Say what?


Communicating clearly is important to ensure smooth delivery of your message across to the other party. For the listener/message recipient, do listen attentively or read the message carefully so that no part of it is misunderstood. If unclear, it is always wise to ask for further clarification or verification. 

I’ve personally misunderstood statements and messages sometimes. It happened when I misread them or having the wrong perception or being a tad too quick to jumping to conclusions. I’m sure, I’m not alone in this.  We are either busy, on the move, or multi-tasking that we can’t focus on the matter in hand. We put ourselves through some embarrassing moments before we learn to be more careful. 

That is the reason why I often remind my children, to ask the right question to the right person so that they will get closer to the right answer. When unclear, please ask for an explanation. This simple act makes a lot of difference especially in avoiding unnecessary misunderstandings. Besides, by asking questions, we get to slow down to think before we react. 

I observed that most conflicts started from mere words? Tone of voice used actually plays a part in it, especially when people are sensitive towards one another. Some words were spoken carelessly, some were misunderstood due to language barrier or mental block. Firstly, we must understand that no two persons can perceive one message exactly the same way, not even a set of twins. People see things from the way they feel at that particular state of mind. Feelings affect the way we process information received. For example, we are more forgiving and optimistic in a happy mood.

One of the 7 Habits written by Stephen Covey is “Seek to understand then be understood” is the best way to communicate with one another. I liken it to “taking one step back, to gaining two steps forward”, especially during confrontation, conflict resolution, negotiation, mediation, or during an argument. It is more manageable when we put our ego aside. Ego can block the right message from reaching us just because we don’t like the way it was delivered. Ego also puts us in a state of denial because we always think that we can do or say no wrongs.

Being trapped in a rat race, people are multi-tasking more now than ever or seemed preoccupied. Most of us here belong to the sandwich generation, whereby we tirelessly  strive to make our lives better by providing for ourselves, the growing children and ageing parents.

Juggling with work and family matters round the clock can make us physically and emotionally drained resulting in roller coaster mood swings. Could it be due to the stress that we are being more impatient and short tempered? I noticed tempers flare like firecrackers these days. It is as if everyone is a walking time bomb. What an emotional mess we are in!

Anyway, regardless how easy or tough your life or day is, remember to filter the words before they are spoken. Sift through the words and thoughts. Do they make sense? If you need to re-read the sentences or re-run the train of thought, do so. All it takes is mere seconds, but it saves one from making a fool out of oneself. 

Remember to be more careful when sending words out of our mouths and fingers. Let us not hurt others with them. Let our words be encouraging, motivating and inspiring. 

Cheers,

Alice N.

WOMEN AND FINANCE

This is all about women. WOMEN……for men reading this, you love them and sometimes hate them, don’t you? For women reading this, sit up and pay attention. This is important and I want to stress on it again this new year, 2014!

Simply put, it’s about women and money. True, money isn’t everything, but mind you, everything is money. Ask anyone on the street! You can’t literally move to do things without involving money. Time is money – the opportunity cost. I posted before about Financial Planning for Women. In it, I mentioned that most women would at one point in time, be single (again). It could be by choice (stay single, unmarried), divorced or being a widow. The stats recorded that women tend to live longer (than their husbands).

Having said that, wouldn’t women need money to be self-sufficient to last them their lifetime? Married women need to plan as if they are single. Don’t take it for granted that your husband is your retirement plan. He is NOT! If he is, that would be a bonus. Congrats! For now, take it as “NOT”, so plan ahead, solo.

Women, most often than not, would be sandwiched between young, growing family and ageing parents. Taking care of parents’ needs do not only involve time, but money too. Medical expenses, special diet, holiday, etc. Understanding women, they would rather use their own funds to pay for all these, instead of asking from their spouse. Parents are our own responsibility. Of course, no smart women would refuse the generosity of a spouse, to display respect and love for their in-laws.

Then, comes the issue of children’s higher education, the college and/or university fees. Parents always want the best for their children, including or especially education. In most families, our gift as parents to our beloved children would be the “golden key” to achieving financial freedom, and that “golden key” is none other than “Education”. We believe in not serving fish for the kids to eat but to provide them with basic tools to fish for themselves. We firmly believe that education opens doors to better and more secured future. It creates more options for one to choose. Therefore, most parents would strive to save as much for their children’s education. Funding them for as long as they are still studying.

However, if the choice is between children’s education and your retirement, woman, brace yourself and choose your retirement. Why? If you do not have sufficient fund for his/her education, there are other sources. There are study loans available, scholarships, or perhaps, he/she could work part-time. However, if you decide to save for children’s education and left with insufficient fund for own retirement, may I ask, where would be the source of funding for you? Live on charity? Now, do you see my point?

Women are known to take better care of people around them than themselves, especially their loved ones. Where the loved ones are concerned, there is always a bit more energy left, a bit more money spared, there is always time (just take away the me-time, tea time, short rest, even sleep)….the list goes on. It is amazing where they get all the energy from! They work so hard and still able to smile. Please don’t hate them but cherish them.

Men, now this is your part. Encourage your wife, daughter, sister, friends to plan for themselves, for a better tomorrow. If not, YOU better plan well for them. Which, I don’t think you would do or do so well. So, encourage them to seek knowledge or professional advice in financial planning. It is never too early nor too late to plan. Just do it now.

I hope to see more women be financial savvy this new year. Read and understand personal FINANCE. Know what you want and plan to achieve that goal. Dare to dream. You deserve to enjoy life after contributing so much during the earlier years. After planning, act upon it. It is alright to start slow or baby steps as long as you get started. As time goes, as you get more and more familiar with it, you’ll pick up pace and be more daring. Finance may be boring or even scary for some. Face it and you’ll soon realize that there isn’t anything to be afraid of, other than an insecure future, an empty nest for your golden years without planning.

~ Alice N.


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It’s All About Mindset

For the recent months, I have been traveling from one place to another on a job assignment. In this special project, I have to pull all my resources from past experience as an HR Specialist, Head of Department, Management, Marketer, Counsellor, Strategist, to resolve some messy issues.

I was known to leaving no stones unturned and always acting in the best interest of the firm as opposed to individual interest. I am no angel but I know that I would do the best that I can at any given situation. By doing so, it is no wonder if I happened to step on a few stubborn toes. However, I must first qualify myself; I’m not perfect nor am I a miss-know-it-all, but I do know enough to qualify myself to advise and act professionally.

I discovered that people who are obsessively territorial will not only create hostility at the workplace but cause deep-seated animosity amongst colleagues. Such territorial feeling comes from a sense of insecurity or inferiority. Most workers would want to secure their positions in the company and would do their best to not allow another person get near to that “hot seat”. As the feeling of insecurity escalates, politicking to create rival teams internally to go after each other’s throats will be next. Then, comes all sorts of distorted reporting about one another, so on and so forth.

If an employee is very good at what he/she does, he/she should be a mentor to the subordinates and peers. Why do I say that is simply because, when there is a chance for advancement or promotion, you may be the right candidate as your employer can see your good job, work attitude and leadership. You have also prepared your successor well to take over the baton to allow you to progress further. No Risk No Return.

Having said that, be a mentor to your peers or subordinates. Regardless of ranks, different people may see and do things differently and will come up with different solutions and ideas. I would encourage you to capitalize and leverage on existing pool of resources. Show to your bosses that you are ready to move up to take on additional responsibilities and undertake a more challenging position. It is achievable, trust yourself.

Another important point is when employees make any kind of mistakes, not many of them would be honest enough to admit them and seek guidance. One most common and natural reaction is that the employee would automatically switched to defensive mode and cry fouls when action is taken against them. Next, comes the accusing finger-pointing at people around them. We are all born with good conscience. We either choose the right or wrong path. People always thought that no one really knows what’s going on and that they can escape from watchful eyes. No matter how far one tries to run and escape, the truth will soon catch up with you.

Now, if you sincerely want that promotion and recognition, it’s not so tough after all. Neither do I say it is easy. Just do what is right, be respectful of your colleagues and be not afraid to share your experience and knowledge. I always believe that when you share, God will grant you more knowledge. If our glass is always full, you can’t fill up any more. In order to receive more, you must first pour out some to make space.

Life is all about risks. The risk of sharing your knowledge is a risk worth taking. It may turn out to your advantage or it may not. From my experience, rewards come in many forms and at different time. Sometimes, it is immediate but sometimes much later. It is not all about your timing. More of God’s timing.

So, when you are trusted to carry out any task or job, always do your very best in it. What you sow, is what you reap. Remember always, things and events happen for a reason. Don’t blame anyone but to ask yourself what you could have done differently to make it better the next time. Never ever take anything and anyone, including your colleagues and bosses for granted. Be a team member and help to create a better workplace for yourself and your colleagues. If you do so, you will work more happily.

All the best for the new year! May 2013 be a more successful year for you and may your career soar higher and closer to your dream!

~ Alice N.


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Employing Gen Y

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Ask any employer what is the most challenging issue in company. The answer is usually, employees, especially theGen Y.

Managing people is not easy, but not impossible. I often hear about challenges faced by employers in managing Gen Y employees. There is a huge generation gap amongst the Baby Boomers, Gen X and the Gen Y. Differences in doing, speaking, acting and thinking.

(Disclaimer : what I’m writing here is based on personal observation and work experience. It does not represent world population at large.)

People from the older schools (me included), learned that hard work and smart work paid off. That it all start with hard work first, of course. Serving employers and doing the right thing as expected by employers will pay off. Be proactive and keep working more, even if it includes overtime and weekends. Hardly claim medical leaves and seldom use their annual leaves. Be on time to work but leave late. Some would even go to the office during off days.

The new generation, Gen Y, in the work force : Most of them would prefer to work smart than work hard. Working overtime or extra during the weekend is not favorable. Friday evening is the start of a great weekend. Punctuality is tough. Medical leaves are quite normal, especially following weekends or public holiday. Some may struggle with business writing, reporting and presentation.

However, these young people are very good at IT. Give them the computer, laptop, tablets, cellphones and they can show you all the tricks and shortcuts in the world. They can also think fast, though might not be systematically. They use this knowledge and skill to their advantage in completing their tasks at work. I guess that’s why they feel that working hard isn’t necessary. The most the employers could do is to capitalize in such skills. I’ve seen these young folks come up with impressive and creative presentation slides, worksheets and ways to solve some IT issues. These are missing in older generation. So, if the employer knows how to mix and match the job specs, I feel, they can have the best of both worlds.

It is indeed challenging to employers and Human Resources Specialists to find the right employees to fit into their organizational culture. Reason being, they bring with them their own culture, like it or not. They are not afraid to voice their thoughts and if they are not contented with the workplace or colleagues, they move on. They are not afraid of what future employers think about their job hopping activities shown on their CV.

As I said, employers and HR Specialists must do what is right for this generation. They have to motivate and make them see the big game plan (company blue print) so that they know where they are heading in the company. Make them enjoy their work by giving them challenges that is in line with their expertise.

I know it is easier said than done. I’m sure we can all do it. When the Baby Boomers met the Gen X they faced such challenges similar to now. The generational culture shock faced by all initially but after some time, they find ways to live and work together in harmony. Now, the Gen X face similar challenges with Gen Y which I believe the latter will then face with Gen Z.

We have to find common grounds and learn from each other. Mutual respect is important as learning from each other. Sharing of knowledge and experience is encouraged. The younger ones are quick in searching for solutions but they may lack the experience of problem solving, crisis management, public speaking and people relations. Just have to find a common ground and meet halfway.

The Gen Y would usually bring cheer to the workplace with their happy-go-lucky attitude. Of course, there is limit in everything. Meet halfway by relaxing the stiff organizational culture and to impose a little more discipline is important areas where appropriate. Most frustration stem from lack of understanding. Communicate and close ranks.

Cheers to all! May you have a happier workplace.

~ Alice N.


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Let’s Talk About Money!

Most people don’t feel comfortable discussing any issue related to money, amongst friends, relatives and most of all at home. There are always people who are ultra sensitive about this issue and would waltz around it.

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Many households shy away from money talk. Mostly, it is typical to find that one brings home the money and the other pays for all the bills. Financial discussions usually extend to larger expenses or purchases, like buying a car, house, vacation and the like. I discovered that many people avoid talking about relationship and money at the same time simply because these two just don’t mix too well.

Besides love and family, money is undeniably important to any relationship. It is not the MOST important thing in our lives but it affects everything that is important to us. For instance, the level of education we or our children receive, food on our table, shelter for the family, healthcare, lifestyle, etc; all depends on the level of one’s finances.

My personal understanding about money is that when you have more, more options are available to you to choose from. When you have lesser, you may not have any options at all. Everyone tells me, again and again, that he/she wishes to be in a better condition/place. Many parents told me that they wish to provide the best education to their children but have to resort to what it is now because they can’t afford anything more than that. All these were said with much sadness and disappointment in their voices.

I remember when I was very young, the common topic being discussed in the class year after year was, “What would you do if you have a million dollar?” There were all sorts of answers from these young, innocent students, me included….ranging from travelling around the world, buying a castle for the family, buying a cool sports car / private plane / train, building a hospital / orphanage / nursing home / five-star hotel, buy their favourite food, give lots of money to their parents, donate some of the money to help the poor and the sick ones, the list was endless.

Of course, one million dollar today isn’t as valuable as decades ago. This is due to high inflation that has caused our monies to shrink. Goods and services have become more pricey. We need more dollars to buy something today as compared to say, five or ten years ago. Cost of living is getting higher, making it difficult for people to save for financial emergency and their retirement. With the advancement of technology and better standard of living, people are living longer than before. That means, we need more money to finance our daily expenses after we retire. We are talking about 15 to 20 over years after retirement!

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Ahhhh….lovely to grow old like that, isn’t it? I’m sure many of us envision we’ll live a comfortable life long after we retire. It has always been everyone’s wish to maintain their comfortable lifestyle even after they stop generating active income.

That is not impossible. The earlier you plan and prepare for your financial future, the easier it is to achieve your goals. Start discussing this important topic with your spouse or partner to start off with. Talk about your dreams and wishes. List down your monthly financial obligations. Look at your income and expenses. If you have surplus, plan how you can efficiently manage that surpluses and make then grow. If you face a deficit, scrutinise your expenses listing and see how you can cut on unnecessary purchases. Find better alternatives. Look at all your credit card bills. If you have to, keep those plastics at home till you fully settled the outstanding balance one after another. Use cash as much as possible. Discipline is key. Track all your expenses on daily basis and get to know your spending habit / behaviour. You have to know yourself well in order to effectively introduce little changes to your current financial habits.

All these are not the work of one party but whoever is involved or would be affected by the financial situation, husband, wife and children. If your children have not started saving yet, get them to do it immediately. Teach them to save first before spending their pocket-money. Do the right thing right the first time, or as early as possible.

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For those who don’t feel comfortable taking about money with their spouses, start with small talks and expand as you go along. Some men told me that they avoid discussing their financials at home because they do not want their wives to be overly worried. That is most considerate. However, I wonder, if the wife doesn’t know the actual financial situation, she may not be of any great help when she spends without second thought. Poor husband has to shoulder everything including the stress of worrying about money.

There are husbands who shared that, one of the reasons why they don’t let their wives know exactly how much they earn was because they are afraid that their wives will demand more from them. This is where the household budget comes in. If there is a household budget, a sufficient amount of fund should be made available to the wives and that shall rightfully include some pocket-money to her (if possible). She should then plan for her own financial future for she must not treat her husband or children as a retirement plan!

I strongly believe that women must achieve financial independence on her own effort. Being financially independent, she’ll get the financial security she needs. She has to constantly put aside some money for her own emergency and for her golden years. The habit of saving constantly is important, regardless the amount. Do not wait till you have “more money” to start saving for the day will never come. Some women told me that they don’t have any financial knowledge and do not know how to do it. My say is, discuss with your husband and if that doesn’t work, engage a licensed independent financial planner to help you plan. Why husbands? There are husbands who are not too busy and have the patience to help their wives draw up plans, and I’m sure the men are especially happy to see their wives take the initiative to be financial savvy! When you do it on your own, do draw up an individual financial plan for each person, separately, as well as one for the family.

At discussion table, do not get too emotional. Address the issue at hand. Find a common footing and compromise to reach a workable plan. The plan must not only look good on paper. It has to be practical. If you have to make small sacrifices, so be it. Take it a step at a time. Introduce changes gradually. It’s not easy but not impossible.

I know, the topic “Let’s Talk About Money” is not for the faint hearts. To me, marriage is also not for the faint hearts either, but we survived thus far, isn’t it? I hope, after reading this, more and more couples will start to engage with each other on this issue. It’s voluntary not mandatory, of course. You know your spouse better. I shall leave it to you.

All the best!

~ Alice N.

 


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Labour of Love

We are often told repeatedly by successful people, that one of the main ingredients to success is to love what you do. I had also written before about how loving what you do would make life much easier for you in many ways.

When you love what you do, it will not be seen as a chore but more like a hobby or something which you do out of pleasure. In fact, you’d carry it out tirelessly, with a smile constantly plastered to your face, with spring in your steps. Though it may look tough in the eyes of others, you don’t feel the weight of the job or the extreme stress that comes with it. Simply because of the passion in you, you mostly feel good and in fact, enjoying the challenge! Whenever you face down times, you’d easily pick yourself up and move on again.

I have always thought that most, if not all jobs, are labour of love. Of course, there are people who look at their jobs as a mean to receive income to provide the kind of life they desire. Period. Not surprising to find people stuck in their jobs which they despise and have to drag themselves out of bed every morning. Being unhappy in one’s job will stop you from progressing and wasting a lot of time finding fault with people or things around you. Some would not hesitate to call in sick, quite frequently, without guilt at all, not realising that it will burden their fellow colleagues with additional work due to their irresponsible act. When we try to fool others, we’d actually make the biggest fool out of ourselves! Why waste time and energy on something so unproductive when you can choose to seek out another job or profession, which would capitalise your special talent or skill.

People who are passionate about their works embrace their responsibilities, with one thing in mind, i.e. do their very best to produce results. Besides high energy level, love and compassion too will flow from their hearts into their works. Besides themselves, they strive to make this world a better place for people whom they come into contact with. They are the ones who want to make a difference to their profession/work by doing it right. These people are driven by the passion to GIVE first, knowing that the reward will eventually follow suit.

I have seen and encountered wonderful experience from people who put in a lot of effort into their works, right from the janitors to business owners. You can see the passion that drives them to produce high quality results. They work tirelessly and care for the people around them. These are the people who treat their jobs as labour of love.

Educators (teachers, lecturers, trainers, etc), nurses, doctors, lawyers, the ones in uniforms, the list goes on. Besides that, I also would like to record my appreciation to the following labours of love, if I may.

Parents are those who incorporate endless love and patience into everything they do, in ensuring that their families are well taken care of. They choose to give the best to their families, feeling happy and contented just by doing so. The reward is seeing the smile on the faces of their young ones. Being parents, there are no annual/sick leaves. Unlike office jobs, you don’t clock in and out at specific times. You don’t just switch off, lock the door to your work station, change out of your working suit and throw away whatever residue from the day’s work. Fact is, being parents, you are 24×7 on standby mode for your family, even though you have completed the daily chores.

Volunteers, NGO, social workers are those who give their personal time and services without asking for anything in return. They just want to give other people a place to belong in this world and make a difference in someone else’s life. There are those who have great desire to make this world a better place for the current and future generations. I’ve known people who left their high-paying corporate jobs to perform social works for the community. I can feel so much love from these people. They give their precious time and not just money, to perform one of the most precious act on earth!

Insurance advisors pledge to provide financial securities to as many families as possible. These are the people whom others try hard to avoid as best as they can. People would freeze when they heard the word “insurance” or the name of any insurance companies they worked for, and immediately widen the space between them or find an excuse to move away. It is sad to see such a wonderful career being treated as outcasts. For those who have experience with the benefits of an insurance protection, they know the value of it and would make their advisers best of pals or to some, as close as family members. Insurance is not a bad word. It takes a lot of love and empathy to be a good adviser.

Of course there are many other labour of love out there. Pardon me for not being able to mention all. As I said earlier, all jobs are labour of love. When you love what you do, the one result you get out of it is SUCCESS! When you feel happy doing something, you will automatically put in your all and all else will fall into place – satisfaction, recognition, rewards, promotions, you name it. It feels just right!

I also agree that not all are angels in every profession. There are some bad apples out there which earn them nothing but bad reputation. It is the lousy work of this group of minorities that tarnish the good names of the much-respected professions. These are the ones who go all out to get quick bucks without conscience. As a result, sad to say, other people suffer great losses for their gains.

I’d like to believe that there is always something for everyone to do in this world. Try by understanding more about yourself and find out what make you tick. When you love what you do, you save yourself and others from heartache and headache. Reason being, what we do Will affect people around us. When you throw out a clean ball, no one gets dirty. However, if you throw out a muddy ball, whoever it comes into contact with will get your dirt.

All the best to you….Smile and the world will smile with you 🙂

~ Alice N.

 


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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.

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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What I Learnt From My Boss(es)

We come across more people condemning their bosses than giving praise. We heard them saying, bosses are insensitive, demanding, fierce, unreasonable, strict, unfair, stingy, so on and so forth. Some said, bosses only know how to give instructions and assignments, issuing warning letters and worse, clock-watcher (who’s late this time? who’s leaving early?).

Whichever type your boss is, they have come a long way to be who they are. Successful companies are not built overnight. I think a company has got to go through growing pains for between 6 to 10 years before it finally matures. Activities during these roller coaster years are what shaped the business owner to who he/she is today. It is from these experiences that we could learn one thing or two from our boss(es). Tested and proven! Real life! Hands-on experience! All we need to have is an open mind, enthusiasm, and a brain like sponge. However, if you are happy with what you are doing and where you are, not a wee-bit ambitious, then, sit comfortably at your seat to just clock in and out.

Bear in mind that not all bosses are highly educated, not even a Diploma, Degree, Master or PhD. Some became successful out of continuous hard work, cracking their brains through trials and errors. Not all are born super smart but they become street smart over the years of experience while building successful empire out of blood, sweat and tears. There are bosses who are well qualified with fancier credentials. No matter how and what got them to the top, they must have gone through at least, the necessary basic requirements for them to be the “chosen ones”.

Being a boss is nice to look at but it’s not an easy pill to swallow as he/she has a huge block of responsibilities on the back to be carried around at all times. They don’t work by the official working hours or days. Every action they take, they know, will have rippling effect on the lives of their employees and families. The stake is always high. Whatever decision they make, it doesn’t have to suit you alone. Fact is, as a boss, he/she can’t please everyone.

Therefore, if you aim to climb the corporate ladder to higher posts, or to become your own boss, now is the time to learn from your boss(es). Open your eyes and tune in. Copy and improvise the good but learn from the bad so that you won’t repeat the mistakes when you are the boss one day. It won’t hurt to offer to take on more responsibilities so that you can learn from the boss directly. How else can you learn?

I am not a boss to anyone now, but I am a boss of my own time and work. I had the privilege to work with successful bosses throughout my employment history and also while I worked with some seniors and now with fellow partners. Here are what I learnt from these people :

* Display a positive work attitude, smile and take care of self-image, that includes my car! I make sure my car is always clean and tidy from inside out.

* Be observant, enthusiastic and learn fast. I am accountable for my own action. Don’t waste time on office gossips or people’s personal problems while at work.

* When clueless, ask for clarification then follow what’s been taught. Smart people ask questions. It is dumb to try to act smart.

* Continuous education to further enhance my knowledge and skill, even if it means paying from my own pocket. After all, knowledge and skills are my own asset.

* Be optimistic, confident, friendly and a sense of humour; make a person a good company to be with.

* Don’t bring Personal problems into the office. Leave them at home to be dealt with after work.

* There is no shortcut to success. Just work harder and be smarter. It’s more long-lasting.

* Always maintain good working relationship with colleagues, from the tea lady to the bosses. No need to be arrogant. Greet everyone I meet in the morning or pass positive comments. By doing that simple exercise, I might make someone’s day.

* Negotiate for what it’s worth. Dare to ask for the well-deserved raise, and in some cases, convince the boss that I am ready for added responsibilities. All I need to do is “Ask”. At least, I get the chance to speak for myself.

* Don’t leave my fate in other people’s hands. It should be in mine, always.

* Be diplomatic when pointing out bosses’ mistake, do it without audience. Making constructive criticism is indeed an art! It reflects one’s maturity and professionalism.

* Put things down in writing to avoid future disputes. Record important decisions or instructions will be better than trying to dig the cluttered brain for data.

* The right and wrong techniques of presentation skill.

* Respect has to be earned.

* Be a step ahead of others, including your own boss! Always provide solutions to problems when speaking up. Even if it’s not the right one, at least I tried.

* Not to feel inferior when faced with heads of companies or someone in a more senior position. All humans are equal, in a way or two. They are great at their works but I am the specialist of my work.

* Take care of my own backyard by performing my job well first, before criticising others about theirs.

* Systematic approach to completing a big project, right from pre-production, critical path to conducting post-mortem at the end of it. One will not stray too far off from the work path.

* Do the first thing right first! When the head is right the body and tail will follow accordingly.

* I understand that I only have the power to influence but not control over people’s mouths and minds. Tolerance is the key values to avoid falling victim to prejudice, jealousy, office politics, etc.

* God bless us with the gift of knowledge. Don’t be afraid to share it, for He will provide some more. That’s the art of giving back.

* When I see something worth doing, copy, improvise and act on it. Grab the chance when it presents itself. Always find ways to improve myself.

* To read the fine lines and between the lines.

* Develop my own personal work ethics. What I do and don’t do when performing my job responsibilities.

* When in need of help, not to be afraid to ask. You either get a “yes” or “no” answer. Some issues can’t be solved alone. Asking for help doesn’t mean one is weak, but smart enough to leverage on others.

* If we think we are great, someone else out there is greater; if we think we are so smart, someone else somewhere is definitely smarter than us; if we think we are worst off, someone else could be worse than us. Therefore, be grateful and stay humble.

* When we do good to others, do it unconditionally. Don’t expect anything in return.

* A relationship that is built on results alone will not last. The cheer will subside as soon as the desired result stops showing up. I recognise that there are up and down times. Nothing is permanent. Stay hopeful.

* Everyone goes through some career or performance slump time. It is okay to seek comfort in the slump but decide on a time frame (soon), to pick my butt up and rise again.

* Do not bad mouth former or current boss(es) or colleagues. It reflects badly on ourselves. If we don’t have anything good or constructive to say, just shut up.

* It is so easy to judge our boss(es) and complain about them….till one day we are on their hot seats, we then realise that, what we went through is nothing compared to what they had to go through, daily.

* Much as we want to get things done our way, our time, we can only do so much with a pair of hands and legs. We must learn to delegate and empower trusted colleagues or subordinates to carry out some of the tasks. The fastest way to learn is to be given the opportunity to perform the tasks!

* Carry a notebook at all times to write down important things.

* Put my business blueprint on paper; never store it in my memory. We are visual people – an effective way to see my short/medium/long term plans and to chart my progress.

* If we continue to do the same things and expect different results, it’s called “Insanity”. Change the approach and we may get the results that we have always wanted.

To all my former bosses and seniors, I am forever grateful. Without you, I can’t be who I am today. Experience shapes one’s character. I am so blessed!

I hope you learnt as much from your boss(es) too. If you can’t think of any, be objective and think deeper. You can learn from his/her good management style and you can also learn from their mistakes. All the best to you!

~ Alice N.

 


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Can Women Wear Aprons & Power Suits Too?

Can women assume both heavy responsibilities and still remain cool and collected? Climbing the corporate ladder during wakeful hours and thereafter, being a wife and mother at home is no ABC. We all know that women champion as multi-taskers. We often read and heard from many women, finding it quite difficult to make choices between staying at home or building a career. This is especially so when these women just entered motherhood. It is an emotional experience for any new mom, to be separated from her newborn after confinement or end of maternity leave, to return to work. Some had at the end, decided to leave their jobs to care for their own babies.

There are women who remain in their jobs, by choice or circumstances, as their families really need dual income with the new addition. Working moms may struggle to cope with increasing demands from home and office. They not only work for 8 to 10 hours outside, but upon reaching home, another “job” awaits them. There is no break in between at all, unless they are blessed with wonder domestic helpers. I think, it would be close to midnight before they can finally sit back to relax but by then, it’s bedtime already. That’s the end of another busy day.

Staying in the corporate world when you are a mom is no crime. If you are in it, don’t feel guilty. The world needs intellectual contribution from men and women alike. More women today, are well educated, intelligent, sophisticated and able to carry out work responsibilities as well as, if not better than their male counterpart. It would be a waste of talent in the human capital department if all mature and experienced women leave the workforce due to motherhood. Some caring organisations go all out to provide childcare centres or flexible working arrangements, to keep these female employees continue working with them. I think for anyone with grown children, if you wish to go back to the workforce, you should be given the chance to. After all, your knowledge and skill is your valuable assets and should be put to good use. However, before you start doing so, make sure you engage reliable extra help at home, to free your mind, so that you can focus on your work in the office. Delegate and plan well, for all will work out at the end. A happy and confident mom will have happy and confident children too. And yes, you still have to spare some time for your husband and children too – that, you can’t delegate and I’m sure you don’t want to either.

Some women choose to quit 9-6 jobs to start being an entrepreneur with flexi hours and working from own SOHO (small office home office). This way, they can have the best (and worst) of both worlds, while watching their children grow up. One has to be very disciplined and good at time management in order to carry this off. It is tough indeed to draw a bold line separating home and work. If one is not careful, she will be distracted by adorable baby demanding attention, other children walking in and out asking for help with their school works, the pull of television soap opera, the inviting bed, etc. Being on your own also means you are your own boss….don’t spend productive time on shopping and personal grooming too often. By the end of the day, nothing much was accomplished in the work department. Self-discipline is vital.

Working solo from home has another disadvantage too, on the self-development department. The danger of being complacent might make you lose track of the growth in the industry. There may be times when decisions and actions made become unclear and there isn’t anyone else to conduct check and balance. On a more positive note, as long as one knows the threat to a given situation one is in, and be pro-active enough to deal with it, where one works, at home or office, is immaterial. Engage a buddy or two to work with and for brainstorming sessions. Then, one will not feel so lonely.

There are books authored by successful women around the world, who wrote about not having to choose either/or, but to have it all, i.e. being able to take care of the family as well as keeping the career. These authors provided ways and guide to time management systems with less stress, making smart choices, not wasting time on un-productive activities, the list goes on. I’m sure you have read some of these books yourself.

I believe, as women, regardless where you are, who you are, we basically share the same issues. We are continuously seeking solutions to make our lives simpler, to seek the right connections with our husbands and growing children, to develop our personal skills and knowledge in our areas of expertise/interest, to uphold the family values, spread our love and laughter, and create harmony in our families.

Sounds like a Super Mom or Super Woman’s job descriptions? That’s the wonder of women. We don’t fret over small stuffs, we focus on problem-solving to leave our men clear heads to do their jobs without unnecessary distractions, we make sure our family members return to a warm and loving home after a tiring day, we make sure there’s warm food on the dining table, despite having a tough day at work or we are in the midst of handling a huge project/case. For those of you who have to work or run your business and at the same time carrying out your responsibilities as a wife and mother, my hats off to you for your contributions to your family.

To men reading this, please appreciate what your wives have done for the family. They don’t ask for material rewards but, validation and recognition from you will make wonders. Let them know that you appreciate what they have done to provide you with a loving home, caring for your children, being your faithful partner through thick and thin. Be generous with kind words and gestures to the most-deserving partner of yours. Do give them a break sometimes….let them enjoy the companies of their girlfriends or simply to have a day out on their own. This break will actually do more good than harm.

A little note to the homemakers, I haven’t forgotten your contributions to your families. I shall write about it soon. You have done superbly well too.

Well, busy women wearing power suits and apron, keep doing what you enjoy doing most and carry your heads high. You have done well for yourselves and your families. May I say that only a contented and confident woman will breed a happy and respectful family?

Cheers to you!

~ Alice N.


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