What’s Enough?

Do you have a financial goal in mind that you’d like to achieve?   Is it to have a set amount in the bank?  To save for a particular purpose? Where or when did the goal start? Do you need to raise your goal so you’re not just surviving? Or do you need to lower it, so you can finally breathe?

If you’ve got a goal, to start with, a huge ‘Well Done!’  Many of us coast through life, just hoping things will work out with a bit of a wish and a prayer!  And sometime they do.  But maybe they could be even more amazing with a bit of planning.

Is your goal just for you individually?  Does it include your family? Is giving back something you’d like to be actively involved in?  Or is pursuing your dreams top of your priority list?  Or is it a mix of the above?

You’ve probably noticed, that the mind says yes to what you decide to tell it.  Why not start by being incredibly clear on how much you want and set a time frame for when you’d like to achieve it.

i.e.  I want to be part of the Hands Across Water bike ride in Thailand in 2018 and fund raise $10,000.   I want to have cleared my $5,000 debt and cut up my credit card by the end of next financial year.  I want to reduce the principal owing on my mortgage by $10,000 within 18 months.

The key ingredient here is to figure out the ‘why.’  The ‘how’ will follow… You’ll figure it out.  The why is what will drive you!

Hot tip:  Make sure your financial goals at some stage, involve giving back to others.  It’s a great attractor!

I heard a quote recently at a Business Chicks event that resonated, “I slept and dreamt that life was joy.  I awoke and saw that life was service.  I acted and behold, service was joy.”  Rabindranath Tagore

Taking control of your finances after divorce

The key to managing finances after a divorce is to get organised early.  Grab a cuppa and have a read through this short guide for six tips on taking control.

Divorce can be one of the most financially and emotionally stressful experiences of a person’s life. The key to taking control is to get organised early. Acting quickly to organise accounts, update details and make financial plans may help start the next phase of life with more peace of mind.

The following steps are a great place to start.

1.      Get organised

It’s important to keep track of key dates, such as when the separation occurred. It’s also a good idea to arrange a redirection of mail for the party moving out, so you continue to receive mail at the new address.

Both parties should gather all financial information, making sure there are copies of
all documents. Also write a list of all financial and property assets, liabilities and policies, making a note of whose name each document is registered under. This may include:

  • bank, brokerage or investment accounts
  • credit cards
  • vehicle registration
  • life, health, home, car, health and other insurance policies
  • utility bills for electricity, gas, internet and phone
  • property documents such as deeds, mortgage papers and home loan details
  • recent tax returns and tax file numbers
  • superannuation account details
  • will and estate plans
  • rental agreements or leases.

    2.      Close any joint accounts

    It is important to close accounts or credit cards that are in both names and cancel any redraw facilities. This will protect the finances of each individual and ensure no more debt accumulates. Each should then open an account in their own name, which only they can access. They will also need to redirect any income that previously entered a shared account into the new account.  Also check any shared social media or other accounts such as eBay – change of passwords may also be required.

    3.      Review your finances

    Update any remaining accounts, loans or policies so they are registered in just one name.  This can be time consuming, so make a list and tick them off as they’re completed.

    Insurance

    It’s crucial to update insurance policies as any individual not named will not be covered. This individual will need to make sure that they have other cover in place that is adequate and affordable for their needs. Also, remember to update any nominated beneficiaries on new or existing policies.

    Loans

    The person whose name is on a loan agreement is responsible for any debt, regardless of changed personal circumstances. It’s vital for the necessary party to remove their name or for both individuals to pay off the loan.  Sometimes agreements need to be reached prior to the changes being allowed.

    Superannuation

    Superannuation is usually a significant financial asset. Any nominated beneficiaries of the parties’ retirement nest eggs will need to be updated.

    Rent and Utilities

    Updating rental agreements and utilities will be crucial, as the listed person may be left with damage or unpaid bills to cover.

    4.      Change Wills, Powers of Attorney and Beneficiaries

    Many Australians don’t realise that divorce can affect their will. Different states have different laws.

    In Western Australia, for example, divorce automatically revokes a current will. It is vital to update wills to reflect new circumstances as soon as possible.

    To be valid, a will needs to be signed by two witnesses. Drawing up a will can be complex so it is often best to consult a solicitor.  Ask also about reviewing or starting Powers of Attorney.

    5.      Create a new budget

    It can take time to adjust to relying on one income. Creating a budget and financial plan early on can make it easier to track expenses and feel confident that bills and payments will be covered.

    6.      Reach out

    Most of us know someone who’s been there, and that divorce can be a very difficult time. There are many online government resources, as well as legal aid services, counsellors and financial advisers that can provide helpful advice on how to make the process as painless as possible.

    Getting in touch with nearby support services or creating a supportive group of friends is the best way to get a helping hand.

Confronting Child Marriage in Malawi

Part of our visit to Majete 5 involved meeting people in the village who were open enough to share their homes and stories with us.

For some background, for many years, their homes and village formed part of the Majete Game Reserve, and naturally enough for people suffering chronic persistent hunger, the wildlife was viewed as a food source and the trees were cut down to burn and sell the charcoal as an income source.  Over time, this decimated the area until the Government finally decided to partner with private enterprise and re-establish the game reserve to entice tourist dollars back to Malawi.  It was pitched as good for the villages to bring money back to the country, but to those starving, made little sense.

Fencing the entire reserve meant that those living in the Park were forcibly relocated outside of the perimeter and much antagonism arose with the local communities cut off from what they once viewed as their own.

To assist in helping villages find their feet again and look for new sources of income, The Hunger Project was asked to partner with communities around the Reserve and assist with mindset change and leadership.  Education assists in helping find new sources of income and building a better life.

Yet for now, some things remain the same in the villages.

Maxwell (32) and his wife Shiveira (28) welcomed us to their home.  Shiveria was very shy and is currently expecting their 5th child.  Their eldest is now 15 (do the math!) was married at 12 and is a mother herself.  Maxwell told us she wanted to be married and wasn’t forced, but they needed the dowry to be able to eat.  We were witnessing firsthand inter-generational child marriage and teen pregnancy… and it was a little confronting.

I found it difficult to suspend judgement and just listen to the story for what it is seeing it’s so different, unacceptable and unusual in my own culture.  Child marriage however has long been considered normal in the area and no-one raises an eyebrow.The legal age for marriage in Malawi is 18 however child marriage still regularly occurs in the village areas with little to no intervention from the village leaders.

Maxwell’s daughter stopped attending school once having the baby and may never have the opportunity for further education… until The Hunger Project bring their literacy classes to the area.

At home, remain 2 sons and another daughter, plus the baby on the way.  Hopefully by the time their existing daughter is a teenager, the mindset training will be complete and her parents will take part in the Vision, Commitment and Action workshops, educating them with alternate options.

Well, here’s hoping anyway!

“I wonder what are the poor people doing?”

If you’ve ever made that throw away comment whilst floating around a resort pool with a cocktail waiting for you on the side… I can now give you an answer…

For a complete change of pace, we headed to Majete 5.  A new community for The Hunger Project bordering a game reserve in southern Malawi (and yes, it’s the 5th surrounding the reserve.)

This area has been working with The Hunger Project for only a short while on their mindset change, and have just had their first Vision, Commitment, Action (VCA) workshop.  Their communities surround a reserve for tourists, now hosting the Big 5 and was once the source of their food and income.  Now, relocated on the outside of the fence, life is harder than ever before.

This means that what we’re seeing is pretty much real Malawi and the lives people lead faced with chronic, persistent hunger.  Many who are fortunate, eat twice at day.  At the moment, there is no Epicentre building, and the work has just begun.  They are skeptical that any real changes can be made in their lives, resigned to the lives they lead and yet hopeful that change can be made by partnering the THP.

We witnessed history in the making during the morning, when locals expressed their hesitance and reluctance to engage, believing that life had always been ‘this way’ and that it probably always would be.  They were also cautiously optimistic that maybe this time, real change could be made, but hardly convinced.   And before our eyes, after a rousing talk by the THP Director of Malawi Rolands Kaoatcha and THP employee Grace shared their passion, changed their minds, so hopeful for their children, that change was indeed possible.  It made us reflect later on how much our own limiting beliefs keep us imprisoned to the ideas we ‘choose’ to partner with.

Maternal and infant health is a huge issue in the area, with women in labour having to walk for 27kms (around 7 hours+) to the nearest health facility to give birth.  Many are too tired to make the full journey and give birth along the way.  Any complications mean possible death for the mother, infant or both.  To say the tears were flowing on hearing their stories is the understatement of the trip so far.  Knowing that I would have died trying to have my daughter without medical assistance made the stories more poignant for me and we were moved to tears with one man begging for a health service and ambulance for their women during our visit.

We were soon divided into four groups and braved epic Malawian heat as we were each welcomed into the homes for four local families who shared their personal stories with us.  One family married their daughter off at 12 (apparently she was willing) so that the dowry could feed the remaining family for the rest of ‘the hungry season.’  Others shared their stories of love and loss, of saving 10 years for iron sheets for their roofs and their struggle to feed their families at least twice per day.

To not be moved by such every day battles, and put our own ‘first world problems’ into stark perspective, we’d have been heartless indeed to have not been touched.

Malaria is still a huge issue, and the Majete Malaria Project is working in tandem with THP to improve the lives of those in the villages.

Despite the confrontational day we had, we too were optimistic about their future based on the Epicentre we have seen reach self-reliance and knowing that the work ahead can make positive and real change in their lives.

Their vision that their children may one day end up as President, or even doctors or nurses is more possible right now they could ever believe.

My question for myself as I settle in to bed with a full belly tonight is, as ever, “what’s holding me back?”

A visit to Champiti

Our travels today took us to an Epicentre of The Hunger Project (THP) called Champiti, which has been awarded the status of self-reliance, a huge effort by the local community!

Our bus trip took a couple of hours to head North-West of Blantyre and we passed much barren territory, a lasting effect of the past three years of El Nino which has devastated the country.

Our first stop was the home and shop of the inspirational Sarah Dzenza and the local women greeted us with song, dance and some serious ululating (which we later practiced in the bus!)  Sarah embraced the philosophy of The Hunger Project early and has had 6 loans from the rural bank to expand and grow her businesses (selling supplies and sarongs) and improve her home, now a burnt brick dwelling with rendered walls and an iron roof – quite an achievement!

It was a little overwhelming for me to walk up to her home with memories flooding back of my previous visit to Uganda, being surrounded by children whose folks are doing everything they can to give them a better life, the incredible heat and noise and sunlight that is Africa.

We then headed to briefly meet the first chairman of the Epicentre, Mr Hiwa and his lovely wife of 50 years who explained what life was like for the villages prior to THP and how their lives and that of the community has improved.  Next stop the Epicentre!!

Another amazing traditional dance from both the men and women greeted us on arrival and it felt like we were walking into a National Geographic spread.  We were proudly shown around the maize mill, food bank, medical facilities and rural bank with the local team on hand to answer questions about how they’d managed to achieve the status of self-reliance.

A deeper dive into the various works that committees arrange, such as Women’s Empowerment, Nutrition, Health, HIV & AIDS, Water & Sanitation, Food Security, Micro-finance, Education and Literacy were all covered.  No handouts here, just education across all that’s necessary and massive mindset changes required to move past the resignation and into a place of hope.

Spending time with Everton, the young bank manager and learning about his family and job was lovely.  He tells me women are educated before taking out the loans and strict warnings are given not to pass on the funds to their husbands as they are still responsible for the loan and any associated interest (around 2%) even if their husband’s spend the money!  A warning that women the world over would be wise to follow!

Sex Ed was also fascinating with the mindset changes required for communities to embrace male and female condoms and HIV testing and increasing health and sanitation practices.

After hours of learning and inspiration from the local Malawians we were all invited to join in final songs and dance.  We all need so much more spontaneous song and dance in our lives!  An uplifting and beautiful way to finish our visit.  Then time for selfies, hugs, goodbyes with the kids, more pictures and long waves…

On the way home, a brilliant sunset occurred to our west, as the supermoon rose from the east in epic African skies.  A fitting end to a fabulous day of learning and laughter.

 

5 ways to build Resilience

Do you crumble in the face of adversity or thrive under pressure?
We look at some ways you can build your resilience and manage stress.

The term resilience describes a person’s capacity to bounce back from stressful situations.  Being able to cope under difficult circumstances can reduce the incidence of mental health or behavioural problems such as depression, anxiety, substance abuse and antisocial behaviour.

There is also emerging evidence* that young people who display resilience are more likely to achieve school success.

Here are five ways you can build your resilience.

1.      Look after yourself

In a fast-paced world, we all need to take time out for ourselves occasionally. Engage in activities you enjoy, exercise regularly and ensure you get enough sleep. Taking care of yourself helps to keep your mind and body primed to deal with tough situations.

2.      Think positive

Resilient people are optimists. Maintain a positive outlook and find ways to build your self-confidence. Keeping a sense of perspective in stressful times can help you to solve problems and avoid blowing the event out of proportion.

3.      Accept change

We live in a world of constant change, so being adaptable when responding to uncertainty is a key life skill. Rather than expecting to have full control over everything in your life, instead expect the unexpected. Be open to different points of view and rather than resisting change, try to engage with it.

4.      Make connections

In a TED talk which has achieved over 11 million views, Stanford University health psychologist Kelly McGonigal discusses how the stress hormone, oxytocin, motivates us to seek support from people who care about us.

Building close relationships, whether that is with colleagues, family or friends, can help you to recover more quickly from stressful situations.

5.      Learn from your mistakes

Failure is one of life’s common traumas, yet our responses to it can vary widely. Seeing failure as a learning opportunity is one of the traits of resilient people. Appreciating your mistakes for what they are can help you to overcome fears, take responsibility and live a life without regrets.

Time to be Transformational!

It’s so lovely to take time out in our busy lives to reflect, and on the first day of the Business Chicks Leadership and Immersion program to Malawi with The Hunger Project, we got to do just that.

To start our day, we reflected on all those things in our lives that we were so grateful for which was very special.  Families featured strongly, along with hot running water and electricity and the gift of being born in a country like Australia.   Now at the conclusion of our fundraising journey and before we head out to visit our Village Partners, we visited what we’re most proud of and the leadership lessons we’ve learned so far.

It’s so great to just stop and think about everything we’ve achieved to be here.  Often when congratulations are offered or people praise us for the work we’ve done, we’re quick to wave them aside and move on… but it has been an epic journey to raise $10,000 for a cause that means something to us and step outside of our usual operating space and into where the magic happens.

Many realised how we’re capable of so much more than we thought possible, others thrived on the importance of collaboration and some shared that Fear was their greatest teacher.  Also, it’s ok to prioritise ourselves and that receiving help can be empowering. So many learnings!  My notebook is bursting already!

We learned how to be more present to take in comprehensively what we’re about to encounter in the villages, and that in being uncomfortable or challenged means we’re ready for growth.

A lesson learnt in Uganda last year was highlighted – that we need to “stop being so transactional and start being transformational” – definitely words from the wise. (Thank you Joel!)

Next was taking on the true understanding of chronic persistent hunger and how the symptoms we’ll see are merely the visual from deep rooted social and mental structures.

“It’s hard to create a vision when you don’t even believe that you’re worthy of having one.”  We identified and confronted our own fears for the coming days and weeks and those we’d face on our return home.

It was then time to learn how The Hunger Project tackles the huge issues of poverty and hunger with 5 seemingly basic steps:

  1. Change in Mindset
  2. Good Leadership
  3. Vision
  4. Commitment
  5. Action

Sounds so simple right?  Yet the mindset training alone takes up to two years!  It also makes us challenge what holds us back?  What are beliefs we have that keep us back from achieving all that we want?  Some deep diving to be done here!

The fabulous country director of The Hunger Project Malawi, Rolands Koatcha then spent a couple of hours explaining his own background in the villages, personally facing poverty and hunger with his eight siblings and how education has transformed his life, and of his passion and purpose in changing the lives of his fellow Malawian brothers.

All in all, a very long, epic day full of sharing, love, laughter and tears and preparation for us to head out into the field tomorrow to see one centre firsthand already at the stage of self-reliance and meet the people whose lives are being changed every day.