Women’s Financial Affair

Yesterday, at a business function, I had the pleasure of meeting several successful women and we got around to talk about what we do and topics concerning women. When a mutual friend introduced me as an Independent Financial Planner, the ladies asked if I’m selling Insurance or Investment products or writing wills. In Malaysia, Financial Planning is still at the infancy stage unlike in other developed countries like The States, UK, Canada and Australia. I patiently explained to them what Licensed Independent Financial Planners like me do for a living and how we are different from the Insurance and Mutual Fund Agents. I gladly added that I specialise in Financial Planning for Women. More curious looks around the table when I mentioned the last bit.

Most people, men and women alike, cannot see any solid reason why women need financial planning. I was frequently asked if there were women out there seeking my professional advice at all. Some men even joked that they should not allow their wives to meet with me! I can understand their curiosity and fear for the unknown. General assumption has been that, for married women, they have their husbands to depend on, financially. As for the single women, they are quite independent already. Ladies and gentlemen, I beg to differ. Women, whether married or not, younger or older, should start to educate themselves about personal finance. The sooner the better, if they sincerely want to achieve financial independence. Any monetary support from the husband is of course most welcome but, do not solely rely on it that you don’t plan at all.

As for those men who fear for their wives getting smarter and demanding more money from them, I share with them my experience. Women who learn to manage their finances are the ones who became more prudent in their finances. Armed with the knowledge and experience they now acquired, they are more confident and able to grow their savings. This takes a whole load off the husbands’ shoulders, if I may say so.

Most people spend almost all that they earned or received. The person who draws 1 million will have 1 million worth of expenses, regardless of the currency. This comes from the horse’s mouth. There is always something which they add on to their wish lists. To make a big purchase or smaller but expensive one. Some have the issue of advance spending and use up more than 50% of their disposable income to pay off debts every month. This happens not only to women but to men too. Of course, many believe that women are great savers. We also know women who are big spenders, on preferred mailing lists of branded boutiques, who frequent the stores every new season. To be up-to-date or rather, keeping up with the trend is a very costly affair.

If we do a quick housekeeping of our finances, we shall discover where our monies have gone to all this while. We can also identify our spending habits. This is usually a shocking experience to all that I have presented to. But not to worry. There are many useful expense tracker apps from mobile and iPad sites. Download one which is user-friendly and that suits your need. Make an effort to record each inflow (income) and outflow (expenses). At the end of the month, you can see from the pie chart, which category you spend most of your money on. If you are unable to input the data during the day, ask for receipts from each purchase and keep it till the end of the day to do the recording. The more accurate you record your data, the more accurate your report’s going to be. With that, you can easily make necessary planning and adjustments.

Many women shy away from the word “finance” as they would the word ” investment”. Reason being, they thought they are not smart enough to understand these foreign words and that they take for granted their husbands will take care of all important financial decisions for the family. Some gave such lame excuses as, they don’t have time for it and that they don’t need to. I can understand their feelings because I had been there before. For someone whose vision always became blurry while staring at the finance section and the mind suddenly became blank when listening to investment news, it certainly was a learning curve and an uphill experience. But, with perseverance, I managed to make small progress.

I decided to specialise in Women’s Financial Affair because I am a woman and that makes me understand the unique needs of a woman better. Women in general are more vulnerable than their husbands when a divorce or death between them takes place. I met women who were widowed and divorced. They shared me their lives before and after such unhappy event hit them. All of them were caught unprepared and sadly, they were forced to learn the hard way to survive from day-to-day. For those with young families are the worst off. Besides themselves they have a bigger issue to attend to and that is their children’s welfare. It is extremely tough to handle all these alone and being broke at the same time.

I believe that if women were to start planning when all are well, their financial future will be more secured. Financial Independence is not something you achieve within 1-2 years, but over a period of years. How long, shall depend on how soon you act on it and how effectively you build your financial assets. You must be wondering why I have not mentioned “save or savings”. There are many ways to build your wealth besides saving in the banks. Always remember, your returns in savings must be higher than your personal inflation rate. You have to find out your estimated personal inflation rate. This largely depends on your lifestyle and spending habit.

All in all, what I want to say to you today is that, please be in control of your own finances and your financial future. No one knows your needs as well as you do. Learn by starting to expose yourself to reading personal finance or investment books, business sections in the papers and listening to investment news. Start planning and acting on your plans. My wish is to see more women achieve financial independence.

Cheers,
Alice N.

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Marriage and Its Challenges

Have you ever imagined walking up to those young couples, happily flipping through oversized albums at bridal fairs, to advise them that marriage is not just the diamond ring, platinum wedding band, grand reception and the much-envied honeymoon. If you have that kind of “crazy” thought, you are not weird or alone. Many of us thought of it, but without any bad intention, of course. Those who have/had been married will testify that marriage is no child’s play. Nor is it a fairy tale in which the handsome prince came asking for the hand of the beautiful maiden, and then took her to his grand palace, living happily ever after.

People marry for various reasons. If one marries for material wealth or social status, once all the glitz have settled, the ones who live in the “glass palace”, may discover that life is not as what it seems to be. Those who married for love, will find that it will be tested with time. For some who married under pressure (parents’ demand, age factor, for convenience), you’ll have to continuously seek common grounds to live by. All in all, whichever way you take to arrive at the altar, what really matters is the day after the champagne and music, then days and years following that. Nothing remains constant in life. Change is inevitable, therefore, marriage in itself, involves not just hard work but continuous “heart-work” to keep up with the changes.

Most marriages fell apart when they couldn’t withstand the stress of frequent arguments. Arguments about finances. Money isn’t everything but we know the significant role it plays in our daily lives. If a family has insufficient money to go around, you are left with little or no choice at all. When that happens, lack of security seeps into every corner of your life. There are mouths to feed, debts to be paid (mortgage, car loans, credit cards, etc) and the day-to-day maintenance of the household. For those with children, the expenses become much higher. Paying the nanny, milk and diapers, school fees, school needs, tutorials, extra-curricular activities, pocket-money, etc. Many couples can tell you that most arguments stem from money.

The other causes are infidelity, lack of communication and attention, in-laws, inability to compromise, critical spouse, domestic (physical and/or verbal) abuse, bad habits (addiction, gambling, etc), so on and so forth. I am not a marriage counsellor nor am I qualified to give professional advice for a happy marriage or to rescue a failing marriage. All I know is that, whatever problems one faces, to always identify the root of the problem and treat it at source, as soon as possible. If one goes around the problem and starts the blaming game, there is no end to it and the longer the problems brew, the further you head towards the point of no return. Then, one fine day, it just snapped and one of you might just decide to throw in the towel and call it quit. Many people take the easy way out without giving the marriage a good chance to heal.

Today, many marriages ended up in courts. Sadly, the rate of divorce in the world is increasing. As a result of that, not only the adults suffered from the act of dissolution of marriage but worse, the children too! Some ended up with ugly public quarrels but there are some which ended amicably. No matter how it ended, it inevitably left permanent emotional scars in the lives of the children from these broken marriages. Children are innocent. Don’t get them involved in adults’ problems by using them to hurt each other. Many people take the easy way out without giving the marriage a good chance to heal. Everything can be worked out if both of you put enough effort into it. If you had done your very best, yet the marriage is beyond repair, you may choose to go separate ways to keep your sanity and save the last bit of decency. Whatever you decide to do, just don’t stop loving,caring and providing for your children. There are divorced couples who maintain a good relationship with their ex and continue to play an active role in their children’s lives!

That brings me back to the reason why one gets married in the first place. When a marriage is built on the right “ingredients”, it has the capability to provide financial security, love and understanding, common goals in life, shared belief and values, full commitment, responsibility towards your family, communication, and the flexibility to compromise. If you have come to a point where you are clueless about what you in for, try revisiting your marriage vows and recall how on earth did you end up choosing this person, out of so many people on the streets, to be your life partner! This person whom you feel you can’t live without and with whom you want to share your life and dreams.

We all know that marriage is a lifelong commitment, till death do us part. No one would marry with any plan for divorce. It is a partnership, what one does, it may have immediate and opposite effect on another or the others in it (spouse and children). It is an Emotional Bank. Depending on what you deposit into it everyday; what you feed will be what you get in return. Therefore, choose to have positive deposits. Be kinder to your partner, shower him/her with love and affection, invest quality time in it, communicate so that you both continue to share the same goals, whisper good words into his/her ear, make or give little pleasant surprises once in a while, be more forgiving, and you’ll be a happier person in a happier marriage.

There is no place for EGO in any loving and respectful marriage. If you bring your ego into the marriage, it will happily occupy a space between you and your spouse. The space will become wider as your ego grows bigger. If you focus on winning every argument, you’ll end up hurting the one you love and yourself as no one wins when you fight for personal victory. There is no master-servant relationship in a loving relationship. Mutual respect must exist in a marriage. Respect is not about how much money one brings home. Respect is the recognition of each person’s contribution to the wellbeing of the family, material and immaterial. There is this misconception by some couples that, the one who brings home the more money shall be put on a pedestal.

Someone once advised me that, “if you don’t have any good to say to another, just keep your mouth shut”. When we speak positively, we generate positive energy to people around us. When we are positive, we are happier. Happier people will attract others to them because almost everyone wants to be in their companies. What could be more attractive than to be a positive person to your spouse? Imagine, putting a smile on your face when you see your spouse as opposed to scowling when you see him/her. Be more sensitive to your partner’s feelings. If you have better suggestions for improvement, do so kindly. We can be kind and pleasant to our friends, why not we do the same, if not better, to the person who meant so much to us?

Last but not least, marriage is how we built it and live it. You both started it. Make sure you take great care of it. It is a lifetime commitment and other people’s lives and happiness, besides yours are involved. Marriage is about partnership of equal share. Both must work on it to make it last. I wish you all the best!

~ Alice N.

 


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Happy 1st Birthday, MyTrove!

On March 23, 2011, I published my first post here. My thanks to darling hubby who planted the seed of starting a blog of my own, as he knew very well how much I love to share my knowledge and experience with people. Following that, thanks to my dear friend, Karen for being the architect of this blog. She enthusiastically started to construct the whole thing before I could say ‘No’. She posed a string of questions for me to act on so that the blog could be launched within the next 72 hours. Boy, was she demanding and I know why. By keeping me busy, I won’t have time or space to think of reasons why I can’t do it. You may want know that Karen lives in Australia and I’m in Malaysia. When we were emailing to and fro, we didn’t feel the distance at all. It’s like we were brainstorming at my living room! Additionally, special mention to a friend who is a popular fellow blogger, CuteCarry, for sharing his experience with me, which gave me the confidence to start writing. This is the story of the birth of a wonderful blog called MyTrove! Thanks to all with ❤

Not to forget, Special Thanks to all my readers, my friends, who constantly share your feelings and thoughts after reading each post. These comments keep me going and give me the fuel to want to do more and better. I thank God for giving me the inspiration to share my thoughts with you, continuously. I shall want to do so for as long as I live.

I so believe that when God blesses us with "Gifts", it is only more meaningful when we share them. We shouldn’t fear for the receiver(s)to be better off than us when we do so. When we give, we make rooms to receive some more. I strongly believe that the world is huge and it has a special place for every one of us in it.

Having said that, what I found to be most satisfying from my act of sharing is to know that whatever I have written here, do make a difference in someone else's lives. It could be someone close to home, at the neighbouring countries or even across the continent. It could be words of comfort at that particular time of need, inspiring to some when they are at cross roads in life, useful advice to apply to their daily activities, giving hope to some who are feeling helpless, and so on.

It has been a year now and MyTrove contains 108 posts, with 5870 views and still counting. This is the first time I’ve attempted writing in public. It may not be as many posts as I planned to have but I feel that it accounts for something. This second year, I shall hope to share much more. If you feel that I have not written something which you would love to read about from MyTrove, do drop me a line and fell free to make suggestions. I shall do my best to deliver.

This one year journey has been wonderful! I’m enjoying myself here and I hope you do too. MyTrove is my virtual home, welcoming everyone who wishes to drop in for a rest. I warmly welcome you to my Tea Room to have “tea” with me for a relaxing chit-chat about life; then, there are more serious notes From My Desk to talk about issues related to work, career and business; and, there is the cheerful and bright rainbow coloured Play Room, where I share about issues related to children, growing up, through my eyes and experience.

When you are up to your nose with work or chores, take a break and relax with me at MyTrove. I hope your stopping over will help you recharge your battery to return to work with renewed energy and zest. Even if I’m unable to do anything more than simply amused you in any way, my mission has accomplished. That is, I’ve managed to make you feel better than before! I sincerely hope so, my dear friend.

HAPPY 1ST BIRTHDAY, MYTROVE!!!

Cheers,
~ Alice N.

 


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Women & Financial Independence.

A friend once posted a picture of an abandoned old lady in FB. The picture says a thousand words, needless to read the whole story. It received comments, expressions of anger and disappointment from many who read about it. I felt sorry for the lady too. Sadly, it’s not just her, there are many others out there, sharing the same fate. Some abandoned on the street, government hospitals, sent to homes without visitors for as long as one can remember, etc. Someone once told me that, a mother can raise 12 children but none of them could take care of 1 aging mother, despite these children being well-educated and successful in their careers.

Most women till today, live by the “Burnt Toast Syndrome“. What do I mean by that? Let’s say, there are only 4 slices of toasts for breakfast in the house, a slice for each person (husband, 2 children and self). Unfortunately, one is burnt. Now, do you know who gets the burnt toast? Most often than not, it’s the woman who took the burnt toast. As a loving and selfless person, she would save the best or better ones for her family. Her needs come after theirs are met.

Having said that, I ask of you to permit yourself to receiving some TLC (tender loving care). Do pay some special attention to yourself without feeling guilty. Still remember one of the safety procedures during inflight emergency? Put the oxygen mask on yourself first before helping others put on theirs. When you are safely secured, you can then turn to the next person to help out. Less panic and more gets done. Same goes to our lives. While we are committed to take great care of our beloved family, we owe it to ourselves the same treatment too. A contented and happy woman can do much more for her family.

Women championed as jugglers. In order to be a good juggler, a woman has to keep herself well, not just physically, emotionally and spiritually but financially too. Women are great planners. We plan so well for our families that we can complete so many tasks in one day from various places! Amazing! But, what about planning for our financial independence? It’s the greatest gift one can give to herself. Remember the “Burnt Toast Syndrome“? Don’t limit yourself with what is placed in front of you. You have other choices.

That brings me to say something about Women and Money. Before you start to say “Money Isn’t Everything!“, I’d like to add, “Everything Is Money!“. There’ll be a time in life when you come to full realisation that this is in fact, a big-time material world. Without money, you can’t get many things done. I’ve witnessed how money works, especially in your golden years. When you are financially secured, you have nothing much to worry about in your old age. You do not depend on your children or relatives to care for you. You can seek better medical care, have better diet, travel as you like, live your life the way you want it and you’ll never be a burden to your children or siblings.

How can you achieve that? Simply by changing your mindset and the way you treat money. Firstly, women must understand how we feel when it comes to finances. We just want peace of mind, or certainty to a certain degree. We want to know that whatever happens in the future, financially, we can handle it well. Women who are in charge of their financial lives have higher self-confidence and self-esteem. They feel better about themselves and their relationship with their loved ones grow stronger. Why is that so is simply because they live well. They know they deserve to enjoy all the wonderful things in life. In such a financial state, it frees you and gives you more time and means to do what you want and like.

Next will be the way you treat money : When it comes to finances, most women allow the men to make key financial decisions as they thought it is a subject mastered by men. They honestly believe that men are better with money and at investing. Even though we could come up with a better financial solution or idea, women tend to keep mum and not challenge the men’s decisions! When it comes to retirement planning, many women leave it to the men (The Provider).

Women are lacking in financial planning but they are in fact, disciplined savers. They put aside some cash regularly to create a pool of emergency fund for the family. They keep their money in a safe place. Many do not know how to grow their money and out of fear of failure or fear of losing that they decide not to step into unknown territory. The word “investment” seems to be too heavy and big for them to handle. They also won’t take the trouble to educate themselves to reduce those fears. And thus, resort to growing their wealth in the only way they learnt from their mothers and grandmothers, the slow and steady way. Today, everything around us costs more each year. Some with double-digit inflation rate whilst the slow and steady return contributes only in single digit. Is their money really safe after all?

The message I’m trying to send out here is to jolt your minds into thinking deeper about your habit where money is concerned. Every lady I met would share her dream of becoming financially independent one day, regardless whether she is married or single, younger or older. You can achieve it if you decide to take the driver’s seat where your financials are concerned. No longer being a bystander. And, as this is a new territory for you, it is wise to engage a “navigator” to be with you all the way. The “navigator” must be someone qualified, who shall help you manage your risks and yet engage you to play an active role in all your financial decisions. You can further educate yourself by reading financial books and journals. It is alright to take baby steps towards achieving your financial independence. Act on it!

A successful woman will be one who knows very well what she wants in her life and reach for it. She knows how to live abundantly. She is emotionally and financially strong. Let us be counted as one of those women.

To be one, we must change our mindset about finances and start planning for our financial future. A journey starts from a single step. Take the first step now to building your personal wealth.

~ Alice N.

 


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