Shaking your money maker with words that count

ithinkthereforeiblog

Last week I wrote about overcoming self limiting thinking and self-doubt. I think that mountain is possibly more challenging than Everest. Mental mind traps are the greatest obstacles to success. It’s not lack of money, or shortage of time, or x, y, z that holds most of us back. It’s fear standing in the way of you realising your full potential, and your dreams.

I’m still climbing that mountain and here’s the depressing news: Unless you are fully enlightened (and not many are) that journey never ends. You either give up and give into the herd mentality and behaviour or you keep climbing, deflecting those toxic thoughts as soon as they come your way. It gets easier and easier to defeat them when your awareness of them grows.

On the bright side, and this is where you always want to return to when negativity starts clouding your mind, is that it’s an open road of possibility when you detour away from self-doubt. So, this brings me to today’s topic: Writing for a living, something I’ve done my whole professional life. It’s been a long journey so I will spare the full story of how I got from A to B. Suffice it to say, there’s been a whole heck of learning along the way.

While I have managed to make a living from writing, it’s never been a lucrative one, at least not so far. Does that mean you should abandon your dreams to become a writer? No. Because most of my writing has been in the field of journalism working for the media, there have been parameters around my income from writing. It paid enough to pay the bills but never really much more, which is fine if you want to stay on that treadmill.

I came to an important realisation recently while contemplating my relationship between money and writing. Outside of writing book reviews, and now blogging, I never used to write for the love of it. I wrote for my paycheque. Looking back this is where I went wrong. I know money is a huge motivator for many people, and even a passion for some i.e. Warren Buffett but even for Buffett (one of the wealthiest men in the world) his passion wasn’t money, it was investing which is far more interesting and exciting. Money was the byproduct of his passion and skilfulness at investing.

What I’m trying to say here is that if you want to write, don’t do it for the money. Do it for the love of it, or use the written word to convey what you are passionate about or perhaps knowledgeable about with a view to a) inspiring others b) helping others c) having fun or d) all of the aforementioned. When you are motivated in these ways, the money will find its way to you. If it doesn’t, then maybe your heart wasn’t really into it in the first place or maybe there’s just something you are more passionate about that needs your attention.

After reading through some of the comments on my site recently, I came across one that asked for tips about blogging. My apologies to that person, I only discovered your comment recently. As I am new to this blogging business, I don’t feel like I’m best placed to answer that question fully. However, a few weeks ago a book arrived in my letter box, written by someone who does. Serena Star-Leonard, author of “How to Retire in 12 Months” writes about making money from blogging and how she did it, in her first book. I haven’t read it yet so I can’t give you my review of it however I did read her second book “How to Succeed in Creating a Life you Love in 12 Months” and I can confidently say there’s some good information there for individuals looking to break out of the 9-5 routine.

Importantly, if you want to write, write. Just don’t think about it.

Amanda

If you need five cents, don’t ask for three; aim big, be clear and go for it

My BF has a lot of original ideas. He’s one of those idea junkies. He also has a lot of one-liners that he enjoys tossing around; some good, some bad but they still evoke a smile or at the very least a smirk.

One that I never tire of hearing even though I hear it a lot is “No ask, no get.” We haven’t known each other too long but I assume he’s asked a lot over the years, because he has always seems to get his way. Not only does he have a lot of stuff but he always seems to rope people in doing stuff for him, usually free.

I suppose I’m a master at this in my own way, although I would consider it less skillful persuasion than reciprocation as I like to do things for others which manifest itself in an exchange system of sorts. I’m a believer in karma and the principle that what goes around comes around. It’s why I blog. While I don’t get paid for it, I like to share my thoughts and knowledge and hopefully inspire others to chase their dreams.

This morning as I was dragging my dog on a run and listening to music, I heard a great line which I stole for my headline above; “My mama always said that if you need five cents don’t ask for three.” It’s from a De la Soul song.

It got me thinking….

I’m not shy at asking for what I want but when it comes to dreams and desires and goals, I’ve tended to be a bit thrifty. Others might see me as ambitious but I’m what the BF calls a “quiet achiever” or a “doer.” That’s in contrast to the “dreamer” who wishes and fantasises about what they want but doesn’t take the necessary action to achieve their desires. In my own way, I’ve been able to go after what I want, usually with good results, but the targets have never been massive. I don’t like to be disappointed, so I suppose I’ve tended toward the conservative side of dreaming.

Toward the end of my run, I came to the realisation that I’ve been short-changing myself on goals lately. It’s not that my goals themselves are too skimpy, rather it’s been my attitude that’s been lacking. Some part of myself has been self sabotaging in the respect that I’ve felt I somehow wasn’t deserving of the things on my wish list. I also realised that as a result of my innate conservatism, I wasn’t taking the risks I needed to get what I wanted. In other words, while I wanted five cents, I was thinking I only deserved three, so there was disconnect between my goals and my belief in my ability to achieve them.

So what do I want presently that I’m not getting. A few things I guess:

While, I’ve been wanting to grow the number of followers on my blog, I haven’t been blogging regularly enough to attract them. When I inspected my stats recently I found that actually for the few blogs I have posted, I have some amazing traffic. So my perception was totally out of alignment with reality and that’s encouraged me to step up my game.

On the personal side, I’ve also been going in circles trapped in a pattern of negative thinking that was inadvertently holding me back from the direction I wanted my relationships to go. I’ve adopted a new attitude here and hopefully some new behaviours as well and already I’ve seen encouraging signs of change.

So what does any of this have to do with money? Everything.

Money is a byproduct of intention, action and energy. When your efforts are out of synch from what you want then your energy is also affected because you are working at odds with what you want to achieve. When the two are matched, your energy is a positive one because you are in a state of flow.

When you are working in a state of flow, quite often you don’t even need to ask. What you want lands on your doorstep. This is the magic of flow and why I love yoga so much because it encourages this state of inner and outer connectivity.

Find your flow and the money will follow but it never hurts to ask.

Why do we keep doing dumb things in the face of bad consequences? The Money Paradox

By Amanda Morrall

What makes some people better savers than others?

It’s a question experts have pondered long and hard about particularly in the face of the looming demographic problem of too many old people living longer and longer and too little Government savings to support them all in retirement.

The solution that many OECD nations have adopted, including Canada, the U.K., Australia, Japan and the U.S., is to extend the age of eligibility for Government superannuation schemes, forcing people to work longer (and thus pay more taxes to feed pension funds) and to save more for themselves.

Curiously, New Zealand is an exception to this rule. It’s consider political suicide. Ironically, the voters who disdain the idea the most wouldn’t be affected by it.

It’s younger generations that have the most to lose from Government’s continued neglect of this issue. If current health care cost estimates (like 40% of GDP!) and longevity projections are anywhere near accurate, the NZ Superannuation won’t be around in its current form. It will either be means tested (i.e. if you earn or have assets above a certain amount of money you won’t qualify even though you paid into the scheme for years through your taxes) or it will simply be lower than it already is, and it’s not a huge amount to begin with folks. If you are mortgage and rent free with no debts, you’ll be able to pay your food and power bills essentially but don’t count of booze or fancy ice creams being in your shopping basket.

You can check the current entitlements here.

KiwiSaver has been presented as one solution to this potential savings dilemma and some encouraging strides have been made thus far. But will it be enough? According to many of the providers of these products, the answer is no. Naturally, you could expect them to say that as the more money you save into KiwiSaver, the more money they stand to make from the fees they pull in year after year (regardless of performance) from your hard earned savings.

This is why how much you pay in fees is REALLY important over the long-term. Many would argue that fees are actually a bigger deal than fund performance because they are constant. That’s not to say that how much you pay into savings isn’t important. After all it’s your savings and the more you pay yourself the more you’ll end up with in old age.

Right now the minimum mandatory is 3%. I’m talking about KiwiSaver still. That compares to 9% in Australia and that figure is changing to 15% eventually. Overseas, among those working in the savings area, there is a general view that a safe savings rate should be anywhere between 10 and 20% of GROSS income. In New Zealand, we’re nowhere near that but it’s difficult to know how many will fare given there is such a massive investment in the property market, as form of potential retirement savings.

Most of us know that, just like eating healthy, saving money is a good thing. The problem lies in our knowing what is good for us and us acting to effect those positive changes. For vast chunks of the population, there is a huge disconnect. Humans are perplexing creatures because despite our huge intelligence, we tend to make really bad decisions for ourselves, particularly where money is concerned.

Anyway, rather than focus on the negative, it is generally understood these days that’s it better to look at the positive so we can understand what we are doing right and encourage more of the same in ourselves and others. No one wants to be chastised or belittled or be made to feel bad because ironically, it just brings out the same bad behaviour.

Where savings are concerned, there is some interesting work and researching being done comparing saving rates and behaviours among different countries. Experts have wanted to understand why the Finns, Chinese and Japanese are so savings savvy relative to the countries to New Zealand and the U.S. In 2012, New Zealand’s net national savings rate was around 2% of Gross Domestic Product, or about 15% gross. (Source NZ Treasury).

So what can we learn from OECD nations where national savings rates are 20-40% of GDP?

According to Keith Chen, who explains more in this interesting TED talk, language has a lot to do with it. Chinese is apparently a futureless language; that is, it doesn’t distinguish between past, present and future. When this comes to money behaviour, this has a significant advantage because there would appear to be less distance mentally between the idea of getting old and actually saving for that eventuality. Retirement is not something that exists in the far away future but is accepted as an immutable part of present reality.

No one wants to think of getting old but obviously it’s a fact of life. Presented with that fact, or perhaps being reminded of it would appear to promote good savings behaviour. Experiments along these lines have supported this. The TED talk linked to above also references a study where individuals presented with an image of themselves in old age saved way more when reminded regularly of who they were saving for.

It’s fascinating stuff really. Accepting our paradoxical behaviours, our human limitations and silliness with money is all the more reason to implement systems aimed at saving us from ourself and importantly educating ourselves on these topics. Still more people would rather talk about sex than money I guess. Go figure!

Monkey See Monkey Do

Amanda Morrall on why public ignorance on fees really is bliss — for the financial services sector

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Okay, I’m the first to admit that fees on financial products is probably the least sexiest topic on the internet (except to advisors and fund managers maybe) but really it ought to be and I was reminded again why today in a conversation with a so called “wealth manager.”

Let me just say firstly that I don’t blame the investing public for not taking more of an active interest in this area. I mean the industry is so rife with technical jargon and mumbo jumbo that it’s hard for a financial journalist to follow the plot on fees let alone someone who is just cutting their teeth on KiwiSaver.

Management expense ratios, trailing fees, embedded costs, active vs passive funds manager…and that’s just the beginning.

In journalism we have this saying: there is no such thing as a stupid question. I’ve heard a few doozies in my day and I’ve undoubtedly asked a few dumbs ones myself, but it never ceases to amaze me how the one that is usually on every journalist’s mind but everyone is too scared to ask for fear of coming across a dunce ends up being the Big Kahuna.

During a long overdue phone call that I had to initiate (NOTE: you shouldn’t have to if you are paying 2.5% in fees!) to find out how my kids education funds were performing, I was left with a bad taste in my mouth. While I’m comfortable now talking to advisors in their own language, you really shouldn’t have to. The industry is old enough now and the problems of financial obfuscation so well signalled since the Global Financial Crisis, conversations that advisors have with their clients should be understood by a high school student.

I’m willing to bet not many high school age students, let alone university graduates would know what the heck a management expense ratio is let alone how to calculate one. Then again, I bet not many advisors know how MERs are calculated either. However, one thing you can be assured of is they know how to price in their costs.

If management expense ratios (the sum cost extracted from your investments and paid to the managers) weren’t bad enough, where there are advisors involved there’s another fat layer of fees.

It depends on advisor relationships with fund managers just how much each party gets but the key thing to remember here is these fees are a permanent part of your portfolio and that’s regardless of how well – or poor – your fund does. Managers and advisors continue to take their fees, every year, well usually every month actually because they, more than most, understand how compound interest works. The longer you stay invested and the more money you invest, the bigger their take. This is why KiwiSaver is a gravy train for the funds management sector in New Zealand, with savers locked in till 65.

Under new regulations in New Zealand, financial advisors and a whole raft of other operators slogging products are required to tell you up front how much they are paid and how their payment system works. These legal disclosures, now so extensive and weighty in scope, can take the better part of an hour so who can blame the client for their failure to understand even at the end of these well intentioned truth telling sessions, particularly if the language used to communicate it is financial speak.

Oranges, apples and lemons

Another key thing to note is unless you have a proper benchmark for comparison, how the heck is anyone to know whether the fees being charged, even those that are clearly spelled out and communicated, are low, medium or high?

In my case, my advisor (advisor is a stretch of the definition) casually declared (after I had to ask) that fees were 2.5%. Knowing as much as I do about fees (and I don’t consider myself an expert) I called him on it. In a what I construed to be a belittling tone, he explained that in addition to the investment costs for the funds under management, I was paying that premium for the “advice.”

As I hadn’t talked to him in two years, or received any reports either for quite sometime, I had to question whether the value I was getting for that premium.

Clearly, he didn’t like the question and couldn’t get me off the phone fast enough after that. To my mind, unless you are receiving advice, and good advice at that, you shouldn’t be paying anything more than 1.5% max on managed funds. Yes, there are some exceptions, where you are making long-term above average returns but believe you me, not many are. That’s why most active fund managers, invest their own money in index tracking funds that have the lowest fees.

In their defence, advisors will talk about making “apples to apples comparisons” reminding you that all these increasingly scathing reports on fee gauging has to take into account, whether managed funds are built in with an advice component. They rationalise their above average fees but suggesting that without their good advice you’d be all the poorer, having made ostensibly poor investment choices.

You don’t know until you try I suppose.

To find out how much you are paying in fees, relative to other funds (be they KiwiSaver fees or other types of managed fund) consult the league tables (published by the likes of the NZ Herald) or else go to the Morningstar website.

At the end of the day, ignorance really is bliss no more so perhaps than for financial industry operators who get rich off the backs of investors and or consumers who don’t know any better.

For more on fees, how to avoid getting burnt by them and to sharpen your financial edge without the usual dull tomes that line the business bookshelf, order a copy of my book Money Matters; Get Your Life and $ Sorted. It will pay for itself in saved fees and then some.

And for more reading on this topic, check out this story by the Financial Post in Canada.

An insurance story with a happy ending? Amanda Morrall on how not to get ripped off by your insurance company

vespa
In the financial media, it’s good sport to slag insurers. Let’s face it, they’re easy targets.

We pay, and we pay and we pay… and then when we make a claim, they tear it to pieces with loopholes and exemptions written in microprint on the back page of page 10 and we’re left high and dry, and still paying. Okay, yes there are exceptions and there were some happy stories to come out of Christchurch, although they were more like War and Peace length epics by the time the pay outs were made.

So what am I on about this week and why?

Here’s the back story:

I fulfilled a long held dream a few weeks ago purchasing a very cute second hand Vespa. Why buy new when you can save a get a really good barely used one? Anyone who has read my book (you can order now off my site) or my blogs will know I’m big on dream fulfilment and doing what you love instead of just imagining it all the time.

But I digress. When I went to insure the new yoga transport, I started making the requisite calls. I was a little startled to find out, that it was going to cost $10 more for a 50 cc than my Honda Jazz. Big deal right? No, because when I made the call I also discovered that due to a postal code change that somehow slipped their attention my premiums on the car almost doubled!

Before I committed, I told the operator I was going to shop around, as you really SHOULD DO when shopping for insurance, or anything else for that matter.

A quick phone call, to a very efficient, and yes reputable insurer with an investment grade rating and I managed to get the car – and Vespa – insured for an extra $10 a month from my original bill. I had to pay for the whole lot up front (they promised to reimburse me if I sold either vehicle) but I put down the phone happy in the knowledge that a) I’d be driving my scooter soon (the roading costs of which I will easily regain in petrol savings) and b) knowing that one phone call saved me $600. This is not a small margin folks. It’s HUGE.

Of course, the devil is in the detail with these insurance covers and probably without realising it I was paying for all the bells and whistles on the last package which I’d blindly agreed to when I was probably in the position of most customers; completely in the dark about how seriously ripped off you can get by not knowing what you are paying for exactly and not shopping around.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting that going to the lowest cost insurer is necessarily the best move. I saw several businesses and residential home owners in Christchurch suffer after going that route via unscrupulous brokers who got paid a tidy commission for selling cheap insurance on behalf of dodgy insurers, one of whom had actually been blacklisted in Australia. I kid you not. Our reputation as the Mexico of the South Pacific is, sadly, sometimes deserved.

Now before I get letter bombed by insurers, PLEASE NOTE lots has changed in the regulatory world in recent years to raise the bar in New Zealand, and in doing so, holding financial service sector operators more accountable to their customers.

The bottom line here is:

1) Know how much you’re paying – RELATIVE to similar policies with competitors

2) Understand the terms and conditions and whether the policy you are paying for actually serves your needs (you might need less, maybe you need more)

3) What your deductible is going to be if and when you claim (the higher, the lower the premium usually)

4) How long it will take to get paid. TIP: if you go for a longer period, it typically lowers your premiums but ASK first!

Using a reputable broker can help in these matters if you are feeling out of your depth but for your own knowledge and understanding, it’s really best do you your own research.

What do you have to lose? I gained $600.

For more helpful tips on “How to get your money and life sorted”, check out my book Money Matters.”

Measuring your net worth including all your assets – what are you leaving out?

lotus

Last week at the dinner table my financial philosophy (see about me) was challenged by my two sons, ages 10 and 11.

I’m not sure how it came up but one of them (probably the eldest who aspires to be the next Donald Trump) said it was nonsense that money doesn’t make you happy. “Of course money makes you happier mum, look at all the stuff it can buy you and places you can visit when you have lots of it! You can’t do all that fun stuff when you’re poor.”

When I turned to son No.2 for backup, he took big brother’s position, which is rare. Given both are obsessed with super cars right now, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. If they won the lottery tomorrow, and were old enough to drive, they’d rush out to buy their favourite racing cars and live happily ever after, so profound is their love for super cars. I had to concede the point. Yes, money can buy happiness but there’s a big BUT to follow. They won’t get it until they’re adults.

What I tried to emphasis in my yoga mum/personal finance guru way was that the happiness money did buy would be limited and that longer lasting, more meaningful happiness, for most, derives from more substantive things, i.e. friends, good health, and loved ones.

Given the choice between being rich and poor, yes I would chose the former and yet it’s impossible to ignore the troubling reality that people much poorer than us living in developing nations are typically the happier bunch. I won’t reopen this can of worms.

Instead, I wanted to look at net wealth and how it is calculated. In pure monetary terms it’s a straight forward calculation. One’s net worth is a figure that is derived by adding up all your assets (house, supercars, investments and other assets) less whatever money you owe on them. Imagine you had to sell everything tomorrow (and pay back the bank too) and then you’ll arrive at a rough figure. If you don’t deduct the money you owe, naturally you’ll have an inflated sense of your net worth. Strip away the debt and get down to what you do own.

Now, because I’m a yogi, I also look at net worth in another way. Let’s call it net self worth or perhaps net wellbeing. Assume for a second you lost all your worldly possessions and assets and all you were left with was the clothes on your back. What would you be worth then?

From a material perspective, you’d be as poor as a pauper but how about the stuff we don’t put a value on?: friends (the true blue ones who show up to help you on moving day), family (those ones who are with you through thick or thin), your good health, your knowledge and skills that you could fall back on to get yourself back up again, your contacts, your attitude, your personality and your all around value as a human being.
You could say your net self worth, is what you are left with when the material assets are stripped away.

We don’t often put a price on these things but really we ought to. Why? Because who you are as a human does count more than what you accumulate and leave behind when you shuffle off this mortal coil. I know, it’s one of those warm and fuzzy statements that hard core capitalists find cringe worthy and laughable.

But ask yourself this and choose for yourself what matters more: stranded on a desert island (that had no hope of being discovered by your rich mate with the speed boat or chopper) who among your peers, friends, and family would you want with you and would you make the cut if the tables were turned.

Funny enough I met a woman this weekend who was a perfect example of someone who appeared to be familiar with both types of net worth. She was a nature loving grandma who was unpretentious as they make ‘em and as sweet and kind as apple pie. Guess what? She drove a Lotus.

I learned an important lesson in meeting Lotus Gran and also in having my entrenched views challenged by my kids.
Supercars and good karma are not necessarily mutually exclusive.

For more tips on balancing money and personal well being, check out my book Money Matters. Available in ebook or by special order.
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Amanda Morrall on who to trust with your money and how to find a good advisor

advisor
This week I was approached by a friend looking for some advice on money matters. I had to emphasise the fact that I am not an authorised financial advisor (AFA). Why should they or you care whether or not I am an AFA? Because new rules introduced in the last few years specify that any professional giving you personalised advice has to be authorised to do so. What this means in plain English is they have passed certain tests and meet criteria laid out by regulators with the Financial Markets Authority. Previously, anyone could call themselves a financial advisor, regardless of their background, qualifications and experience. New Zealand was the wild west of the financial services sector. Thankfully, there are now rules and system in place meant to restore confidence to the financial advisory sector and to raise the bar in general.

I won’t pretend to be anyone other than I am. I am a journalist with more than 20 years experience, a published author specialising in personal finance and a yoga teacher. The information I share with you is for your own personal empowerment and not for my own personal gain. Of course, if you want to buy my book, I won’t say no. Perhaps it’ll help you along your journey to financial independence if that’s what you’re after.

My own view is that with enough information you can be your own financial advisor. No one is going to care more about your money than you. That said, there are some excellent individuals within the profession, and if you really don’t have a clue, don’t have the time and or inclination, then in many instances a financial advisor or another specialist that can help you makes sense.

So, what should you look for in an AFA?

Here are five considerations:

1) Experience

Find out how long they’ve been in the business of giving advice, where they’ve worked, who they’ve worked with and what, if any, their specialty is.

2) Fees vs commissions

In other places around the world, regulators are working to unshackled financial advisors from commissions. This is so financial advisors won’t push you into products (i.e insurance, mortgages and investments) where they receive a kick back. Because the new disclosure rules are so rigid here in New Zealand, the Government has decided not to go this route. Well so far anyhow. At the moment, financial advisors are paid by either a straight fees system (an hourly rate usually) and or commissions. They are required to tell you about all this during your meetings with them. If they don’t, ask. Also make sure you understand it. Like really understand it. Not just half of it. If they can’t explain it in a way that you understand, move on and find someone who can. This stuff is not as difficult as you might expect, particularly once you purge all the jargon from the conversation.


3) References

Just as we rely on references from friends and family for doctors and dentists, be sure you ask your would be advisor for references. Obviously, if you get a reference directly from someone you trust and know who has benefitted from this person advice that’s preferably but as many Kiwis do not use advisors you might have to rely on the references they supply you with.

4) Affiliations

According to a recent report prepared by financial journalist David Chaplin, of the 1,895 AFAs currently registered in New Zealand, only 325 investment advisors can be said to be truly independent. Banks, stockbroking firms and one single firm (AMP) together account for more than half of the AFAs. This is concerning to the extent that (despite stringent disclosure requirements) there are bound to be some inherent bias in their advice. To the uninitiated I expect a lot of this sounds ultra boring but it’s an important detail. If you are taking someone’s advice (be it KiwiSaver or another workplace superannuation scheme, another type of investment or insurances you want to know you’re not being shoved into something because it’s better for them than you. This isn’t to say those who are affiliated don’t want to genuinely give you give advice or aren’t good at their jobs. You just want to understand the nature of the relationship.

5) Do you really need advice?
Lastly before you secure the services of an authorised financial advisor ask yourself whether you really need their help or whether you are just lacking in confidence to do it yourself and to invest the time to build your knowledge.

I write about this in chapter eight of my book at greater length however I’d like to share with you my top 10 tips on this question.

1) Know thyself: be brutally honest with yourself about your financial acumen or lack thereof.
2. Know the rules: spend some time familiarising yourself with the new rules affecting financial advisors.
3. Know the difference: understand how RAs, AFAs, and QFEs differ
4.Come prepared: have a list of question to ask your prospective advisor
5. Shop around: interview a few potential advisers
6. Check them out: find out if the adviser is listed on the Financial Services Provider Registry.
7. Be aware: make sure you understand how the adviser is paid
8. Gather opinion: ask to see references from other clients
9. Look for chemistry: make sure you feel comfortable with the adviser.
10. Trust your instincts: don’t enter a relationship with an adviser if it doesn’t feel right.

Amanda on blessings in disguise; Defining success; the power of words and honey money; working for love.

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By Amanda Morrall

Following last week’s confessional blog, I decided this week (I have good intentions for once a week blogging now) to shower you with some link love.

Other bloggers will know well the virtues of link love. Outbound links to other writer’s good work offers some karma kickbacks. By generating traffic for others looking to build their readership, you in turn create some of your own. i.e. You follow me, I’ll follow you.

When I was writing my regular column for New Zealand’s top most read financial website interest.co.nz, we made this a regular habit. As a result, we had a really good SEO; search engine optimization. We beat almost all the other media. If you don’t believe me google my name.

My motives here aren’t self-serving. In fact, I don’t earn a cent from any of this. Call me crazy. The money writer who writes for free. Why am I doing it then? Because I would like to share with other like minded folk some of the informative, inspirational and juicy content that I come across on my regular trolls through cyberspace in the domain of finance and well-being. Why? Ultimately to encourage others to pursue their dreams.

I thought I’d follow the format of my old column as it worked quite well. Five links of a personal financial nature with some creative (some days more so than others) wordplay to keep you engaged about a subject most of you would rather avoid. If it proves popular (Word Press stats and Google analytics are brilliant), I’ll keep at it. If not, I’ll channel my energies and talents elsewhere.

So, here in no particular order are five great reads to get you thinking about what the heck your purpose here on earth is (my belief: to be happy and work for a greater good), how to realise your full potential, how to increase your income (yes money does matter hence the title of my book Money Matters), and how to get more engaged in your daily lives in a meaningful way.

1) Blessings in disguise

Here’s a news flash; crappy things happen to good people who deserve better — ALL THE TIME! It happens to me at least twice a week. Okay, that’s probably not news to most of you but you might take comfort in the fact that you’re not alone. The more important point here about people who vex you, experiences that upset you, bosses you can’t stand, or not getting x, y, z when and how you want it is that actually these apparent frustrations and disappointments are usually blessings in disguise. It is not always ease to frame them as such or see how they can benefit you but when you step back, take a deep breathe (you can learn how to do this well in yoga), a broader perspective, readjust your thinking, you’ll begin to see how they are really opportunities for you to reassess, move in a new direction; find the path, person or job that was better suited for you and to experience real growth.

Maria Khalife from Om Times explains more here.

2) Defining success

Over the years, more than I want to count, I’ve come to change my definition of success. I used to think it meant a fancy house, a flash car, lots of holidays and a budget to eat out whenever you didn’t feel like cooking. Eventually it dawned on me that a lot of people who have all that stuff aren’t particularly happy people. Now I tend to view success, broadly, as people who are happy with themselves and what they have, however modest or big. In the matters that count most, matters of the heart, they are rock solid. That said I believe success has an external face too. In this regard I would define it as doing something you love, doing it really well and also making a difference in other peoples’ lives. We’re here to work for the betterment of humanity and we all have a role to play.

On that note, here’s an interesting item I have been sharing on finding your inner wealth and harnessing your talents without spinning in circles. Good stuff here.

Inc. writer Laura Garnett interviews talks to author and serial entrepreneur David Kidder about true talent and making it work.

3) The power of words

Whether I’m teaching a yoga class, or talking to a roomful of financial advisory types and policy makers about how they can get people to care more about their money, words are my currency.The words you choose, how you deliver them and the order of them is incredibly important if you hope to capture your audience’s attention and to hold it.

For those of you working with the public, or aspiring to one day, here’s five tips from Mika Salmi on the qualities of a great speech. If you don’t read it, a take away message is silence is golden. All hail the pregnant pause.

4) Honey money

No, it’s not a cheap ploy to spike traffic and you’ll have to do your own research to validate the findings but new research published by the Institute for the Study for Labor in Bonn, Germany suggests that those employees having regular sex (four times a week) earn on average 5% higher wages. Maybe 5% isn’t significant enough to make this observation newsworthy. Far be it for me to say however it stands to reason, as per researchers’ efforts to explain why this is, that there’s a financial upside to having more fun in the bedroom. Why? It’s well known that sex helps to reduce stress. Carrying that thread, individuals who are less stressed are usually happier to be around (in the office or wherever else), and this sociability is a form of currency in and of itself that can produce good outcomes employment wise.

Print it off and leave it under your mate’s pillow or coffee cup in the morning.
Wall Street Journal’s Market Watch carries the details just in case you thought I dug this up from the Women’s Weekly.

5) Do what you love

It’s been well forecast that due to strains on Government pensions and purse strings generally that folks are going to have to work well past retirement age (65 in NZ) to make ends meet in old age. That’s based on predictions the New Zealand Superannuation, in its current form, is unsustainable to meet the needs of a population expected to live longer than every before in human history.

Because politicians of the day are unlikely to do something about this any time soon (at the risk of turning off voters who dislike the idea of working till 67) there is good potential, unless you’ve been very good with your money, that you’ll be working for a longer time than you might expect.

Bad news? Only if you are working at a job that you dislike which is all the more reason to find something you are good at and which you enjoy. Discouraged? You shouldn’t be. Another thing that distinguishes “successful” people, is that many are doing what they do for the thrill and challenge and fun, and not for the money. As a consequence or because of this rather they are postponing retirement.

The Chicago Tribune backs this up here with an article about why wealthy folks are less likely to retire.

If you’ve enjoyed reading my blog and found some of the links useful, do me a favour and spread the link love by sending this out to some of your contacts to help me build traffic. Don’t worry. I won’t spam them, or advertise on their sites or try to do anything other than inform and entertain.

Thank you and do yoga!

Amanda on ambassadorship, abundance, manifestation and love

moi

I’m not a Catholic, a Buddhist rather, but I feel like I need to start this blog as though I were going to confession:

Dear Readers;

Please forgive me. It’s been five long months in between blogs.

This is what happens when you’re not on a deadline! It’s also what happens when you are trying to find a linear route through a dense and confusing forest of seemingly conflicting paths. Eventually we arrive where we are meant to be long before we make the realisation that we’re there.

If I’m honest with myself another reason for this yawning gap in between blogs (apart from being incredibly busy teaching, freelancing, trying to be a good parent and take my dog for regular walks) relates to money. In the face of paid employment, unpaid efforts took a back burner. Despite my fondness for writing, the fact that no one was/is paying me to do it, caused me to abandon it.

While I was away in Bali on more yoga teacher training last month, the regular column that I’d been writing for two years was cancelled, ironically because of a lack of financing for it. As a result, I stopped writing. I filed my last column a week ago. So not only did the money dry up, but so did my ink well.

I’ve been thinking on this situation a fair bit as I try to reconcile the need for money (cold hard economics) and what I enjoy doing to fill my time. Yoga is my number one passion. I could happily pass my days taking and teaching classes and talking about it until the cows came home. I’d come to think my reasons for writing were purely economical but here I am after five months writing for free. Apparently my well isn’t totally dried up.

Why write without the financial payback? For the pleasure of writing? For the satisfaction of seeing my thoughts jump out of my head and form themselves into words? Yes, both I suppose. So what of the money? Fortunately, I’m not starving and have a sufficient savings buffer to protect me while I try to establish alternative income streams. I’m lucky I guess although one of my friends suggests it’s not luck so much as sheer pragmatism and sensibility that put me in this boat of being able to float financially for a bit longer. This same friend likes to challenge me when my thinking becomes foggy prodding me to decide what I would do if money wasn’t a factor.

The question and very idea of it was so foreign that I couldn’t honestly answer him. I have been so worried about getting ahead, having enough, doing the right thing, pleasing the boss and following the 9-5 herd mentality my whole adult life that I couldn’t allow myself the freedom of imagination or open heartedness to contemplate a path of action unshackled from financial consequences. While I was in Bali I was able to knock through some of these mental roadblocks. I would not say this is a practical reality for me now (working for free) but I can at least answer the question now without that log jam of self limiting thoughts that prevented me from contemplating such a reality.

What would I do if money didn’t matter? Funny enough I would most likely do exactly what I am doing now. I would continue teaching yoga classes and focus on growing my student base. Not for the money but because I know first hand and have seen how yoga helps people to relax, to become more fit and flexible and at peace with themselves.

I would work on fun yoga events, for example leading some low cost community classes to make yoga more accessible to the masses; lead some retreats to exotic destinations and include my kids and boyfriend. I would blog for the heck of it, in the hopes of inspiring others to follow their heart and pursue their passions, or at least discover their passion and try to make themselves happier. I would write on subjects I was passionate about; yoga, well-being, book reviews and money – as it relates to making a better life for oneself. I would focus on being a good mum and try to do a better job of it attending more school and sports events, volunteering and working to ensure they have a fun childhood knowing it’ll be over before I know it. I would also make more space and time for the people I love, friends, family and my partner. There I said it. The honest truth, free of worry.

Money, when you hold it too closely, takes on a distorted role in your life. You get so focussed on the short-term that you lose track of long-term objectives and the fact that money is not a means in and of itself but simply a means to an end. I write about this a fair bit in my book, in chapter one.

Before you go chasing the dollars, conduct an internal stock take. What do you want out of life? Is the life you are living the one you want to live? Do you love your it? If not, why not? Are you with the person who is going to bring out the best in you and vice versa whilst being realistic that you are the author of your own happiness. This is the personal stuff in the world of personal finance and which lays the groundwork for money management. Most of us have the equation all wrong. We think hard work = money = happiness. Instead of happiness + hard work = money

Of course it’s not always going to be the case that are you blissfully happy, whilst working hard and that money is, as a result, going to fall from the sky. When I was writing my book, it was a hugely stressful time. I had a new puppy (poor timing on my part), a full-time job, two kids to manage and no time to myself for six months. But I got through it in the end and it was/is hugely satisfying to have completed this project.

The part I had to work hard on when it was done was happiness. Working full-time in the city at a desk job was making me miserable. I kept waiting for someone, some thing, some miracle to come along to rescue me from this situation. It finally dawned on me that if I didn’t take matters into my own hands years could go by with me feeling unfulfilled and grinding through the day. So I took a major leap of faith (I was realistic about the money bit) and quit my job so I could do more of what I loved and which made me happy. Yoga. The classes didn’t come immediately but I went from one or two to seven a week within five months. In the process, I fell in love with the most wonderful man, I was made an ambassador to the one retail shop I actually patronise and advocate for (Lululemon), and I tapped into a whole network of inspiring people and friends with similar interests and passions. It’s been a wonderful journey.

Looking back, I wonder why it took me so long to start really believing in myself and chasing my dreams. The excuse I always gave myself was money, time and lack of support. Abundance wasn’t outside my reach, it was within me the whole time. When I realised this, that’s when I started to attract into my life the most amazing people, events and experiences.

So if you are reading this and happened to feel stuck in some way in your life, ask yourself what self limiting beliefs you are clinging to and why. If there is no basis for them (and that’s usually the case) let them go and create space for imagination, dreams and joy in your life.

The truth will set you free and from there the money will start to follow.