Can you change how you feel about money?

Here’s the quick answer: yes!

That’s the easy part. The challenge lies in the next question: How do I change how I feel about money?

There are plenty of books, blogs, podcasts and short courses on how to change how to manage your money better and change how you budget, spend, save and invest. But many people, despite all these resources, still feel stuck and unable to change how they feel about money.

In “Mind over Mood” (Greenberger & Pedesky), they say that the key to changing how we feel about something lies in finding the connection between our thoughts and how they influence our moods and behaviours.

“Most people who are anxious, depressed, or angry can tell you that “just thinking positive thoughts” is not that easy [ … ] Looking at a situation from all sides and considering a wide range of information – positive, negative, and neutral – can lead to more helpful ways of understanding things and new solutions to difficulties you face.”

When it comes to our money-mood swings, attaching thoughts to our moods is a valuable exercise. Identifying what we think about money (influenced by our parents, peers and personal experiences) is the first positive step to changing how we feel about money.

In his book “Overcoming Depression and Low Mood”, Chris Williams suggests that the next step should be setting yourself small, achievable steps to maintain the momentum of change.

“You can’t expect to be able to swim immediately. You may need to start at the shallow end and practice at first. Pace what you do and don’t jump straight away into the deep end.”

These small steps could start with cash flow management, or perhaps you need to start talking to your family and loved ones about what you’re thinking and feeling about your financial situation. Connecting your thoughts and emotions is helpful, but connecting with people you love lets you feel protected, safe, physically comforted and soothed, and connected to others. 

When we feel isolated or alone, these emotions can cloud and clutter how we feel about our money, leaving us feeling overwhelmed and anxious. We then attach these feelings to how we feel about our money and how we think about our financial situation. This leads us to make unhealthy financial decisions and, in turn, keeps us stuck in our feelings about our money.

If you’ve been struggling with anxiety or depression around your finances, you’re not alone. Changing our thoughts and creating new habits are powerful in improving how we feel. Talk with people you trust and ask for help.

Learning leverages healthy decisions (1/3)

A curriculum doesn’t drive learning; curiosity drives learning.

When we consider the learning pattern of those who are outside of schooling systems, it’s curiosity that drives their learning, not the prescribed milestones of an education system. From Google to TED, from books to stories passed down from our elders, learning is more about readiness than reached milestones.

When our learning is stifled, forced or limited by a curriculum, we can become frustrated and suppress our yearning to learn something new. This is an unhealthy state in which to slip.

When we learn something new, we exercise our brain, improving cognitive functions such as concentration, attention to detail, memory recall, and problem-solving. 

We become interested in more, and we become more interesting! Adopting this mindset creates fertile ground for healthy decision-making in life, relationships and our finances.

Sahil Bloom, from The Curiosity Chronicle, recently shared a collection of awesome ways to expand our curiosity and become lifelong learners.

Build a learning engine

The “learning engine” is at the core of every lifelong learner. Essentially, it comprises all the knowledge sources that we regularly consume. These could be books, audiobooks, newsletters, podcasts, TED talks, documentaries, blogs… you name it! And, in the last two decades, the internet has opened access to it all.

Avoid noise bottlenecks

Consuming more information does not always equate to knowing more. As you consume more data, you may find the noise-to-signal ratio increases – we call this a noise bottleneck. It slows down our ability to assimilate what we’re learning. 

We should consume less, but consume intelligently.

Embrace all styles and levels of learning

There are different types of learning, and there are different levels of learning. Four common learning types identified early on in children are visual, auditory, kinesthetic, and reading/writing. 

Most people are a combination of these four styles, but more times than not, we have a preferred learning style. Trying to explore different ways to consume and assimilate information keeps our brains and bodies healthy and helps us move from surface learning (which is quick and easy) to deep learning (which takes more time to mature).

Seek mentors and coaches

Two big challenges to learning are blindspots and the lack of accountability. Coaches and mentors provide a trusted sounding board and hold the space in our lives to spur us on when we’ve been sitting still for too long.

Embrace Failures

As Thomas Edison once said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” Lifelong learners recognize that failures are learning opportunities. They don’t fear them; they embrace them. Failure is not easy, and this is why when we persevere, we grow in strength, skill and knowledge.

Follow Your Curiosity

When you have a spark of curiosity, follow it. From preparing and eating healthier meals to discovering how you can steadily move from living in debt to living in surplus. From learning a new skill or adopting a hobby to expanding your knowledge of how your body, mind, and emotions work, be willing to go on that journey wherever your curiosity drives you.

When our minds are clear, focussed and fit, we can make better decisions. We can see our current situation more clearly and identify the future that we’d like to create.

What happens to our passwords when we pass?

Estate planning, wills and final testaments are not easy processes to navigate. Setting up life cover and considering what will happen to your family when you pass away can be deeply emotional and an experience many would rather avoid.

But as technology helps us create farewell videos, family portfolio galleries and digital vaults, it has made the experience a little less technical and considerably more emotionally engaging and fulfilling. 

However – we often plan for the event of our death alone. What if you and your partner pass together or in quick succession? Not only will your dependants need to charter the unknown territory of your physical assets and financial policies, but they will also need to deal with your digital assets and online accounts.

From online banking and social media to online shopping and digital subscriptions, most of us have anywhere between five and forty active accounts that will need to be closed, cancelled or managed in our passing.

And, all of these require passwords.

If you haven’t addressed this before, you can start today with a simple spreadsheet or table. You can print it out or set it up on your device, whichever makes more sense to you.

There are loads of apps (some free, some not) that can help you do this, but let’s take a look at a basic framework that covers the essentials and gets your thoughts aligned with what might happen to your passwords when you pass.

Set out four columns under the following headers:

  1. Account (Facebook/National Bank/Netflix)
  2. URL (this is the website address or link that you use to access your account)
  3. Username
  4. Password

You can always add more columns as you use the list a little more, these could include headers like:

  1. Renewal date
  2. Renewal/Monthly/Annual fees
  3. ID number or personal identifying code for that supplier
  4. Email (that is linked to that account)

You could also create groups for the different accounts to make it easier to update and work with going forward. Group categories would also make it easier for your partner or kids to find the relevant accounts easily.

These categories could be things like:

  1. Email accounts
  2. Banking
  3. Business accounts
  4. Internet/Cellphones
  5. Entertainment
  6. Social Media
  7. Online Shopping

Our digital assets are still a very new area of estate planning that have not been fully explored, but if you have some good ideas on how you’d like your social media profiles to be treated or specific messages that you would like broadcast, these can be included in your planning.

But – almost all of these wishes depend on someone having access on your behalf; and for that they will need the four columns of the sheet that you’re about to set up! If you have more than ten accounts – just do ten today, and another ten tomorrow and another ten the day after until you’ve worked through everything. This will make it manageable and achievable.

Ready to be more resilient?

We can’t change what happens to us, but we can change how we respond to what happens to us, and within us.

Everything ages, but not everything ages well. Some things can wither from the inside out if they do not have a well-developed resilience. Resilience is the ability to bounce back and withstand stressors. It is to have the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties.

For us, resilience is something that we need to work on actively. If we were lucky to have a loving environment to grow up in, we would have a certain amount of resilience from an early age. However, as soon as our communities begin to find ways to disqualify, exclude, challenge and limit us, our resilience will be challenged and reduced.

This is why we need to work on our resilience.

Resilience is linked to our sense of, or connectedness to, our wholeness. Building resilience means that we need to embrace all sides of ourselves (even the warty ones!). Connecting with the heart is at the core of finding and creating inner wholeness.

As Dr Rosenberg, a clinical psychologist, writes, “We are compassionate with ourselves when we are able to embrace all parts of ourselves and recognize the needs and values expressed by each part. Practicing self-compassion involves learning how to firstly practice self-care and secondly learning how to love yourself.”

This is also crucial in building financial resilience. Suppose we aren’t able to question and investigate how we feel about money. In that case, we will not succeed in promoting healthy habits, supporting a positive self-image, and fortifying resilient relationships.

On the lonerwolf.com website, they put it like this:

Wholeness and holiness are connected. Holy comes from the Old English word hālig, which means “whole, healthy, entire, and complete.” So to be whole means to be holy. Wholeness is holiness – and this is why when we have a direct experience of our wholeness it tends to feel like a mystical experience of awe, gratitude, love, and reverie.

But it’s not something reserved for mystics and people on lonely mountaintops. 

Wholeness, self-compassion, inner strength, confidence — resilience — are available to all of us. When we show up every day, helping to bring love and value to those around us, we can be resilient. When we make plans for our future and are forced to change those plans due to unforeseen changes, we can be resilient.

When we support our family through tough times or provide a safety net for our children, partners, or parents, we can be resilient.

It all begins with being kinder to ourselves; this is how we bounce back stronger.

Making mindfulness easier

Anything in life that is truly worth doing – is not easy. It is easy to forget this when we see others doing really well and making the difficult seem like a cinch. We don’t see all the hard work that goes into the background.

But in our own areas of expertise, we have had to start from level zero and apply ourselves over time to gain the knowledge and experience akin to being proficient.

When it comes to mindfulness, a key practice for our mental health, it feels like it’s something that should come naturally. All we need to do is focus our attention on the present moment, and we will be able to get it right. Mindfulness has been proven to calm the mind, ground the body, and increase overall well-being and good health, scientifically and spiritually.

We understand that it’s worth doing, but in practice, it’s not that easy. We get distracted, our thoughts run all over the show, and before we know it, we’re no longer practising mindfulness.

Mindfulness is an incredible tool to help us make better decisions around our finances, relationships, career and extracts more enjoyment and fulfilment from the activities that we love so much.

Here are a few ideas that we can all work on, gradually and steadily, to grow our mastery of mindfulness and make this journey a little easier.

DO EVERYTHING SLOWLY

Consciously slow down. Walk slowly, drink slowly, sit slowly, breathe slowly, talk slowly, move your body slowly — practice slowing down your natural tendency to rush everything. When we wake up to an alarm clock, judge our travel time by traffic flows, set meetings for productive hours in the day, watch the clock during dinners and keep trying to get to bed earlier, we’re living by the clock. And this will always leave us feeling rushed.

Slowing down helps us break the grip of ‘always feeling rushed’ and helps us focus on what we’re doing right now. When you slow your breathing – you’re focused on the air going in and going out. You’re probably doing it right now as you read this – and that’s a super start! You’re already more mindful.

Whenever your world starts to spin a little too fast, witness your breath and feel yourself begin to slow down.

LET EATING BECOME A SENSORY EXPLOSION

There’s a moment in the 2007 Disney movie, Ratatouille, where Remy and Emile taste some cheese that was struck by lighting. Visually, as Remy takes a bite, we see the background fade into a fireworks display, and his face shows the visceral delight in this new taste experience.

When we want to improve our mindfulness muscles, we can do it with every meal and snack during the day. As we slow those down (not eating on the run…), we can experience more of the flavour, texture and benefits of what we are putting in our bodies.

SPEND MORE TIME IN NATURE

We’ve said it many times in our blogs, spending time in nature is healing and helpful on so many levels. It boosts happy-hormones, improves our air intake, stimulates creativity and reduces emotional tension. But – it also makes mindfulness easier.

Living indoors all day tends to restrict the mind immensely. By going outside, we open our minds to experiencing more expansion and relaxation.

If we’re walking a little slower (let’s assume we’re not trying to get our lifestyle-plan points!), we will be able to commit to watching, smelling and hearing whatever comes into our field of stimulation. Experts say that doing this for at least half an hour a day is all we need to begin making mindfulness easier.

We can work on mindfulness of sounds, smells, flavors, feelings/textures, and what we see and start small. Focus on one mindfulness exercise and commit time to it each day. As this becomes easier, you can journal your experiences (this enhances mindfulness of a recent experience) and reflect on what you’ve learned or how you’ve changed. Be kind to yourself and have some fun with it!

Have you been offered early retirement? (Part 2)

Following on from the previous blog on considering early retirement, the focus of this conversation sparker is to look at five key things that should be on our to-do list before we make any decisions about our retirement (or any big life decision!).

In his article for Glacier, Dinash Pillay, National Business Development Manager at Glacier, said that there is much for you to consider before you hand in your early retirement notice.

We know that people live longer now than in previous generations, so there is the likelihood that you will live beyond 80. Dinash says that the most important question for people facing retirement, arguably, is: will my retirement savings last as long as me? Before you make any life- or finance-changing decisions, the answers to these questions will inform your decision-making.

When life is overwhelming and we have too many balls in the air – which is common for those in their 40s and 50s – writing down lists helps us to declutter our thoughts and process the emotions before they process us.

Here’s Pillay’s 5-Check offering to help us make better choices around our retirement planning.

Your to-do list before deciding to retire early

  1. Consult a personal financial adviser. If you don’t already have one, appoint a qualified, appropriately authorised financial adviser to help you make some of these decisions. If you do decide to opt for early retirement, there is little room for mistakes or bad decisions regarding investing your money. An adviser’s expertise will go a long way in enabling you to invest and retire with confidence. Also, they are not emotionally attached to your money, so will help you make decisions based on the facts, objectively taking your unique needs, investment risk appetite and lifestyle into account. 
  2. Scrutinise your household budget. This means evaluating every expense incurred in your home – the essential costs of living such as groceries as well as the luxury items such as entertainment. In every budget, there are fixed costs that are unlikely to change, whether you are working or not. An example of this is that you may be paying school or university fees for your children or you might still be servicing debt. Those costs may exist for many more years. So, regular review of your budget is essential. Consider that the monthly income from your retirement fund is likely to be less than your current monthly income. As a retiree, you might be able to save on costs like fuel, but also consider new costs that could be incurred e.g. your private medical aid that previously may have been included as an employee benefit at work. 
  3. Think about who depends on you financially and how long you will have to support them into the future. Your spouse may not be employed; you may still have children at school or university; you may have a disabled child; or you may have unemployed or retrenched adult children whom you support. These dependents have to be taken into account in your planning.     
  4. Know how much retirement savings you’re losing by retiring early. You’d be surprised how much you could lose in savings, even by retiring just two or three years earlier than you originally planned to. 
  5. Decide on how you will spend your time. Taking a dream holiday is one option, but it can only last so long. Many retirees complain about boredom within the first six months into their retirement. They have so much time with few activities to fill it. Perhaps consider creating a new source of income using your skills, or find a hobby, or think about the possibility of volunteering in your community. There are many organisations that serve the needy who could use your skills and expertise. The point is to find a new purpose and to live it with confidence.

The way that we define and refine what retirement looks like will continue to evolve as we move forward, so remember that there is no ‘right time to retire’; it all depends on your personal situation. 

Going back to point one on the checklist is always a great idea!

Source article

Designing Your “No Rules Retirement”

Our concept of retirement is undergoing a metamorphosis. Demographic, societal, and workplace trends have all converged to offer a stage of life—at mid-life and beyond—that is much more fluid and flexible than we previously thought possible.  

When planning for retirement, we are discovering that the “old rules” have been thrown out and that “no rules” apply.  

Instead of “not working,” retirement has come to mean emancipation, the freedom to choose the activities and pursuits we find the most satisfying and rewarding. In other words, our retirement experience has become a matter of personal definition.

Because of increasing longevity and more active lifestyles, many individuals are viewing this time in life as an opportunity to explore their potential.  

Clarify Your Values & Priorities

Most importantly, creating a No Rules Retirement™ is all about identifying, pursuing, and living in sync with your personal values and priorities. In fact, the greater your understanding of what is important to you, the easier it will be to “paint a picture” in your mind of what you want your life to be like in this stage of life. In addition, the clearer and sharper your vision becomes, the more naturally you will gravitate toward that image. 

In addition, as you purposefully and progressively “make room” in your life for what is meaningful to you, the degree of happiness and fulfillment that you experience will grow and multiply. Therefore, an important mantra for everyone, regardless of age, should be “if it is to be, it is up to me!” To ensure your success, make it a priority to invest in all areas of your life. Always remember that the choices you make on a daily basis are cumulative and will determine the quality of life you experience 10, 20, and 30 years in the future.

Visualize Your Future

A good approach to preparing for your own No Rules Retirement is to first picture yourself at different ages and stages in each area of life. Take time to visualize what you would like to have, do, see, feel, and experience in all of these areas. Draw a picture in your mind of the life you want to have and then continue to build on that image.  

As you visualize the lifestyle and quality of life that you would like to have at midlife and beyond, remember that the secret to realizing your dreams is to maintain a “future focus.” This perspective will not only help you to maintain a positive outlook, but will also require you to acknowledge the influence of choices made today on your life in the future.  

There is a lot of truth to the old saying that “if you don’t know where you are going, any road will take you there.” As you plan for your future, it is important to envision and articulate the various elements you want to include in your life composition. Whatever you identify and claim for yourself will become the internal compass of your life by consciously and subconsciously guiding all of the big and little decisions you make.

Invest in Yourself

In other words, a truly successful and fulfilling No Rules Retirement experience requires planning and preparation in all areas of life. Remember, health, happiness, and productivity are not blessings bestowed on a lucky few. Instead, they are the result of long-term life choices brought to fruition by the decisions made on a daily basis.  

As you think about your future and the kind of life you want to have, it is essential that you acknowledge the personal accountability aspects of both your current and future well-being. Always keep in mind that the essence of “the rich life” is the freedom to live in such a way as to support your values and priorities. And, in a nutshell, isn’t that truly what designing a No Rules Retirement is all about?

Reprinted by permission of Money Quotient, Inc.

Fortify financial peace of mind

There are few things worse than lying in bed at night, tossing and turning over financial stress. Lack of sleep only adds to our stress and hinders our overall mental, physical and emotional health!

Our money choices are linked to our life choices, and our life choices are linked to our money choices. This means that we have to find ways to reduce financial stress if we want to actively and intentionally manage our overall stress levels.

We don’t need to have all our debt cleared, loads of discretionary funds and everything figured out to have financial peace of mind. All we need is a plan, someone to support us in the journey and a way to identify stressors; this is how we fortify financial peace of mind.

We need to know where our money is going; tracking triggers change. As we track our money, learning where it comes in and where it goes out is not only a prudent practise but also loads of fun and deeply empowering. A major fear or stressor stems from not knowing how much money we have and why it doesn’t stay in our account.

It’s easy to fall into this position as we slowly acquire more bank accounts, retail accounts, debit orders and rewards schemes and see the prices of utilities frequently increasing. If we’re not tracking something as simple as our rates and water, we could be bleeding funds into municipal accounts that we weren’t 18 months ago.

Some strategies to cope with this involve more focused budgeting, whilst others could involve closing accounts and consolidating credit facilities. Everyone’s situation is unique, so it’s best to weigh up the different options inside of your own personal financial situation.

Many people also face the constant stress of not having sufficient medical cover. Whilst some plans are comprehensive, with regular changes in basic benefits, it’s not easy to always believe that we have the ‘best available’ cover. Private healthcare is expensive and mostly outside of the average budget, and if government healthcare is insufficient, medical cover products are essential.

There are myriad products available, from entry-level hospital plans and GAP cover solutions to all-inclusive medical aids. Still, there’s also a lot of stress that can be relieved by ensuring that you have a local doctor you trust and are happy to work with. Knowing where your nearest clinics and emergency rooms are and having a payment and admissions plan in place, should you or your family have a medical emergency, will also help fortify financial peace of mind.

Another challenge to our financial peace of mind is the anxiety around providing for our parents in their retirement. Many people who are currently close to – or already retired – are not comfortable discussing their financial situation with their family. This creates enormous stress and pressure on their children to have peace of mind that their parents have all they need to live comfortably in retirement.

Again – relieving this stress begins with identifying the problem areas and learning how to have constructive conversations that lead to plans and happier, more peace-filled sleep patterns!

How to nurture financially savvy kids

In 1988, financial planner and best-selling author Venita Van Caspel wrote in her bestselling book Financial Dynamics for the 1990s:

“Our educational system continues to send forth our young with so little information about financial matters that they are like time bombs about to destroy their own and their families’ economic futures.  We equip them to earn good incomes and to live the good life, but we fail miserably as a nation to prepare them to know what to do with the money they earn.”

Now, more than three decades later, the implications of Van Caspel’s sobering commentary are more serious than ever before.  With the level of consumer debt skyrocketing and the cost of housing, education, and health care increasing at double digit rates, younger generations are facing unprecedented obstacles to achieving financial security.  In addition to these steadily climbing trends, we must now factor in unanticipated economic challenges brought on by the sudden onset of the COVID-19 Pandemic.  

Therefore, helping the young people we care about to learn effective money management skills, and to adopt good financial habits and attitudes, is more important than ever.  The first and most important step we must take is to examine our own money beliefs and behaviors, and then take action to get our financial lives in order.  Nothing is more effective in guiding the younger generation than providing a consistent and powerful role model.

Next, we must stay alert for teachable moments to share our financial expertise and wisdom. Very few topics affect us on a day-to-day basis like money, so there are endless opportunities to provide mini financial lessons via word and example.  

Lastly, commit to increasing our knowledge and awareness of ways we can encourage and equip the young people in our lives to lay the foundation for a successful and satisfying financial life.  Here are two great resources to help guide us in this mission: 

Make Your Kid a Money Genius (Even if You’re Not):  Best-selling financial author Beth Kobliner provides parents with a well-grounded guide to fostering a wise financial mindset and practical money skills throughout childhood and into young adulthood. 

The Opposite of Spoiled: Raising Kids Who are Grounded, Generous, and Smart about Money:  Author Ron Lieber believes that good parenting includes talking about money—a lot!  “When parents avoid these conversations, they lose a tremendous opportunity—not just to model important financial behaviours, but also to imprint lessons about what their family cares about most.”

Reprinted by permission of Money Quotient, Inc.

When the opposite is true

There is a thin veneer over everything. When we are distracted by news streams, overwhelmed by direct messaging and tired from keeping up with the Joneses, it’s easy to create a veneer that allows us to store and process more information without having to delve deeper into what’s actually going on beneath the surface.

It’s here that paradoxes are formed, and we can miss out on value when we aren’t able to dig deeper and find out more. Often, these paradoxes become most apparent in our later years, and we love to wax lyrical about how wisdom is wasted on the old and youth is wasted on the young.

Ultimately – we begin to accept (and awaken to) the opposite of so many things we once believed to be true.

Here are just a few of life’s paradoxes that can help us find more value and fulfilment in life.

Learn More to Know Less

This is also known as the knowledge paradox. That the more we know, the less we can clearly explain. Our inability to explain familiar concepts is a form of cognitive bias wherein experts often overestimate the ability of novices. As Einstein put it – the more I learn, the more I realise how much I don’t know.” 

This should be empowering, not frightening and should encourage us to embrace lifelong learning. Lifelong learners are built, not born. Choosing to keep learning is something we must actively do – it’s not reserved for some non-existent biologically elite.

Slow Down to Speed Up

Our parents and teachers would often say, “Less haste, more speed!”. Apart from being more mindful and present, slowing down gives us the time to be deliberate with our actions. We can focus, gather energy, and deploy our resources more efficiently. It allows you to focus on leverage and maximising returns.

When it comes to markets and investing, budgeting or risk management – this paradox is intrinsic to the sustainability of our planning.

Sprezzatura (“Simple is not simple.”)

The veneer of social acceptance places high praise on those who have the veneer of “having it all together.” The house, the family, the job, the investment portfolio…

Whilst the veneer may be entirely false, we need to remember that we see the end result, not the hard work that goes on behind the scenes. It takes more effort to make something appear effortless. Effortless, elegant performances are often the result of a large volume of effortful, gritty practice. 

Benjamin Franklin once said that when you are finished changing, you are finished. If we want to keep moving forward and thriving in times of hardship, we need to be dynamic and adaptable. Learning to adapt to the opposite of what we once thought true is not easy, but it’s a necessary step to find more value and more meaning in life.