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Financial Freedom

The real cost of money worries? More than a penny for your thoughts.

 

Angie was nestled amongst the cushions of Nick’s luxurious sofa, wrapped in his plush bathrobe, a temporary substitute for his embrace as he took to the kitchen to brew a perfect mug of coffee.

She loved that recently, Friday afternoon drinks with the girls had, by sunset, become a romantic dinner for two with Nick … and after that the evening was spent at his apartment, overlooking city views with champagne, a scarcity of garments, and all that a blossoming relationship could offer.

Nick settled in beside her, handing her that perfect brew, he too sipping a morning coffee and winding his free arm around her side. As Angie took her first sip of coffee, she lounged back into him. Time both stood still and flew by simultaneously.

This kind of bliss is what she’s only read about in romance novels.

As their mugs emptied, he placed a sweet kiss on the back of her neck and left her for a moment. She heard the water hit the glass of the shower screen and habitually picked up her phone. Without a thought, she clicked on her banking app, a habit she’d developed recently.

As she viewed the screen, her neck stiffened, and tingly pricks began stabbing all over her body. A quick check into her transaction history showed that not only had that round at the bar with the girls been costly, but a quarterly payment she’d forgotten was due had exited her account.

It was going to be a tight fortnight from here to payday.

Angie flicked to the social media pages, last night, Lucy and the crew had hit the town, photos of them sipping cocktails on a lavish terrace, images posted from all the ritzy clubs across town. To top it all off, someone had snapped Lucy being ushered into the most exclusive night spot with the arm of some dashingly handsome suitor across her shoulder, as he tossed the keys of his luxury sports car to the valet.

Angie let out a long, heartfelt sigh; Nick’s cushions just didn’t feel as comfortable now, and upon closer inspection, it’s possible the mug she’s drinking out of has gone through the dishwasher one too many times, it’s looking a bit worn.

“Lucy out living large beyond her budget again, hey?” Angie was so preoccupied with the girls’ night out; that she’d not noticed he had returned.

Deep down she feared that if Nick hadn’t of taken her away for dinner, there was no way she’d have been able to afford to keep up with the girls’ extravagant night. “I’ve been thinking,” she started, looking up at Nick, “I might defer study for a bit, get a promotional job like Lucy and get some money behind me,

I just can’t save on my cafe salary.”

“Babe,” his voice reassuring but cautionary, “no one ‘saves’ on their café salary’; but we do learn how to budget, and save, and when we get the job that we’ve studied for, we’re mindful of our hard-earned cash.”

Nick shared with Lucy that while he was studying, it drove him nuts that his mates who had full-time employment seemed to have money to burn, but over time it was short-lived. “It really messed with my thinking,” he shared, “missing out on concerts and some trips away, but now I’m in a much better position, it was worth that angst at the time.”

Angie gave him a wry smile, “Promise you’ll keep me from keeping up with the girls and spending all my savings in one night?”

“Only until you’re the one gallivanting across town without abandon,” he replied, “and taking me with you of course!!” he added as he scooped her into his arms amongst the couch cushions. Angie welcomed back that feeling of timeless bliss and kept the pangs of FOMO at bay.

Studies in psychology show that when people’s thoughts are consumed by money troubles, their overall decision-making is impaired. They have less ‘bandwidth’ to focus on other things and are generally more sensitive to examples of things they don’t have.

 

Reference:

Mullainathan, S & Shafir, E. (2013) Scarcity: Why having too little means so much.  London: Allen Lane 12. Hammond, C

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Financial Freedom

Everything’s more expensive, real estate prices are crazy – what else is new? The brutal truth.

There’s been an air of positivity as people start to return to work. I am watching with interest to see how long that lasts. Usually by the end of February, it is easier to get a sense of people’s confidence in business. Having run my own media business in the finance industry for 25 years this year (yes, there will be an epic party), I’ve seen the cycles of business turn quite a few times, and we are at a pivotal point. The share market is making money, interest rates are high but are tipped to go down, and the cost of living crisis has become an everyday fact of life rather than big news. Nobody is able to do much about it in the short term. Government inquiry into price gouging at supermarkets and tax cuts might put the wheels in motion, but there is much more at play, including global war – and the current governmental measures will never be enough to impact the cost of putting a roof over our head or significantly increase real wages in line with inflation.

All we keep talking about is the increasing cost of property – particularly in Sydney. Those who own a property are rubbing their hands together – while many struggle to keep paying the mortgage, they do it knowing that they should have an asset that is increasing in value. Then, there are those that don’t own property, talking about how they can ever afford to get in? How will their kids? How will young people and essential workers be able to stay in the city? And rental prices have shot sky high, meaning any discretionary spending for renters has been cut – and become an overhead in the form of increased rent. Less fun, more money stress.

 

There is a widening wealth gap in Australia and it’s obvious that we need solutions for the next generation,

because nothing is going to change now when the motivations for people remain the same. The tax laws favour property investors, and I don’t see a time where there are not people wanting to minimise the tax they pay. We have some of the highest tax rates for high-income earners in the world. As far as corporates go – listed companies ultimately serve their shareholders first, so of course there is also going to be a focus on profits over people. That’s business.

 

So what do we have control of? How can we change the conversation from costs and real estate to how we build something better for generations to come?

And how can we take action as individuals, groups, and communities to ease the burden of the cost of living and make intentional decisions about our own financial futures? Because the current conversation isn’t getting us anywhere. I believe the biggest thing we can do for ourselves is be brutally honest about what we want out of life – both now and in the longer term. Do you want to keep paying a mortgage till you are 80? Do you want to keep a corporate career that you can’t stand, for the money? Do you want to keep living in a city you can’t afford? Do you want to go back to work and stop being a stay-at-home mum? Should you stay married? Are you tired of being alone?

 

There are so many brutal truths in life that we don’t force ourselves to accept, because to admit them would bring about painful change.

But once we do, we can finally make a plan, including a financial one, that is intelligent and bound to be successful – because it is headed toward a goal that we really want. It is great to set goals, but unless they are so shiny, so attractive and what truly feeds our soul, we won’t achieve them. To be thinner, richer, or more educated are all great goals – but what is the step-by-step plan to get there? Without this, which always starts with our brutal truth, we will not get what we truly want from our life.

Brutal truths are hard to accept, and harder to admit because they mean changing things. As human beings, we are hard-wired to like what we know and are familiar with. Change is akin to a threat, and as a result, we often avoid making a change, seeing the threat of the change outweighing the benefit. At the age of 50, I have gone through many brutal truths in my time, including the end of my 20-plus-year marriage. It has been incredibly painful, and I have had to accept that some days are better than others, and that a support network of friends, family, and people that care can make brutal truths easier to bear. Because on the other side of brutal truths and change is the life we could be living. The possibilities we have yet to explore.

 

So what is your brutal truth? What do you really want, or don’t want in your life? Have you had the courage to ask yourself that question knowing that you have the strength to act on it?

Because you do. We are braver than we ever give ourselves credit for, and the thing about life is we don’t want things because we should not have them. Our brutal truths tell us who we want to be, and who we have the potential to be if we are strong enough to make the change.

So may this be the year that we tune out a little on the doom and gloom and focus on our own brutal truths. Shining a light on them may be the first step in making strategic decisions that have whole of life benefits. What comes next is up to you – you are in charge. But giving yourself the time and space to reflect on the question of what you really want from life will help guide you with a decision-making framework based on how to get there. A while back I put together a guide on how to start planning what your dream life looks like. It all starts with defining it. This might help your reflection. You can download a free copy here https://vanessastoykov.com.au/resources/dream-life/

May you be on the path to the life you dream of and have the courage to see your brutal truth for what it is – a call to change. What lies on the other side is worth it.

Until next time,

Categories
Financial Freedom

Three ways to improve your money mindset

Money had fascinated me for as long as I can remember. Not necessarily the accumulation and growing of it. More, the impact it has on who we are, how we feel about ourselves and how others view us. Money and self worth are as closely linked as our parental influences. Money pervades every part of our life, determining our opportunities when born, the set of challenges we face, and choices we are able to make in the future.
The Western world would tell us that anybody has the opportunity to create abundance. The rags to riches stories are our favourite. and in a democracy, everybody gets a chance to participate if they choose, right?

Except that belief is only half true. The playing field has not been evenly stacked, and those with access to money can make better choices. I’m not the first to point this out – there has been so much change, so quickly. We are scared, uncertain and know each of us has to protect our own patch, our own families and communities. This responsibility can be debilitating, especially when access to resources is limited. Why are so many of us are falling into stress traps. Rising rents, rising interest rates, the cost of living soaring, has had a big impact on our quality of life. The stress, anxiety and fear, and the resultant anger has families hurting and people in despair.
It also means people that have long had disposable income and the choices that come from that, are no longer able to live life that way. Owning a media business over COVID was not a financial goldmine. I have learned the hard way about budgeting, and curtailing lifestyle choices.

And I can say firsthand, it is much harder to find amusement and pleasure alone or with family without spending money. Especially when you are used to having some choices.

And when your choices become more limited, it is hard to keep a positive money mindset – which is why so many of us are feeling financial anxiety. So how do you keep a positive money mindset when you are drowning in debt, lack or worry? It is not easy, but I have found there are things you can do that help.

1. Stop thinking about the big picture too much. If you don’t have clarity about where the money will come from, you can drive yourself to despair worrying with no answers. Instead, better to keep your view micro. What about today can you celebrate what you do have, or achieved? Paid the electricity? Great! Got an extension on school fees? Well done. It is important to acknowledge and celebrate everything you are doing day to day to keep life going.

2. Find things you enjoy replacing the stuff you would have spent money on. Whether it be learning to cook from YouTube, learning to sew, or a foreign language online, there are things you can set your mind to that will challenge you and open up your horizons, without needing money.

3. Think laterally about your financial situation. Are there things you could do that you have never considered before? Like selling your home before interest rates rises get too unbearable, or moving out of the city to rural areas that are less expensive to live? Perhaps you thought it not possible before, but to rid yourself of huge financial stress you need to think in ways you have not before. While change is scary, it can also be liberating once you open up the possibilities.

Money mindset is so important because it is so closely linked to our mental health. Working on your mindset by recognising you are struggling and making some changes, no matter how small, can make a big difference. So, remember, you got this. You will be ok. And there will be better times ahead.

Until next time

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Manage Finances

Can a ‘saver’ truly love an ‘entertainer’?

“Now this is more like it!” Stacy declared as she stepped onto the generous balcony of the penthouse apartment. With uninterrupted water views, it would be perfect for entertaining. Paul released her fingertips as she twirled onto the balcony. Of course this was the rental she was excited about.

She turned to face him with that gorgeous glint in her eye that he adored since they had first met, “Isn’t this so much better than that pokey shoebox a few streets back?”

That ‘pokey shoebox’ was the apartment he’d selected for today’s rental inspections. The one much more within their budget that allowed for them to accumulate some savings at the same time as moving in together.

She threw her arms around his neck and beckoned him in for an embrace on the balcony. As he moved towards her she recognized that furrow in his brow, she’d found that so attractive when they first started dating, today she read it all too easily and she couldn’t mask her disappointment.

She sighed, “I knew you would do this – this is supposed to be exciting, us moving in together, have our own place,” her words trailed off with disdain and she brushed out of his arms. She would love to share this place with him, and their friends, the ocean was so close and there was a hint of a salty, summery sea breeze.

Paul walked to where Stacy was standing, “I want this to happen too, but I also want us to be able to save some money for our own place, and we can’t do that here …” he let his words trail off, she forced herself not to face him, a reluctant yet defiant tear escaped as she blinked.

He could tell she understood the facts on this one, even if she couldn’t accept the emotions she felt.

Paul grimaced at the estate agent, declaring, “This one, just isn’t for us, it’s not sensibly within our price range”.

The agent left Paul and Stacy alone on the balcony. “I just want our place to be something a bit special,” she said. She did understand his focus on them saving for their own place was important, and it was for her too, but, oh, to finally move in together, and all that that entailed. Her dreams of falling into his arms of a night instead of messaging him from her bedroom at her parents’ place were a little crushed.

“Stacy, any place that we choose to be together will be special,” he said as he gently kissed her forehead. She playfully rolled her eyes and accepted his embrace.

As Stacy and Paul went to exit the apartment, the agent met them at the front door. “There’s another place in this complex becoming available next weekend, it’s on the level three down from here, the ocean view is a little obscured, I have the other details here,” and she handed the information sheet to them both.

Paul’s brow furrowed again as he studied the document carefully, “Yeah,” he offered, “the room sizes are a little on the small side, but it does have a walk-in robe, and the balcony is the same size as the one here on the top floor, and the asking price is the same as the pokey shoebox.”

“So, smaller place to sleep but similar space to entertain, and within budget?” Stacy asked with excitement. “Yeah, that king-size bed you’ve got your eye on won’t fit in this space though,” he said gesturing to the floor plan, “be ok for the less expensive queen ensemble though.”

A devilish smile spread across Stacy’s face, “just means I get to snuggle in a little closer to you then, hey?” Paul nearly blushed, “I guess so”, his eyes widened, “where do we apply?” he asked the agent.

Both of them now content with an outcome that met Paul’s budgetary ideals, appeased Stacy’s entertaining aspirations and satisfied their goal of being together.

A 2012 study involving over 1,500 couples found that the biggest predictor of divorce wasn’t arguments about children, housework or sex, but disagreements about money. The overall wealth of the couples made minimal difference to the outcomes of the study – as such the researchers concluded it wasn’t necessarily a lack of money causing the conflict, it was more related to individual’s underlying values being incompatible.

Dew, J et al (2012). Examining the Relationship Between Financial Issues and Divorce. Family Relations, 61(4), 615-628.

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Manage Finances

The Raw + Honest Conversation You Need to Have with Your Financial Adviser

We avoid conversations about money with those closest to us for a long time, but many of us leave consulting a professional until it’s too late.

If you’ve made it this far, congratulations! Getting real about your finances and having candid conversations about money with those closest to you is not easy. But by opening up about money and getting more comfortable talking about it, you’re breaking down the stigma and the barriers that have been holding you back.

Up until this point, you’ve done the groundwork by asking yourself all the important questions and talking openly about money with the important people in your life. You’ve probably had some financial flashpoints along the way that’ve got you figuring out what’s important to you and what you want to work toward. Now it’s about creating a financial plan that aligns with the life you want and taking action to get you there. That’s where good financial advice comes in.

While you’ve been assessing your money situation, you’ve probably identified some pain points where you could probably do with some help. Managing money and understanding tax implications can be confusing, and you generally need a bit of guidance to get moving in the right direction. Whether it’s managing your own money, shared finances with your partner, or being equipped to talk to your parents or kids about estate planning, speaking to a financial adviser can really help.

All sorts of emotions can crop up when we open up about finances with our partner, parents, and kids, but it’s also difficult to talk about your financial situation with a professional. Whether you’re worried about feeling judged by someone for your money decisions or you’re concerned about how much it’s going to cost to get financial advice, there’s a reason why you haven’t taken the step yet. Maybe you don’t really believe you can change your money situation, so you don’t think it would be worth the effort, or perhaps you just don’t think you can trust anyone else with your personal finances. You might think you’re not earning enough money to warrant seeing an adviser, or maybe you don’t think you’re ready to invest your money.

Too many people think seeing a financial adviser is out of their league. But I believe everyone should have access to the wealth of knowledge and guidance that an adviser can provide. Everyone, no matter their financial situation or their background, deserves to enjoy financial freedom and security, which can be accessed through the advice of an expert. In the same way that we have a doctor to keep our health in order, a financial expert will keep you on top of your financial health.

Some of the best things in life are things that money can’t buy. Sunsets, time with family, laughs with friends, an afternoon at the beach. But the irony is that we need to be financially stable and secure to have the freedom to enjoy these free things. (And a cocktail in hand would be nice too!) The good life comes at a cost, but all it takes is putting a few solid practices in place. You can do that with some practical guidance from the people who know their stuff when it comes to money. Even if it takes a little bit of sacrifice in the short term, you can have money and enjoy your life at the same time. Really, the two go hand in hand.

Many of us resist seeking advice, and we often decide to manage our financial affairs ourselves. A lot of people make the mistake of thinking that financial advice is just for the wealthy. But financial advice can help you plan for things as simple as a holiday or something as complex as buying a property or retiring comfortably.

Managing your money is such an important part of managing life. Seeing a financial adviser should not be reserved only for the rich, because access to this kind of specialist knowledge is incredibly valuable and it can really change your life.

Financial Adviser Readiness

Are you ready for a financial adviser? If you’re reading this book, and have gotten this far, you must be ready to straighten out your finances once and for all. But I know that seeking financial advice can feel like a really big step for many people, especially if you haven’t done it before (except maybe getting an accountant to do your tax which isn’t quite the same thing).

You may or may not be ready for professional advice yet and that’s okay. You’ve got to look at your own personal situation and assess what’s right for you right now. Just the fact that you’ve started to identify some gaps and learn about money management and wealth creation is a great first step. If you’re not ready yet, you might come back to this part later. Being vulnerable with yourself and your family and friends about your money situation and fears is the first big step to being able to improve your money story. Getting a professional is the next step if you decide it’s right for you.

Financial Adviser Benefits

Like you would see a counsellor to get through some personal issues, a financial adviser is there to help you straighten out a hugely important part of life—your finances.

Developing real financial literacy and building your financial confidence is truly life-changing. I wish everyone had access to good financial advice, because all too often I see people not really knowing the best way to prepare for the future—because they didn’t know how to plan properly and invest their money with a long-term view.

I wholeheartedly believe in the power of great financial advice. It is an absolute game-changer, and we all need it now more than ever.

The sooner you start planning, the sooner you can build the life you want, and live with better peace of mind. A financial planner has the technical expertise to develop the right strategy for you. They will know the latest legislative changes and ensure you feel financially informed and confident about your future.

If you’re trying to make some changes to your financial future and put some good practices in place, it helps to involve an expert to help you navigate those important decisions. If you’re ready to invest your money, if you’re handling an inheritance, if you want to make a plan for your retirement, or if you’re trying to create a life plan, whether it’s on your own or together with your partner or even if you want to help your kids create a plan for their future, it’s helpful to talk to a third party who can give you sound advice—particularly someone who has seen situations like yours over and over again.

People seek financial advice at different life stages. A young professional or couple might want to preserve the capital they’re saving and investing, while a retiree is thinking about making sure they have enough to live on in retirement while being able to leave a legacy for the next generation. So, it’s really about tailoring your needs to your goals.

Life changes, and what you do with your money changes at different stages of life, so you need to keep adapting your financial advice too. Whether you’re young and in debt from university or college fees or you have made mistakes with money and you’re wondering if you’re ever going to get to financial security, there are experts in financial services who can absolutely help you out.

Navigating through a financial change requires sound advice, accountability, and perseverance. But having an adviser set things up for you will make the hard bits automated and simple so you don’t need to think about it too much.

Financial Advising Flexibility

Almost two million Australians have seen a financial planner or adviser, and almost 40 percent of Americans work with a financial adviser. While some people keep a financial adviser for life, some switch for many reasons. It could be because their adviser lacked good communication or made some poor choices with stocks. Maybe they gave some bad advice, or maybe they just didn’t feel a connection with their adviser.

If you’re nodding your head in agreement here and you’re not happy with your financial adviser, you can consider transferring to another. But it’s important to check to see if there is any red tape involved with switching before you do anything. Read the fine print in the terms and conditions of your contract. Most of the time you simply have to send a signed letter to your adviser to terminate the contract. Before you say goodbye, make sure you collect your investment records too. Your new adviser might be able and willing to manage this for you and handle any paperwork for your transfer, which makes things easier for you.

If you’ve tried an adviser before and it didn’t quite work, I encourage you to keep looking to find someone who is a good fit for you. Things change over your life, and where you may not have been ready before, you just might be now.

The Role of a Financial Adviser

The financial world is a maze of rules, products, and opinions on how to best manage money. If there’s something you don’t understand in the world of finance, you’re not alone.

An adviser can give you insights into all you need to know when it comes to managing your finances—the ins and outs of tax, different investment options, how to distribute your money, how to save, and how to reduce debt. They will also ensure you have a retirement savings plan that will be not only enough, but more than enough, to live a good life in retirement.

Many people feel like they have no one to talk to about money. Having a financial adviser is like having someone to spill all your financial worries to and have them help you create solutions. An adviser will help look at your financial plan holistically and get you set up in the right direction.

Financial planning is about developing strategies to help you manage your financial affairs and meet your life goals. If you could achieve your financial goals by simply putting money away in the bank, you wouldn’t need a financial plan. Unfortunately, life is a little more complex—it’s hard to understand the intricacies of investment, taxation, and ever-changing rules and regulations, so you need professional help.

There are different levels of advice for different people, so it’s a matter of finding what works for you. Just like finding the right nutritional plan for you, the same goes for financial advice. It’s a tailored approach to your money plan that is a part of your broader life plan.

Trusting Financial Advisers

Yes, I know some of you just don’t trust financial advisers because of something you’ve heard or read about. Maybe you aren’t willing to open up your personal finances to anyone else, even with a professional expert in the field, because you’re just not sure who you can trust with your money.

Financial advisers haven’t always had a good rap. There have been some bad apples that have given the bunch a bad name. But like in any industry, there are some good (and great) financial advisers out there, but there are also some below-average ones. When it comes to getting good financial advice, it’s really important that you find someone you trust.

A lot of people don’t have their financial advice needs met because they are sceptical of the industry or don’t know who to trust with their hard-earned cash, not because there aren’t good people out there to help them. Missing out on good financial advice is unfortunate if you’re held back because some people have been burnt in the past.

I’ve dealt with enough financial advisers in my time to know what to look for. I know there are thousands of incredible (and credible) advisers who are good at what they do. By working with them over the years I’ve seen how many of them genuinely care and want to help people and how incredibly smart they are when it comes to managing money.

But of course, it’s important to find a financial adviser that you can trust and someone who listens to you about what you want out of life, what your values are, what your goals are, and what you’re striving toward long-term. Financial advisers who want to have a long-term relationship with you and care about your personal goals tend to be the ones you can trust.

Financial planning is a specialist profession, and you should make sure that you’re getting advice from a professional financial planner who is properly licensed and qualified.

Ten Questions to Ask a Financial Adviser
  1. How long have you been a financial adviser?
  2. Are you a member of the Financial Planning Association?
  3. What academic and professional qualifications do you hold?
  4. Are you a certified financial planning professional?
  5. How do you charge for your services?
  6. What’s your specialty that you can offer advice on?
  7. Who ultimately owns your practice?
  8. What type of clients do you work with best?
  9. What sort of clients do you typically see?
  10. How often would we see each other?

This is an extract of Chapter 5 from Vanessa’s new book. You can order it here 

https://vanessastoykov.com.au/books/the-five-conversations-about-money-that-will-radically-change-your-life/

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Financial Freedom Manage Finances

Why 7 Minutes a Day Can Change Your Life

I have spent my career making educational content that explains concepts in financial services easier to understand and relate to.

Have I succeeded?

I have people who tell me their savings got them through COVID. I’ve had people say they got a financial adviser, or that they changed their super fund. What I have noticed, time and again, is that it’s not just one piece of advice that people need or find helpful. What seems to be useful is encouraging everyone to know more about money and how financial services work. Everyone learns at their own pace, in their own style.

Which is why I say, setting yourself a goal of 7 minutes a day to learn more about money, will pay off. It’s a realistic time goal, it can be done easily on your phone, and can be as simple as following some budget gurus on insta, or reading articles in the press.

The first step to making life changing financial decisions, is to make the decision to know more, so that you can make informed decisions, when you are ready. This doesn’t mean you don’t seek professional advice (in fact I have been a huge advocate for advice for many years.)

What it does mean, is you need the switch to come on inside you. The one that says, I really want to get my shit together, and change my life. It’s only then that the learning and development can really have an impact – because you are investing time and attention into it willingly.

And seven minutes a day is a great start.

So next time you find yourself scrolling through your social feeds,  google a term like investing, financial advice,superannuation,or any word you hear when people are talking about finance, that has traditionally made you tune out.

Go down the rabbit hole. Monitor where your skill level is at, and spend seven minutes increasing it.

If you are just starting to build your knowledge, books and newsletters like The Barefoot Investor are a great start at understanding savings, credit, planning for emergencies and investing.

If you want to know more about investing and super, then start with media publications. See who they are using as their experts in commentary. Then follow those people on social media. I promise you, it soon starts to become interesting, rather than a chore.

Learning more about money is one of those few topics that can actually have a positive direct affect on your life. Getting rid of financial stress by actually formulating a plan to change your situation over time is about living intentionally, and not just letting life “happen” to you.

With fires, pandemic,floods and more,there is so much beyond our control  in the world, that having some certainty around your own goals and plans, and enough knowledge to make the right decisions to get there, is one of the smartest decision you can make

So go ahead and invest in yourself.

Invest some time into more skills and knowledge. I promise that it will  benefit you and your family.

Until next time
Vanessa

Categories
Financial Freedom

3 Stories to Empower

Have you heard that new research suggests that 30 per cent of girls show signs of disordered eating?

Can you honestly say you’ve never been critical about your own body or judged someone else on theirs?

It might have started with well meaning comments from your mum, who heard it from her mum, who heard it from hers.


Our connection of our self-worth to how our bodies look is so pervasive and ingrained. It’s  constantly reinforced by unrealistic body standards and diet culture, media, social media and each other that it’s hard to break the cycle.

Imagine if we shifted the focus to how we feel, rather than how we look.

If we stopped being hard on ourselves, counting calories, workouts and limitation, to being kind to and respecting our amazing bodies, tuning into them to understand what we need to be healthy and happy.

Lyndi Cohen’s life-changing new book is a brilliant place to start liberating ourselves from food guilt and self-blame.

A highly qualified nutritionist who has lived the experience of disordered eating, Lyndi is on a mission to call out the BS in the beauty and diet industries and provide evidence-based strategies and tools for an alternative way to live.

What we weigh is not who we are, and as Lyndi says, “trying to ‘fix’ your weight by focussing on weight loss is like putting a bandage on your pinky toe to cure a headache.”

Your Weight is Not The Problem gives us the beginning of an antidote to the steady diet of misinformation and misrepresentation we have all been fed, along with an alternative framework to nurture and nourish ourselves, beyond what we eat.

I was lucky enough to work with Lyndi when I was at Murdoch Books and am a huge fan of her work, her message and the way she delivers it in such a positive and accessible way.

If enough of us get behind Lyndi’s message and this book, it can change lives and the way we all live.

Even if you don’t think it directly affects you, the statistics tell us that there is a strong chance it’s affecting someone you love, you just may not be aware of it.

You can also catch more of Lyndi’s soothing common sense in her feed @thenudenutritionist, her website https://www.lyndicohen.com  or her podcast, No Wellness Wankery.

Head and Heart: The Art of Modern Leadership

I had the pleasure of working with leadership expert Kirstin Ferguson on her previous book, Women Kind, Unlocking the Power of Women Supporting Women, so have been waiting eagerly for her new book on leadership.

I’ve only just started and already know I’m going to love it. More to come on this in our next newsletter but I couldn’t wait to put it on your radar straight away.

If you read my recent article for Women’s Agenda you know how passionate I am about breaking down taboos and advocating for a human centred approach in the workplace.

Although perimenopause and menopause are starting to be talked about more openly, the 85% of people who experience symptoms remain undersupported, both in and out of the workplace.

This eye-opening podcast from Susan Dominus of The New York Times is compelling listening.

Trigger warning, I was yelling out loud with anger as I listened to it, but came away even more informed and determined to keep talking about an issue that affects at least half the population.

The Daily: The Sunday Read: ‘Women Have Been Misled About Menopause’ on Apple Podcasts

Or you can read the original article instead.

https://www.nytimes.com/2023/02/01/magazine/menopause-hot-flashes-hormone-therapy.html

Categories
Financial Freedom

What I Learned from The Walking Dead

I love a good story.

One that takes me to other places, that makes me laugh, cry or just relax. And it seems while I have arrived to the party pretty late, there’s one series that I can’t stop thinking about.

“The Walking Dead” has eleven seasons, so many of you may already have taken the ride years ago.

But in our household this show has become a real talking point because the moral dilemmas it presents are so closely aligned to the reality of our world.

The premise, for those of you who haven’t seen it, is that the human race becomes subjected to a virus that eats out the functioning brain. Those who catch the virus end up becoming part of a mindless horde of human zombies, intent on eating human flesh.

Sound gory? Believe me it is. This is definitely not a feel-good family show, so don’t watch it with anyone under 15.

But while the effects are realistic, to say the least, it is the human dynamic that I found most fascinating.

Survival quickly becomes the name of the game, as the world shifts from school drop offs, malls and life as we know it; to daily chaos, where basics like food and water are fought over by survivors, who quickly lose all the rules and consequences of society,  rapidly descending into dog eat dog (literally).

Of course, there are the bullies. The ones who gather around violent leaders and prey on the weak. But there are also characters who reflect the best of the human race. Rick Grimes, the central character, is a father, husband and small town local sheriff. He’s not perfect, but he has a strong sense of right and wrong, and quickly becomes a leader to a group of people that grows and suffers tragedy over a series of tumultuous, violent and emotional events.

There are strong female role models, unexpected anti-heroes, warriors and philosophers. Representing everything that is the best the human race has to offer, and much of the worst too as they are stripped of all the things we hold dear as a society.

No restaurants, no clothes shopping, no internet or hospitals.

While many lives are lost along the way, as the show develops, the script writers are able to show what a world is like when the currency is no longer money, but instead trading necessities needed to live this new life.

I love immersing myself in a series, and am guilty of “bingeing” a show. I know it’s good when the characters, and the dilemmas they are presented with, stay with me long after I have stopped watching. When I start to compare their situation to my own.

What would be important to know, or be able to do, if there was some kind of apocalyptic event? How would my family and I survive?

When I was watching The Walking Dead, all the things I was worrying about, or stressing over fell away.

The chores I had to do, the appointment I was late for. Would any of that shit matter if it was all about survival?

So what does matter?

It was quite clear on the show that what connected the characters were love, family, loyalty and friendship. That’s  the reason why the show has been so successful because these are the building blocks of happiness and humanity.

It’s the same in my own life. My family and friends bring the most happiness. My work is fulfilling my purpose and driving me to do my best to help make this world a better place.

Yes I have stresses, health challenges and all the difficult dynamics that go with families, but at the end of the day, I am extremely fortunate, and I am grateful every day.

What I do know is that all the things that matter don’t cost money. They are connections and attachments to people, to purpose, and to something greater.

But money allows us to make choices and have freedoms that without it, make our world smaller and tougher to navigate.

While we aren’t quite in the world of The Walking Dead today, we are in a tough environment where it has become more than obvious that the 30 years of economic growth we have enjoyed as a country are over.

There are limited resources, times are tougher and people are being forced into being much leaner.

In some ways, this can be a good thing. It can help us eliminate waste, running a tighter and more efficient household, and learning how to navigate tough times while teaching our kids at the same time.

Because we still have all the things that REALLY matter. Friends, family, work and the beauty of the world around us.

I say this because I know many of us regret not saving more when times are good, or stockpiling like the folk in The Walking Dead. But living with regrets is unproductive and a waste of time. We can only take the lessons from them and apply them to what’s happening right now.

So maybe it’s time to do a ground zero assessment of your life.

  • What can you do without?
  • What can you change that takes financial pressure off the table?
  • Is it where you live? The cost of your mortgage? School fees?

Whatever is happening for you, start imagining what you could live without. You’ll be surprised how much easier it can become over time when you adopt this mindset, to minimise spending in your life. The leaner you can operate, the less stressful life can be.

I have moved on to another series now, but I won’t easily forget the lessons I learned from The Walking Dead.

When it comes down to it, valuing what we have in our lives already, and appreciating the things that really bring us joy, can make life a whole lot happier. And being thoughtful and frugal with money choices is a smart way to live.

Because peace of mind is a valuable commodity.

Categories
Family Inheritance

The Awkward + Unavoidable Conversation You Need to Have with Your Parents (and Siblings)

Money Matters: The Past vs. the Present

There’s no doubt about it. At some point in our relationship with our parents, things change. Hopefully, if we get enough time with our parents, we get to see them start to age. To slow down. At first it is almost unimaginable to see your strong, vital father get frail, or your feisty mother become so thin and slow. We start to see them wear thicker glasses, take more naps, and acknowledge the talk about their bowel habits and aching knees as well as the other ailments that they and those around them are experiencing.

But it also means that our relationship with caring for them and money changes too. We now can become our parents’ carers more than their children.

Do you know your parents’ retirement plan? Do you know their wishes? Have they ever broached where they would like to live when they are older? These are all topics that can be extremely scary and fraught with emotion for those going through it.

 

Opens to Karen on the phone to her mum, explaining how the internet connection could be reset on her iPad.

Karen: Yep, Mum, I think you have it now. Glad I could be IT support again.

Gloria: Thanks, love. I can’t stand that damn thing.

Karen: I know, Ma. But you love the photos of the kids I send on it.

Gloria: That’s true. I always take it to the club with me to show the others.

Karen: Nice. How’s your friend Beryl doing? I know she was worried about her daughter last time we spoke.

Gloria: Oh yes, she is having awful trouble with that horrible son-in-law she has. He’s trying to make her sell the house so they can buy one big enough to fit them all and have Beryl in the small in-law accommodation out back.

Karen: Oh, that’s tough. Although it might be nice for Beryl to know her daughter is right there. Even if her husband is not Beryl’s favourite.

Gloria: Oh yes, I suppose so. She’s very upset about it all. You know how emotional she is.

Karen: Well, it must be a weird time of life, where you let go of your independence to an extent.

Gloria: Yes, there’s a lot of that going on with your father and me.

Karen: What’s your plan, Mum? What do you and Dad want to do?

Gloria: Oh, I don’t know. Moving seems like a lot of work. We will probably just die here.

Karen: Really? Wouldn’t you and Dad like to go to one of those nice retirement villages? They have separate homes still, but you get assistance, and meals and cleaning help. To be honest, it would be ideal for you. There’s a lot of work for you both to keep the house up.

Gloria: Yes, it is a lot of work. Your father fell off the back step last week, banged up his knee.

Karen: I’m worried that will just get worse. I think it’s worth looking into those places, Mum. At least see what they cost and get some advice. You own the house outright. You should have more than enough. I will start making some calls for you.

Gloria: Your father and I don’t want to use the money from the house on us. We want to give it to you and your brothers.

Karen: Well, you deserve a great retirement too. Let’s talk about this. I’ll cook lunch next Sunday, and Russ will drive down and pick you both up. Nate needs practice driving anyway.

Gloria: Lunch sounds lovely. I will bring a dessert. Tell Nate that Nana said he better be safe.

Karen: I’m sure he will be on his best behaviour, Mum. Love you.

Gloria: Love you too.

 

Unlearning Money Narratives

Baby boomers grew up in a time after World War II. They were taught how to be frugal, how to make money spin out and live within their means. But the world has changed so much that sometimes it’s hard to get your parents seeing eye-to-eye with you when it comes to money today. But having money conversations with your parents is vital—especially as they age and you become an adult—because, the earlier you can have the conversation, the more strategic you can be in making financial decisions that benefit everyone. And this is probably the time when you will need to seek specialist advice.

 

Scene opens on Jane at the mall with her parents Bob and Cath.

Bob: By god, that kid over there is screaming like a banshee. I’d give that one a good smack on the backside.

Jane: Yeah, you aren’t supposed to smack kids anymore, Dad. It scars them.

Bob: Didn’t scar you any. Or are you going to tell me you are scarred now?

Jane: No, Dad, I am pretty good. It was different times than nowadays. Everyone got a smack back then.

Cath: Yes, well, I would always get told that to spare the rod would spoil the child by my father.

Bob: Now, let’s find these new parkas for the girls so I can get out of here. What is on sale?

Jane: I want to get them at the outdoor store, Dad. It’s for their camp.

Bob: They are twice the price there. Don’t be ridiculous.

Jane: Well, it’s how I choose to spend my money, Dad. Lucky I earn it.

Bob: Yes, well, I am only looking out for you, Janey. You know we want you to have money in the bank.

Jane: Yes, Dad, I know. But how about you? What’s your money situation looking like? I’ve never really asked you before, but my friend Ben, who is a financial planner, was talking about how it’s good to know what your parents’ plans are.

Bob: Did he? Hmmm. Well, I’m not up to telling some stranger about our personal business.

Jane: Well, you would be talking with me first. I would love to know what you are thinking and what you and Mum want.

Cath: That could be nice.

 


Taking a Trip Down Memory Lane

Jane is faced with the attitude of her parents that they don’t “air their dirty laundry” with strangers. But she is smart enough to know that asking her dad to at least start the conversation about money and the future with her was a first step. Nobody can make big decision or life choices in a single conversation. Starting the conversation with your parents at various times without making a big deal of it, and agreeing to a future discussion, is a great start. It doesn’t matter where you begin—it’s talking about things that is the start of it all.

Opening up about money with our parents can feel challenging, awkward, and uncomfortable, and that is why many people have never had a conversation about money with their parents.

Maybe you’re embarrassed to talk about it because you don’t think you’re good with money and you’re afraid of their judgements. Maybe you grew up in a house where money was never discussed and so you don’t feel like you can talk about it with your parents. Or perhaps you remember your parents fighting about money, so it’s a topic you want to avoid because of the conflict that can arise.

Choosing a Financial Lane of Your Own

Jasper grew up watching his father work himself to death. And Jasper, when he was young, decided that he didn’t want to be like his father. So he went too far the other way, to be as little like his dad as possible. He went from one job to the next with no passion or interest and not really caring what he did day to day. He would go out drinking with friends without a plan or any idea of what he was doing it for. He got to his forties and realised he didn’t have anything to his name, was living with his mum, and his friends thought he was hopeless.

Jasper had to unlearn the subliminal belief he had developed, which was that hard work equated to an unhappy life. Although he didn’t want to be a workaholic like his father, he still needed to find his passion and what he really wanted in life.

You don’t have to work hard; you can work smart. You don’t have to be like your father to earn money; you can find other avenues. As I’ve said, it’s not about what you don’t know about money, it’s what you do know—how you grew up, how your beliefs shaped you, all the things in your past around money that have become bad habits. Most people need to stop and acknowledge what these are before they can actually move forward, change things, and build new goals and better habits.

Talking with Your Parents about Inheritance

A lot of people who receive an inheritance have never even had a conversation with their parents about money, let alone talk about what they intend their inheritance to be used for. When you think about it, this is really sad, because that money has been hard-earned, and parents may have had a wish for their legacy which they possibly never spoke about. That’s why I want you to get talking about money and inheritance with your parents before it’s too late.

While nobody likes to think about dying or of their loved ones passing away, it is really important to be prepared for the future and to know what’s coming. It doesn’t feel good to talk about anyone in the family dying, and it can bring up a lot of raw emotions. We need to get real and start having these conversations because avoiding them isn’t going to do anyone any favours, especially when we’re trying to plan ahead for the future.

If you know or think you’ll be receiving an inheritance, you should definitely have a conversation with your parents about what they intend this money to be used for. I really encourage you to discuss with your parents your thoughts on how you might invest the money and what your future plans are. You want to make sure you’re honouring your parents’ wishes while using the money wisely. We should never assume we know what others want, and that goes for both sides. This is why it needs to be an open conversation.

 

This is an opportunity that shouldn’t be wasted. It’s a good idea to figure out how much you might inherit by talking openly about it with your parents. If they don’t want to talk about it, ask them why. Maybe you will learn more about them in this process.

You: I know we’ve never talked about this before, but I was wondering about your legacy, and what you are planning on regarding inheritance.

Your parent: I’m glad you brought this up. I’ve been meaning to talk to you about it. There’s a bit of money I’ve put aside for you and your siblings. I want to make sure it is split up evenly, so you all get a fair share. There’s a decent amount of money there that you can use toward a house deposit or a mortgage.

You: That’s so good to hear. Thank you. But what if I wanted to spend it on something else, like some other investments?

Your parent: Well, I hadn’t thought of that. What do you have in mind?

You: I have been thinking about starting a stock market portfolio. I’ve been doing a lot of research and I just need some money to kickstart it. Would you be okay if I used some of this money toward that?

Your parent: Well, as long as it’s not going to go down the drain. It sounds a bit risky. I never touched the stock market.

You: I’ve been doing a lot of research and I would speak to a financial planner to do it properly. There is some risk involved, but it can have even better returns than real estate.

Your Parent: Well, how about I give you $10,000 of the money now so you can start this, and if it works then you can figure out for yourself what to do with the rest of the money. I just want to make sure that you don’t waste it and that you’ll have a place to live, so don’t rule out buying a house one day, okay?

You: Okay, thanks for your help and support. This is a huge helping hand for me! I’ll make sure to use the money wisely.

 

Intergenerational Money Matters

It’s difficult to speak openly about money, but it’s especially challenging to talk about it across generations. Talking about money has been taboo with older generations for a reason. But those reasons don’t hold much weight nowadays.

 

It can also be an uncomfortable conversation with our parents because the conversation about mortality comes up. If we involve siblings, hidden conflicts can arise, and emotions can get the better of us too.

Karen: I’ve asked Bruce and Ray over for lunch too, Mum. If we are going to talk about money and plans, they may as well be involved.

Gloria: Oh, I would rather talk to you first. It always upsets your brothers thinking of anything happening to Dad or me.

Karen: Well, you are their parents too, so they need be involved. I am sure they will handle it. They are grown men.

Gloria: Your father is going to hate this. I don’t know how well it will go.

Karen: Well, I think it will be good for our family. Bring us together. Get the boys back involved again, Mum. I know they don’t call much.

Gloria: Well, they are always busy at work. We understand that. But, yes, I guess it would be good to see them and talk about it.

 

This is an extract of Chapter 4 from Vanessa’s new book. You can order it here 

https://vanessastoykov.com.au/books/the-five-conversations-about-money-that-will-radically-change-your-life/

Categories
Financial Freedom

Why money stress is a big worry

It’s been a fantastic break and I’m happy to be in the saddle and kicking off the year. While January is not a break from the demands of everyday life, it is a much needed reset for us all. It was lovely to see less traffic, less busy and the joys of summer living.

There has been a lot of planning going on here at EMG HQ, and when you have someone like Lou Johnson  running the company, the momentum doubles. Kicking off with the launch of our new financial wellbeing program for financial services companies and employers, we will have significant announcements in the coming months as our vision of inspiring millions of people that they can improve their financial wellbeing comes to life.

It seems our work has never been more needed. Cost of living pressures continue to bite, and I know collective anxiety is rising on how we are going to manage. More than 3 million Australians have cited they are in financial stress* and that number is only growing.

Which is where I come in.

More than ever it is time to come together and empower people to understand what financial wellness is, and how they can progress on their own journey.

I know firsthand the pressures of raising a family (we have three kids), running a business, (done that for 24 years) and maintaining a relationship (been together 19 years). I have also had my fair share of financial challenges and understand the mental strain and despair that can bring. I understand all too well the stress money can bring, and believe wholeheartedly that anyone can improve their financial position by learning valuable money concepts and skills.

These skills all start with important conversations about money. Whether that be with yourself to really think about where you are in life, to vital conversations with your family, work and friends. There is no shame in having money pressures. What we need is open dialogue on money and access to the tools and knowledge to improve financial wellbeing.

This year we will be working with leading super funds, employers and organisations who are committed to the financial wellbeing of their people. We are creating a group of well respected leaders from the finance industry to help solve the problems we face. Named the Nationbuilders Collective, we will be collaborating on leading edge content to spark financial empowerment across a number of categories, including providing access to content for financial advisers.

There are a variety of ways we roll our programs out, and you can read more about our updated services here.  Whether it is coming into the workplace, or providing customised content for particular industries, we believe our methodology and approach will provide the spark for people to start on the path to financial empowerment.

More than ever it is time to come together and empower people to understand what financial wellness is, and how they can progress on their own journey. I look forward to meeting many of you out in the field this year, and will be sharing many of those important conversations on my social channels, so follow along and see what others are doing to improve their financial lives.

May we all become financially empowered in 2023 and beyond.

Until next time