Savings: how much of a priority is it for you?

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You might be wondering why on earth I would choose to focus on savings three weeks before Christmas! Surely it can wait until January when some are living frugally and more willing to take advice on handling their finances.  Now is as good a time as any.

As far as I am concerned, savings are not just for a certain period in our lifetime – they should be ongoing. I am a saver (as you probably have guessed) and my wonderful husband is more of a spender. It works as we complement one another bringing a healthy balance to our marriage when it comes to our finances. I maintain our expenditure which as you know fluctuates on a monthly basis. I use a  formulated Excel spreadsheet which I cannot praise enough. At a glace you can identify your expenditure and what remains as your disposable income and savings. 

If you currently save then good on you. You or your family members will most certainly reap the rewards in years to come.

If you are not a saver, I urge you to consider this. I suggest you split your savings into three;

1. Long term  – a lump sum for your children when they go off to university, investment for retirement

2. Medium term – A holiday of a lifetime, an expensive clothes or jewellery purchase

3. Short term/contingency fund – weekend breaks, birthdays, Christmas, car repairs, household repairs (if home owner)

You can start by looking at your disposable income and choosing a realistic figure to save each month. Resist the urge to become over zealous and save more than you can comfortably afford.  You would only end up dipping into your savings when you run low or feel you deserve a night out/a new top – are you getting the picture?  I would advise you set up a standing order to ensure the money is transferred on the same day of each month.

Do you regularly save?
Who or what influenced your decision?
Perhaps you have some tips for newbee savers

Pensions; what is your take?

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Last week I touched on writing wills and this week it only seems right to focus on pensions. I am on a roll here, humour me!

Here in the UK, state pensions are provided to people from the age of 66 – source came from http://www.gov.uk website. The amount, brace yourself is a paltry £119.30 per week. Those living in the UK are well aware of the rising cost of household utility bills such as electricity, gas and water rates. Let us not forget the cost of food and everyday essentials. Not everyone who reaches retirement age would have paid off their mortgage or indeed have had one to start with. How will they continue to fund their lifestyle when there is no longer a regular salary? Outgoings do not suddenly disappear because we no longer have the means to fund them.

Struggling financially as a more mature person is not desirable in the least.  You are less agile, more prone to illness and therefore need to keep warm, eat well and enjoy life. Also after decades of working, surely one would want to “live a little” and pick up hobbies and a lifestyle you could not commit to when you were working. A state pension alone does not allow for comfortable living. 

This is where company pensions come into play. Most organisations will contribute a percentage towards an employee personal pension. This is a great incentive for employees to join pension schemes.  I took out a pension (reluctantly) at the age of 25. I did miss the reduction at first but saw the benefits which I knew I would receive much later in life. At the age of 25 holidays were definitely my priority and I would have happily poured my salary into travelling if given half the chance!

For those who are self employed or whose company does not offer a pension scheme, consider saving or investing a percentage of your income each month. Carry out thorough research before making a commitment to identify which investment scheme works best for you.  It would be ideal if your money cannot be easily accessed – no dipping in and out for holidays and other purchases!

Do you have a pension/investment plan in place? If yes, what influenced your decision; starting a family, advice from a friend or family member?
If no, have you given it some thought?

Where there is a will, there is a way!

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It may seem a little premature, morbid even to think of processing a will when you are, say under 50.  When in my early twenties I always pictured elderly people writing wills – people who knew they would not have much longer to live. People who wanted to ensure their assets went to family members. Let’s be honest, in films (I know I know), people were always pictured on their deathbeds when writing wills.

Once we had children, my view on wills completely changed.  I was aghast to read that we had to note in a will exactly who we would like to care for our children in case of sudden death.  Surely they would be given to our next of kin I naively believed – how wrong I was! You see, in the event of death some parents would not consent for their children to be cared for or even in contact with family members for various reasons. 

A will gives you the opportunity to have a clear say in who has guardianship rights over your child and who you will sign your assets over to. It allows you to set up trust funds/accounts for your children.  Wills are affordable and can be easily amended at a cost if circumstances change.

We processed our will early this year after at least a year of discussing it and never taking it further. It is funny that we can allow every day issues to cloud over those things which are in a sense high priority. We first spoke to a friend who has years of knowledge under his belt and researched organisations on the Internet.

The information required in a will is rather extensive and me being me wanted to speed through the process.  My husband reminded me there was no need to panic – that we had actually sat on this for a year.  Once we have decided to move forward with a plan I tend to make them my projects.

Although many of us would rather not think about death, putting measures in place is both practical and essential. Burying your head in the sand will not bring results. Why complicate matters when you are in the position to do something today?

So whether you have children or not, do think about writing a will if you have not already done so. 

How important is writing a will to you?
What influenced you to write a will?

 

The Juggling Act of Life

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Last week I was busy at home and work, undertaking a number of projects. I was a little stressed (and felt sorry for myself) on a few of the days. This resulted in me being rather cranky with my husband and children – something I am not happy about. My tolerance levels were surprisingly low.

I have a rule in our home which I seem to be the only one that follows; everything should have a place.  So much so that if for some reason we had no light I should be able to retrieve items from various spots in the house. What are the chances of that some may say…………..

I am happy for our children to have their toys out during the day but once the clock hits 7pm, I need them to be packed and in their rightful places. When I say need – I mean need!

Come 8pm, I like my children to be tucked up in bed so I can have an element of an evening. I rarely watch television, only specific programmes but use this time to relax and be me – not mummy. I recall the evangalist Joyce Meyer stating in one of her books that when young her children complained when she locked herself in the closet daily to pray and take time out. Her response was;

“You should be thankful I am in this closet  – you would not want to be around me if I did not take this time out”.

My first thought was – yes, this is me!

I would say I am a reflective individual and am constantly assessing my behaviour.  I am hard on myself especially when I have offended someone or made a mistake. I look at ways in which I can develop on my character in the areas I do not like. I try not to become irritated with myself when I display the same behaviours over and over again.

I find the following activities assist with bringing a balance to my life:

1. Reading the bible first thing in the morning
2. Praying first thing in the morning
3. Walking – especially when the air is crisp
4. Writing my thoughts down on paper
5. Listening to music .
6. Watching my favourite film with my husband
7. Taking the children out for the day – does not have to be expensive trips.

How do you bring a balance to your life?

Do you participate in any particular hobbies?

Do you keep your attitude in check?

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Winston Churchill quoted:

“Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference”.

Never underestimate the power of a good attitude.

I looked in the Collins Dictionary for definitions of the word attitude. I think it helps to know the meaning before delving further into a subject matter.

1. Your attitude towards something is the way in which you think or feel about it, especially when you show it in the way you behave.

2. If you refer to someone as a person with attitude, you mean they have a striking and individual style of behaviour, especially a forceful or aggressive one.

For the purpose of my blog post, I will focus on attitude influencing the way in which we behave. Our actions speak volumes whether we are aware of this or not. One example of a bad attitude is you are required to complete a task which you would rather not do. You complete the task whilst complaining, grumbling, ignoring others. What is inside always manifests itself therefore whether you verbalise your annoyance or not, others will pick up on it.

Pride plays a huge part in displaying a bad attitude. Pride says I do not wish to do this task and I intend to make you well aware of this. Pride says I am holding onto my bad attitude, therefore I still have an element of control.

I can recall occasions in my life (one being just the other day) where I felt justified in showing I was not happy at having to do housework a job. It may have been a busy period at work or I may have been singled out of a group and wondered, why me? Of course, I am not pleased about this but acknowledging my shortcomings means I am on the road to working on my character.

I read books by American evangalist, Joyce Meyer. She focuses heavily on attitude and uses her own life experiences to encourage others. Joyce is direct and stands as a reminder that I can choose to have a good or bad attitude. I should not blame others for the way in which I act but take responsibility.

A good attitude stands out amongst a crowd. An individual may have great abilities, skills and expertise but without a good attitude, they will only go so far. Even when skills and experience are not up to par, a person with a good attitude and willingness will be set apart from their peers.

How do you maintain a good attitude when you are tired, under pressure or feel others are taking advantage?

Who do you look to for inspiration and encouragement?

What action are you taking to achieve your goals?

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Last week I posed the question;

“Are you pursuing your dreams?”

This week I feel the need to focus on how you will make your goals a reality. Clear steps need to be taken in order to meet your goals. The smallest action will bring you one step closer. One step away from where you are now. 

Having a dream and goal in mind is the easy part. Ensure they do not stay somewhere up in your head; popping out every so often to remind you, you are not where you are supposed to be. 

Take out a pen and notepad, not just a standard looking notepad but one that looks like you mean business.  Write out your goals for the next year, no more than five otherwise you will only feel overwhelmed. Think about the steps you need to take to achieve them. Do you need to pick up a qualification, sign up to a class to learn a new skill, start walking more to keep fit, read a book a week? Whatever it is you can plan for it. 

Seeing your goals on paper will suddenly make them real.  They are no longer just thoughts in your head but are in written form, clear for you to see on a daily basis. 

Before we decorated and had our wardrobe taken down and reassembled, I had my goals – long and short term hung on the inside of my wardrobe. I saw them each time I opened my wardrobe, at least twice a day.  I really must rescue the laminated sheet from an old shoebox and return it to its rightful place.

Some long term goals I have not yet achieved and of the short term, several are still outstanding. Seeing my goals served as a reminder of what I was working towards. Often the daily grind can steer you away from the bigger picture – where you actually want to be as oppose to where you are now.

Challenges you face now may be part of your character building for the future.

A quick checklist;
1. Write your goals down
2. Hang somewhere visible in your home
3. Revisit your goals in six months time
4. If necessary re-assess the time frame

How are you working towards achieving your goals?

How do you stay focused?

Are you pursuing your dreams?

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The late Olympian, Jesse Owens quoted;

“We all have dreams. But in order to turn dreams into reality, it takes an awful lot of determination, dedication, self-discipline and effort.”

Dreaming alone is simply not enough. Action is most certainly required in order for us to see our dreams turn into reality. What we do today contributes to our life tomorrow. What we say today contributes to our life tomorrow. 

I would like to think we all have dreams (or goals if you prefer), big dreams, the kind that scare us if we give them too much thought.

Dreams are supposed to be big and out of this world. If we could pluck them out of the clouds this would then make them easily attainable.  

Our dreams ensure we continue to plough forward, despite the challenges.  They are what we reach out to even when they feel a million miles away. Take the stars in the sky; billions of miles away yet when we stand in the dark of night, we look up and feel we could somehow grab at them.  

Dreams give us hope that those things we desire; however big or small will someday be ours. Though our dreams may seem far off, the small steps we take today mean we grow closer each day.

One man’s dream may well appear ordinary to another man but it is valid and relevant to them.  

I would like to own a horse at some point in my life. To me they are the most beautiful animals on this earth. Surprisingly I am not too hot on cleaning out the stables but would happily ride the horse on a daily basis. Now, to own a horse on your own grounds you need ample land which there is not much of here in the UK as compared to say, America. I would not say no to land, my family and I could run a farm – no pigs allowed!

Do you have defined dreams or goals?

How are you working towards meeting them? 

What obstacles have you faced along the way?

Light hearted tips and advice from an organised lady!

Curves In Heels

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