Author: Expert Visitor

Challenging the term ‘old’

A brilliant article from The Economist in which the notion of being ‘old’ at 65 is debunked.

IN MUCH of the rich world, 65 still marks the beginning of old age. Jobs end, subsidised bus travel begins and people start to be seen as a financial burden rather than an asset to the state.

The larger the “65-plus” group becomes, compared with the population of working age, the more policymakers worry about the costs of their healthcare and pensions. By the end of the century the “old-age dependency ratio”, which tracks this relationship, will triple. Pessimists predict a “silver tsunami” that will bankrupt us all.

But does it still make sense to call 65-year-olds “old”?

The Oxford English dictionary defines “old” as “having lived for a long time”. It illustrates the sense with an accompanying phrase, “the old man lay propped up on cushions”: the old person as one who has made all the useful contributions he can possibly make to society and is now at rest.

When pensions were first introduced in Prussia, in the 1880s, this was probably a fair characterisation for anyone over 65. Not many people lived beyond this age; those who did were rarely in good health.

Today many 65-year-olds are healthy and active. Yet governments and employers still treat 65 as a cliff’s edge beyond which people are regarded as “old”: inactive, and an economic burden.

3 reasons why it’s wrong

First, what “old” means is relative. Life expectancy has gone through the roof since von Bismarck pioneered the Prussian welfare state. Today the average 65-year-old German can expect to live another 20 years; so can most people in other rich countries, meaning old age now arguably kicks in later than before.

Second, the term carries an underlying implication about health, or at least fitness. But healthy-life expectancy has grown roughly in tandem with life expectancy; for many, 70 really is the new 60.

Third, surveys show that the majority of younger over-65-year-olds increasingly want to stay actively involved in their communities and economies. Few want to retire in the literal sense of the word, which implies withdrawing from society as a whole. Many want to continue working but on different terms than before, asking for more flexibility and fewer hours.

All this shows that life stages are primarily social constructs.

Words like “old” and “retired” signal to policymakers, and to old people themselves, how they ought to behave and be treated by governments, businesses and employers. In a three-stage model of life’s cycle, children learn, adults work and old people rest. As a result, most institutions still treat 65 as a cut-off point for social and economic usefulness. But ageing is a gradual process, which people experience in different ways. While some may feel old at 65, nowadays most do not.

Acknowledging that there is a new stage of life between full-time work and old age would help everyone make the most of longer life spans.

The persistent popularity of property

Chartered Wealth Solutions’ RetiremeantTM Specialist and Certified Financial Planner®, James Carvalho, assesses the value of rental property as an investment.

Over the past ten years or so, I have been party to numerous conversations that have debated the merits of rental property. I have frequently wondered what lies at the heart of this affiliation to property.

I have concluded that it is most likely the ability to own something tangible – you can see and touch it. (You seldom hear braai-side talk of share portfolios or unit trust portfolios!)

While property is certainly a viable option for investing, what many may not realise (if unprepared for the rigors of renting out property) is that this investment can be a source of persistent headaches.

The case for diversity
In 2011, in the wake of the 2008 global financial crisis, one of my clients was overwhelmed by her emotion in our meeting.  She owned eight properties and suddenly, four of them were standing open. Three of the tenants had lost their jobs and one of them had moved to Cape Town.

Rental payments from her remaining tenants were barely covering her bond costs, and she still had three bonds over the properties.

For years, I had been encouraging her to diversify her risk in her investments.  But, as so often happens, she was lured by the exaggerated returns in the property market, based on the promise of the boom years from 2002 to 2008.  And the unfortunate consequence has been that, at present, she has managed to sell only two of the properties, and her rental incomes are not beating inflation, and nor is the annual growth on her property.

Still a sound investment?
Through a planning process, we as financial planners would establish what the optimum investment return would be for your money to sustain your lifestyle and to last the term of your retirement.

Generally, we find retired people aim at achieving a return of approximately inflation plus 4% with their funds.

In light of this goal, I note some of my clients’ responses, when I ask by how much their rental fees had increased.  “Nothing this year; it’s been a tough year for my tenant,” or, “My tenant just lost his job so I am giving him a contribution holiday.”

Perhaps the most concerning comment was that the tenant would not pay and possession equals nine tenths of the law.

Despite these tales of rental regret, there are still many investors whose investment in property has given a positive return.

I would suggest that, if you are thinking of buying property to rent out, you consider the following:

  • Buying off-plan is appealing as there are no transfer duties. Transfer duties is a sunk cost: it is doubtful that you will recover this cost.
  • Schedule fixed rent increases in your lease – it obviates having to negotiate these every year.  Rent should increase by more than inflation every year.
  •  Establish a lease of twelve months, renewable with three months’ notice, thereby allowing you time to find a new tenant.
  • If you are a tax-payer, bond your rental property so that you can write off the interest against the rent.
  • Rental income is taxable and needs to be added to your tax return.
  • When you sell a property, other than your primary residence, it will attract Capital Gains Tax.
  • You need to be able to pay for repairs to the property; as a rule of thumb, you should keep 10% of the rent aside for maintenance.
  • If you don’t have the patience to deal with tenants, use an agent to rent out the property.  This usually comes at a cost of 10% of the rent, but it is often money well spent.

In conclusion, I reiterate the timeless sound advice to ensure you diversify between all assets when investing:  shares, cash, property stock, and corporate and government bonds.

And, remember, that your financial planner is always at hand to guide and advise you.

How much sex are older adults having?

Last year, the editors at NextAvenue.org asked their readers to tell them what question regarding older adults and sexuality they would most like to see answered. The editors narrowed down responses based on common themes, then did an online poll to select the “winning” question – which was three related questions.

Here they are, with answers from experts to provide helpful information:

  • How much sex is going on among older folks?
  • How long can sex be maintained?
  • Are there alternatives?

These are important questions, especially since sex helps us have better relationships and better physical and mental health.

“Sex is a basic, primal human activity, and there is no reason it needs to disappear forever as we age,” said Dr. Abraham Morgentaler, founder and director of Men’s Health Boston and a member of the American Sexual Health Association’s board of directors.

For many years, there was very little information on the sexual habits of older Americans, said John DeLamater, a professor of sociology at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. One exception was a landmark study published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2008. Researchers interviewed 3,005 older men and women in the U.S.

The results:

  • 73 percent of those age 57 to 64 said they were sexually active (defined by the researchers as having sexual contact — though not necessarily intercourse — with at least one partner over the past 12 months).
  • The percentage of those sexually active dropped to 53 percent among somewhat older respondents, those age 65 to 74.
  • Among respondents age 75 to 85, 26 percent said they were sexually active.

The study consisted of in-person interviews with 3,005 men and women. Some were in long-term relationships, some were not. Women are less likely in older age to be in a relationship, as they are more likely to outlive their their husbands or male partners.

“Clearly, in our society, we’ve been raised to believe that intimate sexual activity should occur primarily in a committed couple relationship,” DeLamater said. “And particularly women, when they lose that partner, the older they are, the less likely they are to try to establish a new relationship.”

How Long Can Sex Continue?

The question of how long sexual activity continues into older age depends on a number of factors, experts said. Medical issues may interfere with vaginal intercourse – more on those issues below.

But in couples, how well you get along is vital, too.

Sociologist Brian Gillespie of Sonoma State University in California studied the frequency of, and satisfaction with, sex among a national sample of 9,164 partnered adults age 50 to 85. His 2016 study concluded that “older adults with active and satisfying sex lives engage more frequently in open sexual communication and setting the mood for sexual activity.” Couples who are “in sync” in sexual desire and activities tend to have the most frequent and satisfying sex, it said. Mixing up different types of sexual activities during an encounter was also linked with more frequent and satisfying sex.

Those respondents answered an anonymous online survey that was posted on NBC News for 10 days in 2006.

Gillespie wrote that his study “has helped challenge the idea that older adults do not, or cannot, maintain a highly active and/or highly satisfying sex life.”

DeLamater agreed that for couples in a good relationship who consider sexuality important, sex “can continue well into the 80s.”

What Can Get in the Way

Of course, sex-related health problems can come up as we age. These include:

  • Erectile dysfunction (ED)  ED can be a side effect of many medical issues, including heart disease, clogged arteries, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, alcoholism, tobacco use, sleep disorders and treatments for prostate cancer, according to the Mayo Clinic. It can also be caused by depression, stress and poor communication between couples. Certain drugs, such as Viagra and Cialis, can help. Some men may benefit from other therapies, such as urethral suppositories or testosterone replacement. It’s important to talk with your doctor about ED and possible treatments.
  • Vaginal dryness. Because of changing hormone levels after menopause, particularly a drop in estrogen, many women lose the natural lubrication they once had. Sex can become very painful. Fortunately, there are solutions. Over-the-counter lubricants are one option. They contain no hormones. Another choice is a vaginal estrogen, which must be obtained with a prescription. It comes in the form of a cream, suppository, tablet (to be placed in the vagina) and vaginal ring.
  • Low libido  Women or men may have less interest in sex for various reasons. Low libido can be caused by anti-depressants and anti-seizure medications, the Mayo Clinic says. In men, it can be caused by low testosterone. Lack of exercise and drug and alcohol use can also cut into libido, as can psychological factors. For instance, DeLamater said one study found that women in their 50s and 60s who begin to feel less sexually attractive may lose their interest in sex. The researcher called it “feeling frumpy.”
  • Medication side effects  As mentioned above, medications can lower sex drive and contribute to erectile dysfunction. These include medications to treat high blood pressure, diabetes, hormonal problems, depression and anxiety. They may also affect the ability to have an orgasm. But it’s worth having a talk with your doctor; a different medication may provide similar benefits without the negative side effects.
  • General poor health  Having chronic pain, such as arthritis or back pain, being overweight or having little mobility can also make sex more difficult or satisfying.

What Are the Alternatives to Penetrative Intercourse?  Click here to read the article on Next Avenue.

Emily Gurnon is Senior Content Editor covering health and caregiving for Next Avenue

13 things to give up to be successful

Somebody once told me the definition of hell:

“On your last day on earth, the person you became will meet the person you could have become.” — Anonymous

Sometimes, to become successful and get closer to the person you can become, you don’t need to add more things — give some of them up.

Certain things are universal, which will make you successful if you give up on them, even though each one of us could have a different definition of success.

You can give up on some of them as soon as today, while it might take a bit longer to give up on others.

  1. Give up on the unhealthy lifestyle

“Take care of your body. It’s the only place you have to live.” — Jim Rohn

If you want to achieve anything in life, everything starts here. First, you should take care of your health, and there are only three things you need to keep in mind:

  1. Quality Sleep
  2. Healthy Diet
  3. Physical Activity

Small steps, but you will thank yourself one day.

  1. Give up the short-term mindset

“You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough.” — Mae West

Successful people set long-term goals, and they know these aims are merely the result of short-term habits that they need to do every day.

These healthy habits shouldn’t be something you do; they should be something you embody. There is a difference between: “Working out to get a summer body” and “Working out because that’s who you are.”

  1. Give up on playing small

“Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people will not feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone, and as we let our light shine, we unconsciously give others permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”   —  Marianne Williamson

If you never try and take great opportunities or allow your dreams to become realities, you will never unleash your true potential.

And the world will never benefit from what you could have achieved.

So voice your ideas, don’t be afraid to fail, and certainly don’t be afraid to succeed.

  1. Give up your excuses

“It’s not about the cards you’re dealt, but how you play the hand.”

― Randy Pausch, The Last Lecture

Successful people know that they are responsible for their life, no matter their starting point, weaknesses, and past failures. Realising that you are responsible for what happens next in your life is both frightening and exciting.

And when you do, that becomes the only way you can become successful, because excuses limit and prevent us from growing personally and professionally.

Own your life; no one else will.

  1. Give up the fixed mindset

“The future belongs to those who learn more skills and combine them in creative ways.” ― Robert Greene, Mastery

People with a fixed mindset think their intelligence or talents are pre-determined traits that cannot be changed. They also believe that talent alone leads to success — without hard work. But they’re wrong.

Successful people know this. They invest an immense amount of time on a daily basis to develop a growth mindset, acquire new knowledge, learn new skills and change their perception so that it can benefit their lives.

Who you are today is not who you have to be tomorrow.

  1. Give up believing in the “magic bullet.”

“Every day, in every way, I’m getting better and better” — Émile Coué

Overnight success is a myth. Successful people know that making small continuous improvement every day will be compounded over time and give them desired results.

That is why you should plan for the future, but focus on the day that’s ahead of you, and improve just 1% every day.

  1. Give up your perfectionism

Shipping beats perfection.” — Khan Academy’s Development Mantra

Nothing will ever be perfect, no matter how much you try.

Fear of failure (or even fear of success) often prevents you from taking action and putting your creation out there in the world. But a lot of opportunities will be lost if you wait for things to be right.

  1. Give up multi-tasking

“Most of the time multitasking is an illusion. You think you are multitasking, but in reality, you are actually wasting time switching from one task to another “

— Bosco Tjan

Successful people know this. That’s why they choose one thing and then beat it into submission. No matter what it is — a business idea, a conversation, or a workout. Being fully present and committed to one task is indispensable.

  1. Give up your need to control everything

“Some things are up to us, and some things are not up to us.” — Epictetus

Differentiating these two is crucial. Detach from the things you cannot control, focus on the ones you can, and know that sometimes, the only thing you will be able to control is your attitude towards something.

  1. Give up on saying yes to things that don’t support your goals

“He who would accomplish little must sacrifice little; he who would achieve much must sacrifice much; he who would attain highly must sacrifice greatly.”  — James Allen

Successful people know that in order to accomplish their goals, they will have to say NO to certain tasks, activities, and demands from their friends, family, and colleagues.

In the short-term, you might sacrifice a bit of instant gratification, but when your goals come to fruition, it will all be worth it.

  1. Give up the toxic people

“Stay away from negative people. They have a problem for every solution.”

— Albert Einstein

People you spend the most time with add up to who you become.

If you spend time with those who refuse to take responsibility for their life, always find excuses and blame others for the situation they are in, your average will go down, and with it your opportunity to succeed.

However, if you spend time with people who are trying to increase their standard of living, and grow personally and professionally, your average will go up, and you will become more successful. Take a look at around you, and see if you need to make any changes.

  1. Give up your need to be liked

“You can be the juiciest, ripest peach in the world, and there’s still going to be people who hate peaches.” — Dita Von Teese

Think of yourself as a market niche. There will be a lot of people who like that niche, and there will be individuals who don’t. And no matter what you do, you won’t be able to make the entire market like you.

This is completely natural, and there’s no need to justify yourself.

The only thing you can do is to remain authentic, improve and provide value every day, and know that the growing number of “haters” means that you are doing remarkable things.

  1. Give up wasting time

“The trouble is, you think you have time” — Jack Kornfield

You only have this one crazy and precious life. That’s why you owe it to yourself to see who you can become, and how far you can go. However, to do that, you need to ditch meaningless time wasters and stop allowing them to be an escape from your most important goals.

To do that, you should learn how to take control over your focus, attention and make the most out of your 24 hours within a day. Remember that you will die, so never stop creating your legacy and doing the things that will enrich your life.

Good Luck … the journey is a good one!

Published December 27, 2017 Michael McMahon, Director of MGM 1 PTY LTD

Creating a happy space to work in

To be healthy and productive, we also need to be happy.

The 5 Cs for happiness in your work

In her research for her book Raise your Leaders, Jenny Handley interviewed a number of established leaders and their followers to find out what they believe constitutes a healthy working environment.

(Health Intelligence 2014, Jenny Handley)

Empowerment and Expression

Are you allowed self-expression in your work?  Do you and your colleagues accept your mistakes as a development mechanism? Is your creativity and innovation encouraged?

Verbal and written affirmation and appreciation – expressed financially, and in other currencies such as flexibility and time off – also make a difference on the happiness barometer.

Particularly the younger generation workers want their work to link to their sense of purpose, and to know what the ultimate outcome of their contribution to the company is.  Personal development, plus a sense of belonging is important for them, as is being respected, and respecting those who work for and with.

Stress needs to be avoided or managed if you want to work on your happiness. With technology increasing our connectivity, expectations have been elevated.  Employees may expect their team to be available and on call at all times, and unclear divisions between work time and home time can cause stress.

Happiness and high performance

Those who prioritise happiness are those who see a difference in their work and in their results.  Happy people, according to research, are more productive, as a result of being more energised.  Unhappy people can bring down the morale of happy people.  A happy workforce is more engaged, motivated and has a higher sense of self-belief.  When an individual feels a connection to an organisation, then he or she is more likely to be happy.

So, the five factors for happiness at work:

Contribution: the effort you make

Conviction: about your short-term motivation

Culture: fitting into the organisation

Commitment: engagement with your role

Confidence: self-belief

(Research by Jessica Pryce-Jones, iOpener Institute)

Three elements: Trust, Recognition, Pride, form the foundation of this model.

Well-being in your work

Better physical health translates into more energy and a positive mindset.  What also provides a sense of well-being is when people are working with their strengths and feel confident, when they’re “in the zone”. In addition, if their competence equates to their challenges, there is a sense of homeostasis.

Harmony is enjoyed when there is cohesion in a team, when everyone makes an effort to get along with their teammates.  Whilst there may be dissension and disagreements, if they are tackled in a professional manner, harmony can remain constant.  When a company allows their people to use and feed off one another’s strengths, everyone is happier. Doing a task that weakens your confidence (something you know you’ll never succeed at) causes unhappiness.

Ultimately, happiness is a choice; it can be measured and is contagious. Make your choice.

An apology to Millennials

Richard Watts, author of Entitlemania, takes responsibility as a Boomer parent of Millennial children: he feels parents have protected them from experiences that would engender in them the very qualities we think they lack.

“Kids, we are sorry. We thought we had your best interest at heart, but in reality, we were making you look good to make us look good. We wanted a best friend and failed to realize that parenting was more valuable to you than our friendship. We let our love for you hijack our parenting skills. We prevented you from experiencing the natural consequences of your own actions. We were afraid to risk your affection when we should have equipped you with the life tools that only come from allowing you to struggle, persist and recover on your own.

“We felt obligated to explain every time we said ‘No!’ We handed you an allowance when you didn’t do anything for it. We gave you too much and anesthetized your drive. But most egregious, we prevented you from exploring and honing your passions. We put blinders on you to keep your head looking in the direction we carefully mapped and now you are without expression.

“We are most sincerely sorry and ask you to recognize, accept, and forgive our failure.”

Overcome your childhood fears to get more from life

Writer and blogger, Elaine Ambrose, recalls how a memory of a traumatic near drowning experience in her childhood, nearly scuppered her recent snorkeling vacation. I found her approach to processing her fear for healing hugely helpful.

She describes her memory vividly: “I remember flailing and struggling for breath before sinking slowly. I’ll never forget the feeling of sinking, weak and silent, to the bottom of the pool. I can still feel the rough texture of the pool against my skin. The memory makes my heart race. I have been in the water many times since, but the traumatic memory has never faded entirely. I admit that I am afraid of deep water.”

Recognise and handle your fears

Elaine Ambrose suggests that there are several ways to recognise and handle childhood fears, and these may help you deal with yours or empathise with others.

“First, acknowledge the fear is real. I can’t pretend the near-drowning never happened. The memories are embedded in my mind and can emerge any time I’m in deep water.

“You can also empathise with others who have childhood fears. Some adults are afraid of the dark; others have a phobia about dogs or spiders. Remembering your own apprehensions and experiences can help you understand and sympathise with them and stop others from mocking their anxieties.

“Seek help, if necessary. When fears become debilitating, professional counseling may be required to address and overcome the issue. Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome encompasses many symptoms, and a trained counselor can make recommendations for treatment.

“Your experience is part of your story. I survived the ordeal at the swimming pool, and I can use that successful reality to face other obstacles. Surviving an ordeal makes it easier to tolerate another one, like record snowfall.

Your fears do not define you

Elaine is convinced that her near-drowning experience is part of, but doesn’t define, her life. “My adult children have seen me face my fears by snorkeling and waterskiing, so they know I’m not too afraid to get back into the water,” she says.

As expected, the snorkeling adventure brought back the memories from 1965. But Elaine remained calm until the fear subsided. “I paddled on top of the deep water and gazed at the abundant, beautiful vision below. The brochures were correct; it was some of the best snorkeling in the world,” she concludes.

Facing your fears requires courage and often practical actions that take you beyond the potential paralysis.  Sometimes it is simply to make a decision whose outcome is unknown; at other times, it is confronting someone whose words or actions have hurt you; and sometimes it is taking up the challenge not to live a mediocre life.  This can help you live a fuller life as you take hold of all the promise that your second half holds. Be brave.

The number one money argument among adult siblings

Parents’ finances can lead to painful rifts among their children.  Richard Eisenberg, money editor for NextAvenue, identifies three issues that cause the most conflict among siblings:

  1. How an inheritance is divided.  Apparently, Boomers are more likely to argue about this than GenerationXs or Millennials.
  2. Whether one sibling supports parents more than the other siblings.
  3. Whether parents are fair in their financial support of their children.

Ironically, conflict among their children is usually the last thing that parents want.  Many parents want to leave an inheritance, and may inadvertently create unrealistic expectations of what each child will receive

At the heart of the conflict is often the different approaches that each of the children has to financial matters (this despite being raised with similar values), and their perceived asset level compared to their siblings.  “It’s how the siblings’ own lives have turned out financially that often leads to their money disagreements,” says Eisenberg.

Research cited by Eisenberg indicates that Boomers are also less likely to have financial discussions with their siblings:  42% avoid these conversations versus 27% of Millennials and 35% of GenerationXs.

So, here are some recommendations for avoiding conflict:

  • Set aside time as siblings to talk about money and set past disagreements aside. Make sure everyone gets a voice. Set a date to do this.
  • If you all find it too difficult to come to an agreement, get a financial planner involved. She will have the necessary expertise and an objective perspective, and can mediate and help prompt discussion on essential issues.
  • Try not to argue about who is doing the most for your parents. This may happen as a result of geographic proximity or varying time available.  Rather, find ways in which the sibling with less responsibility can get more involved. An important part of the conversation is ensuring that non-financial tasks for parents don’t fall disproportionately on the sibling who is local. “Assign roles based on each person’s unique circumstances,” Eisenberg urges.
  • .Prevent future grudges regarding inheritance by having a conversation with your parents and siblings about your mother’s and father’s hopes and plans regarding who will get what … and when and why. Parents not comfortable with such a discussion?  Perhaps they can write their wishes (and reasons for them) in a Letter of Wishes or a similar document.

A last note on avoiding family strife

“A final tip for fending off family strife,” says Eisenberg, is to bear the following in mind: “Siblings are often the longest relationships people have in their lives. You know your sibling longer than anyone else. It’s really important to come together and work together to care for, and support, your aging parents.”

When a loved one can no longer manage her financial affairs

When Sue’s planner noticed that Sue was becoming increasingly forgetful and tended to repeat herself in meetings, she realised that she would need to discuss this with Sue’s daughter, Elaine.  Both Sue and Elaine had been clients at their financial planning company for some time.

‘How will I break it to my mother that she has to be certified as mentally incapable of managing her own affairs?” was Elaine’s response.  She was devastated and felt overwhelmed by the weight of it all.  Where to start?

Elaine decided to take over the administration of her mother’s affairs as her other sisters do not live nearby.    Her already busy life became even more busy.  Managing her own affairs and that of her mother’s proved to be extremely stressful.  Paying bills, organising and managing carers and drivers, arranging meals, booking and attending doctor visits became the norm.

Elaine also had to take responsibility for Sue’s investment portfolio in addition to her own. Her planner encouraged her to consider handing the administration of Sue’s matters over to a professional administrator and made the necessary introductions.   Elaine was reluctant at first, feeling that she was somehow letting her mother down; however, following her first meeting with the administrators, she realised that it would be in everyone’s best interest to engage their services.

Since then Sue has been moved to a retirement facility. Sadly, but not wholly unexpectedly, her mental state has deteriorated, so she requires full-time carers.   Elaine takes comfort in the additional support offered by the administrator.

Sue is very fortunate in having a daughter nearby who is able to come to her aid.  This is not always the case and having a conversation with your planner sooner rather than later is a critical part of your financial plan.

Prepare before the crisis

Penny is a client who has taken it on herself to look after her disabled mother’s affairs.  “This handover of responsibility was organic, but I think, if personalities permit, it would be better to discuss these things with ageing parents before the necessity arises.  Once there is a crisis, emotions run high, and you don’t know if the person will be in a fit mental or physical state to make such decisions.”

Perhaps open the discussion in this way: “As you are getting older, the possibility exists that you could have a stroke and not be able to talk or manage your affairs. It may be a good idea to sign a Power of Attorney together.  Then, should the need arise, that would enable me to pay your bills and get what you need, without you having to fret about it.”

Encourage your children to attend at least one or two planner meetings with you to discuss plans whilst you are still mentally healthy and alert.  It is an onerous and traumatic process for all parties concerned.   Says Penny, “Considering increasing longevity and older people’s seeming denial about their stage of life and what lies ahead, with hindsight, I would have raised the subject much earlier about what would happen when my parents got older.  I think it would have been helpful to introduce the idea of possible reduced independence and what strategies should be adopted if that were to occur.  Perhaps even trying to get them to agree to go to look at different options at that time, so that they could see what they thought might work form them.’

Why not have this discussion, difficult as it may be, with your financial planner, so that you are equipped with the necessary information well before you may need it.

Article by Christina Forman, Certified  Financial Planner and Retirement Specialist at Chartered Wealth Solutions. We will post further articles from both Christina and a client dealing with this difficult but very important subject.

Alone does not mean lonely

Sybille Essmann, Chartered Wealth Solutions Retirement Specialist, has put legs on the Retire Successfully philosophy.  She has written a number of articles on her adventures and travels that have taken her to exotic destinations she would not have dreamed of seeing.  The defining moments, however, have been encountering remarkable people who have had an enduring impact on her life. Here she gives us a snapshot of some of these encounters.

At nearly 50, Nicky volunteered as a teacher in Mombasa, before heading for a 3-year stint at an international school in Bangkok.  I met her on a bus from Kampot to Phnom Phen in Cambodia.  We have firmed up the friendship by her visits to South Africa and I have no doubt that our paths will cross again, possibly in some remote location on the globe.

When you are a solo traveller, you may think that you gravitate to people the same as you.  What a pity that would be!  It was such a treat to see Laos – during an epic monsoon thunderstorm – through the eyes of two young ladies in their twenties from Switzerland and Germany.

In Kathamandu, I befriended the enterprising young Dipendra, manager of the Trekkers Home, who put together an unforgettable 11-day package, taking me to Pokhara, then a 5-day trek through the foothills of the Annapurna Himalaya and onto the Chitwas National Park in search of the elusive Nepalese tiger.  Dipendra, a shining example of Nepalese hospitality, contributed to that country becoming my number one destination in the East.

Embracing new ways to connect

My São Paulo AirB&B hosts, Guillhaume and Eduardo, remain friends to today, thanks to the power of Facebook. I had similar positive experiences with hosts in Brazil, Colombia, Peru.

Beyond that, I “adopted” many other young people along the way. I met Nícolas and Kelly on a Free Walking Tour in Rio de Janeiro. They invited me to stay with them in Bogotá. I might have been their inspiration to explore the world, because together they have subsequently spent 8 months in India, a few months in Turkey, then Italy and are presently in Russia. I was so excited when they reported that South Africa was on their travel itinerary and I cannot wait to open my home to them.

In the Amazonian jungle I met the beautiful Tathiane from São Paulo who also recently made it to our shores while on a year-long travel adventure around the world, the silver-tongued Gregor also from Brazil, who calls me mom, his friend Jerry from Oz, Indian Vasu, now living in California and Israeli Nir who made up our merry troupe. I so often reminisce about the unforgettable few days we spent together. It gives me such pleasure to follow their exploits on Facebook.

Medellin in Colombia rates as one of my favourite South American cities, mainly due to my good fortune of meeting the sultry Georgia. Colombian by birth, Georgia had been adopted by Swiss parents, and was doing a thesis on slum tourism. Together we discovered parts of the city that a visitor rarely gets to see, and explored many interesting gems further afield that I might have missed on my own.

Because the Galápagos Islands were beyond my shoestring budget, I opted for a 45US$ day trip to the Isla de la Plata, an hour’s boat trip off the Ecuadorian coast which is supposed to be the Poor Man’s Galapagos. There I met Swiss Rike and Martin, who had bought an old Ford van in Buenos Aires and had spent the last 11 months criss-crossing the continent. Their van has subsequently taken them beyond South America, through Central America and the USA and only now nearly two years later is their trip coming to an end as they are expecting a baby. They remain one of my travel icons.

When help was needed most

Florence and Richard, she from France, he from New Zealand, married and having one last travel adventure before settling down in New Zealand were my travel buddies when we made the arduous trip from Popayan, Colombia over the Ecuadorian border on to Quito. Over the next few weeks our paths crossed many times and we finally had a joyous reunion in Arequipa. From there we planned a two day hiking trip into the Colca Canyon, after which we had already booked our bus tickets and our accommodation in Cusco – we were uber-excited to finally get to what undoubtedly would have been my pinnacle of travel experiences, Machu Picchu.

Alas, it was not to be.

40 minutes into our hike I stumbled over a rock, and when I heard the crack I knew in a heartbeat that this was the end of my travels. I will forever be grateful to Richard and Florence when they without hesitation aborted their hike to accompany me back to Arequipa. Although I acted gung-ho, in all honesty I would have been lost without their selfless help.

To all these amazing souls. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

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