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for Gens X & Y’s
Regular readers of these blogs would not be surprised to know that I’ve spent a bit of time with our pest inspector, Greg, over the last 12 months. On his most recent visit he told me about the situation his brother-in-law has found himself in.

The brother-in-law has an investment property in Brisbane and, not one to trust a local pest inspector with such a large asset, he contacted Greg to get him to check over the property. Greg lives in Queanbeyan, NSW, just next to the ACT border – a bloody long way from Queensland’s capital city. Nevertheless, Greg really knows his stuff so his brother-in-law figured it was worth having to reimburse Greg for the return trip in petrol money.

Before Greg arrived at the property he sent a courtesy text message to the tenant to give her the heads up on when he’d be there. He received a very curt reply. Things went from bad to worse when he arrived and quickly realised that the tenant was quite obviously on drugs. Her partner arrived a short time later and a decent sized barney ensued, making concentrating on the job at hand difficult. However, even with these distractions, finding termites was not hard. They were everywhere.

A quick call to his brother-in-law and Greg was able to pass on two pieces of bad news in one go – “Sorry mate, but your tenant’s on drugs and the house is being eaten.”

The tenant was given her marching orders, but not before she (or her partner) left their mark on the property, literally. Greg had another visit after she’d been evicted to discover a bunch of fresh holes in the walls, and that the places where the furniture had been were hiding even more evidence of termite infestation.

So not only has this poor landlord been hit with the triple whammy of bills for treating the termites, fixing the damage from them and also the damage from the previous tenants, but the bills have arrived at the same time as the property is no longer making any income.

If you think I’m telling you not to invest in property, I’m not. Property is a good asset class to have your money invested in, if you go about it the right way. Having several hundred thousand dollars in one property leaves you open to a huge amount of risk. There is a lot of evidence to show that investing in property trusts is a much better way of spreading your money, avoiding the high entrance and exit costs associated with direct property investment and getting a better potential return.

And trusts don’t get eaten by termites.

Last weekend Claudia and I had family stay with us a few nights in the form of my sister, her 17 year old son and 15 year old daughter. Whenever we catch up there are invariably a few card and board games played, and as my niece and nephew get older their enthusiasm for playing is not waning. If anything, they’re more and more keen every time.

This visit we had a game of Rummy (which Claudia is a wiz at), Canasta (which I am normally good at but I must’ve been having an off day, or the temperature wasn’t quite right, or the walls were the wrong colour, or perhaps the cards were the wrong size or something) and Pay Day.

If you’re not familiar with it, Pay Day is a board game that’s been around a few years where once around the board is a month. Each month you get mail (mostly bills and advertisements) you can buy insurance, play the lottery (receiving a free ticket), gamble against the bank or your opponents, go into debt, save your money in the bank or take up the opportunity to invest in various products. At the end of every month you are paid $375 (minus the amount of your bills) and may have to pay 20% interest on your debts or receive 10% interest on your savings.

The game we played involved myself, my favourite nephew (yes, I only have one) and my favourite teenage niece (you guessed it, none of the other six nieces are in their teens). We played for about an hour and a half with myself and my niece going into debt and my nephew slowly accumulating cash, mainly from taking up the offer of investing.

The approach the siblings took to the game was quite different. While my nephew was willing to invest large amounts and wait ‘til he landed on the square that allowed him to cash them in, his sister considered it to be too risky. She was more willing to gamble her money in a way that saw the odds of her winning big bucks to be 1 in 3 (and the chances of blowing her dough to be 2 in 3). After 90 minutes she threw the towel in and headed for bed, leaving my nephew and I to go head to head.

As the savings we accumulated grew it meant more interest was being paid at the end of each month which in turn led to a conversation about the money my nephew has in the bank. I explained to him that if he were to seek a savings account with a higher rate of interest, then the money he is saving for his first car would accumulate faster. I told him that real life worked just like the board game.

And it clicked. I actually saw in his face the moment when he got it – when he grasped the concept of saving, investing and compounding, and how much easier the game is to play when you can afford to pay your bills. It was great, not just to be able to play with loved ones, but to pass on an ever so important message.

Now I just have to play the game again with all those nieces. (Oh, and for the record, he beat me convincingly.)

Back in my younger days I had personalised number plates on my car that included the number 007 (yeah, I know, what was I thinking). Personalised plates were pretty popular in my hometown in NSW and part of the reason is because they were fairly priced. It wasn’t unheard of for a couple of people to chip in 20 bucks for an 18th or 21st birthday present to whack on a mate’s car.

When I moved to Canberra I wanted to keep my unique plates but, being a new resident of Canberra, was also wary that I should change my car registration from NSW to the ACT. I’d paid $120 for my number plates and reckoned it was a reasonable price to pay. But when I enquired about the cost in Canberra for the same canada goose yorkville parka 7954m black on sale I was absolutely shocked to learn they would cost $1,500.

Needless to say, I’ve had the generic ACT blue and white Y series plates ever since. However, I have always been amazed at the huge quantity of ACT personalised number plates there are out there.

I needed to go to the motor registry the other day and while I was there I asked what people had to pay for personalised plates in the ACT these days. Turns out there are a range of prices, depending on what combination you decide on.

Two letters and three numbers (eg AB 123) will set you back upwards of $400. A plate consisting of any five numbers (eg 12345) sets you back $827. To let people know you support the Canberra Raiders or ACT Brumbies football teams costs up to $1,200. Three letters with three numbers (eg ABC 123) or a word of up to seven letters (eg WANKERS) will add $2,500 to your credit card bill.

But the one that nearly knocked me over was the cost of number plates with only three numbers. There are a ridiculous number of Canberrans who have paid over $6,000 for these plates. And remember, these are the costs for these plates on the primary market – the costs you pay to get them from the motor registry. Popular second hand number plates can be sold for whatever the person buying them is willing to pay. Want the number plate BKRUPT in Victoria and you’ll need a spare $100,000 (yes, these plates are currently on the market and that’s the asking price). Ironically, paying six figures for two thin pieces of metal would probably send you bankrupt.

I have often heard of gambling being referred to as a tax for stupid people, but I reckon that’s a harsh assessment for something that is an addiction for hundreds of thousands of people. Paying $6,085.30 for a three digit numerical number plate is a tax for stupid people.

When you start a conversation with someone you have not met before, chances are the question “What do you do?” will be asked. It can be a question that spurs the conversation on (“I’m an astronaut”), is met with a dazed look (“I’m an electrical engineer”) or kills the chat altogether (“I’m a public servant”).

Many people define themselves, and others, by their occupations. There is an enormous amount of social importance that’s attached to that definition. So when you find yourself in a category that’s less glamorous it can be a difficult canada goose yorkville parka 7954m black on sale to handle.

I have been jobless twice, and in both circumstances I was studying before I was out of work. As well as the obvious problems that come with a lack of income, the most difficult canada goose yorkville parka 7954m black on sale to accept was waking up in the morning knowing that, in the eyes of society, I was unemployed. Sure, you can try to give yourself the title of the odd jobs you manage to get, but the words “I’m a pamphlet deliverer” never saw me pick up a hottie in a nightclub.

Let’s face it – being a surgeon, a hotel manager, a nurse or a fireman is downright sexy. Rightly or wrongly, society gives special importance to certain jobs, particularly those that pay the higher amounts. But if you take a close look at individuals in swanky inner city offices you realise that many of them are in worse financial situations than the people who clean those offices in the wee hours of the night, or the cab drivers who take them home after their meetings. Proof that financial success is not about what you earn, but what you do with it.

I remember a primary school teacher saying to me once that teachers had the most important job of all. Without teachers there are no doctors, nurses, midwives or any medical professionals who bring us into the world. As far as paid professions go, I reckon that’s pretty accurate. But, as they say, the best things in life are free.

Or unpaid.

Twenty years ago, official documents would have categories to choose for occupations, and among them was ‘housewife’. These days the politically correct term is ‘home duties’ and most of the time it’s referring to a stay at home parent.

I’d argue that the most important job in the world is a parent. It’s parents who guide those children who go on to become teachers. And the most intense form of parenting is done by the stay at home mums and dads.

They intensively teach their kids language, social, literacy, numeracy, physical and technological skills that will mould those kids into the adults of tomorrow. And their payment is love.

So next time you are at a party and someone says they are a stay at home mum or dad, keep listening, ‘cause I guarantee they can teach you a thing or two.

Financial literacy has been part of the school curriculum for a few years and is now being taught as part of maths, science and English lessons. So kids these days are learning about money at school. In theory.

On the whole I think teachers do an amazing job. When I think back to some of the teachers I had at school I remember some people who had a wonderful ability to impart knowledge. Mr Baird was a fantastic English/history teacher, Mr Thompson was brilliant in Legal Studies and Mr Fox turned our Economics class around from a class who were going to fail to one that passed. But for all the good teachers, there were some shockers – people who shouldn’t have been passing on knowledge in their chosen field, let alone in something outside their area of expertise, like money.

In practice children learn about money every day – every school day, weekend, public holiday and right throughout the school holidays. They learn about money when they see mum get out cash from the grocery checkout, when dad pays for the takeaway with a credit card, when they see the daily coffee bought on the way to school or soccer, and when their parents argue about how the next big bill will be paid. Chances are, kids learn the same way that their parents learnt – from their family.

This means it’s up to the family – to mums and dads, aunts, uncles and grandparents to ensure the next generation is financially savvy. Of course, this means that those passing on the knowledge need to pass on the right information in the first place. They need to get the message across that money doesn’t come from the supermarket, but from work. Children must understand that when dinner is bought with a plastic card that there is an underlying exchange of money and often that means the purchaser is buying on credit. Kids learn by seeing their parents giving up buying the daily coffee for making one and putting the daily savings into a glass jar. And when parents argue about money without resolving it in front of the kids, their children get a negative message about finances.

It’s a bloody tough gig being a parent, partly because finding a resource that shows you how to sort your own finances out and how to pass that knowledge on to your children are very hard to find. Finding this resource that’s engaging, interactive, accessible, up to date, relevant for Australians, funny and interesting has been virtually impossible. Until now.

Kids And Money is a new chapter in Financial Freedom For Gens X and Y that covers everything you need to know about the topic. From what to expect before you fall pregnant, through to the best investments for children, how kids are affected by tax, available government assistance for parents and paying teenagers pocket money, Kids And Money is the new resource that parents need and it’s being launched today. With all the research I have done, I have found no resources that covered all these areas.

To celebrate the launch we are discounting our normal price of $24.95 to just $10 until the end of September. For less than the price of three takeaway coffees you can sort out your finances and learn how to teach your children the money message they will need for life. Visit our Facebook page for the discount code.

I have often heard people complain about the bad treatment they receive from their bank and I completely understand why so many people hate theirs. I hate mine. I also encourage people to move their banking services away from the big banks and towards mutuals (credit unions, building societies and mutual banks – you know, the ones that give a rat’s about their customers). Sometimes it’s not viable to take your business elsewhere, leaving you in the situation where you have to stay with a bank you hate.

Some people have the attitude that if you don’t like being screwed over by a company like a big bank, become a shareholder and share in the profits every time they do something like fail to pass on interest rate cuts. I don’t encourage this behaviour and I don’t have any money invested in the shares of big companies who put profit before people. It means I sleep well at night (well, I would if I wasn’t being woken up by one screaming daughter demanding a breastfeed and the other screaming daughter wanting a cuddle, but hey, I do enjoy those middle of the night hugs).

For more than 10 years I have invested my money in places most mainstream investors don’t now much about. I don’t hold money in mining companies, I don’t receive a cut of the profits from poker machines, and I don’t make money from companies that produce weapons. The money I invest doesn’t go into areas where children are forced to work rather than attend school, and it doesn’t go into the pockets of greedy bankers.

My money goes into healthcare, education, recycling and renewable energy, companies with labour force standards that see their workers paid fair wages, companies that actively support the participation of women in the workforce. My money is invested in ethical investments.

There are two very good reasons for this. The first is that I strongly believe those companies who look to the future are the ones that will have long term sustainable profits. They are the companies that will be the leaders of tomorrow, rather than the ones who dread what the future of plain packaged cigarettes means for their bottom line. And the returns for ethical investing are consistently showing that they are outperforming their mainstream rivals.

The second reason I go for ethical investments is because I want to leave this life knowing that the world will be a place my children, their children and even their children’s children will want to live. A world where more money is going into research to fight disease and less going into research to fight wars. A world where more kids have the opportunity to get educated, and ignorance and prejudice is rapidly confined to the history books.

Ethical investment may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it’s sure worth considering.

Disclosure: I wrote this blog with significant input from my wife Claudia! Anyone who knows my knowledge of the kitchen could tell you I can mix cereal with milk, turn the dishwasher on and, um, well that’s about the extent of my cooking abilities.

Cooking at home can be a great way to save money when compared to eating out or buying takeaway, but there are even cheaper ways of doing it.

There are a few websites out there that encourage doing big cook ups, say, once a week or even once a month. It’s a great idea and can be taken one step further to make it even more efficient. Most ovens can fit a fair bit of food in them, and if you have the space, do all your oven cooking at the same time. So much energy is used up each time you need to preheat your oven that if you were to do a month’s worth of baking all at once, you would save yourself a decent amount of energy and money. It all adds up and you can squeeze a few more savings if you are able to do your big cook ups during off peak or shoulder electricity times.

Leave the food for freezing out on the bench until it has cooled to almost room temp otherwise you will just heat up your freezer. It can be a balancing act between going into the freezer too early and spending too much time on

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