Tuesday, September 16, 2014

The Guilt of a Mother

mom and girl walking

Mothers face unique challenges when it comes to raising and providing for their children.  Traditionally, we have been the ones to stay at home, taking  care of the children, tending to housework, and cooking every meal.  At about the halfway point of the last century, all of that changed. We started going to work for a number of reasons.  Some of us wanted to increase our household income.  Some of us wanted the little bit of sanity that comes from working outside the home.  Some of us were single mothers who had no other choice, even if we enjoyed our job.  But the biggest reason that we entered the workforce was that we could.

Even though it's been over half a century since this change happened, we still battle with traditional gender roles, the desire to provide and become great at our industry, and, unfortunately, each other.  It seems like no matter which decision we make, whether it's to stay home, go out and work, work at home, or some combination of the above, we are ridden down with  guilt.

If we stay at home, we feel guilty for not providing.  If we work, we feel guilty for not making more time for our kids.  If we work at home, we struggle to find balance and put our full attention on one thing or the other.  We judge ourselves because we're not doing it all perfectly.  We judge others because they are choosing a different path the one we have chosen.

The next time you find yourself doing these things, take a second to reverse the negativity and replace it with a positive thought process or action:

Guilt:  My house isn't sparkling clean.  I'm a horrible housekeeper.
Replace with:  There's dirty dishes in the sink, but I'm choosing to spend my time fostering a great learning environment for my children.

Guilt:  I spent time away from my children today fulfilling my personal goals.  They must feel neglected.  I'm selfish.
Replace with:  By fulfilling my personal goals, I am allowing myself to be a whole person. I'm setting a great example for my children.  I still take time to nurture our relationship, but taking time for me is a positive thing, too.

Guilting Others:  The lady next door stays home with her kids.  Doesn't she understand that contributing to the family coffers in this day and age is a must?
Replace with:  It's so admirable that their family can budget well enough to have someone stay home.  It takes a really special person to spend the entire day with kids without losing their sanity. Though her goals are different from my own, they are not lesser.

Guilting Others:  My son has a friend whose mother works during the day.  Doesn't she understand how important it is to have children raised by their mothers, not nannies?
Replace with:  It's so amazing that she can balance work and family.  What I'm doing is important to me, but I'm glad she's found a way to make things work for her family and fulfill her dreams.  Though they are different from my own, they are not lesser.

Guilt:  I'm just not good enough to handle all of this.
Replace with:  Nothing in anyone's life is 100% perfect.  I'm working hard, and doing the best I can.  There might be a lot going on, but I'm handling it.  That in itself is remarkable.  I am good enough.  I am remarkable.

There will always be something to feel guilty about.  There will always be some aspect of our lives that is imperfect.  But if we look around us, we will notice that there are so many things we are doing right.  There are so many opportunities to take pride in ourselves.  And there are so many opportunities to let those around us know that we think they are rocking it, too.

What's something you feel proud of today?

Thursday, September 4, 2014

5 things you need to know about contents insurance (Sponsored)

Recently I read some statistics on insurance in Australia and they scared me. Having been through a lot in my life, I make sure I am always adequately insured, but apparently I am in the minority. So here are 5 things you need to know about contents insurance, with the statistics provided by Understand Insurance.

1 - Renters need insurance

74% of renters are not insuring their home’s contents. This is 82% for people in a unit/apartment, 68% for people in a house.

In November 2012, I had left my husband and moved into a rental. The very first thing I did was get insurance to cover my contents. I had very little – half a lounge, a TV that had broken off the stand, which sat on an old chest, a bed each for my daughters and I, our clothes, some kitchen utensils, toiletries, linen, my jewellery and a sewing machine.  I had virtually nothing.

1 week after moving I was broken into and they took everything that was personally mine such as my clothes, shoes, jewellery, perfume, beauty products, make up, right down to my underwear. They broke in through the bathroom, went straight to my bedroom, cleaned it out and back out through the bathroom.

They stole over $20,000 worth of stuff from my bedroom and bathroom alone. I had insurance, so it wasn’t an issue cost wise, but have you truly looked at how much it would cost to replace everything you own?

Another example, I was 12, my parents were renting a house in Canberra while we waited for our house to sell in Tasmania. We went on holidays and while away our house burnt down. We had insurance so everything was replaced.

Everyone thinks it won’t happen to them but it does.

2 - List valuables separately

There are some items, which have higher than average value you might need to list separately, for example jewellery. Most insurers have a cap in the policy for how much you are covered with jewellery, unless you have individual items listed, valued and included with extra coverage.

If you have any items that are worth more than your policy covers, list them separately.

3 - Update your details when you make major purchases

53% of people with contents insurance do not update their policy when they purchase high value items!
What are we doing? Over half of the country don’t update their policy when they buy a new TV, lounge suite, computer or similar. Do you not want it to be covered?
Any time you make a large purchase, check your insurance to see if you need to update it, increase your cover or list an item separately.

4 - Review your policy annually

36% of people did not compare insurers before renewing their annual policy. Every time I get my insurance renewal notice I review my policy and also do a comparison with other insurers. Last time I did my contents policy the new quote I got online was better value than the renewal for exactly the same things. You should get quotes to compare different policies, but remember price is not the only thing to consider as it’s important to select your insurer based on the right coverage for your individual needs.

5 - You need to cover your standard of living

81% of homeowners / renters say they do not have enough insurance to resume the same standard of living in the event of a crisis. This might seem high, but look at so many natural disasters we have had in Australia and how many Australians didn’t have adequate insurance. Check your policy, see what you are covered for and make sure you will be able to resume your standard of living should anything happen.

In January 2003 I was a hairdresser in Canberra. That year we had a catastrophic bushfire which burnt over 70% of the land surrounding the city (the pastures, bushland and so on), 500 homes were destroyed and 4 people died. I was working next to one of the worst hit areas and many of our clients lost their homes. I was 17 at the time, living out of home and I was stunned at the amount of people who were underinsured. Many thought nothing would happen and while the events of that day are extremely rare, the fact is it can and did happen.  And in case you are wondering, yes, even with the tiny amount I owned, I had insurance at 17.

If something happened and you lost everything, are you adequately insured?

For more information, helpful tips and independent guidance on home and contents insurance visit www.understandinsurance.com.au

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Making Your Super Socially Responsible

Since 2005, most have been able to decide where the money contributed to their superannuation by their employer will be invested. Generally, people look to investments with high returns.  There are other factors that should be considered when investing your money, which is where socially responsible investing (or SRI) comes into the picture.  Socially responsible investing takes into consideration the impact our investments have on the planet and society at large.  While myths float around that SRI can't beat traditional investments, the numbers tell a very different story.

Why Should I Consider Socially Responsible Investing?

Our investments don't just impact our retirement; they impact the future of the world.  When we invest in a company, we are endorsing and funding the way they do business.  In 2013, a garment manufacturing building in Bangladesh collapsed.  As a result of the unsafe work conditions, 1,100 workers died.  When we were buying clothing and investing our money in companies that had their clothing made in this building and others like it, we were endorsing the continuance of these work conditions, and ultimately had an indirect hand in over 1,000 people's deaths.

Our planet is changing rapidly as our fossil fuel consumption releases carbon dioxide and other carbon compounds into the atmosphere.  These changes are not for the good.  But when we invest in companies that are trying to change how we obtain and use energy, we are using our dollars to change the future.  Hopefully we are able to do it quickly and efficiently enough to save this blue orb we call Earth from destruction.

Some of the most popular issues driving SRI are unsustainable consumption, global population, health care, emerging markets, developing markets, and, of course, climate change.

The Myth of Underperforming SRI Investments

There is a commonly-held belief that SRI investments underperform when compared to other investments.  Data shows us that this is an erroneous myth.  Many studies have been done proving that SRI investments keep pace with non-SRI investments, and in some cases even outperform them.  According to Responsible Investment Association Australia, core responsible investment Australian equities funds have outperformed the ASX 300 index over 1, 3, 5 and 10 years.  Core SRI international equities funds and balanced funds have had similar sucess, with the former outperforming over 5 and 10 years, and the latter outperforming over 1, 5 and 10.  More supporting data can be found in this Griffith University paper, which uses the Markov regime switching model and measures efficiency on a weekly basis.  It also notes that the SRI sector performs much like the equity market at large; the US SRI market heavily impacts Australian investors, much as the US equity market heavily impacts non-SRI Australian investors.

It's worth checking to see if your super offers a responsible investing option through managed funds, industry funds, or master trusts.  Many do, but if yours doesn't, let those in charge know that you'd like to see that change.  Just a few people expressing pressing interest can truly make a change in this field.

Terms to Familiarize Yourself With

ESG- Environmental, social and governance.  You will often see this term used as an adjective to "considerations" when building your investments through your super.  It may also be couple with "ethical considerations."
Negative Screening-When you run a negative screen on investments in SRI, your are looking at them to see what you don't want.  For example, if a company participates in unsustainable forestry, it will not pass a negative screen and therefore be left out of SRI funds that are concerned with this issue.
Positive Screening-When you run a positive screen, you are looking for companies to invest in that are doing things that you want to promote.  Perhaps you are screening for companies that have made major innovations in using sustainable energy.  They will pass a positive screen and you will be investing in something that changes the future for the better.
Best Of Sector-This approach uses only positive screening, and includes exposure to all sectors of the economy.
Thematic Investing-Again, this approach uses a positive screen, but it is concerned with only one, specific area of SRI.  One example would be funds that only concern themselves with human rights issues.
RIAA-Respsonisble Investment Association Australia (or RIAA) provides further education on SRI issues as they apply to Australians.  They do yearly reports on the sector, along with providing certification to asset managers and financial advisers who work with SRI products.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Save money (and your sanity!) when moving house

I am moving house again soon. I have moved quite a few times, but this time I hope to stay much longer, treat it as our home and invest in other properties while there.

Moving can be expensive with costs such as:
- Transport/removalist/truck or trailer hire
- Disconnection and reconnection fees
- Menu plan disrupted
- A big clean (e.g. carpets professionally done and so on if renting)
- The time to move takes it's toll too

So how can you reduce the impact of moving expenses?
1.) Sell off what you don't need
As you are preparing to move, have a proper clean out. List what you can on eBay, Gumtree, Facebook and other places to sell.

2.) Donate or get rid of the rest
Anything you don't need and can donate or throw away, get rid of. You don't want to spend time and money moving things that aren't going to be used.

3.) DIY moving
If you can, hire a truck and get help from some friends or family instead of hiring removalists. It can save you thousands of dollars.

4.) Old packing boxes
Ask around for old boxes such as in stores, friends and family or put a wanted ad online. Don't pay for boxes if you don't have to.

5.) Frugal packaging
Wrap breakables in linen such as tea towels, sheets and other manchester. You have to move the manchester anyway, why not use it to protect valuables?
Other packaging that works well is bubble wrap, newspapers and butchers paper.

6.) Be organised
Label everything clearly so you know what is in each box and which room it should go in. Don't ne haphazard about it, throwing random items in together. Each time I have moved I have managed to clear a room or area so I can pack items that are not needed before the room and start storing them in one spot to make it easier to move.

7.) Sealable bags for screws
When dismantling furniture put all the little pieces into a sealable bag for each item of furniture. Label it clearly so when you are reassembling, everything is there.

8.) Talk to your providers
If you are relocating in the same area, many providers will waive fees if you ask them to or if you resign for a year with them.

9.) Get mail redirection
Have your mail redirected but also make a list of every service, club, provider and person you will need to notify of your address change. A redirection takes a few days to start, so do it before you actually move to make sure mail is redirected. Be aware, it doesn't pick up on all mail so it is better to set aside a time to contact everyone and have your address changed.

10.) Reassess your providers
Since you are calling to relocate, ask for an ongoing discount. Compare insurance providers and other services as you make all your changes. It doesn't take much more time to do and can result in ongoing savings.

11.) Get help
Don't try to do it all yourself. It is a big job. If people offer to help, take them up on it.

12.) Menu plan around the move
Your regular menu plan is going to go out the window. Try to eat down what you have in your cupboards before the move. It might mean some of your meals get a bit creative, but you may discover a new family favourite by doing it.

Plan easy meals or if someone offers to cook a meal, say yes! There are various easy to prepare meals you can whip up that are significantly cheaper than take away.

13.) Keep important things close
I have copies of all my documents scanned and stored elsewhere, as well as the hard copies. Any important papers or things you will need immediately after moving, keep close.

14.) Have an emergency kit
Keep some first aid supplies, basic cutlery and crockery and so on in one box or bag to make moving easier and cheaper.

15.) Don't pack too heavy
Packing so much in a box it is too heavy to lift is a recipe for disaster. Not only is it hard to move, but it is more likely to break which could damage your items too.

What tips would you add?

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

3 Things My Kids Have Taught Me About Money

When I first discovered I was pregnant, I was stressed the heck out.  Studies throw around numbers in the hundreds of thousands when estimating the cost of raising children to the age of 18, and the sticker shock of cribs and diapers was overwhelming.  Over the years, I've gotten a handle on things.  A lot of that I have to credit to my children themselves, as they've reminded me of so many money lessons that are so easy to forget as we age.

1. Just because it's free doesn't mean it's not fun.


It's amazing how much we spend. On ourselves.  On our kids.  On our entertainment.  On our toys.  But raising children has reminded me that these things don't have  to cost exorbitant amounts of cash.  The biggest thing we've done for entertainment is take the kids to a Yo Gabba Gabba show.  While that was amazing, and I wouldn't trade the look on their faces for anything in the world, I could have sworn I saw that same look the other day at the park when we discovered an army of ants under a rock.  That grandiose princess castle that grandma bought for Christmas?  It's the coolest thing ever.  It's so cool I've even played with it.  But the excitement around it has faded, and now the biggest thing is Daddy pushing them around the living room in an empty diaper box.   The sticker prices were very different, but the level of enjoyment was at least equal.

2.  It's people that are important in our lives, not things.


We could have all the toys in the world, but my kids aren't happy unless they have a familiar face in the room.  Preferably Mommy or Daddy.  (That's a million dollar feeling right there.)  Left with a new-to-them baby-sitter, they scream and cry for hours.  (This is a mistake I'll never make again.)

When we are with them, which is most of the time, they have a much better time with all their "things" if we are playing with them.  Reading a book is so much better on Mommy's lap.  Flying on Daddy's shoulders is a million times better than watching TV.  And block towers can be built so much higher when grandma helps.  The real proof is in all of the cuddles, kisses, and love.

I hope they hold onto those things as they grow up.  I hope they choose to allocate their spending towards the things that bring true happiness, like shared experiences with people they love, rather than status symbols.

3.  Sometimes, you've just got to make it rain.

One time, we were visiting family with an eighteen-month old.  It was far enough away that we chose to fly which meant we couldn't bring a pack-and-play or other closed-in structure for them to sleep in.  So they had to be supervised during nap time and sleep in beds with us.  My husband went to supervise one of those nap times and fell asleep himself during it.  He woke up to a baby holding a wallet with credit and store loyalty cards strewn everywhere, throwing all his cash in the air.  There was an ear-to-ear smile on that baby's face as paper bills fluttered down all around them.

It's good to take money seriously.  But sometimes you just have to have fun.  Celebrate life no matter how much you feel like you do or don't have. When you don't have a lot, or you're saving towards bigger goals, remember that the best things in life are usually free, and usually experienced with the people you love.