Savings Goals

The hardest time to save is when we’re ‘just saving’ with no end in sight. It’s like going to the gym to train; but, train for what? 

As Lewis Carrol once wrote ‘If you don’t know where you’re going any road will get you there.’ Goals help us set the direction and motivation for our choices, and speak to our integrity and authenticity.

Whilst most people want to enjoy a prosperous life, a proper plan for creating wealth is not always high on their agenda. If we want to change this, we need to have a clear goal in mind as to what we want our financial future to look like.  

When we set clearly defined savings goals we have a better chance of accomplishing them because we know what we’re working towards. It’s not simply putting money in your bank account or relying on what’s left after your monthly expenses; that money can be easily spent if there’s no clear purpose for it.

Often the best place to start is by considering our life goals, and then aligning our savings goals to help us achieve those life goals. The two are intrinsically connected – so the planning should be connected too!

Here are two tips on how you can set achievable financial goals:

Save for the next big life transition

This could be retirement, marriage, buying a car or house, paying for university or any other big life goal that you have.

Each of these transitions have unique costs, considerations and timelines, which means that you could be saving for more than one of them at any given time.

The longer you have available to save, the more you can include strategies that account for  compound interest accrual and tax efficiencies on the different investment products. 

You can also start working towards these savings goals by either investing a lump sum or making regular contributions to the investment portfolio. 

Have an emergency fund

Whilst life transitions are events that we can reasonably plan for, we have to figure out a smart way of dealing with the eventuality of unexpected expenses. 

Your roof may cave in or there may be a burglary and that will cost you money. It helps to know you’re secure for those future events that will need you to dig deeper into your pockets.

A very smart way of protecting yourself (aside from insurance) against unexpected expenses is to create an emergency fund. This is to ensure you don’t clean out your savings accounts or have to rely on loans and credit cards for emergency expenses.

It is ideal to save up for six months of living expenses. Of course, this won’t be easy but the goal is to have a backup beyond your income source(s). You can start by including emergency fund contributions in your budget. 

The beautiful part of this is that you decide how much you’ll dedicate towards the emergency savings. So throw in what you can afford to. Once you’ve paid off all your debts, you can add more.

Creating savings goals will give you more peace of mind in the future and ensure you have more financial security in your life. A productive and positive attitude towards how you work with your savings is just as important as amassing the actual funds.

How to set flexible goals

Last week we looked at why it’s important to become flexible in setting goals. This week we’ll consider how we set flexible goals.

Setting personal goals can empower us to transform our lives and drive towards our wishes – but if we feel like we’re not achieving our goals this can have an adverse effect. With the major changes we’ve all experienced in recent times, we need to shift to set flexible goals.

What are flexible goals and what do flexible goals look like?

Flexible goals have a timeline but the focus is on how they adapt with the times, rather than ‘keep to the times’. 

With flexible goals, we prioritize tracking our progress as well as development and growth, rather than achieving the end goal – helping us focus on progress rather than perfection.

Here are three tips on how to set flexible goals: 

Record your journey, daily  

Journaling remains one of the best ways we can remind and keep ourselves motivated in pursuit of our goals. You don’t actually need a notebook for this. There is an abundance of smartphone apps and other resources that you can use to organise your thoughts, daily activities and plans.

Identify a tool that will be easier for you to visit every day. One that you can use as an accountability partner that’ll keep you measuring your progress.

Remember – it’s about progress, not perfection, so when (not if…) you have bad days, be kind to yourself, allow yourself the space to alter course or take a rest when needed.

Size down your time and your goals

One of the best ways of evaluating your progress is to size down your goals into mini-goals. This helps you break down your targets into smaller, achievable goals so you can find it easier to work on them every day. 

Again, journaling can help with this.

Evaluate your progress daily, weekly and monthly so that you can keep one eye on managing each day as it comes, and the other on how much you’re growing towards your longer-term plans.

Have a willingness to learn

Embracing teachability expands our knowledge and gives us a more rewarding life experience. It allows us to be more informed about the world and not be limited to our own opinions, thoughts, feelings and views. 

Whether it is learning through self-discovery or interactions with others, being open-minded and curious is highly beneficial for cultivating a growth mindset.

In your social interactions, always look to pick up lessons that will be valuable in your journey of success. Evaluate your shortcomings and look at what you can do better should you be in the same situation again.

Learning to set flexible goals opens us to more of the opportunities we are seeking in life. With a growth mindset, we can be flexible and accomplish more than we ever thought we could.

Why we need to be flexible with our New Year’s Resolutions

Towards the end of every year, it is customary to reassess our priorities, take stock of the year that was, and plan for the year to come. The emergence of the 2020 Coronavirus pandemic and global lockdowns disrupted our daily routine and our lifestyle altogether, throwing most plans and resolutions out the window!

Does that mean that planning is no longer helpful? Or does it mean that setting long term goals is no longer relevant?

Not at all – all it means is that we need to progress in our approach to planning.

A big lesson that we can learn from the lockdowns of 2020 is that we need to embrace an approach that works with the times – as we continue adapting our habits to the “new normal”. 

Going forward, we need to determine how to set flexible resolutions. 

With flexible goals, we need to remain aware of a broader spectrum of possible scenarios. 

Here’s why.

Timelines have changed

Traditional goal-setting strategies generally employ a timeline, and when it comes to New Year’s Resolutions, the timelines are often constrained within a year. Partly because we sometimes make these things up on the spot and assume that we have plenty of time to achieve them, and partly because we’ve put pressure on ourselves to see measurable change within a shorter period of time. 

Taking the time to review resolutions and sensibly deciding on them is a good idea. But, an even better view can be to create a larger goal – like a 5- or 10-year goal, which can be engaged with in stages each year.

So perhaps, instead of saying “I want to lose weight this year”, consider a longer-term plan for your overall health. A first priority for the first 12 months could be committing to a healthy meal plan. For year two, you’ll continue eating healthily but could include exercise. As you engage with each stage of the plan, you will slowly start to see the next mini-goals become apparent and shape the long-term goal.

New Year’s Resolutions are often not relevant to us

New Year’s Resolutions are popular conversational trends at the beginning of the year with many of us feeling like we need to ‘follow the crowd’. As a result, we are prone to setting goals that have little or no personal gratification or inherent value; we set ourselves up for failure.

When we make goals – they need to make sense to us and be achievable to our current life stage.

All the legendary athletes, artists and academics who have inspired us had to face failure and unexpected challenges along their journeys. Often, their success has been linked to their ability to ‘roll with the punches’ and their ability to be flexible when plans change.

This is why we need to be flexible with our resolutions. Always remind yourself that a happier life does not depend on achieving your resolutions, but it’s about enjoying the journey and gaining valuable lessons as you work towards them.

Being responsible means so much more

Festive celebrations will look a little different this year (and possibly every year going forward!). No matter where you find yourself this December, everyone has had a year of heightened awareness around health and personal space.

It has not been easy to follow precautions of preventing the spread of Covid-19. Having to wear masks all day and sanitise at every entrance took time to get used to. These experiences have changed the way we look at everything – from nipping out to the shops right up to blowing out the candles on a cake. 

Festive season celebrations will need a fresh look at what it means to be responsible. Usually, celebrating responsibly means not overindulging and putting yourself and others at risk – now it will include keeping guests to a minimum and extra consideration around how much we expect ourselves and others to spend.

The responsible thing to do this holiday season could very well be to socialise less and stay at home more. This doesn’t mean we cut all ties and burrow away; it just means we need to rethink our traditions of spending time together over the holidays.

Here are a few ideas…

Create some space

Over socialising and ‘trying to fit everyone in’ is no longer advisable. In some ways, it removes the pressure to attend so many events that we slide into the new year completely exhausted.

For the year-end functions that you can’t avoid organising, many are choosing to split these into mini-events. Family gatherings could be something smaller, with extra consideration given to those who are elderly or at higher risk. If someone chooses to pass, we shouldn’t take offence or pressure them into not missing out. 

Hybrid events, where some guests attend in person, and others are linked through a screen, are also popular ideas to keep in mind.

Keep yourself fit 

Keeping fit is good and could help keep your blood pressure low – which is beneficial for boosting your immune system and coping with stress.

There are free apps with short, effective workouts that you can download on your phone and start on right away. Taking regular walks outside is a great way to improve health, circulation and mental stamina – and doesn’t cost a cent!

Shop away from the shops

With everything online, going to the shops is a choice and no longer a necessity. 

Be mindful of cyber-security and verify whether you’re paying the right store before inserting your personal information on any platform. Stick with brands and providers that you know and trust.

Stay updated with safety regulations

2020 reminded us all that rules and regulations can change from week to week. Keep your guests aware that you’re flexible and try, where possible, to have a plan B in place.

It’s also not merely about your event, but how others can travel and which business may stay operational. If you need access to specific catering services, make sure they’re also allowed to operate and won’t affect the success of your event.

Let us all try our best to embrace safer ways of celebrating during this festive season. If you’re not doing it for someone else’s safety, do it for your own.

Gifts for the cost-conscious

As our finances ebb and flow, we will sometimes face a festive season where we have to think out of the box for holiday gifts. Gifts are a wonderful way to let our loved ones know how much we appreciate and value them, but they can be expensive and out of reach if we don’t give them enough thought.

Gifts don’t always have to be a physical, fit-in-a-box, wrappable item – they just have to be meaningful and well-considered. Most people don’t actually want the plastic swizzle sticks from the local Crazy Store that have been sitting on the same shelf for the last seven years.

If you’re willing (or needing) to be a little more cost-conscious in your gifting, then here are some great ideas to add to your list.

Memberships and subscriptions 

Instead of designer socks or a new skincare regime pack, how about paying for that SkillShare class or MindValley course your friend has been talking about? If you’re getting gifts for someone who reads a lot, why not pay for an Audible subscription or Kindle voucher? 

If you’re looking to reduce the stress and boredom of someone who’s housebound, you could get them a gift voucher to NetFlix, iTunes or Spotify.

Even if it’s a three-month subscription (remember, the first month is generally free), they’ll think of you every time they enjoy the ease of choosing what they want to watch or listen to.

A ticket or voucher for an experience

Vouchers for dinners, a day in a theme park or a guided tour are downright exciting! Whether it’s to a local wine estate, or that touristy balloon thing that no locals ever pay to do, this type of gift can be well-tailored to the person you’re gifting.

Of course, you’ll have to look for gift options that will be fun but affordable at the same time. If you’re going for a road trip or flying somewhere you may have to fork out more, whereas, if it’s dinner at a niche restaurant or a ticket to a concert you could spend less than on those designer socks…

Try secret Santa

Giving gifts can be an interactive event that includes everyone. With so many events going virtual, you can have a virtual secret Santa, for exchanging gifts with colleagues as well as friends and family.

There are great apps to help with a virtual secret Santa (like Elfster or Giftster), but with a little innovation, you and your squad can draw names and use local online shopping to send gifts to people.

If you think about it – this becomes an awesome idea for groups of friends, colleagues and families who find themselves on completely different continents.

Remember, costly gifts are often the ones that go unused. You don’t have to spend outside of your budget, and you don’t have to pressure others to do so either. You can start a trend and set the pace for more responsible spending and celebrating this festive season!

Savvy celebration tips when times are tight

Tough years lead to leaner budgets and lighter wallets. But it’s important to celebrate and the festive season is traditionally a time to enjoy and celebrate friends and family. Families and businesses host and cater for large groups of people, and the costs can add up quickly.

Enjoying the holiday season during tough economic times means that we need to change our usual game plan. In addition to the material costs, being mindful of new social norms like social distancing (not an issue for most of us pre-2020) and other fluctuating government protocols, curfews and restrictions is a priority.

Here are four ideas to help us have a merry and safe festive season!

Dine together – online

During the “new normal” we became accustomed to virtual meetings and video chats. Savvy celebrators are taking it one step further and dining virtually! It sounds like a challenge-and-a-half but when one considers the logistics and costs that go into hosting and catering for IRL (in real life) events, it’s not so daunting. Being limited to a small screen on your smartphone or laptop can be conquered.

There are ways of making the experience interactive and fun for everyone involved. 

If you usually plan the menu together or cook together, you can create a live Google doc or spreadsheet that you can use to list the recipes and have how-to-guides, that other family members and friends can use to prepare the same dishes in their own homes. Because they’re interactive documents, you can also share tips and alterations that you make to the menu based on your restrictions or budget constraints. 

This way you’ll end up having the same meal and treats together, albeit not in the same room. You’ll be able to tease each other and communicate over a meal, on video.

Cater for a small circle

Adapting to the times and hosting a small group seems to be the most ideal thing during trying times. Preparing food for three or five more people instead of 12 or more is enormously cost saving and reduces health risks for those who may be uncomfortable with larger groups. 

If you feel it could save you more time and money, you can order pre-cooked or already prepared meals with smaller portions from your local deli or home-enterprise, this way you’re also supporting local businesses and boosting our economy of small businesses. 

Eat outside 

Apart from having the health benefit of being outside, having a garden meal helps reduce the cost of things like decor and fancy furnishings. Having a picnic-styled meal reduces many costs, makes it easier for guests to contribute what fits with their budget and keeps us breathing fresh, clean air.

Do your shopping from home

With click and collect services now all the norm, and so many more retailers upping their online game – shopping for food and gifts online is only getting more convenient.

Not only is it healthier for those who don’t feel comfortable in large public spaces, it’s a super way to shop the specials, save on transport and parking!

Major global events and economic downturns can place immense pressure on us, and in some cases; radically change our lifestyles. This doesn’t mean we should hide away and pinch every penny, it means we must adapt our ways in order to keep getting the most out of what we have and who we can share it with.

The festive season does not always have to be the same – we can create new traditions. We can be more mindful and respectful of others and share on a deeper, more authentic level.

Planning reduces anxiety

We don’t plan because we fear the future. We plan because we realize we can enjoy today more by reducing the anxiety of tomorrow. 

Most people accept that planning offers us a detailed proposal for doing or achieving something. When we plan, we map out the possible steps of our ideal life journey before taking them. Some of our biggest fears orbit around the unknown, so if we can clarify what our future might look like, our planning will reduce our anxiety.

Planning could be as large-scale as our long-term financial planning or building a family or business, but it could also be as simple as planning a weekend away or a simple trip to the shops!

Here are four tools that will help us in our planning.

1. Write it down

Journaling helps us to review our habits and routines regularly. For this to work, we need to be honest. We need to be able to look at different areas of our life and identify what we want to change.

Here are some questions to ask yourself when jotting down these ideas:

  • What do I want to do differently?
  • What do I want to do more?
  • How can I achieve my goals? 
  • How can I continue growing along the way?

2. Prioritize your values

When asked to write down the things that we value, it’s easy to create a list that includes many great values. These can be overwhelming to engage with, so we need to start with the full list and then begin to order them in terms of what we feel are most relevant and engaging to us in our current life-space.

As we grow and experience changes in our lives and responsibilities, these values might change in order of priority – writing them down and shuffling them around helps us maintain a sense of authenticity and accountability while reducing our anxiety.

3. Get support

Sometimes we can accomplish more, in less time, with help. Fortunately, we live in a time where we do not always need to engage in face-to-face conversations with real, live human beings for help. There’s a plethora of newsletters, blogs, podcasts and videos online that we can use to encourage us on our journey.

But, when it comes to holding us accountable, especially when life presents us with roadblocks, having support from family, friends, or a coach, or hearing stories of people who have faced similar challenges, can help us navigate them and reduce anxiety. 

4. Keep looking ahead

Planning your journey into the future can help you maintain your vision and reduce the anxiety of not seeing instant results. Looking ahead helps to keep us mindful of the bigger picture, the bigger plan.

Often we give up on plans because we want instant gratification and confirmation that what we’re doing is right, and that our approach works. 

It’s important to realize that progress is not only in achieving something. Just thinking about and working towards progress speaks volumes about your personality because you know the type of person you want to be, and you are committed to being that person every day.

Keep that in mind and celebrate it with a smile every day.

One of the worst things to plan for…

In Western culture we have become very detached from the cycle of life and death. Only those who work in specific industries will be accustomed to the fragility of life, but for most of us it’s something that will happen in the unforeseen future, so we try not to engage with it too often.

The overwhelming emotional shock we feel when we lose a loved one, whether sudden or expected, is natural.

Inside of this tumultuous time, we are faced with the reality that life goes on, and we have to engage with paperwork, practicalities and an often-times pragmatic process that feels devoid of the emotional engagement we’re longing for.

If we can talk about the practical side before dealing with a loved one passing, we can be better prepared.

In most cases a Notice of Death needs to be filed, confirmation of the cause of death must be established and we will need to contact a funeral director.

Here are a few extra practical guidelines of which to be aware:

In the case of natural causes

Natural causes include cancer, heart attack and stroke as well as other illnesses. If your loved one loses their life while in hospital, the attending doctor would need to issue a Notice of Death. 

Where there is suspected foul play – especially when the death happens unexpectedly or at home – the police would need to be called to bring a forensic pathologist who will perform a post mortem and ascertain the cause of death before issuing the Notice of Death.

For someone who passes away while they are a resident at a nursing home, the Notice of Death would need to be completed by the last doctor in attendance (customarily handled by the nursing staff).

Your appointed funeral director will need this notice before being able to assist with the next steps. If the hospital does not offer mortuary services or if the body is to be cremated, finding a funeral director who can handle that responsibility is often the best option.

Should death occur overseas, there are funeral directors who are registered and authorised to make arrangements for exporting and importing remains. 

In the case of unnatural causes

If a fatal accident occurs, the police need to be called and a pathologist may be necessary to discern the cause of death. The Notice of Death we mentioned earlier is also issued here too.

When your loved one leaves due to unnatural causes, your funeral director will need to wait for the pathologist to be satisfied with their examination results before collecting the body. 

The last step is to prepare for life after the funeral. Life and funeral cover are invaluable products to help ease the stress of settling debts and covering extra expenses with a diminished income.

It’s essential to plan for these events and have conversations with your family and financial adviser before they happen to be in the best emotional and financial space to positively deal with this tragedy.

Source: SonjaSmithFunerals

Anxiety and our money

Most of us would gladly jump at the opportunity to have more money. Very few people are likely to say that they would prefer to have less money…

One reason for this is that we can see how our future life and our current financial status are linked. And this leads to anxiety when thinking about financial futures. 

Although it is not easy, it is beneficial to develop and maintain a positive outlook toward money to exercise greater responsibility for building our future financial stability.

In a recent email, Carl Richards shared some of the following ideas on creating a plan to continue reaching our financial goals by reducing anxiety.

Step 1: Pay attention to your spending

Mastering our finances won’t happen overnight. We need to make a habit of keeping tabs on where our money goes. In short – we need to be more aware of our spending behaviours and habits.

Here are some of the best ideas on how to pay attention to spending:

  • Create a budget and follow a spending plan 
  • Record all transactions
  • Regularly check your card statements and stay present with what you’re buying

Step 2: Find wasted money

Most of us are accustomed to the idea of saving money that remains after all the spending. Hence, we find it challenging to find more money to save. Here the answer is not found in trying to make more money; instead, it’s to try and find money that we’re wasting.

We can find wasted cash by regularly reviewing credit card statements and cutting expenditure on things we don’t need anymore.

For example, if you’re being charged 250 bucks for a subscription fee on something you’re not using anymore (like a mobile data contract), cancel it and save that same amount every month. In a year, you will have saved over two-and-a-half grand!

Step 3: Automate savings

Setting up an investment vehicle and automating your savings can help establish the habit of saving. 

Most of our banks will help you link a savings pocket to your transactional account into which you can drop a couple of bucks each month. (aside: your bills can also be automated so that you deal with less paperwork in your life and further reduce money anxiety!)

When building wealth, we need to retain a positive attitude.

Working with a professional financial adviser will enable you to make informed decisions and discern what other areas of your financial plan can be activated and engaged with in order to reduce financial anxiety and replace it with financial peace-of-mind!

Let food be thy medicine

…and medicine be thy food. Hippocrates adopted this philosophy around 2400 years ago!

Before fad diets and modern medicine, he recognised that food has the ability to keep us strong and healthy – both physically and mentally. A nutritious diet is fundamental to maintaining good health and well-being. 

Just remember that eating healthy isn’t just about cutting out meat and “going green” but about getting a well-balanced diet of different foods (in the right amounts) to give your body what it needs. 

While it may feel a bit expensive to maintain healthy eating habits, all it requires is a little more planning. In our modern world we have become increasingly reliant on convenient foods and have reduced the amount of time that we have for food preparation. This whole approach requires our commitment to putting a little extra time into this activity (unless we have the opportunity to employ someone to do it).

So it’s not just about reducing our current weight but more about being proactive and creating a healthy future for yourself… today.

Here are 5 more top reasons to start eating well:

1. Your self-esteem improves

Most of us don’t realise that what we eat affects how we feel and think. Much of our general health is dependent on a healthy gut microbiome, and if we’re putting heavy foods into our system that undermine the integrity of this central system, we will feel heavy and unbalanced. 

Eating more bananas, raw veggies, cucumbers, strawberries, grapefruits as well as more foods that contain vitamin B and are rich in antioxidants are good for so many reasons. Eating cultured or pickled foods are also really good for the gut! This all helps us boost our general sense of ‘feeling well’ and will improve our self-esteem.

Fresh, raw foods can strengthen hair, clear skin, whiten teeth and improve breath. We will also enjoy the anti-ageing effects of foods with calcium, vitamin A and K.

2. Your memory and overall brain function becomes better

Mariah Carey sang it best, ‘It’s all in your mind.’ Prioritizing your mental health is vital in your journey of self-development. Watching what you eat is key to that.

A nutritious diet with foods that have omega-3 fatty acids or vitamins can improve your brain functionality and memory. This includes wild salmon, blueberries, dark chocolate or avocados. 

Drinking green tea is also known to be good for enhancing your cognitive ability.

3. Improve your heart health

Studies recommend that healthier eating habits should be one of the lifestyle changes that you make. This helps reduce chances of cardiac arrest, diabetes, high cholesterol, strokes and enhances your overall heart health as a result.

Include green vegetables, almonds, peanuts, hazelnuts and sunflower seeds amongst other foods into your diet to boost your heart’s well-being.

4. Overall energy levels improve

According to the Harvard Medical Center, one of the benefits of a healthy, balanced diet is the ability to boost your energy levels. 

Some of the foods that will revitalize you and sustain your energy levels throughout the day are whole grains, vegetables, brown rice, sweet potatoes, oats, apples, unrefined carbohydrates, proteins, healthy oils and fats.

Limiting your alcohol intake and drinking more water can give you a sustained surge in energy.

5. You start to feel better

The relationship between food and mood has been studied extensively. According to Healthline, your brain responds to what you put into your mouth. 

So it behoves you to be mindful of what you eat if you want to improve your mood. Drinking lots of water and eating foods rich in minerals like magnesium, selenium, zinc, amino acids, fatty acids can help in alleviating depression and mood disorders.

Sources of these healthy minerals include eggs, black beans, soy, pork, chicken, broccoli and leafy greens like spinach, lettuce, swiss chard and collard greens.

We should embrace healthy eating as one of our essential life habits.