Words Worth Reading

Sometimes The Best Thing You Can Do For Yourself Is Nothing

 The brilliant author, coach and mentor Judy Klipin writes about taking time-out, to take stock.  

“Next time you are feeling over-worked, over-committed and overwhelmed, take some time to stop. To breathe. To come back to yourself.”

Read more here.

Encore!

-By Sunél Veldtman

Our first Encore workshop was a huge success given the positive response from attendees. We covered all aspects about planning for the second half of life, including emotional well-being, purpose and health and we took a thorough journey through the financial preparation for retirement.

We hope that the workshop contributed to new plans and dreams for many for the final stretch of their lives. I found Dr Motara’s presentation on holistic health and aging specifically enlightening. He highlighted the importance of holistic well being and our ability to control the aging process. He put the power of aging well in our own courts. His approach underlines our own thinking about the Encore years – that we need to plan for all aspects of our lives to be in balance. Enough money is not enough.

Many of the attendees have asked for the presentation slides. Click on the links below to read these – and feel free to share with any friends who may have missed out this year. We hope that you can all make it next year.

 

Session 1: Sunél Veldtman’s presentation

Sunel Veldtman

Session 2: Elke Zeki’s presentation

Elke Zeki

Session 3: Dr Riaz Motara’s presentation

Dr Motara

 

Quarter 2 Review 2017

By Thiart van der Merwe

A captured state exposed by a trail of emails in the hundreds of thousands. The #GuptaLeaks made headlines almost every day in major newspapers throughout the quarter. Shocking revelations of kickbacks received to Gupta-linked companies and generous gifts and holidays paid for to secure more lucrative deals just highlighted the corrupt web the ANC finds itself in.

Source: Zapiro in Daily Maverick

After the 2007 ANC National Conference, a faction of the ANC broke away forming COPE showing their dis-ease with the president elect at the time. In 2013 an expelled youth league president started the EFF as a breakaway party from the ANC. With as much division, it is difficult to imagine a united ANC after their 54th National Conference this December.

We anticipate increased revolutionary rhetoric and policy uncertainty in the run up to December. No candidate can win this election with a ‘business as usual’ campaign.

In June, the Minister of Mineral Resources gazetted a revised mining charter that was widely criticized specifically citing a lack of consultation. The main concern was around BEE ownership of 30% at all times with a clause including naturalized families as BEE benefactors, which suggested a certain family being the major winners. Markets responded badly with resources dropping significantly. Within a week our newly appointed Public Protector sent the Rand into a frenzy when she overreached and called on a constitutional change to the Reserve Bank mandate. On both counts we saw sanity prevail with the Public Protector going as far as following through with her predecessor’s recommendations by opposing Zuma’s application for a review of the State Capture report’s recommendations. These stories will certainly develop leading up to the conference in December.

International

Globally we saw a victory for the Eurozone as Emanuel Macron became the youngest president of France. With that France remains in the Eurozone and avoided the right wing rhetoric that has become louder over the last couple of years. With Netherlands opting for the Euro earlier in the year – these are positive developments for economic stability in the region. From the European Central Bank comments it would seem as if economic recovery is on track. People are however worried about the possibility of tightening its policy that will lead to reduction in the quantitative easing currently at around 60 billion per month.

Theresa May’s attempt to strengthen the Conservative Party in a snap election, backfired badly. The Tories lost out at the polls and did not secure a majority of the votes; they had to broker a deal with the Democratic Unionist Party to maintain their majority. The Tories had to rethink their strategy on Brexit and plan for a more accommodating approach on their initial “hard Brexit” stance.

Local

Local data reflected that South Africa is officially in recession with two quarters of negative GDP growth. We are the only country out of 41 major economies tracked by the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) to be in recession. The IMF predicts modest growth of only 1% over the coming year signaling political uncertainty and weak confidence across the board as the main drivers. Weak economic demand also reflects in inflation slowing significantly to 5.1% in June (year-on-year) which led to a 0.25% interest rate cut after quarter end. This would ease the pressure off household budgets and potentially boost retails sales that are very subdued in the current environment.

 

South Africa Business Confidence

 

The graph above suggests that we are our own worst enemy. The RMB/BER Business Confidence Index slumped to the lowest level since 2009. Companies are reluctant to invest into the South African economy and would rather invest in Africa or the rest of the world. Lead economist at Stanlib, Kevin Lings often refers to this graph and mentions that fixing this graph could fix the economy.

 

Local markets faltered towards the end of the quarter with equities giving away most of the gains made in 2017. This was mainly sparked by the Federal Reserve’s decision to increase interest rates in the United States and a global sell off that ensued. Industrials were the only major index that showed positive returns in the second quarter. Globally, the S&P 500 continued to reach record highs throughout the quarter. The FTSE100 also showed signs of recovery – the index rose 10% in 2017 in dollar terms.

 

 

As we saw in the first quarter that the Price-to-Earnings ratio is normalising we see continued positive earnings growth reported by companies listed on the JSE. Earnings estimates were at record highs in May, mainly driven by resource counters. Analysts are suggesting that this has more to do with the increase in the price of minerals itself, and very little with South Africa. As the economic outlook improves throughout Europe and the United States there is potential for an uptick locally.

In a world where news has become so politicized, it is difficult to focus on economic drivers. If we filter out the noise there are signs of improvement in sentiment towards equity markets globally backed by firm fundamentals. Most of the world is growing steadily.

With turbulent times ahead for the ANC leading up to a potential secret ballot in August and tougher times in December we finish off with a quote by one of the greatest leaders of all time, Nelson Mandela: “After climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb.”

The New Old – Challenges and joys of longevity

By Elke Zeki

This month we launched our Encore workshop, specifically aimed at people approaching retirement and the challenges the “New Old” face today.   There is a distinct phase of life (we argue between 55-70) where many of the old are still young. They are active, relatively healthy, want to work (although flexibly) and spend money. Yet society sees this group as a headache. As the world ages, especially in developed countries – growth, tax revenues and workforces will decline while spending on pensions and healthcare will increase. Or so we thought…

The Economist recently published a special report on this exact topic. They argue that healthier, longer lives can be an economic advantage and that the key to unlocking this “longevity-dividend” is to turn this group into more active economic participants. I summarise and comment on their findings below.

What can we call this phase between work and old age? These days, people don’t check into the retirement home the day they retire. Life no longer consists of only three stages – educate, work, retire. There is a new life phase and we need to capitalise on it, as those in it can add great economic value, both as workers and as consumers.

So why have businesses, employers and financial services not moved away from the old way of thinking?

It seems we need a radical approach to change behaviour. Those catching on quickly are reaping the rewards.

Why should the workplace change?

A bit of history first: The first formal pensions (in the 1880s) were payable from age 70 (later reduced to 65), yet life expectancy was 45. Today in the developed world 90% of the population live to 65, mostly in good health, yet it’s still seen as the starting point of old age and many companies still force staff members to retire at this age.

Baby boomers are famed for their work ethic and commitment to getting the job done. As many are hoping for a flexible transition to retirement, why not use their skills and ability? They are likely to be content with a flexible job that pays less and they are certainly not looking for career progression.

It’s interesting that the sort of changes older employees seek, such as flexibility and wellness, are exactly the things young millennials entering the workforce demand. Why not make it productive for everyone?

Where are the opportunities?

Businesses are not adopting quickly enough, therefore the emergence of entrepreneurs amongst this group has increased dramatically. According to The Economist survey, US 55 and 65 year olds are 65% more likely to start-up companies than those between 20 and 34. In the UK, 40% of new businesses are started by over 50’s.

Innovative businesses capitalising on this group includes Uber. Currently – a quarter of all Uber drivers are over 50. Airbnb also proclaims the over-60’s to be the fasted growing group of hosts on their home-sharing site and receive the highest ratings from customers.

Travel has become a booming business in the US, where more than 40% of adventure travellers are over 50. These travellers don’t want cruise ships; they want different and adventurous experiences such as Antarctica and Galapagos!

Another area identified is technology. It holds great promise to make life better for the elderly, especially when it comes to healthcare. The notion that baby boomers shy away from technology has been proven untrue by many researches.

It seems there are many gadgets and platforms built with young people in mind, that can be more useful for older people. Facebook for example offers a platform for people to stay in touch or connect with loved ones. Over 55 is the fastest growing age demographic on Facebook.

Finally, another emerging market is online dating. Divorce rates are soaring in the US and UK as new pensioners suddenly face the prospect of spending a lot more time with their partner. “Americans over 60 are now getting divorced at twice the rate as they were in 1990.” The Economist shows. Popular dating sites have seen the group between 53 and 72 grow faster than any other age group. Again, highlighting the need for connection and technology.

We need the financial services industry to innovate and change. Why?

You may be retired for longer than your entire working career. It’s likely that you will be healthy and energetic for most of those years. Women over 65 are also twice as likely as men to end up living alone. All these factors can be problematic if you don’t have enough savings. The financial services industry is in a unique position to make a difference, by innovating, guiding and educating people.

These are some of the important issues they should address:

  1. Longer lives mean people need larger pots of money and more flexibility in the way they use their money. Products therefore need to be designed with this in mind.
  2. We need to find ways of resolving the problem of under-saving pre-retirement and over-saving post-retirement. This is where we believe the importance of proper financial planning and guidance cannot be underestimated. Under-saving and underestimating how long someone will live can be a costly exercise.   So too should people with sufficient capital and wealth build the confidence to spend freely what they can afford.
  3. A more creative approach is needed to the range of assets that retirees can draw from. For example, many people’s biggest asset is their home, yet it cannot provide income into retirement. Is it possible to create a product where this asset can play a part in funding their longer life? Reverse mortgage for example allows you to exchange your home for a stream of income.

Another radical approach is to reduce tax on retirement income. By making retirement income tax-free you can extend your retirement capital by a decade!

Through medicine and healthy lifestyles, life expectancy has increased rapidly. Fields such as stem-cell research, regenerative medicine, biomedical technology and genomics can be even more disruptive and we need to start preparing for it now. Economies and social structures will be greatly affected, but with more time, comes more opportunities. How we use these opportunities?

 

Resources: Dawn of the pre-tiree. What to call the time of life between work and old age? The Economist (2017, July 8th edition)

https://www.economist.com/sections/special-reports

Rethinking Retirement. Finweek Collective Insight (2017, July edition)

A week in Provence – a step closer to a dream

By Sunel Veldtman

Many years ago, I read the book ‘A Year in Provence’ by Peter Mayle. It kick-started my love affair with the ‘let’s go live somewhere else’ idea but it also watered a small seed within me. I guess that seed has been there all along: from my early childhood on a Karoo farm – the deep desire to live a simple life – rich in the abundance of community and all that the land offers.

I do not know when my love affair with lavender started though. I just know that I wanted to be a lavender farmer. I even did a course on lavender farming and investigated buying suitable land. It was at a point just before I turned 40 when I was rethinking my life (as one does!) and I was deeply dissatisfied with it. I now talk about lavender farming as my escape dream. Thankfully, for my financial wellbeing, I realised in time, that lavender farming was not the solution and that the kind of life I wanted could be attained right here in Johannesburg. I realised that it was a symbol for my desire to live more closely to what I value – connection, beauty and freedom.

However, the lavender dream lives on in a different format and so, for my 50th birthday, my husband and I went to see the Lavender in Provence – a kind of pilgrimage to the dream. Along the way, we stopped to stay with friends and just experience life in the French countryside. The way in which we travel has changed. We are less interested in seeing churches, museums, statues and historical points of interest and more and more interested in experiencing connection with the culture of the place. Our pace of travel has changed too – we give ourselves time to rest and reflect.

The hunt for lavender

From the outset, we planned our holiday this way. We skipped most of the cities and large towns, to spend time in the countryside away from the crowds. We skipped the famous markets and opted to cycle to the village market to buy bread. We (mostly) skipped fancy restaurants in favour of roadside picnics and we passed on the congested coast to head for the hills of the Vaucluse. And of course, we hunted for lavender.

Searching for lavender is somewhat like a safari experience – one needs to know where to look. If lavender is your aim, you need to do homework. Provence is vast, hilly and covered in indigenous forests, which in itself is something to behold. Traveling in the smallest rental car turned out to be a distinct advantage. The passes are magnificent and adrenalin inducing. Sheer cliffs of white rock plunge into ravines overgrown by mossy oaks. And then you turn a corner and in front of you are fields of purple.

    

There is something captivating about lavender. Perhaps it is the full sensory experience. Every sense is alerted. A lavender field is alive. The thin stems sway in the breeze. Bees buzz lost in the abundance and oblivious to human intruders. Large white butterflies gently rest on the purple sprigs and the summer heat releases the heavenly scent from the flowers. Perhaps the enchantment is in the orderly rows stretching, sometimes into the horizon. Perhaps it is the stark contrast between the stony soil and the delicate beauty it produces. Maybe it is the fleeting moment, a small window of weeks that this spectacle is available for those lucky enough to see. Or the vistas to white capped Mont Ventoux and distant dusty towns.

   

The fields are unfenced (mostly) and one is free to walk through the fields. So we did and almost embarrassingly, we just could not help ourselves. We wanted to keep enjoying the beauty and we tried but mostly failed to capture the moments and the loveliness. One afternoon, we found a spot under a tree next to a lavender field with a view to Mont Ventoux (my Tour de France following husband’s highlight) and just spend hours enjoying the produce bought at the local market with a nice chilled bottle of rosé.

Provence is the home of French rosé. This wine is perfect for hot summer afternoons. Everything about it is perfect, just light enough to lull you to sleep with a book beside the pool. The colour so translucent that you might mistake it for a white, reminiscent of the peaches of the season and perfectly right for goat’s cheese and a baguette.

The French way

The French have largely managed to keep their way of life because it is precisely what defines them. They have, unlike most other nations succeeded to guard their food production with a vigour that other nations guard their world dominance. Did they, unlike us, understand the importance of food or were they just fortunately too stubborn to change? In rural Provence, it is hard to find a supermarket and it is evident that most locals still buy their daily bread from the same boulangerie they have always bought it from, and perhaps their family has bought for generations.

Our friends buy their free-range eggs from their neighbours, their meat from the farmer up the road, their vegetables at the market in the nearest village. At these weekly markets, stall owners have long talks about exactly which melon will be right for lunch, they tempt you with tastings of sausages and cheese and are always keen to share a recipe with you.

As is probably evident by now, to Provence we went to see lavender and to eat. We ate well. At a guided market tour (our standard introduction to a region or city when we travel), we learned that the French eat seasonal, locally produced food. At the local market, you buy just enough to last until the next market. Strawberries and cherries are only enjoyed while they are in season, the appreciation enhanced by the wait. The beauty of these markets is breathtaking. You can stand and stare at the primary colour collections – yellow sunflowers next to purple lavender bunches and rich cherries, healthy herbs and deep aubergines.

We learned the art of eating Bouillabaisse in Marseilles, which we ventured to just for this one meal. We learned about aperitifs – raw fennel, olives or foie gras on fresh baguettes (Boulangeries bake bread at all hours of the day and you may nibble at the bread on the way home). We tried the creamy regional cheese as desert or before desert in the French way. And we tasted golden almond cakes dripping in orange blossom syrup and snowy puff pastries so feathery light they dissolve in your mouth leaving only the faintest sweet after taste.

Guidebooks warned about the unpleasantness of swarms of visitors to Provence in the high season. However, we found ourselves the only foreigners in a market or a lone car at the side of a spectacular lavender field. On our last morning, we strolled through a village so undisturbed that we could eavesdrop on women chattering while they were airing the house above the narrow alleyway.

The hilltop towns are at their best in the early morning in early market trading or at dusk when the magnificent sandstone lights to ochre and peach. At midday, everyone heads for lunch followed by a siesta, leaving these towns radiating heat and deserted. It forces the traveller to the same restful rhythm.

The French have a reputation for being rude and we were somewhat apprehensive especially since we do not speak the language. On the contrary, we found that, they are friendly and become very agreeable when you show an interest in their food or wine. In Lourmarin on market day, not only did we get to buy a cold bottle of wine, but the owner opened the bottle and found glasses under the counter so that we could enjoy our picnic under the chateau with wine. In the countryside, we found little haughtiness, fancy dressing or pretence. Perhaps our lenses were coloured by the glasses of holidaying or maybe there really is no need for all the baggage that we carry in the city.

I came back from Provence thinking that the French have nailed life. (Medical research underlines the wisdom of their way of life.) I am more convinced than ever, that for me, this kind of life beckons – the kind of life where it matters what you eat, that you share your table with friends and family and find your enjoyment in a simpler life.

I think that, with more effort, it is possible right here where we live. I am enthused to search for it and make it happen.