Category Archives: children

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.

Your Life Lessons Legacy

Whether you have kids now or want them in the future, take a moment to think about what lessons you’d really like your kids to learn from you: And there’s tons to choose from! Good Self Esteem? Great Communication Skills? Business Acumen? Knowing that it’s ok to pursue their dreams? Diligence and Hard work? How the world really works? A good relationship with money? Generosity? Healthy Eating  Habits? Philanthropy? All of the above?

What do you feel you’re able to pass onto them that you yourself are fully living by example? If you want happy kids, are you happy? If you really want healthy babies, how do you treat your own body?  If you want them to be financially secure, are you modelling those behaviours?

We all want to be perfect parents and yes, we all try very hard. (I was such a perfect parent before I had kids!! Took just one to mess that delusion up!  Now I’m just great at other people’s kids!)

Not surprisingly however, the very best things we can teach  are children are by our own example. Not as it turns out, by getting them into the best schools, or running around cramming in loads of extra-curricular activities etc.

It’s only when we decide to truly embody a behaviour ourselves, that they can truly learn and model that for themselves.  How scary is that?  (I might have to start saving for their therapy sessions now!)

Are you acting in integrity with what you want your kids to become?

Kiruhura Epicenter lays it on for the visiting Business Chicks

Well it’s not often you arrive to the energy, colour and fanfare of a brass band welcome but this is exactly what awaited us when arriving at the Kiruhura epicentre in South Western Uganda.

Despite the light rain, hundreds from the local community in the local catchment area of The Hunger Project epicentre, were there to welcome the Business Chicks from Australia, and more kept arriving throughout the day.

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Dancers from the Functional Adult Literacy classes sang their thanks to us for funding. Other dancers expressed welcome and joy at our visit. Small children clambered to sit on the laps of the visitors and quickly stole our hearts.

imageWe split into four groups to meet with committee members and be given a tour of the amazing work THP is doing for the area. This centre also has the added distinction of being the first to head to self-reliance, likely meeting this target in the coming twelve months.

A few years of the girls and I were assigned to the group to learn about IGA or Income Generating Activities and we discussed the 9 ways that are utilised to create profit, most of these being agriculturally based. The centre grows and sells food, seeds and is even planning a hostel to charge visitors who come a long way, a modest fee to stay.

The committee members all personally introduced themselves and explained the volunteer nature of the work they do at the Centre, as animators, and farmers. All were rightly proud of the part they’ve played in the area’s success.

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This centre is truly something special and their greenhouse, irrigation displays, piggery, grafting facility, milling rooms and farms were an example to all the area.

This centre also houses a rural bank for Microfinance and a health centre, food bank and meeting rooms.

Around 1000 from the local community turned out for speeches to farewell the chairman of the past 8 years and gift 20 animators bicycles to help assist them reach further in their work.

More celebrations, group dances and song wrapped up an amazing welcome for the visiting Business Chicks to Kiruhura.