Sunél’s Blog | Spring is in the air, or is it?

From my office window I notice the dark oak branches sprouting delicate fresh leaves and the poplars’ twigs forming fat buds. The sun rises earlier and suddenly it feels lighter. The dark days of mid-winter and lockdown are behind us.

Can you still remember what it felt like? How hopeless and dreary the future seemed in those days. In the dim days of mid-winter, we were heading for the pandemic peak and many feared the worst.

Here we are, a few weeks later and South Africa come through the pandemic with fewer deaths than expected and hospital beds to spare. Global share markets are pushing towards new heights. The Rand has recovered by 12% from its lows. For the first time in years, South African manufacturers are expecting expansion. Amongst the hardships and loss, many small businesses have achieved the nearly impossible feat of not only surviving, but thriving through innovation, guts and grind. As individuals, we have endured (some even with wine to spare ).

Of course, the pandemic can pick up again and it is likely that global markets are too optimistic of the immediate future. However, the most recent experience teaches us again that predicting or forecasting the immediate future, especially the future of financial markets, is not only hard but perhaps even pointless. Human nature hampers us. We are not good at seeing through the hardship of our current experience to a more hopeful future. It also taught us that sentiment can turn on a tickey. Indeed, life can turn on a ticky.

My dad remarked that it is only humans who don’t anticipate the new season. Nature knows that Spring will come.

Spring is in the air indeed. It may surprise us that the oak buds are out before the season turns. It should always remind us of our humanity, especially our failure to anticipate and see the future.

Ps. I love to hear your comments. If you are not on our mailing list, you can subscribe to receive this blog every week on our website www.foundationsa.com.

Kind regards,

Sunél

//28 August 2020

Sunél’s Blog | One way to deal with anxiety

When I searched my previous blogs, surprisingly, I found the word anxiety in only one previous blog. It is not a reflection of how I have felt or how most of our clients seem to feel. If you are like me, at some stage during this pandemic, you have probably felt anxious about the future, specifically the financial future. Will I still be able to afford my next life-stage dreams, or will I have money to pay for an old age home?  Worse still, will I have an income next year? All these thoughts floated around on most days just outside my conscious thinking, within easy reach when the news flow turned negative, ready to overwhelm me at the first sign of my mental guard dropping.

I find that planning helps, more specifically worst-case planning.

It starts with knowing the numbers. I have reviewed my own spending in detail during these months. Perhaps you’ve been lucky enough not to have to concern yourself with your budget, or perhaps you’ve ignored it, too scared to look at reality. Either way, anxiety may be the result of not knowing. In my experience, even super-wealthy people can feel anxious if they don’t know their reality. Knowing is the first practical step to tackling anxiety. Of course, anxiety sometimes has nothing to do with reality or numbers, but with beliefs and previous experiences. Those sources of anxiety are much more difficult to eradicate, but anxiety due to not knowing is unnecessary.

I calculated the bare minimum my family needed to survive on. Let’s call this the COVID budget or the needs number. We all learnt how little we needed during the first phases of lockdown. I imagine we could let go of the Netflix account and the food luxuries we consoled ourselves with during that time.

Knowing your needs number helps you to lower the current and potential demands on your resources. If you know what you need to earn to afford your needs as opposed to your wants, wishes or dreams, it can lower the anxiety about finding another job or replacing your current income stream or it could make it easier to find just one small additional income source.

Knowing your needs number reduces the anxiety about your savings for the future. Even if you cannot save towards your retirement now, you may find that you will still be able to afford your needs in retirement with what you have already saved. Even if your portfolio doesn’t grow substantially or even declines, it may still fund your needs.

This exercise helps me to focus on the minimum demand on me, not the maximum demand at a time when life, in general, is challenging. It helps me to chase away anxiety. When that vague feeling enters my conscious, I can show it my very real and detailed analysis and send it packing.

I hope it helps you too.

 

Ps. If you are not on our mailing list, you can subscribe to receive this blog every week on our website www.foundationsa.com.

Kind regards,

Sunél

// 21 August 2020

Sunél’s Blog | What could happen?

What do you want?

What will happen if you focus your money, time and energy on the thing(s) you want?

It’s not complicated.

It’s just very difficult. It’s difficult to choose what you want. It means saying no to a lot of other stuff. And then it’s difficult to apply focus and resources to that thing.

Most people never make that deliberate choice.

But, what could happen if we do?

And then, what will happen if we don’t?

 

 

Ps. I love to hear your comments. If you are not on our mailing list, you can subscribe to receive this blog every week on our website www.foundationsa.com.

Kind regards,

Sunél

//14 August 2020

Sunél’s Blog | Don’t talk to me about Botox

I dread women’s month because I become inundated with pink invitations to industry events on topics ranging from Botox, self-esteem improvement coupled with the money mistakes women make. What are we thinking? I would love to know if any of my male readers have ever been invited to a comparable financial industry event? The industry invites women receive in women’s month are frustrating precisely because of their narrow specificity; frameworks that are positioned, yet again, around women which serve to keep them unequal.

These actions, despite good intentions, pander to the female stereotype and in our industry reinforce the female experience: that the financial industry doesn’t take women seriously; they often just pay lip service to advancing the financial futures of women.   Can you imagine a male colleague getting an invite to a session on Botox and the money-mistakes men make?  How seriously would they take that? There is nothing wrong with learning about the benefits of Botox or the mistakes women make with money; however, when paired together they create a particular framework that denotes meaning.  Meaning that does little to serve women.  The car industry made the same mistake until they realised that most car decisions were made by women and that they’re not just interested in the glove compartment.

The frameworks positioned around women have serious consequences. Women in 2020, still earn less than their male counterparts for doing the same job. They save less. They invest less. They receive less funding for entrepreneurial ventures. Their businesses fail more often as a result of a lack of support and funding.

Most of this is not their doing. It is the role that society has assigned to women – that they must support their children and extended families, often to the detriment of their own financial security;  support their husband’s careers or simply not be seen as good enough for the top jobs or the top pay. We see this play out in practice when female professionals arrive with a fraction of the retirement savings of their male counterparts because they paid for their children’s education before they saved for themselves, and they earned less than their male colleagues for doing the same work.

Women want and need to be spoken to in a way that is familiar and pertinent to their problems – their real problems, not the problems of wrinkles that shackle them to the stereotype and side-track the dialogue necessary for empowered change.  In the same way, women do not relate to the competitive talk of our industry.  We always talk about beating benchmarks and hitting targets. Whose benchmarks and targets? I think we know the answer to that.   When only half the room is doing the talking or being heard, we need to stop and reconsider.  If #blacklivesmatter, #metoo or #challengeaccepted has taught us anything, it’s that. Stop.  Reconsider.

How you are spoken to really does matter, be it by yourself, others, culture or industry. When that talk serves to limit growth, does damage, demands silence or lies, amongst other things, then there is a problem and there will be a consequence eventually.

Our industry should take note. Women are serious about their money and they need the industry to take them seriously. They need hard-hitting strategies to earn more, save more, invest more and build better businesses and rise to the top – being pretty and Botoxed to look ten years younger doesn’t get you to the top. They want respectful advice and financial empowerment.

Foundation Family Wealth is an example of how women respond when financial firms speak their language, take them seriously without patronizing them, and empower them. Three-quarters of our clients are women – they are either the breadwinners, the main decision-makers or equal financial partners. If women were treated equally when it comes to money, especially by our industry, then our firm would not be the exception to the rule. Women, after all, make up half of the population so why should they not be half of the clients of the industry?

Our male colleagues can help us best by changing the debilitating reality of what is the current female financial truth. All of us need to examine the contribution we make every day to ensure that we make the playing field equal for women when it comes to money. Trust me, it will benefit all.

And please, stop sending me pink invitations.

Kind regards,

Sunél

//07 August 2020