New York, New York


New York. The city where it feels like anything is possible.

Pancakes anytime of the day, all the art you can absorb, shop till you drop in major stores or local crafts , choose from over 20 Broadway shows each night, eat all types of food and see people pushing dogs in prams and no one batting an eye lid. It was great.

To really experience it, I had to walk A LOT. I hope my feet recover in time for my Brothers Anglo-Sikh wedding next weekend. (That will be another blog all of its own I think!)

Everyone speaks about central park being amazing, but until you get there, you just can’t comprehend how special it is. Surrounded by skyscrapers and traffic in the city 24-7, you come across this idyllic area, which smells so so fresh and clean. It really is something special. The other things I really enjoyed were being by the water, anywhere along the Hudson River, and walking the High Line. Little bits of green and clean air in the massive concrete jungle.


While I was there I met my Twitter friend, Giovana. We’ve never met before, only messaged via social media. She has a fluffy cat like Basil, called Tiger. To some this may sound strange, but I can’t see its any stranger than online dating or having a pen pal – and at least we knew we had cats in common!

Originally from Brazil, she moved to New York when she married a guy from there. We got on really well and enjoyed chatting over some good food and wine about our lives, jobs, family and of course, cats. We visited the Cat Café, Little Lions and that was so much fun.

It was great to have some company on a few days, but to be honest, I enjoyed experiencing the city on my own and selfishly, doing everything I wanted to do, without any arguments or tension.

I got to do two of my favourite things; see some beautiful (and some crazy) art and to shop. It was great and I will have to go back sometime.

In other news, Basil turned three last week. I got him a tie to wear (from New York of course). He doesn’t like it much though, I had to distract him to get this picture.



A Happy Brain

At the moment life is really busy. I always knew 2016 would be, with weddings, milestone birthdays, holidays and work, but it’s flying by so fast and I feel tired a lot of the time, not just physically, but mentally too.

I am lucky really….most of my busy is good, happy stuff and really exciting – but sometimes I am finding I forget to really appreciate the fun, happiness and time spent with friends and family. Often I find my happiness is also accompanied by a small amount of anxiousness, stress or a freak-out moment – when I think about the next thing I’m doing!

So, for this blog post I thought I would focus on some simple things that I’ve read that can help us tune into our ‘happy brain’.

How we experience life boils down to the chemicals in our brain. Happiness, sadness, anger, anxiety – all can be traced to what’s going on inside our head.

Happiness can be found in the seemingly insignificant, mundane things we do every day. These give your brain a boost of feel-good chemicals and keeps them flowing.

Our brains are positive feedback systems, meaning that being happy often leads to more happiness – and that sounds good to me!

So here goes, my top 5 Happy Brain “pills”…

  1. Give or get a hug – A long hug releases the neurotransmitter oxytocin, the bonding hormone. It calms down fear and just makes you feel warm and fuzzy.
  2. Get out in the sun – Bright sunlight helps boost the production of serotonin in your brain. Make an effort to get outside on your lunch hour or go for a walk on a sunny day. We are due some sun this weekend – so we should all feel better!
  3. Remember some happy memories – Even if they are nostalgic and make you cry initially, just thinking about happy times boosts serotonin levels in your brain. Serotonin is necessary for the highest functioning of your prefrontal cortex, the executive, which controls self-reflection and your emotions, helping it to override old knee-jerk patterns.
  4. Spend time with a pet – Just stroking your pet or even someone else’s can increase the oxytocin, endorphins, and dopamine in your brain. Several studies have shown that having a pet can reduce depression, encourage healthier habits, and increase feelings of connectedness. You can all borrow Basil if you like. He is a great stress reducer!
  5. Full ‘body scan’ meditation breathing – Starting by taking long, deep breaths into your tummy, which slows your heart rate and activates calm. Guide your attention to the top of your head and then slowly downwards through every part of your body, being aware only of the sensations on your body and letting all muscles relax, all the time maintaining steady breathing and trying to zone out from noises around you.

Finally, smile and laugh…. It’s a simple thing to do and but it really does improve your mood.

This picture is from the Instabooth at Rebecca’s wedding at the weekend, which was full of smiles, fun and happiness 🙂

wedding 2


Get your groove on and improve your brain power


I went along to a different line dancing class this week. It was great fun and full of enthusiastic people, good tunes (a mix of fast, modern songs and then the old-time country classics) and quick complex dances.

The joy of it was that the dances pushed me and I really had to work hard – my old class had gotten a little easy.

I danced next to a lady – who must have been 80 years old – to Lady Gaga’s Pokerface!

It was brilliant and inspiring. I’d love to be doing that when I am 80. I am going to add that to my ‘plan’.

I started to think about dance being more than just an enjoyable activity to experience with friends or your partner; but as a way to keep you young, mentally ‘with it’ and fit!

Then today I read an article about how dance can improve the way your brain functions and reduce the risk of dementia.

The number of people suffering with Dementia is set to double in the next 20 years. I talk about this regularly with some of my older clients – how they are keeping active and maintaining their mental sharpness.

The 21-year study, led by the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City of senior citizens, 75 and older, was undertaken to measure mental acuity in aging and to do this they monitored rates of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease.

The study aimed to see if any physical or cognitive recreational activities influenced mental acuity.  They discovered that some activities had a significant beneficial effect.  Other activities had none. One of the surprises of the study was that almost none of the physical activities they tested appeared to offer any protection against dementia.  Of course, there will be cardiovascular benefits, but the focus of this study was the mind.

The one exception was undertaking frequent dancing. Dancing reduced risk of dementia by 76%, whilst Reading reduced this by 35%, doing Crossword Puzzles (at least 4 times a week) reduced this the risk by 47% and Golf by 0%.

My Dad will be pleased – he does the crosswords, rather than golf!

So how and why dancing? Well, dancing helps in variety of ways:

Quick decisions and intelligence

Intelligence – we all know the saying – ‘use it or lose it’!

Dancing is fast paced and means making quick decisions. It requires instant responses to questions like Which way to turn? What speed to move your body? What do I do if miss a step/get out of rhythm?

Therefore, dancing is an excellent way to maintain and enhance your intelligence.

Muscle Memory

Part of dancing in a class is you start by ‘learning’ the dance. You start by walking through movements slowly and repeating this. Every individual probably then attaches each move to a cue – be this the step before or the music.

Research shows that this slow walk through and memorising a dance lessens the conflict between the cognitive and physical aspects of dance and that this can help improve muscle memory.

It can slow down aging and boost memory

It’s a well-accepted fact that as we get older brain cells die and mental paths become weaker. Nouns, like names of people, are harder to remember because there is only one mental pathway that leads us to this stored information in our brain and this pathway could be lost.

If you work on learning new things, like dance, you can work on building different mental routes and many paths in your brain. So if one path is lost as a result of age, you have an alternative path that you can use to access stored information and memories.

So, in conclusion….Get your groove on and dance!

Dance can be a great way to maintain and improve many of your brain functions as well as exercise and ….. its fun!

With dancing we get to use several brain functions at once; rational, musical, kinesthetic, and emotional.

So, dance now, dance often, and then we can all get together and dance to Lady Gaga when we are 80!

Financial Literacy and a Woman’s Financial Stability


Can you name all the bank accounts and credit card accounts you and your husband/partner own jointly and individually?

Do you know how much you owe on your mortgage?

Can you say with certainty how much your partner earns, including base salary, bonuses, pension contributions, benefits? Or what your monthly expenses are?

In other words, can you list all of your income, expenses, assets and liabilities?

Unfortunately, far too many women can’t make that kind of list. Many women are less confident than men about their ability to manage their cash flow and debt, their investments and prepare for their retirement. Many simply are not familiar with even the basics of their family finances.

I struggle to understand this, but then I am single, my affairs are relatively simple and as I get older the more resolutely independent I get…. I’ve never understood friends who have to ask their partner for cash for a night out or the pin number for their joint account.

Why do women struggle? Is it because women have been socialised to think they are bad with money, that it’s unfeminine or not our “job”?

I think the issues probably start long before any mutually financially dependent relationships you may get into – and it’s really all to do with learning to be financially literate.

In 2008, President George W. Bush created the first ever President’s Advisory Council on Financial Literacy. That Council defined financial literacy as “the ability to use knowledge and skills to manage financial resources effectively for a lifetime of financial well-being.”

“Financial Literacy” – It’s not about luck or about being in the right place at the right time. Instead, it’s about educating yourself and learning how to manage your financial resources.

But how can we do this? It’s not taught in school and it’s not something any teenager is probably that interested in – I certainly didn’t!

I don’t mind admitting its taken some time for me to obtain this ‘financial literacy’ and understanding. Clearly, my training and job has helped… but for the early years of work I still had very little real awareness about money and its impact on my financial well-being.

A lot of this is about your relationship with money. It’s about asking questions and coming up with your own ‘financial plan’ – no matter how simple or complex.

My experience with friends and clients has also shown me that your own financial education must start by being open and honest with your partner and addressing heavy topics, like family history of money and imbalances such as debt, emotional spending, and under-earning.

We need to change the attitude of “my partner sorts all that” or “I’m not interested as long as I have enough to buy my shoes and go on holiday”. Or worst still “I earn less so I can’t ask for that”.

Why? Because it’s just too dangerous to ignore it. We all need our own pension / savings and a level of independence – even of you are in a wonderful loving and ‘equal’ relationship.

As a financial planner I see two scenarios regularly that prove why this is vitally important for women.

  1. A very happy relationship – The relationship is wonderful and you spend many happy years together until the husband/male partner dies (or becomes incapacitated). Then the woman realises she is completely uninformed about any details of her family’s financial affairs. As a result, she feels overwhelmed and emotional and can become an easy mark for unscrupulous con artists/scams – or it’s quite likely she will simply make devastating financial mistakes on her own.
  2. A very unhappy relationship – The marriage / relationship ends and leads to divorce / break up. This is when a woman who has not been involved the family finances finds she is forced into constant catch-up mode, she likely has no idea where to begin, what to look for, what to do. Meanwhile, her husband/partner knows everything and could be hiding assets and setting things up to his advantage. (And who knows? He could have been doing just that for years!)

So, it may be daunting, but it’s really important to have the often daunting “money talk”…. Be this with just yourself so you know where you are and where you want to be; at the start of a relationship or define your mutual goals and ambitions; or even into a well-established marriage, so that you both know you are financially aware of your mutual situation and family finances.

After all, matters of the wallet can be just as important as matters of the heart.

The importance of downtime (and in my case, naps)


Research on naps, meditation, nature walks and the habits of exceptional artists and athletes reveals how mental breaks – ‘downtime’ – increase productivity, replenish attention, solidify memories and encourage creativity.

Most working people are preoccupied about their work, tasks, or future to do’s, most of the time they are awake.

Getting enough downtime is even an essential element to maintaining good mental health and ensuring your make the most of you working hours and productivity.

Everyone has different ways of getting ‘downtime’.  It doesn’t mean the same thing to everyone, it may be chilling with a film, doing some craft, reading, having a nap, going for a run, having a holiday. Any way you manage to shut off from the everyday ‘noise’ and relax.

I find more and more now I suddenly “blow up” – my brain just can’t take any more in and just need quiet, alone time. This morning I’ve had a lovely day with my parents, Geraldine and Jackson. We’ve been for a walk, had a nice lunch and goooed and gaaaaahed at Jackson. It was lovely and I miss it when I can’t do it, but now, I need some time out and probably a nap!

I am in the privileged position that I can take that time out…. do what I want most of the time. I believe it helps me to be more productive, happy and positive.

I know how much my friend Cerian misses her daytime naps now she has two little girls. I know how much Geraldine and Steve miss watching an entire film without interruption. But they do have little people reliant on them, and who give them great joy and maybe that outweighs the joy of a daytime nap!…

I certainly work much better when I manage to achieve regular breaks and downtime. It’s not so much for me about having several weeks off for long holidays, it’s about getting out in the fresh air, exercise, naps, doing stuff I like that’s not work related and chilling with Basil in front of the TV.

Here’s what I think are the key 3 types of downtime:

Sleep – Solid, good quality sleep gives your brain the possibility to revive itself and the body. It’s an opportunity to incorporate everything you’ve experienced during the day. Some people I know say they can do with only a couple of hours of sleep per night, but I’m most productive, creative and happy when I sleep a solid 7-8 hours’ sleep.

Holiday – A longer period (at least three to five days) of being away from work is a great way to reenergise. By being away from your normal routine, you get the chance to look at your life from a different perspective.

Regular breaks – this is both the smallest and the hardest challenge I think for people day-to-day. It’s those little nuggets of emptiness in your head that come from meditation, a walk in nature, doing some sports or just having a few hours quiet after work at the end of your working day. They sound easy enough, as they are relatively short, but the challenge is in the continuity. Our brain needs this type of downtime several times during the day and this helps us process everything we absorb.

So, I am signing off for some downtime….(or naptime!)

The Hashtag # # # # #


Hashtag’s. A lot of people don’t really understand them, but use them. Some don’t use them. Some say they don’t use Twitter and so don’t use them.

Nowadays hastags’s (#) are used for all forms of social media, Facebook, Web, Instagram, Google+ – you name it. So, it’s important to know what they actually do.

So, what is it? What’s it for? What’s the benefit of using one?

Introduced in 2007, the hashtag is the most popular means of being able to categorise content on social media.

By using a hashtag preceding or after a word or phrase – this becomes a click-able link to that particular topic of conversation. It makes your own content discoverable to others and allows you to find relevant content from other people and businesses.

The hashtag also allows you to connect with and engage other social media users based on a common theme or interest. They may not know you, or follow you, but they may get to see your content or topic, because of your hashtag.

The #catsoftwitter use them SO SO well.

Basil regularly tweets with his #jellybellyfriday picture. If anyone searches this #jellybellyfriday hashtag they get to see lots of cute cats showing their bellies.

It works for other topics too, for TV or serious topics, for example: #GBBO (Great British Bake Off), #GPTD (Great Pottery Throw Down), #newsnight #financialplanning #mentalhealth

Twitter’s own research shows that the use of hashtags in a post can lead to double the used engagement for individuals and 50% more for companies and brands. The research is a couple of years old, and only conducted on approximately 150 brands, but there are numerous other reports that show similar findings too.

The hashtag symbol is like having an online filter that shows you only the news you want to see in real-time, as the stories evolve.


# Make the hashtag specific. The more specific, the more targeted the audience. If you don’t have your own personal or business hashtag, find one or two existing ones that really fit what you are posting about.

# Be relevant. Make it easy for people to find your content, by making the hashtag relevant to your topic

# Be observant. Pay attention to the other hashtags used about your topic / picture. You may discover a popular hashtag you hadn’t thought of on your own, which could be of benefit. You can do this by starting to type your hashtag and see what comes up in the search bar.

Note: While hashtags on all social networks have the same fundamental purpose of content tagging, the use of hashtags still varies. For example, Instagram hashtags are often more focused on your description of the photo you are posting. This is different to Twitter, where hashtags tend to be more focused a topic of conversation.

My social media

I have been working hard to use hashtags with my social media for work, as well as for Basil’s tweeting!

With BFP I regularly use #mondaymotivation #toptiptuesday and #fridayfeeling with our overiding main hashtag /theme being #planitwell.

Have a search and see what you find – both for cats and more serious subjects!

A goal is just a dream you have with a deadline attached


I said before Christmas that I would not be setting resolutions, just things to do more or less of. I’m sticking to that, but I am going to set some goals for 2016.

Myself and Geraldine were HUGE One Tree Hill fans. In fact, we pretty much like any American US teen drama!

In One Tree Hill, two of the main characters, Lucas and Hayley make a secret prediction / dream each year on a piece of paper, and hide it in a tin behind a brick in a wall. They share it with one another at the end of the year, to see if it had come true. Each year they add a new predication or dream to this list.

We talk a lot in financial planning about dreams, ambitions, wants, needs, and of course setting goals.

These are all pretty much the same thing, after all – a goal is just a dream you have with a deadline attached – well if its realistic it can be!

In my last blog I talked about the Bridge of Wellbeing and that the first pillar for this bridge is setting values and goals. These values and goals start with dreams and ambitions and are just narrowed down.

I read an article about getting organised, this included the normal things like using one calendar, getting rid of old unwanted papers, getting your paperwork ready for the tax year-end and feng shui in your office. But is also suggested the following:

1.Make a list of your goals

  • Write down at least 10 goals you want to accomplish in your lifetime. Be specific. Then put the list away and update it again next year.

2. Choose one or two goals you want to accomplish this year.

  • Maybe it will be to make more money or take a fabulous holiday. How will you accomplish that goal? What amount of money will you need? How will you do it? Type that information out in a clear sentence, put by your bedside, and read it every morning and every night to help inspire you to reach your goals.

So, I have just sat down and done this. The first one is hard, but I will revisit it again next year and no doubt some things will change. The second was easier for me, I find it easier to think of short-term goals than lifetime ones.

I think most people are the same – and that’s when having a Financial Planner to help you build a personal financial plan can be of great benefit. It lays out a plan for your life, based on your values and goals and encompasses a financial and investment strategy.

However, it’s not set in stone, it’s a projection, a living and breathing thing, that will need revisiting and amending as circumstances change and live evolves. Just like me revisiting my 10 goals next year.

I’m off to find somewhere to hide my list.

The bridge of wellbeing

I touched on the concept of wellbeing and financial planning in a previous post in 2015 and this is a subject that really interests me.

The aim of Lifestyle Financial Planning is to help you enjoy a good life (whatever that means to you), knowing you have sufficient money to support you. The key point here being “enjoy a good life” –  it must also address your wellbeing – it’s not just about having more money and possessions than the next person.

Last October I talked about wellbeing being much more than just physical or financial wellbeing, including career wellbeing, social wellbeing and community wellbeing. Any financial plan you make should consider and include all these things.

For anyone, your plan should start by establishing your goals and values and making your choices in life consistent with these. It should be for yourself – not for your money. So how can you do this?

This is where I revert to the Bridge of Wellbeing and it’s 3 pillars:

  1. Define and understand your values and goals;
  2. Deploy financial strategies that use your resources in a way that is consistent with your values and achieves your goals;
  3. Develop your personal investment strategy.


A solid financial plan is important for everyone to enjoy the life you choose to live. It doesn’t have to be complex or lengthy. But it’s sometimes hard to know where to start.

Here are some questions that may help to explore your goals and start to build your first pillar in the Bridge of Wellbeing.

  • What is your biggest achievement, and why?
  • What is your greatest fear in relation to your future?
  • What would you say motivates you most?
  • Where do you want to be in 5-10 years time, professionally, personally and financially?
  • What is the one personal goal you would like to achieve within the next year? what about 3-5 years?
  • What causes you stress?
  • If you had unlimited means, what’s the one thing you would like to do with your time that you are not doing today?
  • What are your hobbies? or what do you like to buy with your spare money?
  • What are the most important things that you and your family want to achieve in the future? How would you feel if your couldn’t achieve them? what are you prepared to give up now to achieve them?

Prepare for tomorrow

new beginning

I had the worst nights sleep ever on Sunday before going back to work. I was not particularly worried or stressed, but my brain seemed to be “waking up” again!! I imagine many other people struggled as well.

This is an extract from a book I’m reading about Mindfulness and I wanted to share it – I think it may help!

“At the end of the day,

When you’re lying in bed at night, before going to sleep, spend a few moments going back over the day….

Think of the people you met and talked to and the events and progression of the day.

If you mind starts to wander off into other thoughts or worries, or thinking about what you have to do tomorrow, gently bring it back to the present and continue reviewing the day in the wavelike motion of your breathing.

You are custodian of your own day. See this exercise as preparing for tomorrow by having put today to bed.

You will be asleep very soon.”

(Tiddy Rowan, Mindfulness)


This year I am not making resolutions….


Christmas this year is making me happy and yet melancholy at the same time. I miss family who are no longer with us and I have been thinking a lot about those I know who are having a tough time. I have friends & family who are grieving from losing loved ones and some for who just things are not going too great, at home, work, you name it.

Then there are some really good things to look forward to in 2016, like new babies coming, weddings to attend and my new office, which is almost ready!

2015 has been a busy and exciting year for me. Here some of the highlights I can think of (in no particular order!):

  1. I fulfilled one of last year’s resolutions and learnt to crochet.
  2. We remodelled my front garden so that I have not had to cut any grass this year!
  3. I had a brilliant reunion with old friends at Bluestone in Pembrokeshire, where we reminisced and giggled, as well as discussing how our lives have changed over the past 10 years.
  4. I left one job and joined another, with exciting and new opportunities and experiences, working with a team who are genuine and hardworking.
  5. I was shortlisted for the Certified Financial Planner professional of the year award.
  6. Basil has lived with me for over a year and is now a lovely, funny, sweet natured cat.
  7. Jackson was born and I became a ‘real’ Auntie for the first time. I am so proud of Geraldine and the wonderful mum she has become.
  8. My brother, Oliver, proposed to his girlfriend and there will be a fabulous Anglo-Sikh wedding in 2016. I get to have two outfits.
  9. My family have spent another year being healthy and happy and long may it continue.

So, as 2016 approaches we will no doubt all spend some time looking back to the past, but more importantly, forward to the coming year. It’s a time to reflect on the changes we want (or need) to make and resolve to follow through on those changes.

Last year I decided not to give myself unrealistic resolutions and set only a couple. They were, to enjoy work and stress less and to learn to crochet. I gave up on the exercise more, eat better – as that’s just a given and something we know we should all do anyway.

I have managed to achieve both of these resolutions, although the ‘less stress’ takes work each day, as it’s easy to let things get too much.

I have read that most people fail to achieve the resolutions they set at New Year. Either they forget, get distracted, or give up. Year after year people set the same resolutions but don’t quite get there. Is that because we make these things too huge and unachievable?

I have been thinking that instead we should look at it like setting a goal at any other time of the year and maybe we shouldn’t make such a big deal out of it.

Goals / aims / ambitions are important in life. They help us to function every day. Be it setting goals and planning for your finances, or for a specific event like a wedding or party, get the note pad out and start your plan. It will make you happier!

Here are some important reasons for setting goals.

  1. It’s how we get things done – we set ourselves tasks/goals every single day. To eat, get dressed, get to work.
  2. They can make us feel good – we get satisfaction and happiness by aiming for a target / goal.
  3. It’s how our brain works. Most other creatures work on instinct, humans take action based on planning.
  4. Goals mean clarity – they provide vision and direction so that we don’t waste resources (time, money or energy).
  5. Goals can measure progress and give us purpose.
  6. Goals keep us connected to others. Common goals / interests are the foundation block of families, friends and colleagues.

So, what will 2016 bring for you?

For me it shows signs of being a great year. I am happy at work and home and we will be able to work at the new office. I’m Bridesmaid for my friend Becca and Oliver’s Sikh-Anglo wedding will be wonderful.

So this year I have decided I am not setting resolutions, but rather things I want to do more or less of. Here is my list so far:


Finally, my New Year wish is that Basil will sit on my lap.

Best wishes for Christmas and 2016 and have fun!