Posts Tagged With: Finance

Money 2

Hi again.

I thought a short quote from Dickens would be a change from my own chatting:

“Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen nineteen six, result happiness.

Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds ought and six, result misery.”

Over a century later, Mr. Micawber’s advice still holds good. Don’t “Fly now, pay later”, do the reverse. Don’t listen to the kids. Do they know better than you?

I do feel for all the single mums out there, it must be really difficult if you don’t have a partner to help with things, so that at least one of them has spare time to learn about how to protect themselves from all the incredible stupidity and greed evident in the world today, that eventually hurts all of us, while the guys at the top seem to have charmed lives. It seems to me that, if you allow leaders to experiment with people’s hard-earned, without real penalties if they muck up badly, then of course, why should they worry. Lost bonus? Maybe, but if your pay package is just bumped up to compensate, one can relax, yes? All I can say is, I’m really glad I climbed out of banking before I could be lumped in with the current lot.

Here’s a little tip for now:

  • No matter what the advertising says, remember that the prime objective of any organisation is to make money for the shareholders.

I’m not attacking the principle, it’s a valid rule, and it lets one remember that the organisation can easily go down the tubes if someone tries to run it as a charity.

What I do have a button about is when people start going overboard. I have a little motto that I use as one of my own guidelines, and I believe that a lot of people at the top ought use it as well:

  • From the Greek, “Pan Metron Ariston”, if I recall correctly.  It means, “moderation in all things”. Works with cooking recipes, works with businesses too. So, if you come across some outfit that isn’t doing that, watch out, it could be heading for problems, either for them or for you…

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Money 3

Oops; I’ve just published Money 4, for reasons mentioned in it, so I guess I’d better publish this one, which I still wanted to polish up a bit:

Ever since I left the bank, long, long ago, I’ve obviously not had access to all the data streams, in-house gen, and other sources of information that exist. It does help to have a sound financial advisor, but that depends on how flush you are.

So, what to do? Well, first of all, be sensible and save. Especially in hard times. Don’t keep all your reserves in one basket, have some in the stock markets, some in other, balancing investments like gilts, some in good, solid assets like gold, silver, some in liquid form – needs to be accessible at a moments notice. There are so many books & magazines and Internet resources that can keep you up-to-date with what’s available, I couldn’t be more help even if I wanted to, I’m now a publisher, not an investment advisor. I can give out ideas in general, and everyone is different, so you have to take thing further yourself.

What I say has to be adapted to your own circumstances. Also, style is a factor; if you’re young, you can afford to take a few risks (always within reason). Come to middle age, less so, and if you’re approaching retirement, then you need to be risk-averse. Then, also plan out your strategy to spread through short-term, medium term and long-term investments. The latter is usually your home sweet home. Hopefully, by retirement age, you want to be rid of the mortgage as well, leaving you in relative peace…

What I can do, is to mention things to watch out for. And help you to sharpen your mind to developments that you can learn from. Like a Native American Indian, or an African Bushman hunting for food, you need to learn to pick up the scent, have a keen eye for clues and tracks, footprints, except that yours will be of the financial kind, and not physical.

For example, I mentioned earlier that back  around 2003, personal borrowing passed the trillion pound mark, for the first time in history. That’s time to start watching out for property bubbles, stop buying property at ridiculous prices, etc. Soon after New Labour got into power, Gordon Brown didn’t waste time. He sold off most of our gold reserves at the pitiful prices available at the time; he added a really painful levy on the pension funds, that really hurt. With the result that your investments, pension and otherwise suffered, because eventually, it’s always the customer who pays, be it pension funds, supermarkets or fuel. Yes? Did he make saving more attractive? Of course not. He reckoned we/he had the bubble trap well under control, so spend, spend, spend. No more boom & gloom…

Enough. Those were more clues/tracks to note down. You also have to know a few rules, before you recognise they’re being broken. For example:

  • Always, repeat always, help people into a save mentality.

  • Don’t mess with the pension funds. Regulate them so they don’t do stupid things, but don’t bleed them.

  • Residential property prices have to fit into affordable levels. If the average property is not priced within about 3.5 to 4 times average annual earnings, things are out of kilter. If cheaper, you know you’re getting a good deal. If higher, you’re paying too much and running the risk of negative equity sooner or later. Nowadays, people tend to move every 8 years or so. If you can’t get your price when moving, you probably can’t move. People didn’t want to hear that ten years ago, now everybody understands it.

Let me know what you think, tell us about your experiences. Am I making sense? I’m interested. I do want to pass on tips that help people, It costs me nothing but a bit of time. Leave a comment, or if you want to contact me directly, here’s a contact form below; it isn’t for harvesting your email address, it’s to prevent spammers from harvesting mine.

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Money 1

I’m still experimenting with the structure here, so please bear with me if you see odd layouts and changes happening now and again.

I want to bring in some tips and advice about money, finance and the like. A lot of it will be from “The Money Book”, one that Sasha and I wrote back in 2003. Having been in banking earlier in my life (N.B: a sensible, ethical banking group, the third biggest in Southern Africa at the time), I think I may have a few tips that help.

In my thirty-one year banking career, I’ve been through droughts, recessions, stock market crashes, financial exhilaration, govt. over-regulation, farming, diamond cutting clients, personal, commercial and corporate finance, and on top of it all, I eventually qualified to head the bank’s internal Credit Audit Division.

Throw in a few years of managing risk and creating M.I.S. for our then fledgling mortgage loan division, I’d covered enough ground by the time I left banking in 1996 to realise, by 2003, that people here were in a pretty risky scenario financially. With personal debt exceeding One Trillion Pounds!! and rising, it wouldn’t take very much to upset the apple cart, had there been a serious enough trigger, and dump us all into the biggest load of manure you’ve ever seen.

So Sasha and I wrote The Money Book. The intention was to give the man / woman in the street some help when in or approaching financial hassles… Speaking from memory, we sold about a dozen copies that year. Less the next year. No one was the least bit interested; when your house is growing in value hand over fist, when the government encourages you to borrow, when saving is discouraged, what else does one do but take out a second / third mortgage to cover that holiday in Florida the family has begged you for. And the speedboat, and the caravan, and so on.

So, here’s the first tip: don’t ever increase your mortgage for any reason except to improve / maintain the property itself. Ok, if in dire straights to survive, that too. But never for holidays, luxuries, or anything else. In fact, one really needs to concentrate on getting the mortgage repaid, the sooner the better.

And tip No. 2: Pay off a bit more than necessary each month. Very often, you can increase your mortgage repayments by 10% each year. Make every effort to try to do this; I know money’s tight as a… a.. darn, not allowed to make jokes any more. Yes, money’s tight for most of us today, but this tip was out there 2003, when it was feasible…

I have to add very clearly, that I don’t believe it’s not all our own fault that so many people didn’t have / don’t have any savings to cushion the hard times. I’m very categoric that the banks, other financial institutions, and government itself, have all played a part in our woes, in a manner that a third-world country like, for instance, South Africa, would never have dreamed of allowing to happen. After all, they are all supposed to know better than us. When you go to the doctor, you expect him to tell you what medicine to take. Not so?

Maybe after I left in the mid-nineties things changed in South Africa, but not earlier. I lost all interest in banking after I left, and in retrospect, I can see that things may have started to go the wrong way at that time, because I was getting more and more fed up with tried and trusted rules falling by the wayside, slowly but surely.

Interesting that, in our book, I felt I had to soften our line somewhat, because a). people just weren’t in the mood to hear a negative/hard attitude – they would have laughed if I’d suggested a depression was possible – the worst I thought I’d get away with was to explain what deflation was, and b). I was totally unaware and never, ever dreamed it even remotely possible that banks could be so incredibly stupid (greedy?) as to break one of the strictest rules in the history of finance – you don’t fund long-term finance (mortgages) on short-term money (overnight / three-month money). Simples! You just don’t do it. Why? Because if you do, you get into the most horrendous funding problems you can imagine. Just ask anyone at Northern Rock…

Right, that’s enough for now, and I hope to keep the wordage down next time, with more tips and less retrospective analysis.

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