Category Archives: children

Kids and Money

I think the education system needs a massive overhaul and is ripe for disruption.  No longer are we children of the British Empire training to be clerks in far flung places.  We’re a part of mass globalisation (whether we like it or not) and need the skills to be able to cope with the brave and constantly evolving new world.

No longer do we need to graduate being fluent in Algebra, all over Pythagoras’s theorem, knowing how to dissect a frog, being able to wrangle a Bunsen burner or able to recite Romeo & Juliet (Ok, maybe that.)

What we need is a mass of life skills – how to open bank accounts, understanding medicare and health insurance, learning when and how to switch off from devices and social media, defensive driving courses, how to cope with moods and emotions (our own and others,) getting job ready, learning about business and how to run a home.  You know, real world stuff.

And teaching kids about money is vitally important.  Yet often, we haven’t been taught ourselves to pass those lessons on.  Sometimes we’ve had to learn the hard way, but sometimes we wish we’d known a lot more a lot earlier.

Money permeates every part of what we do.  We work to earn money to make and living and a life.  We need it to put a roof over our head, food on the table, buy the shirt on our back, fund the phone and pay for those holidays and hobbies we want along the way.  Yet few of us know that insuring our income should be our top priority for without it, we can’t fund the rest of our lives.

We also seem to be moving ever closer to a cashless society.  Money is becoming invisible in the digital age.  (My sister tells me I’m considered a vagrant because you’re supposed to have at least 40 cents in your purse for a phone call, which I rarely do – but seeing I have a very capable mobile, I really don’t see the need!)  How much harder for children to understand the value when it’s not even a physical commodity anymore!

Fortunately, there’s also a lot of tools online now available to help.  Start talking to your children about money when you head to an ATM or you withdraw cash at the supermarket, even when writing up a shopping list.  Tell them how many hours you had to work to buy that week’s groceries and how banks and lenders give you money for big purchases but charge you extra for the privilege. Discuss online purchases and how to handle them securely and explain the difference between our needs and our wants.  Make it real and understandable in words they can comprehend and appropriate to their age.

Explain the relationship between leaving the lights on and the power bill you receive. Help them work out their first budget when they start work.  Do they need to pay board, cover debt, give to a charity, save for their first big purchase, make sure they put aside for petrol, registration and insurance?  Open lines of communication can be started with basic concepts introduced as early as preschool.

So, don’t leave it to the education system.  Be your babies first line of financial defense in the world that awaits them.

Get it Together!

There’s so many things that fall into the too hard basket!  Life is busy and there’s so many other priorities!  Just making it through each day and falling into bed at night is a good day’s work for a lot of people.

But, when a tragedy befalls someone near and dear to us, we often see the fallout when people don’t have their sh*t together.  I’m often approached for insurances or to update beneficiaries of a super fund prompted by the life events that happened to ‘someone else.’

So what are the main areas to ‘get on top of’ when it’s time to get your act together?

Here’s my top tips!

  • Make sure your Will is current and reflects your wishes
  • Ensure you have appointed Powers of Attorney – Enduring and Medical
  • Make sure beneficiaries are nominated on Superannuation & Insurance Policies
  • Consolidate those Superannuation funds that you have lying around – or keep them if they have vital insurances
  • Ensure assets are owned correctly and your bank accounts are in order
  • Check over your Insurance Policies – especially Life, TPD, Trauma and Income Protection – are the levels of cover enough?
  • Bring the people who’ll be involved in sorting out your Estate up to date with your wishes
  • Ensure tax returns are up to date and completed annually – personally and for your business entities
  • If you have a partner or family, make them aware of what you’d like to happen
  • Let a couple of different people know where your important documents are stored in the event of the unexpected

Life changes.  Partners can come and go, children grow up and live their own lives, grandchildren arrive and significant people can waltz in and out of our lives.  It may be hassle to work through the list, and yes, some of it may be costly, but if you truly love those you’re leaving behind, one of the best gifts you can leave, is to have your sh*t together.

You really don’t want the crazy ex to benefit from your estate when your gorgeous new partner will be left destitute because you didn’t take the time to update your paperwork!

So, set a date to every year, ensure everything is just how you want it.  It could be on a birthday, an anniversary or at the turn of the calendar or financial year.  Get each area finalised then run an annual check to make sure they still reflect what you’d like to happen when you’re not there to arrange it.

I’ll bet there’s a few people who’ll be very thankful you did.

 

The Truth About Cats and Dogs

Did you know that 3 in 5 households in Australia own a pet?  38% of us are dog owners, 29% have a cat, 12% fish, 12% birds and 9% some other animal like reptiles, bunnies (not for Queenslanders!) or guinea pigs.

Mostly, we love our furry friends for the companionship they give us – that undying love and having someone who actually wants to see us waiting at home every night!  Others buy to teach the kids responsibility and some to keep them fit and active.

But there’s plenty of good reasons why we don’t own pets as well!  Some don’t want the responsibility, others don’t have a home that’s suitable or aren’t allowed by their body corp.  But a very large reason comes down to cost!

Have you every had to weigh up the average cost of pet ownership to see if it’s for you, or don’t know where to start?

According to one source, the average cost of owing a dog annually is around $1,475 and a cat around $1,029.  Fish would be lucky to set us back $50, depending on how luxurious our tank is, and a bird around $115 per year.

Pet insurance is still in its infancy with only one in four dog owners having cover (costing approx. $293 p/a) and one in five cat owners taking out cover (approx. $246 p/a.)

Pet insurance isn’t always available if your furry friend is getting on in  years and some breeds are dearer than others to insure.  You’ll also need to check what’s covered as some  routine check-ups, desexing and dental may not be insured events.

Having three pets, I’d decided against pet insurance, but when my English Staffy did her patella in last year, needed medication and X-rays and then emergency desexing, the average costs went out the window!  Having said that, it certainly paid to shop around with one vet offering a service for $4,000 that another did for $1,200 – and very well thankfully!

The kids were not prepared to let their beloved dog suffer or be put down and were happy to pitch in to cover the costs.

So, if you’re counting the pennies, it’s definitely worth weighing up the costs before taking the plunge into being the resident human for your new fur love.  But if you adore your fur babies more than anything, cost is hardly likely to be a factor in your pet ownership adventures.

Sources: Pet Ownership in Australia 2016 (Animal Medicines Australia) and Pet Insurance Australia, 2015.

Get your finances baby-ready

A pre-baby financial checklist can make all the difference to new mums, writes Sally Patten.

For the majority of women, having a baby is one of life’s magical moments. It is also a moment that brings new responsibilities, including those of the financial variety.

Ideally, planning for a baby in financial terms should start a year, or even two years, before birth to ensure there is enough money tucked away to cover maternity leave and that other arrangements, such as life insurance, are in place.

Being prepared will help mothers to revel in their newborns as they should.  “If you are stressed about money, the experience is not as enjoyable as it should be,” says Kellie Payne of RI Advice Group Caloundra.

In the early planning stages, it is important to investigate how much money you can expect to receive through work entitlements and the government’s parental-leave pay scheme. Taking into account your expected income, the amount of time you plan to take off, your current expenses and any additional expenses that come with having a baby will enable you to figure out what the shortfall might be and how much you need to save ahead of time.

“Be prepared for additional medical and pharmacy costs for both you and the baby,” warns Payne.

Adele Martin of Firefly Wealth recommends opening a separate bank account for parental expenses, or better still, put the money into a separate mortgage offset account.

Check your insurance levels

In the case of health insurance, not all contracts cover pregnancy and baby-related services and if you do need to raise your level of cover, a 12-month waiting period will typically apply.

If you want to be covered by private health insurance for pregnancy “you’ll need to be on a health cover that includes pregnancy at least three months before you start trying to fall pregnant”, warns health insurer nib health funds.

Having a child is also an ideal time to look at your life insurance, which may pay a sum of money in the event of death, and income-protection policies, which may pay a regular sum of money in the event of serious illness or injury. Both can be critical when there is a baby or child who will need providing for if something happens to you.

Finding the right life insurance and income-protection policies is no mean feat and advice is recommended.

Strategies for Life Queensland financial adviser Tanaya Bendall says in terms of income-protection policies, would-be mothers should consider whether the policy will pay an agreed amount without having to show proof of income.

Martin notes that many insurance companies won’t insure pregnant women after the last trimester because they are viewed as higher risk.

A convenient way to increase insurance levels may be through superannuation, because this won’t have any impact on your cash-flow levels.

Finally, Martin believes women should not ignore superannuation during this time. She suggests investigating whether they are eligible for various super contribution allowances, such as the government co-contribution and spouse contributions while they’re not working or working part-time.

How a baby changed Emily’s financial outlook

A lot changed for Emily Shields when she had her first child, not least her financial outlook.  The embryologist knew she did not want to go back to work full-time.

“I wanted to be able to spend that time with Evie. But it also makes you think about being able to provide for her,” says the 37-year-old.  “We were lucky when we were kids that we never had to want for anything, and I want to be able to provide that for Evie.”

Shields was in a fortunate position: her partner Sam could support them. He had just started his own financial-planning company when Evie was born, and Shields was able to take a year’s maternity leave from her position at one of Melbourne’s leading IVF clinics.

She extended this leave by becoming a home-based sales rep for a health and beauty company for six months.  Now back at work two-and-a-half days a week, Shields is pleased to have resumed her career, knowing Evie is well looked after.

“All I knew was that I didn’t want her going into childcare,” says Shields. “It’s been easy knowing she’s going to family and Sam’s aunt can work around us with times and dates.”

The immediate financial plan is to continue working part-time while keeping a long-held investment property “ticking over” until they are ready to buy a house.

“We’re quite happy with a public primary school but I’d like Evie to go to a private school for high school if we have the money.”

Case study: Natasha Hughes

This article is part of a series published in the Sydney Morning Heraldand The Age called Her Money, that aims to help women take control of their financial futures. This series has been created in partnership with ANZ.

Home Hug Surin gets a new driveway

A long drive to the orphanage of Home Hug Surin from Yasoton, saw us once again collaborating on a humid Thai day to bring about what the home required as part of the Hands Across the Water Social Venture Program.

A gravel driveway for the frequently used travel bus and a beautiful paved entrance to the main hall of the orphanage was on the agenda.

After a quick debrief, we easily moved to where we could all add most value, with many of the girls opting to spread the gravel that had been dumped on the drive, and the guys to move the concrete sleepers and commence spreading the sand and laying the pavers for the entrance walk.

The work was hot and sweaty and once again, our hosts paid us special care, providing cool refresher towels, plenty of water and fabulous food to keep us going.

By the late afternoon, the kids were home from school and joined us in the work that was left, loving having visitors at the orphanage and being useful amongst all their new-found foreign friends despite plenty of language barriers.

Once the work was finally finished and we were all exhausted, we enjoyed a lovely debrief and a session of thanks followed by a beautiful meal with the children, who just loved our company.

It’s been said that the ‘workman is worthy of his wage’ and our payment was more than enough in the smiles and thanks of the children we met at this lovely home.  They also showed their appreciation through traditional dance, a spot of hip hop and some songs for us – all to standing ovations..

From younger children, to intellectually impaired teenage boys, this place operates from a place of love and makes a beautiful welcoming environment for all these amazing and resilient children, who have nowhere else to call home,  It is again a testament to the amazing work of Hands Across the Water and the love and tireless work of Mae Thiew in protecting the children in her care.

Sounds sleeps and pleasant dreams were had by all.

 

Collaborating on an orphanage wall

So our day started bright and early with a 4.30 wake up and a flight from Bangkok to Ubonrachatani in the north.

Our group had been looking forward to heading to the Home Hug orphanage as the highlight of the visit.

For most who’d visited before, it was to rekindle relationships with the children and the beautiful Mae Thiew who has been looking after children for 40 years in her local community.

Many years ago, Mae Thiew was moved by the conditions of those in the hill tribes and seeing families sell their children to traffickers for money.

She sold everything and moved to the north, buying land and fiercely protecting the children who came into her care.

Times weren’t always easy and some days she needed to decide whether children needed medicine or food. Awful choices to have to make with many children dying.

Since Hands Across the Water partnered with the orphanage, no children have died.

And so we met the gorgeous children who live under the loving care and protection of Mae Thiew.

Our role at the orphanage was to paint the new wall out the front of Home hug to make it into a welcoming place, help remove the stigma associated with the children, some of whom have HIV and be a highlight for those coming to visit.

We were shown a great video of the amazing ability of art to bring together a community – watch the Ted Talk here.

We then collaborated, came up with different plans and the children chose their favourite, incorporating many ideas into what they’d like.

We eventually settled on a child weilding a ribbon to mirror the saffron colours of Mae Thiew’s robe, green for grass underneath with white handprints of those who’ve visited and blue sky above full of music, love and the bikes for the fantastic riders who every year raise so much for the work Hands do.

We learnt beautiful lessons on resilience and determination from this quiet and steel willed monk.

We drank in the smiles and relished holding hands and exploring the property with the children who taught us that acceptance, tolerance and happiness were still options despite adversity.

An amazing and moving day once again on  day 2 of our Social Venture Program…

 

I won a trip to the Bangkok Slums!

Well, there’s a blog title I never thought I’d write… or even be a little excited about, but as it turns out, in 9 more sleeps, I’m off to Thailand.

And as much I’d love to be sipping Mai Tai’s by the pool at a stunning resort… that’s NOT what this trip is all about.

I recently attended the Future of Leadership forum in Brisbane which has a fabulous number of brilliant speakers donating their time and resources to raise funds for the amazing charity, Hands Across the Water (aka Hands or HATW.)

One of the prizes on the day, which I was fortunate enough to take out, was a trip for the Hands “Social Venture Program.”  This 6 day program will take me from the Khlong Toei Slums in Bangkok to the community Projects and orphanages in Yasothon, Northern Thailand.

The people I’ll be meeting aren’t famous for the attention they garner, they aren’t social media stars and they don’t drop quotable quips, but they are possibly the most amazing people for the impact they have on their local communities and the lives they live.

It will be my privilege to spend time in their homes, learning and changing myself.  I feel so blessed to lead the life that I do, and cherish the moments where I can learn and grow as a human from these remarkable people who do so much, not because they want to be famous, but because they can.

We’ll be relocating a very deserving family from the slums into temporary accommodation, then demolishing their home for locals to be able to come in and build a new, habitable dwelling for the family.

Then we’re off to Northern Thailand to work with the Home Hug orphanage, be involved in the community project in Surin and make a difference however we can before returning to Bangkok.

So far, I’ve been able to raise $2,000 for this fantastic cause and I’d love if you’d like to contribute too: Donate Here

If you’d like to know more about the amazing work that Hands does in their Social Venture Program, or have your corporate or colleagues involved, you can check them out here: HATW Social Venture Program

I look forward to sharing my adventures as I go and will keep you posted on this amazing trip.