Why Mental Health needs our attention

The journey of developing your life can be challenging on your mind and overall well-being. Prioritizing mental health can help us build the resilience we need to find fulfillment at work and in our personal relationships. 

Often we focus on physical health and the list of things we want to accomplish. It’s important to remember that our body and mind always work together. We need to take care of both!

What is mental health?

Being mentally healthy is defined by having positive characteristics in terms of how we feel, think and behave in daily life. It also influences our ability to cope with stress and conquer life’s challenges.

This doesn’t mean we no longer feel anxiety, frustration or stress. Rather, we learn to accept that hardships are part of life. Holding a healthy mental space empowers us to find ways of reacting better to whatever pain or challenges we face.

Learning to pay attention to your mental health will teach you to reframe your mindset – from preparing for the worst that could happen, to expecting the best that could happen.

Here are 3 practices to help develop and maintain a healthy mental space:

  • Remember to look inside

Introspection is a healthy habit to integrate into your daily routine. Being introspective also teaches you to be mindful of your thoughts and feelings as well as your actions.

Through practising introspection you’ll learn to identify thoughts and the physical or emotional sensations that tend to contribute to your cycles of stress and dis-ease. From there you’ll look to find solutions on how to address those sensations to more positive ones.

Meditation is one of the best ways to look inside. You learn to control your breathing and focus your mind. You discover that your thoughts are controlled by you and not the other way around.

  • Become more active

Again, your mind and body always work together. Improving your mental health comes with improving your body.

The wonderful thing about working out is that it can be done at home. The Coronavirus lockdown may have kept you indoors but you could still keep fit. Apps and videos of effective 5- to 10-minute daily workouts are in abundance. 

Keeping fit doesn’t only mean you need to pound weights or run long distances. Dancing, playing activity-based games with friends and family can also help you become more active and improve your physical health. The hormones that are released during these activities boost your mental health considerably.

Simple things like gardening or cleaning your home also contribute to your physical and mental health.

  • Have a purpose

Finding purpose and establishing a vision can help you create meaning in your life because you’ll have something that drives you. An inspiration that pulls you towards all that you wish to accomplish.

Purpose can be found in your work. You can choose to focus on work that challenges you to be more productive and improve your service to others. Volunteering in old-age homes, charities and non-profit organisations are other heartfelt ways to establish purpose in your life.

It’s also possible to find meaning in the relationships you build. Focus on building fulfilling and mutually beneficial relationships. Socialise more with people who will be empathetic and supportive and less with those who put you down and are constantly in competition with you.

Manage your expectations. Be patient and compassionate with yourself. Results will come even though it doesn’t seem like it now. We need to pay attention to our mental health because that is what helps us reframe our minds and look towards a happier future instead of focusing on the uncertainty and stress of our current situation.

The difference between Medical Aid, Medical Insurance and GAP Cover

It is easy to think that the terms Medical Aid, Medical Insurance and GAP Cover refer to the same thing. Although they all serve to help you afford medical care, there are some subtle differences. 

Getting a clear understanding of these words will help you get savvy with your options. If you already have health coverage you’ll be more informed about the benefits and extent of your health plan. However, many of us sign up for this type of cover, but over the years (especially if we don’t claim often) we can easily forget the massive role that these products play in our financial portfolios.

Medical Aid or Medical Insurance, it’s all medical cover, right? 

Yes and yes. But, one of the key differences is that medical insurance products are not governed by medical aid regulations. In 2018, updated Demarcation Regulations stated the following:

  • Medical aid schemes fall under the Medical Schemes Act No. 131 of 1998.
  • Medical insurance products are governed by the Short-term Insurance Acts No. 53 of 1998.

 

The guidelines of these laws actually play a crucial role as they differentiate the offering and extent of the cover of these two types of medical cover.

For instance, medical aid schemes are required by law to pay in full for Prescribed Minimum Benefits – a.k.a PMBs. The payment may be limited when you go to a doctor who is not on your medical scheme’s designated service provider network (the one they choose for you).

They’re not required to offer funeral cover, personal accident disability or cover for any loss of limbs.

Moreover, payments of in-hospital benefits are made based on the National Recommended Price List and healthcare professionals use this price list to determine the base price of their services. 

In addition, there may also be yearly limits for procedures.

How does medical insurance differ?

The purpose of medical insurance is to protect your financial assets as well as promote a lifestyle of health and wellness. It is considered more affordable because it mostly focuses on out-of-hospital expenses including prescribed medication and meetings with your GP, optometrist or dentist. Often the amount you would be able to claim is based on a set procedure cost, not what the hospital or doctors actually charge you – which means that some procedures could leave you well covered (with money in the bank) whilst others could leave you heavily under-insured.

Other benefits include cover for funerals, accidental injuries and/or disability caused by an injury.

Pre-existing conditions may not be covered by your medical insurance. Just like your home insurance can only pay for damage that happens to your house after you’ve joined and not for damage that happens before that.

These are just a few differences – these products are highly complex so it’s always best to chat through your personal situation before making and decisions to shift or change products.

What about Gap Cover?

Gap cover is also an insurance product. It does not cover the full amount for hospital procedures as it works in conjunction with your medical aid – covering where your medical scheme falls short. 

For instance, in cases where your chosen doctor charges more than your medical aid’s rate, the difference will be taken care of by Gap cover. It literally covers the gap. (this gap can be as much as 400%)

Depending on your medical aid options, Gap cover can be provided for:

  • Oncology shortfalls
  • Sub-limits
  • Medical aid co-payments

These differences do not mean you should take up everything at once. Whilst GAP cover is generally considered a must-have, helping you choose medical aid or insurance options that are most suited to your lifestyle and your family setup is what we will do together in your financial planning sessions.

If you haven’t reviewed your medical cover, it’s best to do so towards the end of the year as most medical schemes don’t allow for changes or upgrades during the year. 

Why we need losers in our portfolio

There is a strange behavioural effect where investors tend to sell winners early and hold onto losers for longer. You would think that investors would offload their losers as soon as possible and hold onto their winners so that they keep winning, but the opposite is often found to be true. This is known as the disposition effect.

This effect is thought to occur because people value gains and losses differently. Specifically, people dislike losses more than they like gains. This explains why it is easier to sell a winner and hold onto a loser. If you are holding on to an unrealized loss, then selling that position would prove that you made a bad decision picking that stock. On the other hand, selling a winner immediately affirms your investment guile.

The curious nature of the disposition effect lies in the fact that even seasoned investors make emotional financial decisions. It’s not to say that selling realised gains and waiting for underperforming parts of your portfolio to mature is necessarily bad. We could argue that you NEED some losers in your portfolio.

If your entire portfolio is doing well at the same time, then it probably means that your investments are relying on the same social and economic factors. This, in turn, means that if those factors trend downward then your entire portfolio will react in the same way.

Eliminating any underperforming parts of your portfolio eliminates the potential for them to do well in the future, when the current lead performers take a back seat.

The name of the game has always been diversification. In fact, you should be EXPECTING some elements to underperform at times. There is a difference between a bad investment and one which is not currently shooting for the moon. By placing your eggs in multiple baskets you are spreading your risk and protecting your wealth.

This is also why it’s crucial to have options that are both local and offshore. Local may feel like a loser when offshore is appearing stable, but the balance of volatility and stability helps create more predictable returns in the long run.

Your portfolio is like an orchard, harvest the fruit but be weary to raise an axe to the trees. Some trees require a longer time to bear fruit and the long-term strategy is often the best one.

Stay abreast of your healthcare cover

Whilst October is Breast Cancer awareness month, cancer has become a disease that was touted in 2018 as the second leading cause of death. It’s a tragedy that has most likely affected your family, and the families of your friends, colleagues and neighbours.

The World Health Organization claims that between 30-50% of cancers can currently be prevented by avoiding risk factors and implementing evidence-based prevention strategies. 

Firstly, we should consider the categories of external agents that cause cancer in order to be able to reduce our risk. There are physical carcinogens, such as ultraviolet radiation, chemical carcinogens such as tobacco smoke, and biological carcinogens, such as infections from certain viruses and bacteria.

Checking in on your healthcare cover is important, but you can also reduce your risk by taking care of your own health too. Here are some ideas…

Avoiding ultraviolet

The sun’s UV rays are damaging. Dermatologists agree that we should be using sunblock on exposed areas of our skin, every day. You can apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen of SPF 15+ and re-apply every two hours or after swimming or exercising outdoors. 

Other strategies that can be adopted to minimize UV risk is to avoid direct sunlight during the peak ultraviolet radiation period (2 hours either side of noon accounting for 60% of the day’s ultraviolet radiation), or to wear protective clothing such as hats and sunglasses (Note: a wide-brim hat is preferable and the sunglasses should have a UVA/UVB protection certification on the label).

Minimizing unhealthy habits

The products we consume are inevitably interacting with our biology. Tobacco use is the single biggest risk factor for cancer and is responsible for approximately 22% of cancer-related deaths worldwide. While tobacco may be the big factor that most people seem to know about there are other habits that can lead to increased risk of cancer such as being overweight or obese, excessive alcohol, lack of physical activity and unhealthy diet choices with low fruit and vegetable intake and too much meat.

It isn’t only about what you should avoid, but what you should be pursuing. Leading a physically healthy lifestyle with a balanced and nutritious diet is beneficial on so many levels.

Early detection 

Cancer is more likely to respond to effective treatment when identified early, reducing the chances of cancer mortality. Early detection depends on three measures: awareness, clinical evaluation and access to treatment. 

The diagnosis and treatment is up to the medical professionals and the financial cover that we are provided, but we do have influence over our own, and others, awareness. Cancer can be an uncomfortable subject to broach, but if simple conversations lead to an increase in early detection then a little discomfort is worth it.

Why hobbies help

Time is our greatest investment opportunity – we should invest the time that we have in a diverse portfolio of activities that will provide us with positive returns.

Having a solid routine helps us to squeeze utility out of our time. However, if we get stuck in the same routine for too long it can start to feel monotonous and laborious. Especially so if we are spending our down time on low value activities such as watching TV or browsing social media.

Sometimes we need a break, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be doing or achieving something with our time. A hobby can provide us with a sense of purpose, an outlet for stress, a creative challenge or all of the above!

Career coaches have confirmed that having a hobby can help you be better at your job. Not only does it show your employers that you have passions and a drive to do something with your time, it also helps to prevent burnout. When we are bored at home our workload can prey on our idle minds, a hobby provides us with a welcome distraction – engaging our brain on an enjoyable and unrelated pursuit.

With the massive success of websites like Etsy (an e-commerce platform focussed on handmade goods) it is clear that hobbies can do more than merely fill our time. Many hobbies are practiced in solitude and as such we often don’t realise how much our skills have progressed. Whether you are selling succulents, making bespoke leatherworks or teaching a craft, there is always an opportunity to turn a hobby into a side-hustle.

Hobbies can also help us adapt to retirement. Many people are left wondering what they will do with all of the extra time they have on their hands once they retire. But you will never hear that from a golfer, woodworker, painter or fisherman!

Perhaps the most important facet of a hobby is the (often indirect) social aspect. It provides us with interesting stories to tell. It lets us explore and play and be young at heart, shirking the stresses of life, one game of Bridge at a time. It connects us with people on a level that is fun.

Crack the ice ahead of you

Spring is around the corner – bringing newness, freshness and invigoration. After a long winter, it’s easy to find your attitude has iced-over! Here’s how to crack the ice going forward…

Remind yourself of the plan and direction you have

Without a plan, we are completely lost. Having a solid strategy in place establishes our priorities. Having a plan makes the decision-making process so much easier. If all we have to do is ask ourselves, “Does this aid me on the path to achieving my goal?” then the answer is usually quite straightforward.

A plan shows us where we are going, but more importantly; it shows us how far we’ve come. The very act of making a plan turns an idea into a tangible goal!

Leverage the Support of Those Around You

Surrounding yourself with the right kind of people can be the difference between success and failure. Researchers at Harvard did a study in 2007 that analyzed a social network of 12,000 people, they found that your likelihood of eating unhealthily increased by almost 60% if you had friends who also started eating unhealthily. If our social circles can have such a profound physical effect on us, imagine the financial and mental implications of having positive support from our peers!

It is important to have people around us that we can trust with our plans and bounce ideas off of. People who can hold us accountable when our progress grows stagnant.

Prepare to overcome obstacles

Nobody ever did anything worth doing without failing first. When psychologists talk about the fear of failure (or atychiphobia), what they’re really talking about is the fear of shame.

It isn’t a lack of desire that keeps us from taking a step forward, it’s an unwillingness to find out if we truly have what it takes. This brings us back to the importance of a plan. We can get caught up in fantastic ideas about what the future might hold, but without a plan those ideas are nothing more than a vague possibility. Having a plan and direction breaks our grand schemes down into achievable goals. It sets us up for success by toppling the dominoes over one at a time.

If you’ve lost sight of your plans or are in need of some direction – let’s chat!

Start marketing yourself

Before we can think of saving, spending and investing – we first need to make money. Almost everybody would accept more money if it were offered to them. But, as is often the case in life, we need to put something in to get something out. One of the most effective ways to boost professional offerings, find new employment or elevate a business profile is by successfully marketing yourself.

Here are some easy ways to positively promote yourself:

Share what you know

Word of mouth is the best kind of marketing you can hope for. It is the verbal equivalent of a 5-star rating and it is so utterly personal compared to any other form of advertising. Your knowledge is an asset that gains value when it is shared (as long as it isn’t confidential or covered by an NDA).

Being generous with information will get you noticed by the people you help, and the people they know.

Networking is key

As the saying goes “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know”. Microsoft must have been well aware of this when they bought LinkedIn for a cool $26.2 billion in 2016 (for those that don’t know – LinkedIn is a career-focussed social networking site).

LinkedIn allows you to show off your career achievements and connect with like-minded professionals. It is the perfect platform to take advantage of the power of networking and market yourself to a focused audience.

Find your USP

A USP (unique selling point) is a niche factor that sets a product apart from its competition. Your own USP could be specialist training, astounding business achievements or a unique blend of past experience and personal interests. Once you’ve honed in on your USP be sure to let people know about it.

Remember, the best way to sell anything is by highlighting benefits over features. (For example: a feature of the iPod is that it has 2Gb of storage, the benefit is that you can carry around 1000+ songs in your pocket)

The job market is highly competitive, but the digital age has opened up many avenues for us to gain an edge. In addition to this, strain on the global and local economy makes it even more important for us to be accessible and approachable for new business. We live in a culture where people are most likely going to google you before that first engagement – make sure you’re happy with what they will find!

Don’t spend based on other people’s income

The practice of storytelling is ubiquitous among cultures all across the globe. Sometimes we seem to forget the power that a story can hold over people. We use stories to make sense of our world and to share that understanding with others. When it comes to something as important as finance it is important that the stories we tell ourselves are based in reality.

Yes, the stories that we tell ourselves. We can be forgiven for inflating the truth amongst friends, since most of the time everyone is aware that the story is unbound by facts in the name of entertainment value. But when creating the stories that we tell ourselves, the stories that we make financial and life decisions based on, our brains can play tricks on us.

A notable example of this brain trickery is known as the Relative Income Hypothesis. This hypothesis, developed by an American economist named James Duesenberry, states that an individual’s attitude to consumption and saving is dictated more by their income in relation to others than by an abstract standard of living.

In more basic terms, we base our spending habits on how we think our income compares with those around us – our neighbours, family and friends. A classic case of keeping up with the Joneses, except we have absolutely no clue what the Joneses financial situation looks like compared to our own. So, we create stories.

If our neighbour pulls up in a flashy new car we might be saying to ourselves, “How can they afford THAT?!”, “Their payments must be through the roof!”, “Are they more successful than me?”… only to find out a few days later that the car was on loan from a dealership while their regular vehicle was getting fixed. It is possible we might have even started looking at financing a new flashy vehicle of our own just to see if it would be viable.

That is the power that stories can have on us. We can go from financial contentment to debt in the space of a misunderstanding. It is important to remember that the only financial situation that matters is our own.

But, let’s say the flashy car was your neighbour’s latest toy to keep, would rivalling their new purchase really make us happy? We shouldn’t be feeling like we are stuck in a rat race. If we can nurture an abundance mindset we will see that life is full of opportunities.

If you’re running low on opportunities or feel like you’re financially stuck then let’s get in touch!

Cold hard cash

Debt statistics are growing – this is very likely in part to the fact that a vast majority of us today prefer credit cards over cash. The benefits of credit cards are obvious. They are more convenient and offer more security.

Cold, hard cash, however, can be the best way to organize your spending.

Here are three reasons why you should opt for using cash instead of credit cards for managing your daily budget.

1. Less likely to overspend

Healthier spending habits develop when you use cash. You become more mindful of how much each item costs that you’re putting into your basket, and you won’t want to spend all that you have. More self-control is gained, as you make less impulsive purchases of unnecessary things than you would have if you were using a credit, debit or store card.

Also, cash payments carry no interest rates that you will have to pay back later. You pay the amount on the price ticket, nothing more.

2. Become more engaged with your budget

You will become increasingly engaged with your budget when you work with cash. As compared to the possibility of inconsistent credit card interest rates, with cash you can easily track your expenditure, ATM withdrawal fees and how that favours against your income.

Budgeting and planning your expenditure can be a more enjoyable exercise when you use cash. You can easily reduce your debt too because no interest will be accumulating with every payment you make and you won’t be bleeding money on overspending.

3. Become more creative with your spending

Carrying cash can alter your financial mindset for the better. Since you’ll be limited to what you have in possession and not have the same spending power you get from credit cards, you’ll find that you will become more inventive with your spending.

The longer you challenge yourself to use cash, disciplined spending will become ingrained into your lifestyle as you’ll look for bargains, better deals and more ways to make your money go further.

Studies say that you develop an emotional attachment to items paid for with cash because you feel you made that purchase possible and it was not enabled by your creditor.

Consider the advantages of using cash before swiping your plastic. You can form a better financial identity and live without the drawbacks of credit cards when you go for cash. You can even develop a more mindful approach to your spending because your purchases will depend literally on how much you have in hand.

Three ways to thrash your debt

Effectively managing your debt is one of the best and most proactive ways of ensuring a sustainable financial future. It is deeply gratifying knowing that you’re doing something right when you see your debt shrinking!

The journey of exploring the best ways to manage your debt can improve your attitude and enthusiasm towards settling it. Instead of seeing it as a burden to your financial goals, you’ll recognise that it’s an inspiring investment towards your financial freedom.

Here are three often-cited ways to repay your debt.

  • Snowball method

The snowball method is frequently thought of as the best debt-relief option as it means you start off by paying the smallest debt and then move on to bigger loan amounts. This technique can be valuable for boosting morale and improving your sense of achievement as you start to see the results early on. Your debtor statements are reduced and you will be encouraged to continue with this debt repayment plan.

However, this means you end up paying higher interest costs, because it considers the payment of the debt and not the interest rates around it. To get around this, you can find other ways to refinance your high interest debts.

  • The Avalanche method

This strategy is the opposite of the snowball method. You start off with the biggest debt and finish with the smallest. If you’re looking to save on interest this is the best strategy to employ. 

This strategy requires patience as it doesn’t offer immediate results but, in the long term, you can be debt-free quicker. You need to have the resolve to settle bigger debts. From there you’ll be more motivated because only the small obstacles will be left. 

  • Debt consolidation

Through debt consolidation you can easily keep up with multiple payment deadlines by combining all your debts into one. This involves taking out one large loan, equal to the amount of your entire debt, and paying off what you owe in one place. 

The obvious risk is that you would now be using debt… to get out of debt. However, you will end up owing one creditor instead of many, and could potentially secure a more beneficial interest rate overall. When followed effectively this method can help reduce your debt whilst improving your credit score.

All three of these strategies can be useful for reducing your debt. Discipline is required with all of them because having the best strategy is not enough – you have to follow through with it too. 

If you need help with this – just give us a shout!