Our oft-told money stories

Money isn’t real. It’s just an agreed-upon system of exchange.

Have you ever heard that? 

This is the realisation that many reach when feeling frustrated with tax systems, witnessing social injustice or experiencing the unfairness of life. While money and currency systems may not be real, they represent value and help us form and communicate meaning.

Money is interwoven with our stories of life and meaning.

“We tell ourselves a story about how we got that money, what it says about us, what we’re going to do with it and how other people judge us.” – Seth Godin

These stories are valuable and help us attach meaning, but they can also keep us stuck in an unhealthy relationship with our money. They reveal deeper beliefs that we have about money but don’t always say out loud. They are foundational to our choices and the way we perceive ourselves and others.

Some of these beliefs include thoughts like “I will be happier if I have more money”, “It’s not polite to talk about money with others”, and “Money corrupts people”.

A team of researchers from Kansas State University interviewed hundreds of people to find out what kinds of stories are common to most of us and compiled a list of four stories (they called them scripts) that help us identify our money mindset. According to a blog on careerattraction.com, they go a little like this:

  1. Avoidance

Individuals with an avoidance mindset assume a “head in the sand” approach to managing money — all things being equal, they’d rather not deal with it.

For the avoider, money stirs up feelings of fear, anxiety and disgust. They often don’t know what’s in their accounts and may not open their credit card statements when they come in the mail.

People with an avoidance mindset may think and say things like:

  • “I don’t deserve a lot of money when others have less than me.”
  • “If I’m rich, I’ll never know what people really want from me.”
  • “There is virtue in living with less money.”
  • “As long as I keep working hard, I won’t ever have to worry about money”


  1. Worship

The worship mindset is most commonly associated with the belief that “things would be better if one had more money.”

Has that thought ever crossed your mind? If so, you’re not alone. According to the research, this is the single most common belief. People with a worship mindset tend to attribute current unhappiness or dissatisfaction with a lack of money and, accordingly, believe that a higher salary or financial windfall would solve their current problems.

People with a worship mindset may think and say things like:

  • “You can never have enough money.”
  • “Money is power.”
  • “Things would get better if I had more money.”


  1. Status

Those with a status mindset tend to believe self-worth is linked with net worth. In the context of our core needs, people with this mindset equate money with significance — they use it as a proxy for importance in society. Often, the status mindset manifests as a competitive stance to acquire goods and material possessions, often referred to as a “keeping up with the Joneses.”

People with a status mindset say and think things like:

  • “Look at that expensive car… he must be successful.”
  • “If someone asked, I would probably tell them that I earn more than I actually do.”
  • “Poor people are lazy.”


  1. Vigilance

Those with a vigilant mindset pay very close attention to how much money is coming in and how much money is going out each month. They likely wear labels such as “cheap,” “tight”, and “frugal” with pride.

Those with a vigilant mindset commonly live well below their means – struggling, at times, to get comfortable with spending money on themselves even when they can afford to. Lastly, the money-vigilant are often secretive about their personal finances and may distrust financial institutions.

People with a vigilant mindset say and think things like:

  • “It’s not polite to talk about money.”
  • “Money should be saved, not spent.”
  • “It is extravagant to spend money on myself.”

When we can identify the stories that we tell ourselves, we can choose to tell ourselves different stories that are more accommodating, generous, inclusive and kind – first to ourselves and then to those we care for and are in our extended communities.

Let’s start telling and sharing stories that are unifying, accepting and encouraging.

Protecting your income for a better outcome

A few short decades ago, we lived in a world that seemed to have far more security and certainty. The rate of change was slower, and many assumed that if you stuck to the system, the system would look after you.

Social security, income security and good health were taken for granted in developed countries. The chance of losing one or all of the above didn’t feature too highly in financial plans. As you’re reading this, you are most likely already acutely aware that this is no longer the world in which we live.

From attacks on political structures that we assumed were unassailable to economic systems bending to the will and manipulation of the mega-wealthy or well-organised-online-communities – it’s harder and harder to protect our financial and life plans.

Planning for protection if you lose your income has simply become imperative.

There are financial products that can help with this, and there are financial planning strategies that can help with this.

When it comes to products, income protection is a popular option. These financial products are primarily designed to pay you a benefit if you cannot work for a while because of illness or injury. As needs evolve, the products evolve too, and some can be set up to provide an income due to retrenchment (not voluntary resignation).

When it comes to financial planning strategies, one can leverage or sell assets to cover a period of non-income or set up emergency funds that give you access to up to six months of income should you need it.

Unfortunately, many people take a head-in-sand approach when it comes to income protection, believing that they’ll never be inflicted with a disability, or assuming they can find a quick resolution if they are.

However, this doesn’t necessarily equate to positive thinking but rather naiveté. A more responsible approach would be to hope that disaster won’t strike while still having a back-up plan for when life has other ideas; because life will have other ideas.

If you’re going through an income crisis presently, then it’s hard to plan for the eventuality of another. You will now need professional financial advice more than ever to swim through the rough waters to solid ground. Only once you have regained an income, and are in an income-secure space, can you begin to protect your income for a better outcome.

If you are currently income-secure, make sure you have a strategy in place to build up resilience and protection for one of your greatest assets – your income!

Offshore shouldn’t be off-putting

“… your money deserves to go places,” Ninety One (dual-listed on both the South African and London Stock Exchanges).

Many people who choose to stay in a country feel a sense of pride and patriotism for their local residence. Whether it’s a native birth-right or an adopted sense of nationalism, buying, supporting and investing local is an important priority. 

So much so that the thought of moving money offshore can be off-putting. 

But when it comes to sound investment strategy, an offshore investment will give you access to opportunities across different countries, industries, companies and currencies, exposing your portfolio to more possibilities while diversifying your risk. As Ninety One says on their website: you enjoy life in the country you love, whilst your money discovers a world of investment opportunity.

Those opportunities are dynamic and ever-changing. As markets rise and fall, currency depreciation becomes either a strategic liability to any investment portfolios that are heavily weighted in cash, or creates opportunities for portfolios exposed to the export market.

Currency depreciation is a fall in the value of a currency in a floating exchange rate system. Economic fundamentals, interest rate differentials, political instability, or risk aversion can cause currency depreciation. Orderly currency depreciation can increase a country’s export activity as its products and services become cheaper to buy. (Investopedia.com)

This phenomenon is not unique to any one country and can hit any economy at any time. This is why investing offshore may enhance your returns and reduce risk by diversifying your exposure to a single currency or country.

Whilst it can help to form a prudent part of your portfolio alongside local investments, remember that the level of exposure must be linked to your personal financial plan.

It’s not about saying that one economy is better than another; it’s about recognising that by investing in local property, a local business or the local stock market alone, you are highly vulnerable to local conditions.

Offshore investing can reduce the risk of capital loss by spreading your investments across markets and currencies. It will also minimise the impact of currency depreciation or political and market events on your portfolio. Local fiscal and monetary policies may deteriorate along with the likes of state-owned enterprises and other government-led initiatives.

That being said – there are three things to consider when evaluating the benefits of offshore investing: inflation, interest rates and costs.

For all three, we should have a conversation about your personal setup to see how they could affect your decision to explore offshore.

Typically, you can invest directly, or you can look at an asset swap. According to Investopedia, an asset swap is used to transform cash flow characteristics to hedge risks from one financial instrument with undesirable cash flow characteristics into another with favourable cash flow.

Before you make any decisions, make sure we have checked in on your decision and that it aligns with your personal financial plan.

Ifs, buts and Bitcoin

“If only I’d bought into Bitcoin in 2008…”

“But, it’s not regulated…”

“But, the bubble…”

“Bitcoin – I don’t want to miss out…”

Before engaging in any blog about Bitcoin, it HAS to be stated that Bitcoin is an incredibly risky investment that may or may not pay off. Bitcoin is a decentralised digital currency, without a central bank or single administrator, that can be sent from user to user on the peer-to-peer bitcoin network without the need for intermediaries.

It could be the answer you’ve been looking for. Or, it could be the worst idea ever.

It’s probably not the best fit for most people. If you’re eager to invest in cryptocurrency, it’s essential to do so safely.

As with ANY OTHER INVESTMENT DECISION – make sure you have a personal financial plan, an investment strategy with a well-diversified portfolio, and you don’t have to borrow money to invest.

Most people have a good handle on what Bitcoin is, but how to use it and whether to invest in it is the tough question that you simply cannot google.

As companies (like PayPal in October 2020) begin to buy into the viability of Bitcoin, its uses will increase and its value.

When Elon Musk announced on Twitter that he was a big supporter of Bitcoin, his particular endorsement rallied the value of Bitcoin significantly. He has repeatedly shown his support to online currencies and caused significant movements in their values due to his own personal wealth and influence.

This alone reminds us of the volatility of this young phenomenon of cryptocurrencies. But… still, people don’t want to miss out. The Brobdingnagian bubbles it’s created in the last decade have always left an aftermath of if-only-I-had-invested-sooner sentiments.

Actuary Imran Lorgat says that a sure way of realising that you are about to make an investment mistake is when an intense fear of missing out is spurring you on.

In an article for BusinessTech, Lorgat says: “Many invest in cryptocurrencies without a solid grasp of the basics. If you are interested in buying Bitcoin, then invest time into researching how it works and the risks associated with owning Bitcoin.”

“The price of Bitcoin over the long-term is driven by supply and demand, as well as adoption and technological development of the currency. However, in the short term, the price is driven mainly by hype and emotion.”

He goes on to talk about the value of buy-and-hold strategies when considering Bitcoin, which is similar to the approach of dollar-cost averaging in conventional investment strategies.

Bitcoin has been around since 2008, and it has always had a vacillating public interest. It is speculated that investors who have resisted the temptation to trade their Bitcoin through the highs and lows have probably gained the most.

“The conventional wisdom of ‘dollar-cost averaging’ applies to Bitcoin as well and is popular amongst Bitcoin investors. This means investing the same amount every month, without checking the price or trying to time the market. I follow this strategy myself,” remarked Lorgat.

If you are risk-averse and don’t have expendable investable income, Bitcoin is most likely not a good idea. But even so, it pays to be aware of how it’s growing and keep yourself educated around both it and other cryptocurrencies.

If anything is certain, it’s that the future is uncertain. Bitcoin is a fresh reminder that anything is possible.

Bite-sized chunks

No matter how hard we try, we never seem to get it all right… all the time! We were taught as kids that practice makes perfect, and this phrase set us up for unrealistic expectations. At some point in our future, we figured we would get it perfect. All we needed to do was keep trying and keep practising.

A different way to phrase that saying could be that practice makes progress, not perfection. Progress is far more accessible, sustainable and encouraging.

Progress acknowledges that we won’t get it right all the time. We will make mistakes, we will take risks, and we will have transitional periods where we slow down from fatigue and overwhelming circumstances.

Because, at the end of the day, that’s how life looks. It’s not steady, it’s not entirely predictable, and it’s certainly not perfect. This is why our finances don’t follow a straight line of growth. When we get battered in life, our finances get battered. We can mitigate that battering, and we can bolster reserves and protections, but our money will be affected.

It can be enormously disheartening when this happens; especially when the losses are high and they are accompanied by emotional trauma and loss. Most people cannot get back up on their own – and it’s likely that we were never supposed to do it alone.

We need the support, advice, patience, and love of our family and friends. And, we need to rebuild in bite-sized chunks.

There’s a lovely quote that says the best way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time. It reminds us that we need to break it down into bite-sized chunks when we’re faced with a seemingly impossible task. Another quote that is similar to this is one the Chinese proverb that says: “The journey of a thousand miles begins with one small step.”

When we have been knocked back (or completely flattened) in our financial plan, the best way to regain control is to tackle it in bite-sized chunks. After the turmoil of the initial shock, we need to return to the basics of budgeting, where we become mindful of daily spending and monthly responsibilities. We first work to reclaim control in this area – it could take a few months to take a few years.

This will be an empowering journey, not just for our finances but also for our personal growth and well-being. As our headspace heals and our heart beats more steadily, we will be able to engage more strategically with our financial plan again.

This doesn’t happen overnight – it happens one bite-sized chunk at a time. This is how we build and rebuild a robust life measured by progress, not perfection.

Key thoughts for passive investors

Passive investing has become the most popular investing strategy, globally. Simply put, it’s the strategy of buying the whole market (a diversified reach of stock allocations, ETFs and the like), and continually contributing to your portfolio. The long-term goal is to achieve the average market return.

This strategy avoids buying and selling regularly (like with actively managed strategies), long hours of extensive research into individual companies and stocks. In theory, this sounds like an easy approach to investing, but in practice, it’s hard to keep buying the market when stocks are overvalued, and the short-term performance is looking dismal.

Remember, we cannot predict what will happen tomorrow, but we can look at the stock markets’ performance for nearly one hundred years and learn from how markets have consistently grown. In times like this, it’s good to listen to the late John Bogle’s time-honoured advice

Keep investing

Don’t stop investing when you see the markets moving in a downward slide. If you break the habit of investing, it will be far harder to adopt the behaviour again, and it’s very dangerous speculation to try and time the markets by only buying before a growth phase.

Time is your friend

When it comes to passive investing, time is your best weapon for securing a return on your investment. Every seasoned (even most novices) agree on this point and it’s helpful to be reminded of it when quarterly or monthly statements show negative growth. It’s the three-, five- and ten-year reports that show the robust growth of passive funds.

Impulse is your foe

Money is, and always will be, a highly emotional resource. It affects every facet of our decision making – whether consciously or unconsciously. This makes it challenging to ignore our impulses to sell stocks before we incur further losses. Unfortunately, most people don’t recover from these impulse sell-offs.

Stay diversified

It’s never been easier to buy into the whole-of-market through exchange-traded funds in today’s marketplace. This ensures that the investor can remain diversified. The temptation to sell the wide strategy and buy a focussed strategy means that the investor loses the security of diversification and takes on the risk of fewer companies to try and ensure better returns to make up what the market lost. But the reality is that the market will most likely regain its losses over time.

Stay the course

When we put all of these thoughts together, we are encouraged to stay the course! Passive investment strategies work best when they have time to sit and mature in the markets, rather than prodded, tweaked and adjusted frequently.

If you’re reading this and you still feel like your investment strategy is no longer working for you – then let’s get in touch!

Is active or passive fund management better?

The first thing to remember when approaching investing is that the best approach is dependent almost wholly on the investor and their desired investment outcomes. While this may sound simple, working out desired outcomes hinges on many factors and conversations and ultimately works out best when a trusted financial adviser guides the investor.

In a nutshell (this is a very simple explanation):

  • Active fund or portfolio management is overseen by a team of investment, market and fund specialists who make regular trades to achieve a benchmarked return.
  • Passive, or index fund, management is typically where the portfolio is designed to parallel the returns of a particular market index or benchmark as closely as possible. A passive strategy does not have a management team making investment decisions and can be structured as an exchange-traded fund (ETF), a mutual fund, or a unit investment trust.

So – which is better?

When we chat about your specific needs, we will help you determine investment criteria like how much growth you need for your money and how long you have to grow it. Your perception of risk (risk appetite) and personal feelings around investing also start to come into the conversation as you consider the types of funds, stocks and companies in which you might invest. These will influence the journey we take to helping you decide which option is better suited.

What will most likely happen through this journey is that you will recognise that you have different types of investment needs: business finance, education fees, purchasing property, travel, lifestyle changes (retirement) etc.

As we develop this conversation, the need to diversify and adopt a hybrid investment approach means that we may select passive index funds for certain goals, whilst we make deliberate choices for active fund management for other investment goals.

The markets are also dynamic, as are the strategies for protecting and growing our money. Upheavals in stock markets, politics and social landscapes can change both the approach to investing as well as your financial needs. As your portfolio grows, you will also have more scope (and most likely some more appetite!) to engage in different funds and fund management.

Active funds normally have a slightly higher fee (because they anticipate better returns) whilst passive funds are more cost-effective. Ultimately, the markets and the future are not sure-things, which is why a balanced and well-thought-out approach is always advisable.

Divorce and your retirement savings

Recent times have been life-altering for so many, from emotional and health traumas to relational and financial traumas. We’ve all had to encounter a considerable onslaught of ‘stuff’ to process and deal with.

It may just be life, but it’s still hard.

Divorce is one such trauma that so many have to work through. It has a wide range of social and financial implications, as Lebona Khabo from Allan Gray highlighted in a recent article on their website.

Depending on your matrimonial property regime (considers implications like community of property, accrual, pre-marital ownerships etc.), there may be a sharing of assets you own individually or jointly when you get divorced. One such asset that may be included in this division is your retirement savings, which may have been accumulated over a long time. 

Retirement products fall under several legislations when they represent assets that are jointly owned (subject to tax legislation and family and divorce legislation) – and this creates complex considerations in a divorce settlement. 

Furthermore, some of these products may only mature at a future date, so whilst not available to the principal member, they may have future value to dependants. This needs to be included in a settlement. In many instances, court challenges have made provision for a ‘clean break principle”, which allows for the non-member spouse to receive their share of the benefit, referred to as “pension interest”, at divorce.

Pensions interest encompasses marital regimes and the type of investment, and is a dynamic principle of law that is constantly evolving with applications and legal challenges.

All of this is a very high view of a complex and technical area of financial planning and law, so please remember to check the specifics of your unique situation before making any decisions or signing any agreements.

Ideally, you want to keep things short and simple. A divorce order should: 

  • Ensure that the retirement fund is identified, or identifiable.
  • Provide that the non-member is entitled to “pension interest”. An order that refers to “interest”, “full value” or ”retirement interest”, may be invalid. (this may vary in different geographical jurisdictions)
  • Provide for the pension interest amount or percentage that must be paid to the non-member (e.g. “50% of pension interest”).
  • Instruct the retirement fund to make the pension interest deduction.

If you are going through a divorce, it’s probably one of the hardest things you will ever do. Surround yourself with people you trust to help you make the best decisions for your future. There will be immense pressure to ‘wrap things up’ and ‘end this quickly’ – but this can cause us to make decisions that we will regret later.

Take the time you need and speak to the people you need to before making any decisions that will affect your future financial wellbeing and personal happiness.

Tax Savvy Investing

Nothing is certain in life, except for death and taxes. Benjamin Franklin said this almost 300 years ago, and it still rings of truth.

The economic and political landscapes are now even more complex and connected than they were in the early days of American politics and free-market exploration. Making money has never been easier, whilst at the same time, it’s never been harder to keep.

Saving and investing seem to be things that ‘only the wealthy’ get to do, but the reality is that we can all save and invest in ways that are both accessible and appropriate for personal setup. Every country has its own opportunities to invest… but they also have their own tax laws. With the global community in which we live, many of us have opportunities to work in other countries (whether we emigrate there, or work remotely) and this creates deeper levels of complexity to our financial planning.

Regular tax assessments of our investment policies and products allow us to benefit (if we’re staying informed and on top of them!) from tax relief. Receiving a monthly pay-check is becoming less certain as contract work and freelancing become the new normal for many of us. This means that we may not be paying tax every month and could be caught off guard by tax responsibilities at the end of the tax year. 

There are ways to structure your expenses, and investments, to lower your tax bill. 

Here are some of the most common ways to invest in a tax-savvy way.

Maximise your tax-free investment limit 

Whilst most long-term investment products are designed for retirement, that conversation is fast reaching the end of its shelf-life with investors realising that there are other ways to support a retirement lifestyle (in addition to retirement savings). As such, tax-free investment products offer a little more access to invested money but are usually capped by the Government to limit the abuse of these investment structures. As the limitations are reviewed every year in the treasury budget speeches, and most of us don’t usually contribute to these products often, there could be some headroom in there to stash some cash and keep it tax savvy.

Bolster your RA 

As mentioned above, a retirement annuity (RA) is a staple choice for long-term investing. As you explore other supplementary investment options, don’t forget this one! If your employer doesn’t provide some sort of pension fund benefit, a retirement annuity is a great way to invest for the future. 22seven recently put it like this – 

“The benefit of a RA is that interest, dividends and capital gains earned accumulate within the RA and aren’t taxed until you retire. A comfortable retirement is important to everyone and you don’t want to give all your years of hard work away to the Tax Man.”

Every country and region differs slightly in how they structure these products, so if you’ve recently moved, or changed jobs, it might be helpful to double-check.

Get savvy around capital gains tax (CGT)

In a nutshell, when you sell assets, shares, stocks or any investments and you generate a profit, this is considered an income (your capital has gained) and will be taxed according to its income code. In some cases, you may be liable for a CGT exemption or relief if the profit earned is below a certain threshold. There are further stipulations for assets that are held by a legal entity (not a natural person) – and these differ from one jurisdiction to another. 

What this means is that if you’re wanting to sell off some investments, it might make sense to time them either side of the tax year-end in order to benefit from annual exemptions. You may also want to consider transferring assets to your company, or to your person, in order to leverage other savings. But, don’t make it more complicated if it doesn’t have to be.

Sometimes we can over-optimise and land up paying fees in other areas that could be more costly than the tax we’re saving.

Ultimately, it pays to have a professional helping you navigate these options. You don’t have to make these choices alone, let’s have a chat if you think you could be saving where you’re currently spending!

Stocks vs Shares

In the world of investing there are myriad ways to create wealth. These systems are complex, integrated and offer just enough certainty to attract our attention, but not enough to be a sure-thing.

Two investable options that are talked about daily are stocks and shares. They sound and look very similar, but are in separate categories of investing and offer slightly different opportunities and have disparate risk exposure.

In this blog, things may get confusing, so if you need a conversation about what’s going on, just ask!

Here’s a quick overview:

Whilst both stocks and shares offer opportunities for ownership or profit earning in a company, they represent different denominations of value. Stocks are sold to investors in order to generate capital when a company needs to raise money, and these stocks are broken into shares. We can loosely think of shares as equal fractions of ownership in a company. Stocks can include shares from multiple companies (spreading risk) whereas shares exist inside one company.

Shares are normally issued at the startup of a company and divided amongst the directors, but can be offered in packages to new staff to attract them to the benefit of staying and building the company.

According to educba.com, they set the differences out like this:

  • Stocks are the collection of shares of multiple companies or are a collection of shares of a single company.
  • Shares are the smallest unit by which the ownership of any company or anybody is ascertained.
  • A stock is a collection of something or a collection of shares. Shares are a part of something bigger i.e. the stocks.
  • Shares represent the proportion of ownership in the company while stock is a simple aggregation of shares in a company (or multiple companies).
  • Shares are of equal denomination while stocks are of different denominations. Shares can also never be transferred in the fraction, whereas stocks can be transferred in the fraction.
  • Shares are issued at par, discount or at a premium. It is known as stock when the shares of a member are converted into one fund.

For instance, let’s say Mr. Schmidt has bought certificates of Apple Inc. then in this case we will call these certificates as shares as it can be seen that Mr. Schmidt has bought certificates from a particular company. Now, on the other hand, if Mr. Schmidt has the ownership of certificates from several other companies as well, it can be said that Mr. Schmidt has certificates of stocks and not shares.

Those who own stocks in a public company may be referred to as stockholders, stakeholders, and shareholders, and in reality, all three terms are correct.

As these concepts start to merge and integrate on deeper levels, it gets a little more complicated. Although the term shares generally refer to the units of stock in a public company, it can also refer to other types of investments. For example, you might own shares of a mutual fund. Some companies also offer plans or incentives in which employees get a share of their profits. It’s common among start-up companies to offer profit-sharing plans to attract talent, though some established companies engage in this practice as well.

Both stocks and shares are important in their own terms and they help us when determining the ownership in a company, or companies in their respective cases. They are used interchangeably when talking about company ownership and stock markets.

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