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My Top Financial Tip

If there’s one tip I’m constantly asked for, it’s what’s the best way to get on top of your finances?  And for me, that’s easy to answer – “Live Within Your Means!”  Good money management boils down to harnessing the cash flow and getting on top of debt – with the biggest gremlin being credit cards.

If the word ‘budget’ annoys you and has you running for the door, try ‘spending plan’ instead.  A budget/plan should be divided between fixed regular costs (those you MUST meet) and discretionary spending (the WANTS and nice to have stuff.)

Work out first what it costs for mortgage or rent payments, food, clothing, utility bills and loans.  This means you’ll have a much better idea of where you stand and how much you are spending on fun stuff like entertainment and non-essentials.

Losing the credit cards should be a top priority.  Learning that if you can’t afford it now, you can’t have it, is a great skill to take through life.  That’s not to say lay-buy or payment plans can’t work, but we need to move on from the ‘I want it now’ mentality.

Learn what you’re capable of when you’ve got less commitments like interest payments for items you’ve forgotten that you’ve even bought.  You may be pleasantly surprised at what you can achieve with better spending and saving habits.

Did you know, that if you’re 25 and have a nest egg of around $5000 and you’re able to save $50 – $75 a week at around 7% average interest (compounding over the long-term) you could have yourself a cool $1 million by retirement at 65?  It might be a while off, but it does highlight the opportunity cost of spending around $200 to $300 a month on eating out, movies, drinks and ‘stuff.’  Add that to your compulsory super and that’s not a bad way to enjoy post-work life.

Most however don’t really start thinking about retirement until they’re 40 plus and suddenly realise they’re half way through their working life and have been wasting the ready for over 20 years.  It’s time to analyse those poor financial habits now!

Reducing debt and saving as much as possible is imperative if you want to maintain a certain standing of living both now, and when you retire, and living within your means makes life a lot easier.  Life without ongoing financial stresses also helps you sleep easier now. Chances are, the Centrelink age pension will be harder and harder to come by and eventually disappear.

It’s up to us to take charge of our financial future, and the sooner, the better.  Living within your means from now, is vital.  Are you?

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.

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!

What does a Brighter Financial Future Look like for You?

What lights your fire financially?  Everyone’s financial future looks different.

For some people, it might be as simple as being completely debt free.  Others couldn’t live without an annual holiday.  Many want the security of a small nest egg or emergency fund being available.  Others would love an investment property.  Whatever it means to you, a brighter financial future can start with a few small changes to how you currently deal with money. The key is usually to establish some good financial habits – no matter where you are right now.

What are some steps you can personally take towards a brighter financial future?   Most often, it starts with living within your means, or spending less than you earn.  I’ll outline a few options and suggest you try a couple to begin with and see what a difference it makes in your personal circumstances.

  1. Track your daily spending habits – get a receipt for everything you purchase and pop it on a spike or in a box for a month.  See what’s really going on with your spending!
  2. Begin a budget.  And before your eyes glaze over, there’s plenty of online calculators that can help you, so you don’t need to do it alone.  Try the ASIC MoneySmart option to kick things off.
  3. Review your spending habits – Do you have the best phone plan?  Are your insurances the best value for coverage and cost?  Are your bank accounts and fees cost effective?  Do you have a low cost loan and a good deal on your mortgage?  Can you cancel some subscriptions you no longer need? There’s lots of comparison sites now available to help!  Where can you cut back?
  4. Start clearing debt – work out what’s the highest interest rate across your various debts – quite often, it’s the credit card or personal loan.  Especially if the debt if not tax-deductible, work out a plan to bring it down more quickly.  Paying the minimum each month, you’ll never get rid of what you owe!  As one clears, cancel or reduce the facility and then start directing those funds towards the next debt.
  5. Is it time to start investing?  As your debt comes down and you no longer need to fund those large payments, can these be directed towards an investment portfolio?  Find out if you’re ready to start investing here.
  6. Take care of your future!  Have you given due care or attention to your retirement savings?  It’s easy to put it on the back burner thinking it’s so far off, but it is your money and needs to be nurtured.  Chances are, the Government’s pension plan will be less and less available over time, so taking care of number one should be higher on your list than it likely already is.  And the longer you have to go, the better compounding interest will work in your favour.

Hopefully, these tips will help set you on the way to a brighter financial future.  I’d love to know if you’ve tried one out and let me know how it’s worked for you!

When should I start Investing?

I’m often told, “when I have money, then I’ll come to see you…”

I take this to mean that most people really aren’t sure about why they should see an advisor or believe that they only help people  who have funds to invest.  Not always true!

So, if you’re someone who isn’t really sure about when to start, here’s a few questions you can ask yourself to see how you’re tracking…

  1.  Do you live within your means and spend less than you earn?
  2. Are your personal loan payments up to date and credit cards paid off monthly?
  3. Do you have an emergency fund for a rainy day?
  4. Are your personal protection plans in place, covering your life, health and income?
  5. Are your superannuation funds all consolidated and invested in line with your risk profile?
  6. Are you comfortably repaying debts like a mortgage and could still manage to do so if interest raise increased?
  7. Do you have a regular savings plan now?
  8. Is there a specific goal that you’d like to achieve with an investment plan?

If you can happily respond with a Yes! to all these areas, chances are you’re ready to roll!  If not, see where you can improve your current situation before taking the leap.

Investing for many women requires a bit of soul searching.  What’s the purpose of the investment?  Is it just long term growth?  To achieve a holiday goal?  Extra savings to supplement retirement income?  To save for your children’s education?  Is paying down debt a higher priority?  Often, these reasons or needs require different time frames for the investment and different levels of risk that you’re prepared to take.

Share market and property investments are typically viewed as long term investments (five to seven years plus) and for those with a more assertive or aggressive profile.  Cash, term deposits and fixed interst styles of investment often mean a shorter term need is to be met, where preservation of capital is paramount.

An adviser can help you articulate your goals and work out your risk profile.  Chances are, you may invest very differently with your superannuation savings than you would for that trip you’d like to take next year, amd each rqeuire a very different strategy.

If you’d like to find out your Risk Profile, drop me an email and I’d be happy to forward you a questionnaire to see where your levels of tolerance sit.

What does an Adviser really do?

The term financial adviser or financial planner has been around for a long while.

When I left school though, I’d never heard of a Financial Adviser and certainly didn’t know it was a career path, or that it was the one I would take.

I knew about Life Insurance Agents or Brokers, Accountants, Economists and not much else.  So if you’re like I was, and not really sure what a planner did, allow me to enlighten you…

Advisers are Authorised Representatives of an organisation that is licensed by ASIC (the Australian Securities and Investment Commission.)  Some choose to hold their own license, some are through non-aligned companies and others are through big corporates that you may recognise such as AMP, MLC (NAB) or ANZ.

The upshot is, you need to be licensed to give advice and that’s a role we take pretty seriously.  People pay us for what we know, meaning we’re in a very trusted position and one that we don’t take for granted.

When you initially meet or research an Adviser, chances are you’ll be provided with their Financial Services Guide and Adviser Profile.  This outlines what your Adviser is allowed to provide advice on.  Some are very limited and choose to specialise in a particular niche, such as Insurance or Self-Managed Super Funds (SMSF.)  Others are educated in many areas and are called ‘generalists.’  Additional accreditation may be achieved in areas such as Aged Care and SMSFs.

Most covered areas include investments, finances, budgeting, insurance, superannuation, retirement and pre-retirement planning, estate planning, risk management, business risk mitigation and taxation.  Advisers are usually only too happy to let you know the areas that they’re qualified in and can offer advice on.

Chances are, seeing an adviser can add value to your personal financial situation, so why not consider a meeting with a planner real soon!  Most offer their initial consultation at their own time and expense, so what have you got to lose?