Top 5 Financial Tips

So it wasn’t that long ago that 2017 kicked in and you promised to get on top of your finances this year!  How’s that going for you now that we’re around six weeks in to the new calendar year?

You know what they say about “the best laid plans of mice and men” right?

If you want to break it down into a really easy to follow guide, I’ve got five top tips for you to help get on top of things over the rest of the year…

1. Set goals

Take charge of your financials this year by working out your goals, objectives and priorities and put a plan in place to reach them.  If you want to get rid of credit card debt, increase savings, pay off your mortgage more quickly or boost your superannuation savings, the MoneySmart site has tools to help you work out a plan.  Alternately, hooking up with a financial planner can help you work with a professional money coach to assist you to make it happen, articulate what you’d like to achieve, and give you someone to be accountable to.

2. Map with a budget

As any successful journey begins with a reliable map or an up to date GPS, the path to wealth starts with going back to basics and having an accurate budget.  The thought of doing a budget might make your eyes glaze over, but a budget helps you see where your money is being spent and where you can make changes that will help you build wealth. You can use MoneySmart’s simple money manager to create your budget.  I often recommend clients use it for their budgeting needs.  It’s online, simple to use and comes in a few different languages too.

3. Get a better deal

It’s good to regularly check and make sure you aren’t paying too much for your mortgage, investment or personal loans or insurance policies. Shopping around regularly for the best deals could save you thousands of dollars over the long term. Talk to your lender or mortgage broker about what they can offer.  Different banks have different deals, so they’ll search around for a better deal if they want to keep you as a customer. If they won’t help, feel free to shop around yourself and switch to another option or lender.

Before automatically renewing insurances, check whether your current insurer is giving you the best value for money. You might be able to get a better policy for a lower price or with better conditions.  Often it’s worth asking a broker or agent for help as they have access to different policies and can run comparisons for you based on what’s important to you.

4. Improve your knowledge

It’s long been acknowledged that “knowledge is power.”  Before you commit to any investment opportunity, make sure you understand the features, costs – upfront and ongoing, benefits to you, and all possible risks.  Does the investment fit in with your plan? Don’t invest in something you don’t understand, and “if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”

Forewarned if forearmed, so equip yourself with as much knowledge as possible. Subscribe to investment magazines, download popular books on the subject, follow experts on social media or if you still feel clueless, engage a financial adviser to assist.

5. Manage Risk

Investing wisely helps build your wealth for the future.  You’ve probably heard of the benefits of compounding interest, so the longer time frame you have, the better off you should be.  All investments involve an element of risk – and often, “higher the risk, the higher the potential return.” Before you invest any money, take the time to understand the risk versus return.  You need to work out your own personal style of investing.  Are you conservative?  balanced?  or an aggressive investor?  Often, we’ll have a different profile for different types of investment.  If you’re younger, you’re likely to have a much more aggressive approach with your superannuation than you would with funds being saved for a housing deposit.

You’ve probably heard “don’t put all your eggs in one basket.”  This is what diversification is all about. By spreading money across different asset classes and industry sectors, you are less likely to be affected by a particular economic event, like a drop in real estate prices, a fall in the share market or in a particular industry or sector.

So work your way through these five tips.  I’d love to hear how they’ve helped you get on top of your finances!!

Love & Money

Hello all you Valentines!!  Sending kisses and much love to you gorgeous couples!

Did you know though, that money issues rank constantly in the top 10 reasons for divorce? Probably something you don’t need reminding of on what’s supposed to be the most romantic day of the year!

But then, communication issues, infidelity and bedroom boredom also rank pretty highly…  And ok, I’m not here to give solutions to those marital woes…  I’ll leave that to the experts!

But love and money can be a tricky subject, and communication has a huge role to play in this area.

And whether you’re a big marshmallow preparing for the most romantic day ever… or it’s just commercial hype and gets a big miss in your house, it’s always worth chatting about money.  Not sexy perhaps, but certainly smart.

Although discussing finances is a must before moving in together, committing to a relationship or opening a joint bank account… it’s an ongoing area that affects nearly every part of our daily lives.  Without the dosh, there’s no food on the table, roof over the head, annual holidays or even the hint of a lifestyle.

Being upfront early can also open your eyes to traits in your potential partner that you might want to know about sooner rather than later.

If there has to be a Top Tip, it’s to discuss money issues with your partner and that’s long before it gets to the shouting match stage.  Relationship goals are usually a joint decision that need sane and calm discussion (sometimes easier said than done… “honey, I’m pregnant!”)

People can have incredibly different attitudes to spending and saving which can cause much friction.  It’s great to be upfront with each other and admit which style is more yours.  Savers hate it when spenders come home with a new impulse purchase and the rates and water bills have just come in.

Helping spenders understand the needs of the family budget may help curb spending, or having a set amount to spend on ‘whatever’ may allow for the bills to be met, and have a little fun too.

If you’re not brave enough to pool your resources, based on previous trust issues, it’s a good idea to sit down and work out what your joint expenses will be.  You can either have a joint account that you both put an equal or set amount into each pay frequency or commit to paying certain bills instead.  That way, living expenses are covered, but ‘what’s yours is yours’ and remains that way.  My mother much preferred ‘what’s yours is mine and what’s mine’s mine,” so whatever works for you!

And when you’ve both been through the wringer before and are looking at starting over, especially if you both have your own families, it can be really smart, if not terribly romantic, to arrange a Binding Financial Agreement (also known as a pre-nup) so if things don’t work out, you both know exactly what you’ll get on exit and protect what you’ve brought into the relationship for your children.  It’s worth getting legal and financial advice for this one, and can put everyone’s mind at ease.  It may not send you to the dance floor for a tango in a fabulous dress with a rose in your teeth, but it’s certainly practical.

In many families, there’s one partner who’s a little more money savvy and the other often delegates the family finances to that one.  But not knowing what’s going on may be fine while everything is roses, but you’ll be kicking yourself if things go wrong and you’re clueless about what you have.  So talk about it, and make sure you’re ‘kept in the loop!’

And if your partner isn’t willing to share about your joint finances and everyday budget and spending and savings, something is likely off, so start sniffing around.  Intercept mail and let the bloodhounds loose.

Other families have issues where one partner is a much higher earner than the other. Being ‘with someone’ doesn’t mean you need to lose your financial identity though.  It’s important to work out what your shared goals are as a couple and how they’ll be addressed but it’s critical to have your own goals too.

So, it’s not rocket science, and if you want your current honey to still be your Valentine in years to come… start the talk, and never stop.

Are you an Amazing Unleashed Woman?

I’m so excited!  I’ve just found out that I’ve been approved for a grant from the Million Dollar Round Table in the United States for UDS$1,000 to support my work with The Hunger Project.  Woohoo!

After my visits to Uganda and Malawi, I’ve become even more passionate about the empowerment of women in global communities and the drive to end hunger.  It frustrates me that so many of us have so much, while so many struggle with so little.

Did you Know?  A donation of even $50 can help give 3 women a micro-finance loan to start or grow a small business to create further income for their families.  We drop that no problem on a meal out or a few drinks with friends.

And here’s an example of what a couple of weeks groceries,  just $500 is able to achieve:

  • Train 400 mothers on feeding their children locally available nutritious food, so their children grow up healthy; or
  • Give 30 women a start-up micro-finance loan to start or grow a small business, to create income for her family; or
  • Empower 15 women to become local volunteer leaders and train their fellow villagers on issues such as education and sanitation.

But, if you’d rather spend your hard-earned dosh on a table at a fabulous restaurant spoiling your loved one on Valentine’s Day, I completely get that too.  So why not bid on A Table to End Hunger and empower others to put food on theirs.   Get in quick!

I’ve been so amazed by the incredible people who’ve supported my journey to date and those who’ve jumped on board and joined the movement.

I’d love to welcome you to become Unleashed with me again for the coming year!

And it’s still not too late to donate – if you’d like to help others to help themselves, please donate here: Unleashed Amanda’s Fundraising Page

Financial Abuse – signs and options

After a tragic swathe of deaths due to aggressive partners and the fabulous work of Rosie Battie and other campaigners to raise awareness, most of us are all too familiar with the specter of domestic violence.

Some of us may have experienced it in a former relationship, know friends and family who are going through it now, or we may be still living the nightmare.  Most of us understand all to clearly that physical abuse and emotional torture are just ‘not on’ or part of a normal and loving relationship.  But many haven’t heard of financial abuse, although they may be familiar with some it’s symptoms.

By definition: Financial abuse is a tactic used by abusers to gain power and control in a relationship. The forms of financial abuse may be subtle or overt but in in general, include tactics to limit the partner’s access to assets or conceal information and accessibility to the family finances.

It is even believed that senior financial abuse will be the crime of the 21st Century.

So what does it look like and how can it be avoided?

Perhaps, you’ve been forced into a career that you wouldn’t normally have chosen for yourself.  It keeps you from succeeding as you’d like to.  It’s a daily grind, doing something you don’t love for an hourly rate.  Your partner may even bandy around ultimatums… choose the job or the relationship!

Others won’t allow you to have your own bank account or spending money.  They dole out the housekeeping funds only and keep their partner financially dependent for every dollar. Others track every cent, forcing their spouse to hand over each and every receipt so that they can see exactly how the money has been spent and ensure no cash withdrawals have been made or funds skimmed from their payments.

Some threaten to leave, and being the sole source of income for the family, the partner stays in place, knowing their livelihood and that of their children depends on the breadwinner.

So what to do?  It’s a complex area and advice to ‘just leave’ isn’t always appropriate, although is likely the ultimate goal.  Relationships based on power and abuse aren’t about love, trust and commitment.  Many feel that their partner may turn physically abusive if they don’t get their own way financially.

Reaching out to trusted friends and family members is a good place to start.  Perhaps you need to plan an exit over time.  Others are happy to cut and run.  Do you need to find a shelter or somewhere to house you and the children while you get back on your feet?  Are you able to get part-time work with funds directed to a new account to start saving for a new life?  Dog walking, cleaning, car-washing or baby-sitting can provide cash funds to be stashed for when the day comes. Do you have a hobby that can be monetized?  Can family and friends help with donations that can be repaid when you’re financially stable once again?  Are you able to do an online course or vocational training to bring your skills up to date?  Find out about community assistance in your area from local councils or libraries.

Financial abuse is a complex area, and ensures low self esteem and feelings of poor self worth.  The abuser is happy to be in a position of power and keep their partner down-trodden.

If you’ve managed to break away from a financially abusive partner, I’d love to hear how you managed the exit!