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Remembering the days when you took the tram to work in Joburg

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Don Moll has been a financial advisor to accountants for more than 50 years. He remembers the days when you took a tram to work in Joburg.

The last tram ran in 1961, exactly 70 years after the first horse-drawn tram pulled out of Market Square.

In those days, everything happened in downtown Joburg. There was no Sandton or Rosebank. Men wore jackets and ties to work, even for low-paying clerical jobs. Women wore dresses below their knees. Women’s pants were a no-no.

These of course were the dark years of apartheid and black South Africans were definitely not invited to the party. But Joburg was always a bit edgier than the rest of the country, so the boundaries of racial discrimination were often tested to the limits. There were the Black Sash ladies with their placards outside the Joburg High Court and along Jam Smuts Avenue, shaming the government for its routine racial abuses.

The centre of commercial life was the Rand Club, on Loveday Street. You couldn’t dine here without jacket and tie. No women were allowed in. The Rand Club was the epitome of colonial opulence, where MDs would be dropped off by their chauffeurs, recalls Moll.

“They all had their shirts made by the same tailor, who became extremely wealthy from al the advice he received on what shares to buy on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange.”

There were no shopping malls, so you hauled your weekly shopping onto the tram and walked the last few blocks home. Cars were also something of a luxury.

“I did all my business in downtown Joburg and walked from office to office,” says Moll. “My clients were the captains of industry and the heads of mining houses. I enjoyed getting dressed up in a suit and tie and heading off to the city every day, never knowing who you would meet.”

When the Carlton Centre was completed in 1971, it was a coming of age for Joburg. It was the city’s first real skyscraper, baptising it into the modern world. Taking the elevator to the 50th floor and gazing out over the rambling city was a treat for the residents of Joburg.

Joburg is a young city, built in and around the gold mines that ran along what we now know as the M2 highway. This was where George Harrison first discovered gold in 1886, launching an international gold rush with tens of thousands of fortune seekers from around the country and abroad. The tent cities they established soon gave way to more permanent structures. It was always relatively lawless, cosmopolitan, rowdy – and fun.

Moll has witnessed seismic shifts in the financial industry over the last five decades.

“In the old days, we would provide short-term and long-term insurance. The products were rather simple, no bells and whistles, and everybody had them.

“There’s been an explosion in the variety of products over the last five decades. This makes financial planning more complex, but also more exciting. There’s nothing I enjoy more than guiding a client from a young professional through to financial prosperity.”

Section 12J of the Income Tax Act allows offers substantial tax benefits for those investing in approved Venture Capital Companies (VCCs). So far, there are more than 30 approved VCC funds, some offering internal rates of return of 20-25%. There are also tax-free savings accounts, retirement annuities, and a host of new products designed to encourage people to save.

What are some of the big issues facing accountants?

Getting their contingent liabilities squared off in the event of death

Taking out life cover to cancel personal sureties signed on behalf of companies they worked for

Taking out credit life policies to settle any loan accounts in the event of death or disability

Key man insurance (which pays out when a “key man or woman” in the businesses dies)

If there are shareholders in the business, a Buy and Sell Agreement funded by life insurance can avoid exposing shareholders to risk of claims from the estate in the event one of them dies.

Contact Don at 0832276578 or dmfs@icon.co.za