Win back your weekend

“Where did our weekend go?” Have you ever found yourself asking this question on a Sunday night or a few minutes after hitting snooze for the third time on a Monday morning?

If you do – you’re not alone! Studies show that many people struggle with Weekend Anxiety Syndrome (WAS) or the Sunday Scaries… there are a couple of reasons that can contribute to our stress and anxiety over weekends, and these are generally linked to two key areas: too much sleep and lack of activity.

Yes… that’s right – TOO MUCH sleep and TOO LITTLE activity. It sounds counterintuitive, but as you page through the google search results for WAS, you will find a bounty of research articles that encourage consistency of sleep patterns and positive, restorative activities.

As we slide into Friday, it’s easy to think about all the things we’d like to accomplish on the weekend or deliberately plan to do as little as possible. But as Sunday evening arrives, if we haven’t achieved Friday’s aspirations, we are left with a knot in our tummies and a pervasive sense of failure.

Dr Luke Martin, clinical psychologist and project manager at Beyondblue, says that WAS may be a side effect of modern life. “We’re so time poor, there’s a lot of pressure to get our weekends right,” he says. “On social media, everyone lives the perfect, busy life, so it’s easy to think there’s something wrong if your life doesn’t measure up. On Monday, when everyone’s comparing notes from the weekend, and you feel like yours doesn’t measure up, then your body doesn’t like that, which can cause anxiety.” (dailytelegraph.com.au)

It’s not like our weekends aren’t busy. We complete one task after another (cleaning, laundry, grocery shopping, cooking) and then poof, Monday is here! Chores expand to fill the available space, especially if we’re trying to catch a lie-in, an afternoon snooze or binge that series that everyone keeps telling us to watch.

Having read through a few blogs and articles, a few practical ideas can help us reduce our Sunday Scaries and win back our weekend.

  1. Create a weekend bucket list. Chat with those in your home and family and ask them what types of activities they’d like to do over the weekend. These could be hikes, neighbourhood walks, visits to the beach or a local nature reserve. Perhaps it’s to start learning a skill like painting or music, or maybe it’s focussed on things like gardening and crafting. Once you have this list of ideas, plan to achieve one or two every second weekend.
  2. Regulate your sleep patterns. This practice applies to both the weekend and weekdays too. Some research refers to our change in sleeping over the weekends as Social Jet Lag, likening the exhaustion that we feel on a Monday morning to a long-distance flight through several time zones. If we go to bed later and wake up later over the weekend, we will feel tired on a Monday.
  3. Stay off social media. Much of this has to do with the psychological impact of seeing what other people are busy doing. This feed of photos and emotionally engaging content makes us feel like we’re not doing as much as everyone else. It also saps precious time and energy that we could be engaging in those awesome ideas in our weekend bucket list.
  4. Plan ‘weekend’ activities for the week too. In every strategy to get more out of life, we find that balance is a crucial element. If we think that ‘fun stuff’ can only happen over the weekend, we will constantly struggle with WAS. Planning a midweek movie night, dinner with friends, an early evening walk can all fit into our weekly schedules and help us realise that we don’t have to live from Monday to Thursday, wishing it was Friday already.

We can have all the money in the world, but if our life is not fulfilling, our money will mean nothing. When it comes to financial planning, we have to include life planning so that we can make the most of what we have instead of falling into the trap of simply trying to ‘make more’.

Protecting your income for a better outcome

A few short decades ago, we lived in a world that seemed to have far more security and certainty. The rate of change was slower, and many assumed that if you stuck to the system, the system would look after you.

Social security, income security and good health were taken for granted in developed countries. The chance of losing one or all of the above didn’t feature too highly in financial plans. As you’re reading this, you are most likely already acutely aware that this is no longer the world in which we live.

From attacks on political structures that we assumed were unassailable to economic systems bending to the will and manipulation of the mega-wealthy or well-organised-online-communities – it’s harder and harder to protect our financial and life plans.

Planning for protection if you lose your income has simply become imperative.

There are financial products that can help with this, and there are financial planning strategies that can help with this.

When it comes to products, income protection is a popular option. These financial products are primarily designed to pay you a benefit if you cannot work for a while because of illness or injury. As needs evolve, the products evolve too, and some can be set up to provide an income due to retrenchment (not voluntary resignation).

When it comes to financial planning strategies, one can leverage or sell assets to cover a period of non-income or set up emergency funds that give you access to up to six months of income should you need it.

Unfortunately, many people take a head-in-sand approach when it comes to income protection, believing that they’ll never be inflicted with a disability, or assuming they can find a quick resolution if they are.

However, this doesn’t necessarily equate to positive thinking but rather naiveté. A more responsible approach would be to hope that disaster won’t strike while still having a back-up plan for when life has other ideas; because life will have other ideas.

If you’re going through an income crisis presently, then it’s hard to plan for the eventuality of another. You will now need professional financial advice more than ever to swim through the rough waters to solid ground. Only once you have regained an income, and are in an income-secure space, can you begin to protect your income for a better outcome.

If you are currently income-secure, make sure you have a strategy in place to build up resilience and protection for one of your greatest assets – your income!

Plan to fail

It doesn’t make sense, but we need to have a plan for when things go wrong. 

People love to say that Benjamin Franklin once said that if you fail to plan, then you plan to fail. It’s not a bad quote, but as the world experiences some of the most significant disruptions in recent history, we know it’s only part of the picture.

This means: we need to plan to fail. Or rather, we need to consider the eventuality of things not going according to plan.

Grounded aeroplanes and harboured cruise liners, stopped conventions and elective medical procedures have left industry behemoths searching for bailouts and financial support. Once financially and emotionally secure, families are struggling to pay increasing bills, some facing retrenchment and unemployment. On top of all of this, we have stressed and strained relationships that no one could have planned for. 

Because we always hope our plans will work out. It’s not nice to think about our plans not working out. The more we learn about our behavioural psychology, the more we learn about planning and managing situations that send our emotions spiralling. 

Sunél Veldtman, founder and CEO of Foundation Family Wealth, recently wrote this:

“Although the four-decade career has been endangered for a while, it is now becoming extinct. The idea of choosing a career in your teens, studying towards that career, and then making progress towards the top of that career ladder, must be shelved.

We should anticipate that these events become the norm, not the exception. We should accept that retrenchments and continuous learning will become part of most careers. We should change the way we plan. There is too little ‘what if’ planning. Too many plans still span four decades of uninterrupted change. If we don’t change the way we plan and think about career trajectories, we are already planning to fail. We should encourage bigger savings pools for the ‘what ifs’ right from the start, discourage straight-line thinking in the midlife and reassure fresh starts after mid-life. We should learn how to contract our spending quickly, and carefully consider commitments with long-term implications like private school education or expensive debt. Change management, continuous learning and resilience are skills that will become as key to our financial wellbeing as it is for our physical and mental health.”

Underlying all of these thoughts, we need to help each other develop a deeper sense of self-worth. Before we lose our business, we need to ask: “Who would I be if I didn’t run this company?”. Before we lose our income, we need to ask: “Who would I be if I didn’t enjoy the bank balance that I currently have?”. 

If our identity is too closely linked to one aspect of our life, we will lose everything if we lose that one thing.

We need to explore what a balanced life truly looks like in our personal context so that we can say:

“I’m not my job, and I’m not my income. I’m not my partner, my kids or my business. I’m not my house, my car or my overseas holidays. I’m all of these things and so much more.”

We’re here to help you manage your financial health, but we know that it’s not separate from your physical, emotional, relational, spiritual and mental health. If you need to have a deeper conversation and plan for when things go pear-shaped, then let’s get in touch soon.

Offshore shouldn’t be off-putting

“… your money deserves to go places,” Ninety One (dual-listed on both the South African and London Stock Exchanges).

Many people who choose to stay in a country feel a sense of pride and patriotism for their local residence. Whether it’s a native birth-right or an adopted sense of nationalism, buying, supporting and investing local is an important priority. 

So much so that the thought of moving money offshore can be off-putting. 

But when it comes to sound investment strategy, an offshore investment will give you access to opportunities across different countries, industries, companies and currencies, exposing your portfolio to more possibilities while diversifying your risk. As Ninety One says on their website: you enjoy life in the country you love, whilst your money discovers a world of investment opportunity.

Those opportunities are dynamic and ever-changing. As markets rise and fall, currency depreciation becomes either a strategic liability to any investment portfolios that are heavily weighted in cash, or creates opportunities for portfolios exposed to the export market.

Currency depreciation is a fall in the value of a currency in a floating exchange rate system. Economic fundamentals, interest rate differentials, political instability, or risk aversion can cause currency depreciation. Orderly currency depreciation can increase a country’s export activity as its products and services become cheaper to buy. (Investopedia.com)

This phenomenon is not unique to any one country and can hit any economy at any time. This is why investing offshore may enhance your returns and reduce risk by diversifying your exposure to a single currency or country.

Whilst it can help to form a prudent part of your portfolio alongside local investments, remember that the level of exposure must be linked to your personal financial plan.

It’s not about saying that one economy is better than another; it’s about recognising that by investing in local property, a local business or the local stock market alone, you are highly vulnerable to local conditions.

Offshore investing can reduce the risk of capital loss by spreading your investments across markets and currencies. It will also minimise the impact of currency depreciation or political and market events on your portfolio. Local fiscal and monetary policies may deteriorate along with the likes of state-owned enterprises and other government-led initiatives.

That being said – there are three things to consider when evaluating the benefits of offshore investing: inflation, interest rates and costs.

For all three, we should have a conversation about your personal setup to see how they could affect your decision to explore offshore.

Typically, you can invest directly, or you can look at an asset swap. According to Investopedia, an asset swap is used to transform cash flow characteristics to hedge risks from one financial instrument with undesirable cash flow characteristics into another with favourable cash flow.

Before you make any decisions, make sure we have checked in on your decision and that it aligns with your personal financial plan.

How to make a sustainable change

All of us have moments in our life when we realise that we have to make a change. Sometimes change is something we choose, and sometimes it happens to us, forcing us to find a new way to cope.

Making a sustainable change is something that we can choose – before life forces something worse upon us. As Reinhold Niebuhr’s serenity prayer says:

“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; the courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference.”

We can’t change everything in our lives, but we can change some things. However, it’s not always easy to sustain the change, and this can become a frustrating cycle of to-and-fro that leaves us with a profound lack of serenity.

Change is a process of growth; it’s not supposed to be easy and natural. It’s a process of creating a new natural, and it will eventually become second nature, but getting to that point requires intention, skills and coaching.

STATING INTENTION

For anyone familiar with the 12-Step-Programme, they will know that the first few steps to making a sustainable change involve acceptance. You need to accept that you are responsible for that change that you’d like to see. It’s powerful to articulate, verbally and written down, the changes you’d like to make in your life and accept that you are the best person (the ONLY person) who can make those changes.

This is where we create intention. Without this first step, our efforts will likely fizzle out as our commitment and persistence wane when things get tough.

CREATING A PLAN

Prepare and plan. A friend recently shared his experience of becoming a vegetarian and highlighted how much more time is needed for food preparation and planning. He never thought he could follow a diet that excluded meat, as he was the first to buy a boerewors-roll at the local Saturday market and loved to snack on meaty-leftovers.

Four years down the line, he and his family spend considerably more time planning and preparing meals, and they love it! They’re more mindful of what they’re eating and are living a choice that they’ve made for themselves.

The change was possible and sustainable because they put in the effort to plan meals and do the needed preparation. A bonus of this journey is that they can be more mindful, which is a powerful tool for keeping our head in the game. And, they are able to spend quality time together as a family when they prepare food together

Whether it’s changing your diet, your spending habits or spending less time on social media, planning and preparing your world around you to LOOK different will help you BE different.

SUPPORT AND ENCOURAGEMENT

As we look at the example above, another element of their success in embracing a different diet was that they had the support and encouragement of each other in the family. They decided to make the change together.

When it comes to your changes, you don’t necessarily have to have the support of those in your family, but it certainly helps. If your family are not on board, seek out thought leaders or influencers who have the same mindset – they’re a great source of encouragement, and they add credibility, as they most likely did the research!

People who support you help you hold onto the hope of what your changed future could look like; they hold you accountable to the goals that you’ve set for yourself and help you develop your potential.

Above all – remember this: you are not alone. You’re not the only person to want to change your debt situation, change your eating habits, your sleeping habits or bring more balance to your life. Find out, speak out, reach out and begin to see sustainable change in your life.

Ifs, buts and Bitcoin

“If only I’d bought into Bitcoin in 2008…”

“But, it’s not regulated…”

“But, the bubble…”

“Bitcoin – I don’t want to miss out…”

Before engaging in any blog about Bitcoin, it HAS to be stated that Bitcoin is an incredibly risky investment that may or may not pay off. Bitcoin is a decentralised digital currency, without a central bank or single administrator, that can be sent from user to user on the peer-to-peer bitcoin network without the need for intermediaries.

It could be the answer you’ve been looking for. Or, it could be the worst idea ever.

It’s probably not the best fit for most people. If you’re eager to invest in cryptocurrency, it’s essential to do so safely.

As with ANY OTHER INVESTMENT DECISION – make sure you have a personal financial plan, an investment strategy with a well-diversified portfolio, and you don’t have to borrow money to invest.

Most people have a good handle on what Bitcoin is, but how to use it and whether to invest in it is the tough question that you simply cannot google.

As companies (like PayPal in October 2020) begin to buy into the viability of Bitcoin, its uses will increase and its value.

When Elon Musk announced on Twitter that he was a big supporter of Bitcoin, his particular endorsement rallied the value of Bitcoin significantly. He has repeatedly shown his support to online currencies and caused significant movements in their values due to his own personal wealth and influence.

This alone reminds us of the volatility of this young phenomenon of cryptocurrencies. But… still, people don’t want to miss out. The Brobdingnagian bubbles it’s created in the last decade have always left an aftermath of if-only-I-had-invested-sooner sentiments.

Actuary Imran Lorgat says that a sure way of realising that you are about to make an investment mistake is when an intense fear of missing out is spurring you on.

In an article for BusinessTech, Lorgat says: “Many invest in cryptocurrencies without a solid grasp of the basics. If you are interested in buying Bitcoin, then invest time into researching how it works and the risks associated with owning Bitcoin.”

“The price of Bitcoin over the long-term is driven by supply and demand, as well as adoption and technological development of the currency. However, in the short term, the price is driven mainly by hype and emotion.”

He goes on to talk about the value of buy-and-hold strategies when considering Bitcoin, which is similar to the approach of dollar-cost averaging in conventional investment strategies.

Bitcoin has been around since 2008, and it has always had a vacillating public interest. It is speculated that investors who have resisted the temptation to trade their Bitcoin through the highs and lows have probably gained the most.

“The conventional wisdom of ‘dollar-cost averaging’ applies to Bitcoin as well and is popular amongst Bitcoin investors. This means investing the same amount every month, without checking the price or trying to time the market. I follow this strategy myself,” remarked Lorgat.

If you are risk-averse and don’t have expendable investable income, Bitcoin is most likely not a good idea. But even so, it pays to be aware of how it’s growing and keep yourself educated around both it and other cryptocurrencies.

If anything is certain, it’s that the future is uncertain. Bitcoin is a fresh reminder that anything is possible.

It’s Hue-Guh, not Hoo-Gah

Hygge (pronounced hue-guh, not hoo-gah) is a Danish word used when acknowledging a feeling or moment as cosy, charming or special. This can happen whether alone or with friends, at home or out, ordinary or extraordinary. It’s about how the event makes you feel, not the event itself.

From Danish cookies, cheese and pastries to their culture of simplicity, politeness, and equality – they should have a pretty good sense of how cosy-charming-special truly feels! And, when life is handing us bagfuls of lemons, it’s encouraging to know that there’s a word for how we can adopt a strategy to cope; hygge is a fresh, yet traditionally sound, system to consider.

In Danish, it means “to give courage, comfort, joy”, but in the Old Norse, it stems from the words used for “to think” and “hug”. It’s an active word that quite literally wants to embrace. It’s a word that affirms everything will be okay, that we’ve got this, and that we’re going to make it through to the other side.

Hygge helps us find and acknowledge comfort, contentment and wellbeing in the current moment, and not feel like it’s an unobtainable future feeling. It’s wise to consider this when we look at our life plans. Planning can be very future-focussed and, if we’re not careful, transport us out of the present and into a future that may or may not happen.

But joy is found in the present; it’s not something that we work towards. Joy is something we choose for today. We shouldn’t be planning to be joyful; we should be planning from a place of joy. This is how we can muster up the courage to be present and not panic about tomorrow.

Courage is resilience put to the test. We’re living in an age that is calling us to be more courageous and more vulnerable. The awareness that courage and vulnerability go hand-in-hand is so new that many large businesses are still restructuring their leadership cultures. They hope to connect on a more engaging level with their teams and find more fulfilment, more hygge, in their corporate culture.

Hygge reminds us that it’s okay to wear track pants today, to stay in those comfy old socks and work from the couch. It reminds us that comfort foods (those cookies, cheeses, pastries and pasta…) help heal our emotional and mental states. It can be as simple as lighting a candle and surrounding ourselves with people and things we love.

We don’t have to swim upstream all day, every day. We need to take rest days, personal health days and pamper days. It’s about the attitude of comfort, not the cost of conformity.

Give yourself a hug – take a Hygge-Day.

Bite-sized chunks

No matter how hard we try, we never seem to get it all right… all the time! We were taught as kids that practice makes perfect, and this phrase set us up for unrealistic expectations. At some point in our future, we figured we would get it perfect. All we needed to do was keep trying and keep practising.

A different way to phrase that saying could be that practice makes progress, not perfection. Progress is far more accessible, sustainable and encouraging.

Progress acknowledges that we won’t get it right all the time. We will make mistakes, we will take risks, and we will have transitional periods where we slow down from fatigue and overwhelming circumstances.

Because, at the end of the day, that’s how life looks. It’s not steady, it’s not entirely predictable, and it’s certainly not perfect. This is why our finances don’t follow a straight line of growth. When we get battered in life, our finances get battered. We can mitigate that battering, and we can bolster reserves and protections, but our money will be affected.

It can be enormously disheartening when this happens; especially when the losses are high and they are accompanied by emotional trauma and loss. Most people cannot get back up on their own – and it’s likely that we were never supposed to do it alone.

We need the support, advice, patience, and love of our family and friends. And, we need to rebuild in bite-sized chunks.

There’s a lovely quote that says the best way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time. It reminds us that we need to break it down into bite-sized chunks when we’re faced with a seemingly impossible task. Another quote that is similar to this is one the Chinese proverb that says: “The journey of a thousand miles begins with one small step.”

When we have been knocked back (or completely flattened) in our financial plan, the best way to regain control is to tackle it in bite-sized chunks. After the turmoil of the initial shock, we need to return to the basics of budgeting, where we become mindful of daily spending and monthly responsibilities. We first work to reclaim control in this area – it could take a few months to take a few years.

This will be an empowering journey, not just for our finances but also for our personal growth and well-being. As our headspace heals and our heart beats more steadily, we will be able to engage more strategically with our financial plan again.

This doesn’t happen overnight – it happens one bite-sized chunk at a time. This is how we build and rebuild a robust life measured by progress, not perfection.

Stop telling yourself these things

Everyone knows that building wealth can help to ensure financial security in the future. Yet, it is a small number of the world’s population who have had the opportunity and fortitude to save money consistently.

In some cases, this is because putting money away is not the easiest thing to do. It’s a tough habit to form. As a result, we don’t give ourselves time to save, only time to spend.

These behaviours cause us to start believing specific money stories about our lives, and the problem becomes persistent when we start believing what we tell ourselves. When it comes to money, there are a lot of beliefs that are not true. Some of these are our own, and others come from our parents and the people around us.

We need to reframe our minds and tell ourselves positive things if we want to progress towards greater financial security.

Here are five things to stop telling yourself about money.

  • I don’t need to save for retirement because I won’t retire

Even if you love the work you do, always keep in mind that it won’t be forever.

One of the lessons we should take from the world upheavals of 2020 is that we can encounter disruptions that can lead us to lose our income prematurely. 

Many – especially young people – tell themselves that it’s not yet time, or that they simply don’t need to build up reserves yet. Retirement is changing, the way we prepare for it and engage with it is changing, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be saving for whatever that eventuality might look like.

  • All my money should be in a savings account 

The money in your bank savings account may be sufficient for several months as an emergency fund, but keeping all of your savings in there is not sustainable. Money that is not compounding will decrease in value because of inflation.

There are various options you can explore that will help to invest money that will generate interest. Tax-free savings accounts (TFSAs) and ETFs are worthwhile entry options that we could discuss.

Having money in your savings account for the daily purchases or necessary transactions is practical and wise, but also, have money growing somewhere else.

  • Investing is inaccessible because it’s risky, complicated and only for the wealthy

This belief is one of the reasons some of us do not even start investing. Thinking like this creates a more significant risk that will complicate your financial life a lot more in the future. 

The best way to overcome it is to consult a professional financial advisor to help you with the advice you need to navigate the risks. This will help you to discover what opportunities there are for you to invest in, take it in manageable steps and grow your wealth right from today. 

  • Only rich people can afford to build wealth

For a lot of us, when we hear the words savings or investment, we immediately think of an amount with many zeros. Sometimes we picture a mogul in a big shiny car. We tend to believe that saving is for a particular, exclusive club. 

You have the ability to afford the lifestyle you would like. 

Even if you’re young, you can build up to your own multiple zeros if you start today. You can start with anything you can afford. A little bit every month creates the habits of wealthy people.

Start by honestly reviewing your spending habits and budget. If you find unnecessary expenses, cut them and save it to cultivate the habit of building wealth.

For many of us, we tend to believe that saving and investing is for a particular age group or the elite, people who can afford to save. But you have the power to create your own wealth.

Young or old, you can start saving with a small amount. Be honest when reviewing your spending habits, cut out the unnecessary expenses from your budget, and begin cultivating a habit of saving.

  • It doesn’t matter because I’ll always be in debt 

Getting out of debt will require more work than it did to get you into debt. It is not easy, but it is possible. 

Conquering your debt doesn’t need a sophisticated strategy or a massive windfall from the lottery. Paying off one debt at a time will improve your perspective of your financial situation and get you to believe in your power to live debt-free. The little you can contribute will undoubtedly reduce your debt.

Here’s the trick: it all starts in your mind. If you learn to develop a more positive outlook on how money works, you’ll discover your power to create the wealth you need for the life you want. 

Saving is for everyone, and there’s no better time to find out how you can start than now. Start today!

Key thoughts for passive investors

Passive investing has become the most popular investing strategy, globally. Simply put, it’s the strategy of buying the whole market (a diversified reach of stock allocations, ETFs and the like), and continually contributing to your portfolio. The long-term goal is to achieve the average market return.

This strategy avoids buying and selling regularly (like with actively managed strategies), long hours of extensive research into individual companies and stocks. In theory, this sounds like an easy approach to investing, but in practice, it’s hard to keep buying the market when stocks are overvalued, and the short-term performance is looking dismal.

Remember, we cannot predict what will happen tomorrow, but we can look at the stock markets’ performance for nearly one hundred years and learn from how markets have consistently grown. In times like this, it’s good to listen to the late John Bogle’s time-honoured advice

Keep investing

Don’t stop investing when you see the markets moving in a downward slide. If you break the habit of investing, it will be far harder to adopt the behaviour again, and it’s very dangerous speculation to try and time the markets by only buying before a growth phase.

Time is your friend

When it comes to passive investing, time is your best weapon for securing a return on your investment. Every seasoned (even most novices) agree on this point and it’s helpful to be reminded of it when quarterly or monthly statements show negative growth. It’s the three-, five- and ten-year reports that show the robust growth of passive funds.

Impulse is your foe

Money is, and always will be, a highly emotional resource. It affects every facet of our decision making – whether consciously or unconsciously. This makes it challenging to ignore our impulses to sell stocks before we incur further losses. Unfortunately, most people don’t recover from these impulse sell-offs.

Stay diversified

It’s never been easier to buy into the whole-of-market through exchange-traded funds in today’s marketplace. This ensures that the investor can remain diversified. The temptation to sell the wide strategy and buy a focussed strategy means that the investor loses the security of diversification and takes on the risk of fewer companies to try and ensure better returns to make up what the market lost. But the reality is that the market will most likely regain its losses over time.

Stay the course

When we put all of these thoughts together, we are encouraged to stay the course! Passive investment strategies work best when they have time to sit and mature in the markets, rather than prodded, tweaked and adjusted frequently.

If you’re reading this and you still feel like your investment strategy is no longer working for you – then let’s get in touch!