Happy Birthday GG & BB!

GG & BB turn 19 today and as I have been doing for the past few years, I thought I will write them a letter this year too. Since they will graduate next year, I thought this year’s letter will be about how they can be financially savvy and learn about money.

Dear GG & BB,

As you start to look and plan your future, money will be a huge part of how you plan your lives. Money and the lack of money may be the difference between surviving and living the life of your dreams. So you must learn to manage your finances, and manage them well enough that you never have a day when you panic about not having enough.

If you think that financial planning is too tedious and can be put off to a later date, you’re not alone. Many of your friends and peer are too caught up with life to think about long-term finances. Plus, there’s always the misconception that you can only start growing your wealth after you earned your first pot of gold. However, contrary to what you might think, the best time to start planning for your financial goals is while you’re still young and have plenty of time to grow your savings.

Set goals early: Setting your financial goals is the first critical step. Putting down your goals in writing will help you establish a finish line to aim for and determine what you need to do to get there. To help to stick to your goals, keep them somewhere you can see them regularly and also review them at a pre-determined interval, so you can fine-tune your plans as life happens.

Start saving as soon as possible: Starting to save at an early age gives you a longer runway to reach your financial goals and gives you more time to benefit from the power of compound interest. There is a formula known as the Power of 72 which allows you to determine how many years it takes for your savings to double at a certain rate of interest. In the Power of 72, you divide 72 by the interest rate to determine how many years it will take to double your principal amount.

Use the 50/30/20 rule when budgeting: A simple rule of thumb is to split income into three broad buckets to meet expenses and savings needs. In this rule, divide your monthly take-home pay into three categories where 50% will be spent on needs, 30% will be spent on wants and the balance 20% will be set aside as savings.

Set up a dedicated bank account for your savings: To ensure that you don’t spend money meant for your long-term savings, it’s a good idea to open separate accounts; one for your regular expenses and another just for savings. Arrange for the funds meant for your savings to be automatically transferred to the dedicated account the day you receive your salary. You can do this by applying for a standing instruction with your bank, saving you the trouble of having to make the transfer yourself each month.

Look for ways to cut costs: Financial stability is not just about savings or increasing your income, but also about reducing expenses. Always be on the lookout for ways to save money; whether it’s finding the cheapest place to buy groceries or taking advantage of dining deals on your credit card.

Focus on income, not savings: While keeping a lid on expenses is important to budgeting, some experts recommend that you should focus more on income. After all, there are only so many of your costs that you can save on, but your income has a far higher potential to grow in the long run. If you think you are good at something, try to have a side hustle so you can supplement your income.

Keep your debt in check: Having too much debt is a big obstacle to building your savings. For a start, you should ensure that you make at least the minimum payment on all your outstanding debts every month to avoid late fees and extra interest charges. You must also always pay off your credit card bills every month. Using a credit card is a great tool, but not when you incur interest in it. A good rule of thumb is that each time you use the card, you should immediately transfer the money to the account with which you pay the bills so once the bill comes, you are not in shock. You should also list your debts from the highest to the lowest interest rate and repay as much as you can on the debt that incurs the highest interest. Keep doing this till you are debt free!

Protect your personal information: Keep identity thieves from stealing your information. Use strong passwords and change them regularly. Avoid using public wi-fi for online banking and protect your bank PIN and shield the keypad from view when using an ATM. Review your financial statements each month to make sure there are no fraudulent transactions.

Always have emergency funds which are easily accessible: You must have at least two types of emergency funds which can be easily accessed in case of emergencies. The first should be a liquid savings account which should have about three to six months of living expenses. This is if something happens like losing your job, you can use it to get by until you are on your feet again. The second is what I call a Home Fund and this will especially be useful once you both have your homes. Try to put in a couple of hundred dollars into this account each month and maybe more when you have them. At home, things break down or you spoil and you may need to replace them. Things like a television, air conditioners etc and having money in an account meant for these things can help a long way in replacing broken items immediately without dipping into your savings.

Educate Yourself: If you don’t learn to manage your money, then other people will find ways to mismanage it for you. Some of these people could have bad intentions, others may be well-meaning, but not fully informed about your circumstances, so the best way to get the right advice for your particular circumstances and not rely on random advice is to take charge of your financial future and read a few basic books on personal finance. Once you’re armed with knowledge, you know what works best for you.

Start saving for retirement now: You may think retirement is at least four or five decades away, but you need to plan for it from today. I’ve spoken about the power of compound interest to you both, and this is the best way you can grow your money at a faster rate. The sooner you start saving, the less principal you have to invest to end up with the amount that you need to retire. Compound interest is one of the most powerful forces in finance because it grows your money exponentially, which means it can super-charge your savings, especially over time. The magic of compound interest for your retirement account is that it is interest on interest—literally. You earn interest not only on the principal which is the money you put in but also on the interest which is the money the bank pays you for holding your principal.

Remember, your finances are in your hands and you don’t need any fancy degrees or special backgrounds to become an expert at managing your finances. So go ahead and learn what you can while you are still young, so your later adulthood and retirement are not fraught with worry.

Happy birthday once again GG & BB! I know you will do great things in life and I am waiting to see you both reach your full potential.

Lots of love, hugs and kisses,
Mum

Father’s Day: The First Superhero to his children

On Sunday, across most of the world, people will celebrate Father’s Day.

Anyone can father a child, but being a dad takes a lifetime. Fathers play a role in every child’s life that cannot be filled by others. Children look to their fathers to lay down the rules and enforce them. They also look to their fathers to provide a feeling of security, both physical and emotional. Children want to make their fathers proud, and an involved father promotes inner growth and strength. Studies have shown that when fathers are affectionate and supportive, it greatly affects a child’s cognitive and social development as well as instils an overall sense of well-being and self-confidence. A father influences the way the child sees relationships and a daughter will decide who her future partner is based on the relationship between her mother and her father as well as how she sees her father treating others. A son, on the other hand, will model himself on his father’s character because he sees his father as the role model for how an adult male should behave. And this is not just for biological fathers, even father figures play a very important role in a child’s life.

Children with sensitive and supportive fathers have higher levels of social competence and better peer relationships. Children whose fathers provide them with learning materials and speak with them frequently perform better in school and have more advanced language skills. A father also influences a child’s well-being indirectly through his relationship with the child’s mother. Conflicts between parents is detrimental to a child’s well-being, especially if the conflict is hostile and unresolved. Supportive co-parenting relationships, by contrast, are related to better self-regulation and fewer behaviour problems in children.

For centuries, the Eastern Orthodox Church has appointed the second Sunday before Nativity as the Sunday of the Forefathers to commemorate the ancestors of Christ according to the flesh, starting with Adam and emphasising the Patriarch Abraham. This feast can fall between December 11 and 17 and includes the ancestors of the Mother Mary. A customary day for the celebration of fatherhood in Catholic Europe is known to date back to at least 1508. It is usually celebrated on March 19, as the feast day of Saint Joseph, who is referred to as the fatherly Nutritor Domini or the Nourisher of the Lord in Catholicism and the putative father of Jesus in southern European tradition. This celebration was brought to the Americas by the Spanish and Portuguese with the Catholic Church actively supporting the custom of a celebration of fatherhood on St. Joseph’s Day from either the last years of the 14th century or from the early 15th century, on the initiative of the Franciscans. In the Coptic Orthodox Church, the celebration of fatherhood dates back to the 15th century is also observed on St Joseph’s Day, but on July 20.

The day which is mostly celebrated today originated in the United States. This day was not celebrated in that country until the 20th century outside of the catholic traditions. People started celebrating in the early 20th century to complement Mother’s Day by celebrating fathers and male parenting. After Anna Jarvis’ successful promotion of Mother’s Day in Grafton, West Virginia, the first observance of a day honouring fathers was held on July 5, 1908, in West Virginia. In 1911, Jane Addams proposed that a citywide Father’s Day celebration be held in Chicago, but she was turned down. On June 19, 1910, a Father’s Day celebration was held in Washington state by Sonora Smart Dodd to honour her father Willday and felt fathers should also have a similar holiday to honour them. Although she initially suggested June 5, her father’s birthday, the celebration was deferred to the third Sunday in June and on June 19, 1910, the first Father’s Day was celebrated.

However, in the 1920s, Dodd stopped promoting the celebration because she was studying and it faded into relative obscurity, but she started promoting the celebrations again in the 1930s. She had the help of retailers who realised that such a celebration would help promote their products and services, which are specifically targeted at men. In addition to Father’s Day, International Men’s Day is celebrated in many countries on November 19 to honour both men and boys.

Fathers are important to children’s well-being. Sensitive, supportive, and involved fathers contribute to children’s physical, cognitive, emotional, and social adjustment. Fathers also influence children’s well-being in conjunction with mothers and other caregivers, making it important to understand father-child relationships as part of entire family systems.

To all my readers who are fathers and father figures, here’s wishing you a very Happy Father’s Day! And to those who have fathers or father figures, please take some time on Sunday to spend with them and wish them.

Happy 18th Birthday BB & GG!

Happy birthday GG & BB! You turn 18 tomorrow and, in many countries, you would have been legally adult tomorrow, but since in Singapore the legal age of majority is 21, you still need to wait another three years to be treated as an adult in the eyes of the law.

You both have grown up to become warm, loving and wonderful human beings. I have heard from many members of the extended family how warm, friendly and affectionate you are and I hope that you continue to be this warm, affectionate, loving and friendly all your life. But you are both individuals in your own right. Just because you are twins does not mean that you are clones of each other. You both have your distinct personalities and in many ways, you complement each other.

I see myself and others in the family in both of you. The way you stand, talk, sleep or even some of your favourite things bring to mind me, dad, your aunts and even your grandparents. It’s seeing evolution in action – seeing you both we know a part of us will continue and so on to infinity, or at least till life exists on this earth.

BB, you are a very smart boy, but sometimes I wonder if you will be able to survive in society. Although you are are very intelligent, you are also so oblivious sometimes that I wonder how you will adjust in the workplace. You are also extremely patient and I am sure this trait does not come from me. Life always doesn’t go as we plan and in this last year, you have had some academic setbacks, but I hope you have learnt from these setbacks and are now able to handle the next three semesters of school with the same level of hardwork you can do if you put your mind to you.

I look forward to celebrating your individuality and uniqueness and as you continue to grow, I look forward to seeing you become a mature and responsible young man. You have your two years of enlistment to look forward to and I hope you get the branch that fulfils you and you learn, grow and come out of that experience with much more than you had when you went in. Be strong, be confident, build up your self-esteem and be a gentleman. It’s important for you to learn how to love, be loyal and respect women you date or marry but also know you are worthy of being loved, supported and respected too. I know you have been brought up to respect women and knowing you, you will prove to be a good husband and father when the time times.

GG, when I see you, I sometimes see me, but a far better version of myself. You are thoughtful, hardwordking, ambitious, spontaneous and quick to find the good in others. Don’t be so hard on yourself and cut yourself some slack sometimes. Remember that sometimes people will disappoint you, as you just saw, but don’t be hard on yourself because of this and take it as a life lesson and make sure you don’t make the same mistake again. At the same time, be careful with whom you choose to associate and don’t be so naïve to believe that you can trust just anyone. Make others prove their worthiness to be trusted. Be someone people can rely on, but don’t allow yourself to be taken advantage of either and stand up for yourself.

Love yourself and don’t allow anyone to make you feel less of a person through their words or actions. You, and you alone, are in control of your emotions and well-being. By allowing someone else to taint your self-worth, you give them power over you. Choose your battles. Life is too short to be arguing with someone all the time about everything. This goes for friends and family as well as any future romantic relationships. I can see you as becoming a wonderful wife and mother in the future, but I know this will take some time as you want to focus on school and then your career. But remember, marry the person you consider a good friend and is someone you can talk to about anything and everything in this world, this is far more important than just physical attraction. Be empathetic and put yourself in the other person’s shoes and try to see things from their perspective. You will be rewarded in ways that you have yet to understand.

To both of you I will say this, life will get tougher as you move ahead through it. It’s inevitable and nothing to worry about, it’s part of the life journey you will undertake. But the way you go through life depends on how you handle the stress that life throws at you and will determine whether or not you will succeed in life. Don’t have a negative attitude towards stress and always be optimistic about life as being negative and pessimistic will not do anything for you. Keep an open mind, an optimistic attitude and develop a character that does not quit, no matter what life throws at you will take you much further in life than any advice anyone can give you. Be a leader, not a follower and think long-term and not short-term. Always think about five years ahead and see how much you can anticipate any pitfalls. Don’t be afraid to ask for help and advice. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness, instead, it is a sign of maturity that shows you know the depth of your limitations. If someone gives you constructive criticism, don’t assume they’re being critical. Take it for what it is and smile. It may be the best advice you ever receive. And my biggest takeaway to you will be start meditating, even if it is just for a just 5 to 10 minutes a day will go a long way in alleviating stress and equip you to deal with everything that gets thrown at you.

Happy birthday BB & GG. You are 18 now and on the cusp of a beautiful life ahead of you. I love being your mum and I am sure dad also feels the same. I love you with all my heart and only want the best for you both. Remember, I will always be here for you, no matter what.

Happy birthday again and have the best day ever!

Lots of love, hugs and kisses
Mum

Life Lessons to GG & BB on their 17th Birthday

Today GG & BB turn 17! I can’t believe the tiny babies who were placed in my hands and were just about an arm’s length now tower over me. They are their own individuals who have their own ideas about life and who are now on the cusp of adulthood. I usually write a letter for them for their birthday and I have written one for their previous birthdays and while writing this post, I actually went back to read my old posts and I am amazed how much they have grown over the years. I do send them the link to my posts and ask them to read and even share if they want to with their friends.

Since they have now started tertiary education, I thought this could be the perfect time to share some life lessons. And since they are 17 today, I’ll do 17 such lessons grouped into different categories:

  1. Sleep: Sleep at least 7 hours a day, your body will thank you 40 or 50 years down the line. At this point in life, you may think you are invincible and can’t get by with the bare minimum of sleep, but your sleep debt is accumulating. Sleep plays a critical role in helping our bodies and minds recover and rejuvenate. Sleep promotes cognition and memory, facilitates learning, recharges our mental and physical batteries, and generally helps us make the most out of our days. With plentiful sleep, we improve our mental and physical health, reduce stress, and maintain the routine that is critical to healthy daily functioning. This habit, if healthly followed will stand in good stead in life, when you may not get the optimum level of sleep, but then you would not have accumulated so much sleep debt.
  2. Look after your health: You have only one body in this life, so look after it and keep it in optimal condition. Have healthy eating habits, eating more fresh produce and less junk food. Try to give up sugar if possible, it will do wonders for your health and also do not snack mindlessly. Make sure you do some exercise each day. It’s best if you do something you enjoy like dancing or running, but whatever you do, just do something! Not only will it mean having good health all through life, it also means when you present yourself in front of others, you are confident about your body and therefore about yourself. In the same vein, look after your external looks too. Take care of your skin and adopt a good skincare routine, irrespective of your gender. Makeup only conceals and covers, but with a good skin, makeup will enhance what you already have.
  3. Appreciate your family and close friends: Listen to what your parents and elders have to say. They know much more than you, especially at this point in life, and only have your best interests in mind when they give you advice. Most of the advice they give you is most probably from experience and they have gone through the exact same situation you are now in. At the same time, don’t listen to them blindly, your parents are after all human beings and can be wrong, so listen to them and then do some further research before you decide to take or not to take their advice.
  4. Learn life skills: These are skills you need to lead your life which include skills like cooking, cleaning, doing your laundry etc. Learn them now while you are still living at home and can get tutored from your parents on how best to do these chores. If you don’t learn them voluntarily now, you may be forced to learn them (maybe without someone teaching you) at a later stage.
  5. Learn to love IT: Artificial Intelligence is taking over the wold and with this many jobs will become redundant in the future. Learn to code and embrace AI so that your job becomes more secure. You will also have a plan B should the job you are in at any point be made redundant.
  6. Never stop learning: This is self evident. The day you stop learning is the day you start to stagnate. Learning stops the day you die and so never stop learning. Learning does not only come from a book or by going to school, every incident in life is a learning opportunity, so learn from all your successes and failures, learn from family, friends, coworkers and even the random stranger you meet may teach you something, so keep learning every second of the day.  
  7. Grab every opportunity that comes your way: In fact, I would say, go out of your way to find and look for opportunities. Look for internships and projects which will boost your resume and bring you front and centre of those who make hiring decisions. Many opportunities are never advertised mainly because these are filled because someone recommends a suitable person. Become that suitable person by showcasing what you can bring to the table by your work. Acknowledge your mistakes, own them and learn from them.
  8. Find a mentor: Search and find a good mentor who has the experience and knowledge to guide you. In fact, I would advise that you look for multiple mentors who can guide you in various aspects of life. Of course you don’t only take from a mentor, you should also give back to your mentor and help where you can. A mentor who is willing to help you does that because he or she sees that elusive spark in you. They have the connections and access to important people which you will not have at this point. A good mentor will lead you by pushing and encouraning you to get where you want to go and with their suppoer and encouragement, you should be able to succeed.
  9. Read: Reading is incredibly important and you should read widely and across a variety of genres. You access new worlds and learn so much from reading that you should set aside a dedicated time each day to read. Reading reduces stress, stimulates your mind, improves your vocabulary and memory and makes you know a lot about many many things that others are ignorant about. It also improves focus and concentration and hones your analytical and critical thinking skills and when you read more, you automatically become better in your own writing which will be an asset everywhere.
  10. Life’s passion: Try to find something you can be passionate about all your life. This will make life a bit easier when you spend half yor day or more at work. Of course, passions change and you need to refine your passion as you grow, both at work and in life and when passions change, try to make sure you are in the right position to take advantage of this change in passion.
  11. Learn to say No: This is another important life lesson. Most times, we are afraid to say No to the people in our lives – be it our family, friends, co-workers or managers. We take on more than we can do and afraid of confrontation, we end up saying Yes. If you find it difficult to say no, start practising with low stakes – like a stranger accosting you in the MRT station or someone trying to sell you something. Say Yes only when the opportunity aligns with your long-term goals. Another way to say no is to couch your refusal in very polite terms.
  12. Privacy Matters: Be aware of and ensure your privacy. There is no need to overshare on social networks, what is on the internet stays there forever, you never know when a post or a photo or a video can come back to haunt you. So be very circumspect in what you post online.
  13. Be financially literate: Financial literacy is important because it will equip you with an understanding of basic financial concepts so that you make sound real-world financial decisions. With this knowledge, you are in a better way to be able to manage your money, make sound decisions, and maintain healthy spending and budgeting habits, which over time can lead to financial wellness. Start a savings habit as early as possible and remember the power of compounding!
  14. Lead a purposeful life: What does this mean? It means not to go through the motions of life, the life you lead should be one in which life has some meaning, a life where you are connected and engaged with those around you. Do something for the less fortunate in society and learn to give back to those who need it, it need not be money, you can give your time, your skill-set and sometimes even a listening ear is enough. In this same vein, I would also recommend starting a meditation practice daily. Spending a few minutes each day with just yourself and your breathing will do wonders for your mental health and life equilibrium.
  15. Focus on what is important at this moment: Today it is school and tomorrow it will be your career. Focus fully on what is in front of you. Also at this point, you can and should take some calculated risks in life, specially since you are cushioned by your family and don’t have family and financial commitments as yet. Be competitive, but don’t make the competition a one-upmanship show. Be your own competitor and try to be a better version of yourself than what you were yesterday. Don’t indulge in petty politicking at work or school. Stay away from gossip and cheap talk and let your work speak for itself.
  16. Don’t be a sheep: Don’t accept instructions blindly or sign documents just because someone tells you to do so. Do your own research, ask questions before making a call and use caution before taking any decision. Also, it will help If you can talk to people close to you, especially your parents.
  17. Be Ambitious: Be ambitious and reach for the stars. In fact, aim for the stars and you will reach the moon. Aim for something slightly over your reach and go all out to achieve it, you will eventually get to it. You are also the average of the five people you spend the most time with, so choose friends wisely. Also remember that there is no shortcut to success. All those successful people you see, they had to hustle for years and work hard before they became ‘overnight sucesses’. Lastly be scrupulously honest, both with yourself and the people around you. Lies have a way of catching up and keeping up with the many falsehoods you may have said will definitely catchup one day!

So there you have it, 17 life lessons which I hope are useful to them.

Global Day of Parents

sarvatIrthamayI maataa sarvadevamayaH pitaa
maataraM pitaraM tasmaat sarvayatnena pUjayet

Mother is (the embodiment) of all pilgrimages, father is (the embodiment) of all deities. Hence, mother and father are to be revered with all efforts.

Old Sanskrit Shloka

Parents are the bedrock of society. Without parents to nurture a child, physically, mentally, spiritually, socially and psychologically, we may well have been living in isolation! They say a parent a born along with the child and so the importance of a parent in the child’s life, especially in the early years can’t be emphasised enough.

Being a parent is the most important job in the world. The first 1,000 days of life is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to build a baby’s brain and shape a child’s ability to learn and grow. Parents want to give their children the best they can. Yet, many have no choice but to work long hours, often away from home, to support their families. Parents need time to give their child the best start in life. Parenting is probably one of the most fulfilling, if not the most demanding job we will ever have! The responsibility to care for another tiny human being who depends on you and your partner for their very survival is immense, but it is something we humans do so quite instinctively. After all, the urge to procreate is in our DNA, though there are exceptions to the rule.

A parent is a child’s first hero. A girl’s first love is her father and when she looks for partners as she grows up, she will look for a man like her father if she has been brought up in a loving environment and the opposite of her father if her father had been abusive growing up. Likewise, for a boy, his mother is the first woman in his life. He will probably look for a woman like her when he is looking to get into a relationship and will most likely compare women he meets with his mother. Again, a loving mother will inspire him to look for similar qualities in his partner and an abusive and non-maternal mother figure will make him look for someone with the exact opposite qualities.

Parents nurture their children throughout their lives, guiding them, sometimes invisibly. They play multiple roles in their children’s lives – as teachers, as coaches, as psychologists, as friends and as parents.

Because parents such a huge role in everybody’s lives the United Nations decided to observe June 1, that today as the Global Day of Parents. This day was proclaimed in 2012 and honours parents throughout the world. The Global Day provides an opportunity to appreciate all parents in all parts of the world for their selfless commitment to children and their lifelong sacrifice towards nurturing this relationship.

Emphasising the critical role of parents in the rearing of children, the Global Day of Parents recognises also that the family has the primary responsibility for the nurturing and protection of children. For the full and harmonious development of their personality, children should grow up in a family environment and in an atmosphere of happiness, love and understanding.

The central goals of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development adopted by the world leaders in 2015, focus on ending poverty, promoting shared economic prosperity, social development and people’s well-being while protecting the environment. Families remain at the centre of social life ensuring the well-being of their members, educating and socializing children and youth and caring for young and old.

In particular, family-oriented policies can contribute to the achievement of Sustainable Development Goals 1 to 5 relating to doing away with poverty and hunger; ensuring healthy lives and promoting of well-being for all ages; ensuring educational opportunities throughout the lifespan and achieving gender equality.

So why celebrate such a day? Days like this reminds us to respect others. As a child, you are taught to respect others, especially our elders, but I believe that you have to respect everyone, irrespective of the fact that they are older than you. Our parents have been with us through thick and thin and have been there for us in every stage of our life. A parental unit is not just a mother or a father, it is the two individuals who have brought you to life, so a day like this showcases the other parent who may not be taking an active interest in their child’s life, but on days like this, they can spend some time with their child or vice versa and learn from each other. Parenting is like playing a game of tag. It is hard going it alone and so when you are a parental unit, you have to recognise that both partners play an equal part in bringing up their children.

So take some time today to talk to your parentsm, your first teacher and nurturer and tell them how much you love them and appreciate all that they have gone through to bring you up to be the person you are today. And if you are a parent yourself, give yourself a pat on the back for a job well done!