My future is Magenta

Love your life

Some people say the situations life presents dictate what kind of life you will have. Others maintain it’s the way you react to life’s challenges and opportunities that determines your satisfaction in life. I certainly believe that the latter is true.

Next week, Magenta Financial Planning will start to trade. This is a big deal for me and very exciting!

It’s been a while in the making, a lot of hard work and a significant learning curve – but now it’s all becoming a reality and that really is very satisfying.

When Julie Lord (my business partner) approached me with this opportunity, I was nervous and wasn’t sure if I was ready for it. I have never had major aspirations to run my own business and was worried about taking on the responsibility and risk. But as I thought about it more, and discussed it with my friends and family, I knew that this was a challenge worth accepting – that this opportunity had the power to significantly change my life – making me happier, both in the short and long term.

I’ve worked closely with Julie for some years and we have our ups and downs, like you do in any relationship (friends / family / colleagues). However, as we have been discussing our plans for Magenta over the past few months – it’s been great to know we are both on the same page for our plans for the business and our futures.

The last year has taught me that it’s really important to be happy at work. This has an impact on all your life – your health, wellbeing and relationships. You have more energy for friends, family and yourself, if you are satisfied at work.

I’ve always given my all in every job I have had, both for my clients and for the team, but this has historically been associated with long hours, stress, regular tears and backstabbing from other colleagues.

I’m still tired at the end of the week, I’m still juggling lots of different roles and I still get frustrated by some things…. But generally I can say that I enjoy most of my days at work now. That’s pretty amazing.

I am determined our business will nurture a team that cares about our clients and their dreams, and how we can help them to achieve these.

I believe that our team can be truly successful and happy – if we try to consistently be positive about work, health and life in general and treat others how we would want to be treated.

Be in love with your life, every aspect, every minute of it!

More news next week and some pictures!

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Beating those Monday Blues

 

Everyone suffers a little with the ‘Monday Blues’.

My sister, Geraldine and my brother-in-law Steve, regularly used to suffer from ‘Sunday lows’ – where they just worked themselves up into a mini depression each Sunday night about returning to work. That’s changed a bit since the birth of Jackson, but they are both still inclined to dread the return to work after a holiday or time off. It will be super tough for Geraldine when she goes back to work after maternity leave in a few weeks!

I’m certainly not suffering from the usual Sunday night dread now I have moved to a job I love, but you still get that feeling about needing to work yourself up for the week. Often my Sunday night’s sleep is the worst of my week.

So, here are some tips for beating those blues or lows – taken from www.lifehack.org where they suggest the idea of one small task to do every day – to help control the gloom of your Sunday night.

1.Sunday Evening – Key goals for the week. Take 5 minutes to remind yourself of any important goals you may have for the week and which days you intend to achieve them. They don’t need to be big goals. Remember the journey of a thousand miles starts with your first step. Factor in that daily exercise you should be doing, however short. With this mini-plan, when Monday comes, you’ll have lots to look forward to.

2. Monday morning – Make someone else happy. Think of the people you know and decide which of them might appreciate some kind gesture from you. It could be something small. Even saying hello to someone you see often but never greet can do wonders for their day. You hardly need to be reminded that you too will feel happier when you see how your action is appreciated.

3. Tuesday morning – Plan some surprise fun activity with your partner this evening. Surprises are always nice to receive, so your partner will find this even more fun than something they’re expecting. If you don’t have a partner, then get in touch with a family member, friend or colleague to join in something that gives you both pleasure.

4. Wednesday morning – Eat a healthy lunch. You should be eating well throughout the week, but take special pains today to have a nutritious and healthy lunch, perhaps at some eating venue you don’t visit very often.

5. Thursday morning – Plan your weekend. Plan some recreational activity for the weekend and do whatever preparations are needed to make it happen. The only people you need to keep happy are you (and your family) so make the most of every weekend opportunity you have.

6. Friday morning – TGIF so do something different. Everyone tends to let their hair down a little on Friday, so make this the day that you do something very different each week. That could be a lunch time visit to a nearby art gallery or a quick round of mini-golf.

7. Saturday morning – Make sure you get some exercise today. You should be getting convenient exercise every day, but don’t forget to include Saturday. The weekend is not a time to be a vegetable. Don’t sleep the weekend away. Rise early, enjoy the day and get moving with that recreational activity you planned on Thursday.

Being an adult – the truths

According to Wikipedia, being an adult is: “biologically: – a human being or other organism that has reached sexual maturity. In human context, the term adult additionally has meanings associated with social and legal concepts. In contrast to a “minor”, a legal adult is a person who has attained the age of majority and is therefore regarded as independent, self-sufficient, and responsible.”

However, we all know that these three things – independence, self-sufficiency and responsibility – come at different ages and time in life for young people, often depending on the course in life they may choose, opportunities that present themselves, success, determination, ability, want or motivation.

I’m not sure when I ‘officially’ became adult, I certainly know it wasn’t just when I attained a legal age, moved away from home, got my first car or got my first job. In those years my parents continued to support me, emotionally and financially…. It took me quite a while.

But I think its time to admit now, that at 37, I am actually an adult, in all meanings of the word. I own a house and pay for my own bills and holidays, I am an Auntie and a Godmother multiple times.  I have a Will. I have my cat-child, Basil, and I am about to become a business owner.

I’ve spent some time thinking about what I’ve learnt, or accepted is the way things will be – because let’s face it, it’s not always easy. Here’s what I came up with:

1) You will lose touch with people. I thought that some of my university mates and first housemates were going to be my best friends forever, but relationships are hard to maintain. I have lost touch with at least a few of the people I expected to be around forever. Whilst it’s often been a conscious decision to let these people go, I do feel sad about this. But my real, best friends are still around.

2) You have to take responsibility for yourself. All the little things I took for granted as a child require quite a lot of effort. When I run out of shampoo, there isn’t magically be a new bottle waiting in the cabinet, until I buy it (unless my Mum has been to visit). My bills don’t get paid unless I do this and I won’t eat unless I work.

3) It takes longer to recover from a party / blow out. I still love to go out and have a drink and enjoy myself, but more often than not my friends and I will be home before midnight – and then the times that I’m not, it takes much longer to recover. A bottle of full-fat coke won’t fix the hangover anymore!

4) You will always have people in your life that you dislike. No matter what you do, no matter where you go, people you don’t like will find you. This could be at work, or that friend of a friend, or (god forbid) a friend’s husband, that you just can’t get on with. I’ve got them, everyone has. You just have to make sure they don’t spoil your day and ultimately, weigh up how important the job / other person is to you, and if it’s worth putting up with their bull****.

5) An emergency fund is vital. Whilst I haven’t been in the situation where this has been really desperate, even a change in job, or a house boiler breakdown, can mean you have a month with no income or a hefty expense to pay, it quickly shows how important this is.

6) You should understand your tax code. Sounds boring – but I’ve learnt the hard way that you should double and triple check them as they are almost always wrong (especially if you have benefits at work) and then your either owe, or are owed tax. It’s simpler to get it right at the start of the year.

7) You will have less free time. One of the great injustices is that as a teenager I had limitless amounts of time to fill with epic adventures, but no money to fund said adventures, and now, as an adult, I have the money to do what I want but no time with which to do it. Whilst working hard is important, we should also try to seize the day whenever we can and don’t be just all about the work. Life is about relationships and experiences and I want to do more of that.

8) Meditation can help ease the pressure of life’s busy-ness. I’m quite lucky because as a student I went to meditation classes run by a Buddhist Monk in Cardiff. He taught us how to meditate using the full body scan technique. The body scan as a way to get in touch with the body, let go of feelings of needing to get stuff done, and release pent-up emotions. I find that, when my brain is full, I’m juggling a lot and I can’t sleep or I am starting to panic, that undertaking this exercise can really help. This is a good example https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zsCVqFr6j1g

9) Wear what you want. I love clothes. I probably love patterns and pink a little too much. But I have learnt not to worry about what others think. Don’t try and squeeze yourself into the same jeans or look like everyone else. People don’t remember you if you blend into the crowd.

To prove this point – here are my cat shoes!

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New York, New York

NYC

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.

Me

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 http://www.littlelionsnyc.com/ 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.

Bas

 

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

cowboy-boots-and-hat

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

Comic-POP-ART-woman-with-speech-bubble1

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.