by extension, their clients, if they are found liable for losing their clients’ money through professional negligence or omissions. This cover provides an additional layer of security, ensuring that clients are protected even in the rare event of professional errors.

Independent financial planners tangibly benefit your financial health

NMG Benefits recently helped an individual save significantly in taxes by restructuring her financial setup. These changes were crucial for her financial stability during the COVID pandemic. She confirmed that without these changes, she would have faced significant financial loss. This example underscores the tangible benefits that an IFP can provide.

Similarly, partnering with an IFP like those at NMG Benefits, who provide unbiased, comprehensive financial advice that goes beyond mere product sales, can help you achieve your personal financial goals. Whether you are planning for retirement, saving for your child's education, or looking to invest wisely, an IFP can offer tailored advice and strategies that align with your unique financial situation and aspirations.

In conclusion, the value of an independent financial planner cannot be overstated. Their unbiased, comprehensive approach ensures that individuals receive advice and strategies that are truly in their best interests. By partnering with an IFP, you can navigate the complexities of the financial landscape with confidence, knowing that your financial future is in capable and trustworthy hands.

T&Cs apply. NMG Consultants and Actuaries (Pty) LTD is an authorised financial services provider FSP 12968

The impact of the NHI on companies

The signing of the National Health Insurance (NHI) Bill in South Africa marks a significant shift in the country's healthcare landscape, with notable implications for companies and employers. The NHI aims to provide universal health coverage, ensuring that all South Africans have access to healthcare services regardless of their socio-economic status. 

Legal and administrative challenges

The NHI is expected to face several legal and administrative hurdles that could delay its full implementation. Potential constitutional challenges and disputes over the specifics of the law and its rollout are anticipated. These legal battles could prolong the transition period, making it even more critical for companies to keep existing employee benefits intact to protect against gaps in coverage and ensure continuous healthcare provision for their workforce.

Complexity and scale

Implementing a universal healthcare system in a country as large and diverse as South Africa involves overcoming numerous logistical and operational challenges. Integrating various health information systems, ensuring all stakeholders are on board, and adequately informing the public about the changes are significant tasks. The complexity and scale of this undertaking means that the NHI’s full implementation will likely take years, further emphasising the need for businesses to maintain current benefits and prepare for a drawn-out transition.

Advising against cancelling employee benefits

Maintaining current benefits during the NHI rollout is crucial for several reasons. Firstly, until the NHI is fully operational, private medical aid schemes will continue to function as they currently do. Employers and employees should maintain these benefits to ensure continued access to quality healthcare services. Secondly, even after the NHI is fully implemented, there may be gaps in coverage. Private medical schemes will still play a role in covering services not included in the NHI package, making it essential for comprehensive healthcare coverage.

The uncertain timeline for the NHI’s full implementation adds another layer of complexity. Given the potential legal delays and the phased rollout approach, maintaining current benefits ensures that employees are protected. This stability is crucial for employee wellbeing and productivity.

Impact on private medical schemes

The introduction of the NHI will redefine the role of private medical schemes. Once fully implemented, private medical schemes will be restricted to covering services not included in the NHI, shifting from being the primary source of healthcare funding to providing complementary coverage. This change is expected to reduce the customer base for private insurers, potentially impacting their revenue and business models.

However, private medical aids will remain relevant by offering coverage for specialised services and higher-tier healthcare options that may not be available through the NHI. This niche role could still attract a segment of the population seeking additional coverage, ensuring that private medical aids continue to play a vital role in the healthcare landscape.

Implications for companies

The transition to the NHI will require companies to make several administrative adjustments. Employers will need to update payroll systems to accommodate mandatory contributions to the NHI, which could increase administrative costs. Additionally, businesses will need to reassess their employee benefits packages to determine which benefits are still necessary and valuable under the new system.

Financial impact on companies

One of the primary concerns for companies is the financial impact of funding the NHI. The NHI will be financed through general taxation, contributions from individuals earning above a certain threshold, and mandatory monthly contributions from employees, which will be deducted from salaries similarly to the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF)​​. This means that companies will need to adjust payroll systems to accommodate these new deductions and may face increased administrative costs.

Impact on employee benefits

For employers, especially those who offer private medical scheme cover as part of their employee benefits, there will be significant changes. Currently, medical schemes operate independently, but once the NHI is fully implemented, these schemes will be limited to covering only those services not included in the NHI package. This transition will require employers to reassess their benefits packages and possibly renegotiate terms with private health insurers to align with the new healthcare framework.

Compliance and administrative burden

Companies will also need to navigate the complexities of compliance with the new law. This involves understanding which employees are affected, ensuring proper deductions are made, and keeping abreast of any updates or changes to the implementation timeline and coverage specifics. The gradual rollout and potential legal challenges suggest that there will be ongoing adjustments required over the coming years​.

Impact on healthcare costs

The NHI aims to address the disparities between the public and private healthcare sectors by reimagining resource allocation and ensuring more equitable access to healthcare services​​. For companies, this could mean a shift in how healthcare costs are managed. While the intention is to make healthcare more affordable and efficient, the actual impact on costs will depend on the effectiveness of the NHI's implementation and the resolution of any funding challenges.

Potential benefits and challenges

From a broader perspective, the NHI could lead to a healthier workforce, which in turn could enhance productivity and reduce absenteeism due to health-related issues. However, the uncertainty surrounding the NHI's full implementation, the potential for legal disputes, and the lack of a detailed funding plan pose significant challenges​​.

Strategic considerations for companies

Companies should begin by conducting impact assessments to understand how the NHI will affect their operations and employee benefits. Engaging with legal and financial advisors to navigate the new requirements and staying informed about legislative updates will be crucial. Additionally, companies might need to invest in employee education programmes to help their workforce understand the changes and the benefits of the NHI.

While the NHI represents a significant step towards universal healthcare in South Africa, its impact on companies will be multifaceted, involving financial, administrative, and strategic considerations. Employers will need to prepare for these changes proactively to ensure a smooth transition and to leverage any potential benefits that a healthier, more equitable healthcare system might bring.

T&Cs apply. NMG Consultants and Actuaries (Pty) LTD is an authorised financial services provider FSP 12968

Why you need to plan for a longer retirement

As life expectancy rises and quality of life improves, South Africans are facing the pressing need to ensure financial security post-retirement. Insights gathered from our extensive experience in the industry indicate that maintaining your lifestyle after retirement requires significant financial preparation. Experts suggest having at least 15 times your annual salary as a safe cushion to ensure a comfortable retirement.

However, our observations show that the majority of South Africans have not formally planned for retirement. Even among those who have, there is a prevailing lack of confidence in their ability to support themselves long-term, particularly in light of inflationary pressures and the current economic climate.

Janice Masencamp, Head of Retirement Fund Consulting at NMG Benefits, says that while there’s no mandatory retirement age in South Africa, retirement age is often written into employment contracts, and employees need permission from their employers to keep working beyond that age to be able to sustain their lives and those of their dependents.

“By working for only four extra years, post-retirement income can increase by about 10%. By working for an additional 10 years, this income can almost double,” says Masencamp.

Studies suggest people who work longer retain higher levels of energy and mental awareness and retain a continued sense of purpose and belonging. However, for most ‘unretirees’, the biggest advantage of staying in the workforce is the ability to generate additional income and having more years to save towards retirement.

Now, that we live for longer, we’re getting to a point where we should start planning as if we’re going to live to 100. This will impact the way we do financial planning. And those who don’t have enough retirement savings will keep working until they’re no longer able to,” says Masencamp. South Africans need to start actively planning for retirement as early as possible. This includes speaking to a financial planner, to help navigate the numerous options for investing your retirement income based on your personal needs, especially with the implementation of the two-pot system. “A planner will help you understand your various options and alternatives when it comes to deciding to withdraw or not, and what the ramifications of those decisions will be.”

T&Cs apply. NMG Consultants and Actuaries (Pty) LTD is an authorised financial services provider FSP 12968

Don't let healthcare costs derail your retirement: Plan ahead with SmartAid

Retirement is meant to be a time of rest after years of hard work, but one of the most significant expenses retirees face is healthcare. The rising cost of healthcare can derail retirement plans, especially in the event of a major health issue requiring ongoing treatment. Just SA’s survey revealed alarming statistics:

These figures suggest that many South Africans have not accounted for healthcare costs in their retirement planning. These statistics prove without a doubt that not only are the majority of South Africans leaving retirement planning until it is too late – if they even plan at all – the rising cost of healthcare is not included in their considerations.

Fact: Healthcare costs rise with age and are often underestimated

Many people don’t realise that medical aids don’t always cover assistive devices and other necessary aids. Statistics SA estimates that:

Fact: Healthcare inflation outpaces general inflation

Healthcare costs tend to rise faster than general inflation, putting additional financial strain on retirees. Without proactive planning, these rising costs can quickly erode retirement savings, making it challenging to maintain a comfortable and healthy lifestyle in retirement.

Plan ahead with SmartAid

To address the critical need for healthcare planning in retirement, try the NMG SmartAid calculator, which helps you save for your medical aid contributions after you retire.

Alternatively, enquire about SmartAid, which allows a member or employee to invest in a retirement annuity separately from their pension or provident fund for an enhanced quality of life in retirement. It includes an assessment of each member’s circumstances to determine if they are on track to meet their specific needs, along with an annual personalised statement reflecting their status.

Plan for your healthcare costs today

Your healthcare costs in retirement depend on three main factors: your health status, your medical scheme plan option, and when you start saving. Taking control of these factors now can significantly impact your future financial security:

When you start saving: the earlier you start, the less you need to save monthly. Tax-efficient saving options like tax-free savings accounts or retirement annuity funds can boost your retirement savings.

T&Cs apply. NMG Consultants and Actuaries (Pty) LTD is an authorised financial services provider FSP 12968

The NHI Bill has been signed, what now?

On 15 May 2024, President Cyril Ramaphosa signed the National Health Insurance (NHI) Bill into law. 

NMG supports the goal of expanding universal healthcare for all South African citizens. The National Health Insurance Bill in its current format is probably not achievable and will face many legal challenges. The risk of lengthy court battles is real, this will inadvertently prolong the uncertainty and affect the timely implementation of essential healthcare reforms. 

No impact on medical schemes for the near future 

The implementation of the NHI will be a lengthy process. The private healthcare system will carry on operating in its current format until the NHI is fully implemented. As per section 33 of the Bill, only once the Bill is fully implemented will medical schemes and other healthcare insurance providers be able to offer supplementary cover, which could take 10 to 15 years. 

The way forward

Our advice during this time is clear: maintaining your medical scheme or medical insurance product is crucial. Cancelling could leave you, or your employees, vulnerable without cover, relying solely on state facilities or having to self-fund medical expenses. Public and NHI facilities will require time to deliver services at levels that members may be accustomed to. Upholding these funding mechanisms is wise given the potential for future changes – so if you’re undecided as to whether to join a Medical Aid or medical insurance plan, our advice is to do so. There’s no downside, and you’ll at least have good funding for your healthcare needs in the meantime.

T&Cs apply. NMG Consultants and Actuaries (Pty) LTD is an authorised financial services provider FSP 12968

The evolution of DNA associated benefits in South African medical schemes

In recent years, South African medical schemes have witnessed a significant evolution in their approach towards incorporating DNA-associated benefits into their offerings. This transformation is propelled by advancements in genetic science, which have unlocked opportunities for personalised healthcare, disease prevention, and enhanced risk management. Here, we delve into the burgeoning landscape of DNA-associated benefits within South African medical schemes, exploring the opportunities, challenges, and implications for healthcare stakeholders.

Since the introduction of DNA benefits in 2023, many South African medical schemes have also introduced their own DNA benefits into their schemes. DNA-associated benefits in South African medical schemes pave the way for personalised medicine, where treatment strategies are tailored to individual genetic profiles. Through genetic testing, medical schemes can identify genetic variations that influence drug metabolism, disease susceptibility, and treatment response. This knowledge enables healthcare providers to prescribe medications more effectively, minimising adverse reactions and optimising therapeutic outcomes. For instance, pharmacogenomic testing can inform the selection and dosing of medications for conditions like depression, cardiovascular diseases, and cancer, leading to improved patient outcomes and reduced healthcare costs in the long run.

Genetic testing empowers individuals to assess their genetic predispositions to certain diseases and take proactive measures to mitigate risks. In South African medical schemes, members can access DNA-associated benefits to undergo genetic risk assessments for conditions such as hereditary cancers, cardiovascular diseases, and neurodegenerative disorders. Armed with this knowledge, individuals can adopt targeted preventive strategies, including lifestyle modifications, regular screenings, and early interventions, to reduce their disease burden and improve overall health outcomes. Moreover, medical schemes may incentivise members to participate in genetic counselling programs, equipping them with the necessary information and support to make informed decisions about their health.

The integration of DNA-associated benefits in South African medical schemes extends beyond individual health to encompass familial health management and genetic counselling services. Genetic testing can unveil hereditary predispositions to certain diseases, enabling families to identify at-risk individuals and implement tailored prevention strategies. Medical schemes may offer genetic counselling services to members and their families, facilitating informed discussions about genetic testing, inheritance patterns, and risk management options. This holistic approach to healthcare empowers families to navigate complex genetic information, make proactive health decisions, and optimise their collective wellbeing.

DNA-associated benefits in South African medical schemes support the adoption of precision diagnostics and targeted therapies, revolutionising disease management paradigms. Genetic testing facilitates the identification of molecular signatures associated with specific diseases, enabling healthcare providers to diagnose conditions accurately and tailor treatment regimens accordingly. For instance, in oncology, molecular profiling of tumours can guide the selection of targeted therapies and immunotherapies, improving treatment efficacy and patient survival rates. By integrating DNA-associated benefits into diagnostic and therapeutic protocols, medical schemes enhance the quality of care, reduce treatment-related complications, and foster better health outcomes for their members.

South African medical schemes play a pivotal role in fostering research and innovation collaboration in the field of genetics and genomics. By partnering with academic institutions, research organisations, and biotechnology companies, medical schemes can support groundbreaking research initiatives aimed at elucidating the genetic underpinnings of diseases, developing novel diagnostic tools, and advancing precision medicine interventions. Through strategic investments in research infrastructure and data sharing initiatives, medical schemes contribute to the generation of real-world evidence, driving evidence-based decision-making and continuous improvement in healthcare delivery.

While the integration of DNA-associated benefits presents transformative opportunities for healthcare, it also raises ethical and regulatory considerations that warrant careful attention. South African medical schemes must uphold principles of patient autonomy, confidentiality, and non-discrimination in the collection, storage, and use of genetic data. Compliance with existing data protection regulations, such as the Protection of Personal Information Act (POPIA), is essential to safeguard patient privacy and ensure the responsible handling of genetic information. Moreover, medical schemes must navigate complex ethical dilemmas related to genetic testing, including informed consent, genetic counselling, and the equitable distribution of benefits across diverse population groups.

DNA-associated benefits are reshaping the landscape of healthcare within South African medical schemes, unlocking unprecedented opportunities for personalised medicine, disease prevention, and precision healthcare delivery. By embracing genetic science and innovation, medical schemes can empower individuals to make informed health decisions, optimise treatment outcomes, and enhance overall wellbeing. However, navigating ethical, regulatory, and implementation challenges remains imperative to ensure the responsible and equitable integration of DNA-associated benefits into healthcare systems.

T&Cs apply. NMG Consultants and Actuaries (Pty) LTD is an authorised financial services provider FSP 12968

Economic Market Report - March 2024

South African financial markets are facing ongoing pressure, with signs indicating a move towards stagflation. Economic growth is nearly stagnant, flirting with recession, while inflation remains persistently high. This trend mirrors global patterns, where inflation levels are higher than anticipated, leading developed nations to maintain their nominal interest rates. The US Federal Reserve plans to keep its bank rate steady through March and May, with changes likely later in the year.

Global Economic Prospects forecasts slower growth for most economies in 2024 and 2025 compared to pre-COVID-19 levels. Growth is expected to reach 2.4 percent in 2024, rising slightly to 2.7 percent in 2025, significantly below the 3.1 percent average of the 2010s. Per-capita investment growth is forecasted at just 3.7 percent for 2023 and 2024, less than half the average of the previous two decades. Without intervention, global growth will likely remain below its potential throughout the rest of the 2020s.

South Africa

South Africa's economic growth outlook for 2024 and 2025 remains bleak, with low prospects. According to STATSSA's recent release of 2023 economic growth data, the quarter-on-quarter growth rate in Q4 2023 increased by 0.1%, contrasting with the previous quarter's 0.2% decline and falling short of the expected 0.3% growth. Six out of ten industries contributed to this growth, led by a 2.9% expansion in the transport sector. Mining activity rebounded by 2.4%, compared to a -1% decline in Q3, and manufacturing showed a slight improvement of 0.2%, partly due to reduced power cuts. However, agriculture (-9.7%) and trade (-2.9%) suffered significant declines. Overall, South Africa's economy expanded by only 0.6% in 2023, a notable drop from the 1.9% growth seen in the previous year.

Figure 1: South Africa’s economic growth rate remains under pressure.

In December 2023, retail trade in South Africa rose by 2.7% compared to the same period the previous year, surpassing market expectations of a 0.7% decline, and following a revised 1% decrease in the prior month. Meanwhile, manufacturing production saw a year-on-year increase of 0.7% in December, marking the slowest growth in three months, compared to a revised 2.5% rise in November, which was in line with forecasts.


The US economy began 2024 on a strong note, with positive trends in business activity, job markets, sentiment, and inflation. Despite challenges like rising consumer debt and higher interest rates, GDP growth for Q4 surpassed expectations at 3.3%, the highest among G7 nations. Although interest rates remain elevated, a recession doesn't seem imminent. GDP growth is forecasted to hover around 2.0% until 2028.

Inflation in January 2024 slightly dipped to 3.1%, slightly higher than anticipated, with core inflation holding steady at 3.9%, defying expectations of a decrease. Though inflation is moderating, it hasn't yet hit the target level. Federal Reserve officials may consider tightening monetary policy further to achieve this. Meanwhile, unemployment held steady at 3.7%, with over 300,000 new jobs added in January.

Europe and the UK

In Europe, GDP growth is predicted to improve to 1.3% in 2024, which is still below its potential. This forecast marks a slight downward revision of 0.1 percentage point from previous estimates. It's anticipated to pick up further momentum, reaching 1.7% in 2025. For the euro area, GDP growth is expected to be slightly lower, at 1.2% in 2024 and 1.6% in 2025. In the UK, annual average growth of 1.9% is projected between 2024 and 2027, driven by lower inflation, a robust labour market, and the possibility of interest rate cuts, laying the groundwork for a return to historical growth levels.

Regarding inflation, headline CPI is forecasted to reach the European Central Bank's (ECB) and the Bank of England's 2% target during the year, though some volatility is expected. With GDP growth expected to remain stagnant, both the ECB and BoE are anticipated to cut interest rates starting from the second quarter of 2024, with each expected to reduce rates by 75 basis points, bringing them to 3.0% and 3.75%, respectively.

Emerging Markets (EM)

Global Economic Prospects predicts that growth in Emerging Market and Developing Economies (EMDEs) will hold steady at around 3.9% annually for the next three years. Although there will be a slowdown in China, other regions are expected to see improved domestic demand due to increased international trade. However, the recovery from the pandemic-induced recession of 2020 is anticipated to be sluggish compared to previous economic crises. In East Asia and the Pacific (EAP), economic activity is expected to decline due to issues in China's property sector and other structural challenges. Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) will see only a slight growth increase, while the Middle East and North Africa (MNA) and Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) are poised for stronger growth, particularly due to recoveries in oil-exporting nations.

T&Cs apply. NMG Financial Planning (Pty) Ltd (Co Reg No. 1999/002506/07) is an Authorised Financial Services Provider – FSP6713  

This communication is not advice or tax advice and does not amount, under the Financial Advisory and Intermediary Services Act, to a proposal or personal recommendation or guidance, nor is it a recommendation regarding any financial product or service. The funds, and their administrators, and these entities’ officers do not take liability for any action you take or loss you suffer arising from this communication, as you will need to obtain advice from a registered financial advisor so that your own circumstances can be taken into account.

Understanding Tuberculosis: Symptoms, Treatment, and Prevention

World Tuberculosis Day is observed annually on March 24th, it's crucial to shed light on this persistent global health issue, particularly its impact on South Africa, one of the countries grappling with high TB rates. Tuberculosis, commonly known as TB, remains a significant health concern worldwide, causing thousands of deaths annually. In South Africa, it's not just a disease but an epidemic, ranking among the leading causes of mortality.

TB is an infectious disease primarily affecting the lungs but capable of spreading to other parts of the body as well. Caused by the bacterium Mycobacterium tuberculosis, TB is a curable disease if promptly and adequately treated. However, if left untreated, it can be fatal.

One of the most concerning aspects of TB is the rise of drug-resistant strains. Drug-resistant TB occurs when the bacteria become resistant to one or more anti-TB drugs, posing a significant challenge to treatment efforts. This resistance often emerges in patients who fail to complete their prescribed treatment regimen. Variants such as Multi-Drug Resistant TB (MDR-TB), Extreme Drug Resistant TB (XDR-TB), and Totally Drug Resistant TB present even greater hurdles in combating the disease.

TB spreads through the air, particularly in overcrowded and poorly ventilated spaces. When an infected individual coughs, sneezes, or spits, they release TB bacteria into the air, where others can inhale them. This transmission can lead to either latent TB infection, where the bacteria remain dormant, or active TB disease, which manifests with various symptoms.

While anyone can contract TB, certain groups are at higher risk, including individuals with malnutrition, HIV infection, or those working in environments with prolonged exposure to TB bacteria, such as mines. TB and HIV co-infection poses a particularly grave threat, as each exacerbates the progression of the other.

Symptoms of TB vary depending on whether it affects the lungs (pulmonary TB) or other organs (extra-pulmonary TB). Common signs of pulmonary TB include a persistent cough, chest pain, weight loss, fatigue, night sweats, and shortness of breath. Extra-pulmonary TB may present with symptoms specific to the affected organ, such as spine deformities or neurological deficits.

Diagnosing TB typically involves collecting sputum samples for laboratory analysis and conducting chest X-rays. Additional tests, such as Tuberculin skin tests or biopsies, may be necessary for extra-pulmonary TB cases. Early diagnosis is crucial for initiating timely treatment.

Treatment for TB involves a rigorous regimen of antibiotics taken over several months. The World Health Organisation's DOTS program (Directly Observed Treatment) plays a pivotal role in monitoring and ensuring treatment adherence. This program relies on health workers or trusted individuals to oversee medication intake, enhancing treatment effectiveness.

Preventing the spread of TB involves not only treating infected individuals but also implementing measures to reduce transmission. Basic precautions such as covering one's mouth when coughing or sneezing and improving ventilation in crowded spaces can mitigate the risk of TB transmission. Additionally, early detection of TB symptoms and seeking medical attention promptly are vital in preventing the disease's spread.

Furthermore, routine immunisation against TB, particularly for newborns, is crucial in preventing the disease's onset. Vaccination administered shortly after birth can provide infants with protection against TB, contributing to overall disease prevention efforts.

As World Tuberculosis Day has been observed, it's essential to raise awareness about the challenges posed by TB and the importance of concerted efforts in its prevention, diagnosis, and treatment. By understanding TB's symptoms, transmission dynamics, and preventive measures, we can work towards reducing its burden on society and saving lives.

T&Cs apply. NMG Consultants and Actuaries (Pty) LTD is an authorised financial services provider FSP 12968

Kidney disease: An overview

Every year, on the second Thursday of March, World Kidney Day is observed globally to raise awareness about the importance of kidney health and the growing burden of kidney diseases worldwide. This significant day serves as a reminder of the vital role our kidneys play in maintaining overall health and wellbeing.

Kidney disease, also known as renal disease, encompasses a range of conditions that affect the proper functioning of the kidneys, vital organs responsible for filtering waste products and excess fluids from the blood, regulating electrolyte balance, and producing hormones that control blood pressure and red blood cell production. From its silent progression to its potentially life-threatening complications, kidney disease poses a significant health challenge worldwide.

  1. Chronic kidney disease (CKD): CKD is a long-term condition where the kidneys gradually lose function over time. Common causes include diabetes, hypertension, glomerulonephritis, and polycystic kidney disease. CKD is often asymptomatic in its early stages, making it difficult to detect until significant kidney damage has occurred.
  2. Acute kidney injury (AKI): AKI is a sudden loss of kidney function, typically occurring over hours to days. It can be caused by various factors such as severe infections, dehydration, medications, or trauma. Prompt diagnosis and treatment are crucial to prevent irreversible kidney damage.
  3. Polycystic kidney disease (PKD): PKD is a genetic disorder characterised by the growth of cysts in the kidneys, leading to kidney enlargement and eventual loss of function. It is the most common inherited kidney disease, affecting millions of people worldwide.
  4. Glomerulonephritis: This refers to inflammation of the glomeruli, the tiny blood vessels in the kidneys responsible for filtering waste products from the blood. Glomerulonephritis can be acute or chronic and may result from infections, autoimmune diseases, or genetic factors.
  5. Kidney stones: Kidney stones are hard mineral deposits that form in the kidneys and can cause severe pain and urinary complications. They may result from dehydration, certain medical conditions, or dietary factors.

Several factors increase the risk of developing kidney disease, including:

Kidney disease often progresses silently, with symptoms becoming noticeable only in advanced stages. Common symptoms include fatigue, swelling (edema), changes in urination patterns, nausea, vomiting, and difficulty concentrating. Diagnosis typically involves a combination of medical history, physical examination, blood tests to assess kidney function (e.g., serum creatinine, blood urea nitrogen), urine tests (e.g., urinalysis), imaging studies (e.g., ultrasound, CT scan), and kidney biopsy in certain cases.

Treatment for kidney disease depends on the underlying cause, severity of the condition, and individual factors. In the early stages, lifestyle modifications such as adopting a healthy diet low in salt and saturated fats, maintaining a healthy weight, regular exercise, quitting smoking, and limiting alcohol consumption can help slow the progression of kidney disease and manage associated conditions such as diabetes and hypertension.

In advanced stages of kidney disease, treatment options may include medications to control blood pressure, manage symptoms, and treat complications such as anaemia and bone disease. Dialysis, a procedure that artificially removes waste products and excess fluids from the blood, or kidney transplantation may be necessary in cases of kidney failure.

Preventive measures play a crucial role in reducing the risk of kidney disease. This includes managing underlying conditions such as diabetes and hypertension, staying hydrated, avoiding smoking and excessive alcohol consumption, maintaining a healthy weight, and monitoring kidney function through regular screenings, especially for individuals with risk factors.

Raising awareness about kidney disease, its risk factors, and the importance of early detection and intervention is essential in preventing its progression and reducing its burden on individuals and healthcare systems worldwide. Education campaigns, community outreach programs, and initiatives such as World Kidney Day serve to promote kidney health and encourage proactive measures to protect kidney function and overall wellbeing.

Kidney disease is a complex and multifaceted condition that requires comprehensive management approaches encompassing prevention, early detection, and tailored treatment strategies. By prioritising kidney health and implementing preventive measures at individual and societal levels, we can work towards reducing the prevalence and impact of kidney disease, improving health outcomes, and enhancing the quality of life for affected individuals.

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