Holidays are coming…

And I’m talking finances.

For some reason, one of the obvious factors of becoming a single income household, the halving of the number of earners putting in to the family coffers, had not registered on my radar of anything, until that dip in income started to bite.

There is no pressure like financial pressure as it can feel like an ever descending spiral. This can lead to worry and depression which can itself lead to mood swings or some other harmful coping mechanism.

So the lead picture is Santa squaring up for a fight – you get the analogy; Christmas is coming and that can present a real financial squeeze, if you’re not prepared.

Speaking from experience, I’ve done the splurge for the festive season thing. It’s short term gain for long term pain. Historically, I would do this weird thing where I would pay most of my bills, before spending what I wanted to spend. This eventually led to problems, as you can imagine. When bills aren’t paid, companies (rightly) grow concerned and want what is owed them.

Then the letters start

Dealing with them is easier said than done and they are extremely easy to ignore. However, problems rarely go away if ignored so if you find yourself in this uncomfortable situation, give your creditors a call and explain your situation. It’s in all of your best interests to come to a solution.

This post isn’t about that; it’s about this

I want to talk to you about projecting forwards, as prevention is better than cure. I enlisted the help of a dear friend of mine,  Zane Groves, an entrepreneur who happens to be a bit of a financial whizz. Good job really as he’s a financial advisor.

He owned his own mortgage consultancy at age 26 but more impressively, manage to grow his business when large institutions were folding as the world experienced the deepest recession in living memory.

He’s a planner and he’s come up with a short and sharp, 6 point plan for a financially fit future. Over to him.

green shoots



1) What are your goals.

This may seem very obvious but have a plan. This can be from saving for a holiday to a deposit for your first home. Once you know what your goal is, plan how you’re going to get there and the sooner the better!

2) Make saving a habit.

We often say “I can’t afford to save” or I’ve only got £50 to save, what difference will that make. We let me tell you, you’ve been saving for that rainy day for 2 years and the boiler breaks, guess what you’ve got the money so you can pay for it immediately and not get into debt with your flexible friend. If you’re lucky enough not to need it then great!

3) Work pensions.

Pay! your employer does (UK law) and the younger you start the better. The average pension pot at retirement currently stands at £50,000 which isn’t going to go far. If you want a comfortable retirement save as much as you can afford. The same if you’re self-employed.

4) Protect your income.

In most cases spending 1% of your annual salary will protect the other 99%. Don’t rely on the state, incapacity benefit is currently around £88 per week, try living on that one.

5) Reduce your debt.

Where ever possible try and pay down your unsecured debt and focus on the higher interest rate charging vehicles.

6) Invest in yourself.

If finance really isn’t your bag, employ someone who’s it is. You wouldn’t after all get a baker to look after your car so find a suitably qualified financial advisor and let them work with you.

Money

 


He doesn’t mince his words. As a thank you to him I’ve included a link to his website througout the post.

I want to quickly dig a little deeper on some of his points, which if you look at them again, have one key personal factor involved; self-discipline.

The success depends on your ability to delay your gratification; want it now will lead you back down the rabbit hole.

Finally

My plan for Christmas this year is to splurge, in a controlled manner of course. I’m in a position where I can guarantee overtime for most of 2018. My plan is to put in some extra hours and ‘snowball’ my most expensive debt away. It’ll be tough, but it’s the trade off for running up the cards over 2017.

Please remember this; over the festive period your children ultimately want your time.

Looking back to my childhood, I can’t remember if I ever got that train set, or the Evil Kenevil Rocket Edition, but I can remember being loved, warm and safe.

I can remember spending time decorating the tree and I can remember falling asleep on the sofa, full of food and watching Christmas films. Relax and be happy!

tunnel light

BSD

If you are struggling with debt, please seek help; there are some great free resources available online.

If you’re in the market for financial products as well as good advice, please check out Mr Zane Grove’s website

Parent life

06:45, weekday morning:

  • Minimal signs of life
  • Dissent
  • Progress only visible via time-lapse camera. 

06:33, weekend morning:

  • Both awake
  • Standing over sleeping daddy
  • Prodding face
  • Tiny fingers prising adult eyes open. 

I’m knackered. 


BSD

This is playing on my mind…

TV is full of it; timelines are full of it; my mind is full

I think I’ve been naive, and maybe I still am.

I’m talking about male predation and sexual assault/inappropriateness/harassment.

Just grab ’em by the *****

You get the picture.

It scares me and angers me all at once that men in a position of power (real or perceived) think that they can act however they want or take whatever they want; to feel that entitled and beyond reproach that they try to impose their will on others, by force if necessary.

  • It scares me as a father of a young girl;
  • It scares me as a father of a young boy;
  • It angers me as a man and a human being.

Understanding

The psychologist in me seeks to understand the behaviour of individuals in all cases but I will admit to a fog of anger descending when I hear such stories.

A close friend of mine told me one such story recently. She conveyed it in a jovial, almost dismissive way, stating that if she didn’t laugh, she would cry. After a couple of full paragraphs from her my only response was ‘Jesus…’

She relayed a little more and my response was the same; ‘Jesus’

Sensing my shock, she then gave me another couple of examples of men taking advantage and this time, she ended the story with

ask any woman you know..

I didn’t need to.

I had heard stories historically but somehow I’d managed to box them off as individual incidents in my mind.

Now I was joining the dots and I could feel anger rising inside me.

Not just high profile

I’ll be honest; I don’t know what to write next.

I want to talk about self-defence. I’m a martial artist and for a long time, I’ve been an advocate of everyone learning to defend themselves, especially women. But then I ask myself

‘Why should you have to?’

I’ve deleted more than I’ve written (mostly expletives) so I’ll go here. I can’t fix the world but I want to prepare my cubs for it whilst protecting their innocence.

For my son

How to be a man; a real man. That means being a humanitarian,  a communicator and showing respect whilst ensuring you get respected. Hearing no and understanding that and not overstepping the line in the first place. To take responsibility. Not to stand by.

For my daughter

Having the strength to say no and the courage to act* under the circumstances. To recognise what is appropriate and what is not. To be a humanitarian but to not feel responsible for the poor behaviour of others.

I don’t blog well when I’m angry.

Placeholder Image

BSD

*this isn’t meant as criticism or victim blaming. I’m just angry.

When you’re going through hell…

Keep going.

Winston Churchill

This time last week

Last week I let you in on the peripheries of some tough times I was facing. I purposely didn’t go into detail but there was enough vague information to give you the general idea. I was under it.

At times like that it’s hard to imagine a way out. It’s hard to imagine things will ever be good again and it’s hard to see positives.

Somehow, I managed to keep my head. I made a conscious effort not to succumb to any ‘all is lost‘ feelings but rather to believe that things will work out for the best. I quite literally, relaxed and essentially did nothing. It was the hardest thing I [haven’t] done in my life.

How

I did other things. I forced myself to feel positive; I prayed a little more, specifically for an answer, although at the time I didn’t know what that answer was. I asked the Universe for an answer again, not knowing what that answer was. I wonder how many of you I just lost…

I also sang this quite a bit..

There will be an answer;let it be.

This time this week

All has changed.

Actually, they had changed by the middle of the week. Out of the blue and with no prompting from me, I received an official letter that changed everything. It proved to be the catalyst that kicked off a chain of events that will change everything.

It also increased my positivity and my positive outlook, which again gained momentum to help me see more ways to tackle my issues.

It’s the best feeling in the world.

And the moral of the story

Whatever you’re going through, have faith that you will come out the other end.

It doesn’t have to take belief in God or the Universe; just belief in yourself to find a way through your struggles.

Your answer will come.

person-stream-cliff-river

Ps. Life will always throw poo at you; you just have to either dodge it or catch it and throw it back!

As we speak i’m writing this on my older, back-up laptop, as my (old) primary laptop is having an identity crisis, taking all my passwords and other stuff with it. I’ve asked the Universe for a new one..

BSD

 

Halloween is here…

This morning’s drive in;

‘Dad; my friend and I found a dead butterfly in the playground yesterday’

Did you? What type was it?

‘I don’t know, but we took a wing each and threw the body into the hedge…’

Lord help me. 

BSD

Shifting paradigms 

Apology

If you know what a paradigm is; it’s a great word and I like using it. It’s appropriate today. This weekend has been pretty tough and I’m chalking it down to a co-parenting fail.

We seem to be in a push/pull groundhog day where I feel that I’m losing out. Official decisions, external influences etc. have log jammed into a head fug that gives the feeling of skiing uphill.

Settled situations appear on a horizon that can’t be reached but yet, I’m still optimistic.

I still, have so much to be grateful for:

  • The cubs – love eternal
  • A roof over my head – warm; dry; safe
  • Food in my cupboards – work in progress…
  • The ability to earn more – thanks to my health and determination.

Rubens defeat.jpg

Reality

I don’t care who you are; we are all fighting an unseen battle. There are so many cliches out there such as ‘Walk a mile…’ ‘The night is darkest before the dawn…’ ‘Every winter has it’s spring..’ (I actually quite like winter) and they all ring true.

Change your mind and change your situation. Another cliche and I recognise that this doesn’t work if you are clinically depressed; that’s a special situation that can benefit from professional intervention but for anyone else, shift your paradigm.

How

  • Get a good night’s sleep – no problem was ever solved by worrying
  • Eat well – fuel yourself for what you face; ditch the junk
  • Exercise – if you have your health you have everything
  • Break it down – your issues; biggest and most important first. If they’re stacked up it will seem like you’re in the foothills of Mt Everest. If you’re not sure which is the biggest issue, figure which one will cause the most harm if you don’t tackle it
  • Create milestones – and celebrate small victories
  • Give yourself a break – no-one can keep going all the time
  • Win/win or no deal – back to the 7 Habits; there doesn’t have to be a loser

Whatever you do and whatever you’re going through: DO NOT GIVE UP.

“Defeat is a state of mind; no one is ever defeated until defeat has been accepted as a reality.” – Bruce Lee

BSD

More serious questions 

This morning’s drive in turned plenty deep plenty quickly.

“Dad; would a hurricane blow the hair off someone with Cancer?”

Whoa

After skillfully not crashing; I ponder a suitable response. I’d have preferred a ‘Where do babies come from’ as I have a script for that one but this was left field.

‘Those two things are quite unrelated darling; how did you put them together?’

Silence..

“Well; I’d noticed that when people get Cancer they lose their hair. I suspect that Cancer makes it loose so if you’re in a hurricane, those strong winds will only make matters worse.”

I can see her logic and decide to tackle the big one first.

‘Ok; it’s not the Cancer that causes sufferers to lose their hair, its the treatment. It can be quite aggressive’

Having lost my mother to the big C, I know enough about the topic to feed her facts. Preempting her next enquiry, I continue.

‘Cancer happens in the body at a cellular, microscopic, level. Every part of us is made up of cells. Technically we are constantly regenerating ourselves but slightly older than the version before..”With Cancer, somehow the message to create a new cell gets messed up and misunderstood, so the new cell isn’t quite as it should be. If there are enough of these not-so-right cells, they can attack the good cells. That can be really bad’

She looks creeped out.

‘It’s a gradual process; we call it mutating

Less creeped and now showing the look of ‘I’m gonna tell folk this in the playground’.

“So is a cell small? what’s the smallest living thing?”

Now I’m wading out into deep waters…

‘I think it’s a single celled, protozoa but I’m not sure; I’ll check this evening’

It’s been a while since Biology class.

“I think it’s a woodlouse”

The hurricane went unmentioned.

collapse

BSD

 

Two magpie confirmation. 

At the moment; nothing makes sense.

This doesn’t make sense. Things are tough and I’m conscious of this turning into a diary entry.

I’m a focused individual. Work; Kung-Fu, focused. Relationships? not so. I’m not sure why either.

I’m also a man of science. A lot of what I need to operate safely relies on my understanding of the scientific method and it’s application, but recently, I’ve been counting magpies.

You’re familiar with the rhyme I take it?

  1. For sorrow;
  2. For joy
  3. Don’t worry about the rest…

As with most luck/superstitions, I’m interested in it when it fits my narrative; a kind of umbrella for my mood.

magpie bin

From my bedroom window, sitting up first thing in the morning I can see my neighbour’s roof. For a suburban area the bird count is quite high, including varieties of species.

There is also a nest of magpies in the locality as their grating call will attest. In the morning, there can be any number around doing their destructive thing.

There are rules to magpie spotting and how this totally random, non-attributable event will affect the rest of your (my) day.

It has to be first thing in the morning; all subsequent magpie spottings after the initial sighting are either null and void, or serve as confluence to earlier magpie signals.


So here’s the thing….

I believe in making my own luck. I believe in both working smarter and harder, so why the hell is this my current state of mind?

I’m distracted. Things aren’t running smoothly in the co-parenting world.

It’s a blip.

Magpie in flight

BSD

A month ago I stopped drinking

Alcohol that is. Now I’ve become an insufferable bore to anyone who’ll listen. Today that’s you. 

Some of the best conversations I ever have are with myself and one of the latest ones was about how much alcohol I had consumed lately.

Now don’t get me wrong; I hadn’t dipped to the realms of problem drinking but I had got to the stage of comfort drinking without realising.

drunk panther.jpeg

It used to be a thing of mine to have a beer while watching the football. After a tough day at work I’d enjoy a single malt with a single ice cube; Oban; Talisker; Glenfiddich…

Triggers

Things started to pick up pace post separation. Not having the cubs around 24/7 hit me a lot harder than I expected so I found myself filling the gaps with work, exercise, more work and the odd glass of wine.

Then it happened

During the weekly shop I came across an award winning bottle of Gin so I duly bought a litre.

A week later it was almost gone.

Not good.

Not good at all.

So I stopped.

Just like that.


I’d noticed folk drinking non-alcoholic beer on nights out and wondered why they’d bother. Let’s face it; lager isn’t something you drink because it tastes nice. Or so I thought. So I gave it a try.

Result

Not bad at all. I’ve tried a few brands now and am currently working my way through some more. The best part is that I can now have a night out and drive. I think that’s a British thing.

The second best part is the clear head in the morning.

The only downside is watching your buddies descend through the evolution of man to the point where everything is funny.

Oh well; that’s better than the alternative.

Drunk on a bench.jpg

I’m not saying I’ll never touch a drop again, but my eyes are wide open now.

BSD

02:31

I suffer occasional insomnia

Well, not occasional; I suffer with poor sleep more often than not. Especially when I have things on my mind.

I was always one to stay up late, even though I’m well aware of the necessity of a decent night’s sleep. In my current occupation, this can be a bonus, but after two decades, the joke is wearing a little thin.

tired out

The usual pattern is this;

  • Full day’s work
  • Home to cook dinner
  • Laptop out; more work
  • Bed for 22:00
  • Overthink
  • Asleep between 0:00 and 01:50
  • Awake at 05:30
  • Alarm at 06:00

It differs slightly if I have the cubs but not by much.

I’ve tried most things but refuse to be medicated – it’s just not my style…

Any tips?

 

BSD