Each year, Americans set aside the fourth Thursday of November to give thanks for what they have. This expression of gratitude often takes the form of a day with families, “eating more than we should, and watching a lot of football”, says Mitch Anthony, US Financial Life Planner.
He notes, though, that “being thankful is more than food, football or even family – it’s sharing your blessings with others.”
The CAF World Giving index asks three questions to determine how community-conscious and generous a nation is. Have you done any of the following in the past month?
Helped a stranger, or someone you didn’t know who needed help?
Donated money to a charity?
Volunteered your time to an organisation?
The 2018 Index shows a fall in the most generous of the developed countries. But, across Africa, giving is on the increase, and South African ranks 24th out of the 138 countries surveyed. We score higher on helping strangers and volunteering time, than on giving money – since much of our population struggles to survive on the money they have.
Sir John Low, Chief Executive of Charities Aid Foundation reports:
“For eight years, the CAF World Giving Index has given unique insight into generosity around the world and chronicling trends in giving across continents and cultures worldwide.
Its aim is simple: to provoke debate and encourage people, policymakers and civil society to think about what drives giving, and put in place policies to grow the culture of giving worldwide.
The questions that make up the Index focus on the universal – do we give money or time or do we help strangers in need. It confounds traditional views of the link between wealth and generosity, confirming what we all surely know: that giving is about spirit and inner motivation, not about financial means.”
At Chartered Wealth Solutions, we hold to the belief that giving to our communities – whether through volunteering time or skills or money – is an essential ingredient in creating a contented life … as our clients’ stories attest. Enjoy reading those stories in this newsletter.
It is mid-winter and mid-morning, and Hilke Piehl’s hair is slightly damp as we greet each other at Montgomery Haven, a Methodist Home retirement village near Northcliff Corner.
“I have been swimming,” she laughs self-consciously, as she agrees to being photographed. This attests to Hilke’s very active life: she swims, plays tennis and gyms every week. She loves gardening and is busily crocheting and knitting for the 67 blankets campaign for Nelson Mandela Day.
Our meeting that blustery July morning has its roots in our chat over a cup of tea at Chartered House seven months earlier. Hilke was looking for ideas whereby she could give back to her local community – despite years of working from home and raising three children, and a full life in retirement. Hilke envisaged helping children to read, or to visit and chat with elderly people in a retirement facility.
Armed with information, Hilke went off to research the best expression for her give-back yearnings.
She found the ideal spot at Montgomery Haven, though she reshaped her idea of sitting in a quiet room reading instead to providing creative and mental stimulation to a group of residents who struggle to be mobile, but who love to be engaged in interesting activities.
I watched one lady colouring in while others were pressing her to finish as they were ready for their bingo game. The books, puzzles and games were purchased by Hilke herself, and she participates with her group of new friends.
“I had been visiting for only a few weeks when I walked in one day, and a few of the residents recognised me and waved and smiled. I was overwhelmed. They knew it was time for bingo or dominoes,” Hilke shares.
“She has brightened the faces here,” said Matron Juliet Chisvo, when Hilke introduced us, “both of residents and staff. We appreciate her visits so much.”
That may be true of everyone at Montgomery Haven, but no less so for Hilke, who has continued this give back for so many months because of the fulfilment she has experienced. “When I go home, even if I am alone there all afternoon, I feel good. I feel loved. I look forward to my visits there. I listen, even when the speaker’s thoughts are jumbled. Sometimes we do activities, but sometimes we just quietly sit together. A hug and a kiss are sometimes all that is needed to lift spirits.”
Hilke acknowledges that her tears do come. “One lady, who has no relatives, was admitted to Olivedale Clinic, and I popped in to visit her a few times. She was so touched that I had taken the time and trouble to comfort her.”
I left both grateful and challenged, waving goodbye to the ladies I had met in my brief visit. Susannah, who leaned heavily on her walker as she made her way to the bingo table, challenged me with her response to my enquiry as to her welfare (in my rusty Afrikaans). “I only know how to be well,” she smiled broadly as she struggled to walk by, “I don’t know how not to be happy and well.”
Example noted, Hilke and Susannah, and gratefully accepted.
So says Mitch Anthony, pioneer of Financial Life Planning. His article that follows here outlines why he is so certain that making room in our lives – and our finances – for giving back is good for us.
There are only four things you can do with your money:
Owe it (taxes and debt)
Grow it (investing and saving)
Live on it (lifestyle spending)
Give it away (philanthropy)
The choices you make around Owe-Grow-Live-Give (OGLG) have a direct impact on the quality of your own life, and on those around you.
While all four options are critical to living a successful Return on Life®, giving can add the most meaning to your life, whether you are doing well financially or have limited means.
You can’t have a financial plan that works for you without knowing what money means to you, and where and how giving fits into your financial planning.
Take time to focus on what is in your heart—driven by purpose, rather than purse. Understanding the “why” is as critical as the “how much,” and can help you make decisions that will fulfill you from both mind and money perspectives.
The means and methods by which people give are incredibly diverse. Some give money to causes they believe in, which lends an extra layer of meaning to what they do each day to earn that money. Still others lend their expertise and skill to causes and organisations that are making a difference in people’s lives. People are committed to different levels of giving. Some give a day or two a month, and others give a part of or every day. Some simply help by helping a grieving friend or walking a friend’s dog. It really doesn’t matter what the act is—what matters is that you act.
It’s important for people to feel they’ve translated their abilities and assets from self-serving to the realm of benevolence. Whether people have means that enable them to devote themselves full-time to philanthropy, or they wish to do something after retiring, the result is the same: Giving feels good because you get much more in return.
I don’t know about you, but I’m working on the assumption that I don’t get a second shot at this earthly existence. I certainly don’t want to give away my life to frustrating work and empty pursuits—I want to make a difference. My hope is that each of you will do something that will not only help those around you, but you as well.
You can improve your Return On Life® through giving.
There’s a certain nostalgic element to music. “As we get older, we tend to forget things, and music revives precious memories. Smile and people smile back. Play music for them, and you feed their souls,” says Chartered client, Ian Davis.
Ian speaks about his wife, Trish, his work and his music, with enthusiasm and passion. Here’s a man who gave up his rock-star band at age 23 years to focus on his career, his family and their retirement savings. He rekindled his passion for music 40 years later in retirement, and now shares his music – at no cost – with people at housing and healthcare centers for the elderly.
Born to be a musician
Ian has always loved music and taught himself to play guitar at 13 after his father passed away. “I was lost when my father died,” remembers Ian, “and music helped clear my head. I sounded terrible at first, but kept on playing.”
Ian’s motto is to “practise, practise and practise.” A career in music takes patience, persistence and long hours. Very few people sign music contracts and it takes years to earn an income.
Ian started his first band at age 21, when he met his fellow band members in Salisbury, Zimbabwe; they were soon offered two extended contracts in Durban. At one of his gigs Ian met his wife, Trish. “I saw her enter the room and walk across it. Two weeks later I asked her to marry me,” recalls Ian. Trish supported Ian to pack up his life in Zimbabwe and move to South Africa.
At 23, Ian gave up his band (but never his music) and started a career in training and development with Trish at his side.
Earning an income
Ian especially loved developing previously disadvantaged people in the packing, loading and transport industry, travelling all around Africa to help people improve their social and business skills. He ran his own business two years before officially retiring and his on-line training courses for the transportation industry are still used today. “You must love what you do!” says Ian.
On his and Trish’s retirement, Ian picked up his guitar again and considered starting a new band. He bumped into Brian, an old friend and original band member of nearly a half a century ago. And the rest, as they say, is history.
Their new band – The Silhouettes – comprises four members with Ian on lead guitar. Each member has a favourite, but all love the music of The Shadows. “We also play 60s and 70s music,” says Ian “and our fans tap their feet and get up to dance!”
Giving back with music
The band plays for people in retirement facilities, and for the mentally and physically challenged. “We enjoy playing for our audience! And they enjoy us!” says Ian. “It is a wonderful, fulfilling opportunity to play for people who don’t get to go out, whose kids don’t visit and who often can’t look after themselves. We entertain our audience with music and humour,” adds Ian.
“Our music has a purpose,” says Ian. “Music has attachments and reminds us older people of times gone by.” While Ian and his band bring joy to so many people, it’s all about give-and-take. “I have learnt so much from my fellow band players; we work as a team, support one another and cover the other’s mistakes,” reflects Ian.
Having the time to do what you love in retirement
Being retired is all about how you approach it, a positive attitude and having the time to do what you love! “It brings me great joy to bring a smile to someone’s face. Music keeps my mind active. When I hear a great song, I feel compelled to learn it. I don’t read music, but I can write lyrics and chords. I teach myself from listening to the tune. It sometimes takes me three weeks to learn a new song,” says Ian
Ian believes that music stimulates the imagination. It brings you to a place where anything is possible. He always leaves home with a notepad and pen and gets his inspiration from what he sees and hears. “I write lyrics as I go, sometimes having to visit the library to research what I saw, and then I compose the music.”
Ian certainly has all the characteristics of a great musician: passion, the right attitude, talent, and natural curiosity. “When I’m feeling down, I pick up my guitar and the world is right again,” says Ian.
Thank you, Ian. Your generosity is like music to our ears and your story struck a chord with all of us!
Giving back offers marvelous benefits in RetiremeantTM and research shows that it makes this chapter happier, healthier and more purposeful. A study by United Healthcare in 2017 found that 93 percent of people who volunteer or give-back notice an improvement in their mood, 75 percent feel healthier and 79 percent experience lower stress levels.
The key to being in flow in this area is to apply your unique skill and life experience to a cause or activity where you can have the most impact.
Tips to finding your flow in giving back
Unfulfilled dreams We all have hopes and dreams. We all have a list of things we want to accomplish or do in our lifetime. Sometimes, life goes by and we never get to realise our dreams and goals. Challenge yourself, think back to your life and rekindle those dreams. Now is the perfect time to bring some of them to fruition.
It’s not a test Don’t limit yourself by criticising your own skills or talents. Volunteering time, energy and skill is the real test of character – not how good you are at it.
A meaningful experience How and where you spend your time and energy must align with your overall interests and goals. Consider the benefit to you and how your involvement will impact the people, organisation or cause you have chosen. Here are some examples to get you thinking:
Think about how your hobby or passion can help others. If you’re good at knitting, embroidery or playing a musical instrument, perhaps volunteer to teach others your skill. It will bring you as much joy as them.
If your work has always been your passion, contemplate ways of mentoring or coaching in your area of expertise.
If health and fitness is your thing, there are many opportunities to engage others in staying fit and healthy with you.
Remember that you have seven other areas in the Wheel of Balance® to engage in. Life is all about balance. You don’t want to be so busy giving your time to others that you don’t have time to enjoy your retirement. The secret is setting boundaries.
Be clear on the amount of time and energy you want to give. Map out your ideal level of commitment and remember to make time for our current obligations and responsibilities, leisure time, other interests and all eight areas of the Wheel of Balance®.
This month, John Campbell and I will be sharing Chartered’s RetiremeantTM Journey and our philosophy of adding value to clients through meaningful relationships at the FPI Convention. The FPI Professionals Convention is the largest and most significant event for Financial Planner Professionals and attended by over 600 Planners.
You may wonder why we are sharing our secrets with the industry? I truly believe that by sharing our holistic approach to Financial Planning, where the core focus is on getting to know our clients and understanding what they want to achieve, before formulating the Financial Plan, will greatly benefit the overall service offering by the Financial Planning industry. If more Planners embrace a client-centred approach, looking after their clients’ interests, our overall credibility as an industry will improve.
We would love to hear your stories on your giving back in your RetiremeantTM Journey. If you have any tips or pitfalls to share, please send them on so we can share with our community.
Remember to always be inspired, be brave and be on purpose,
Imagine your 15-year old self. Could you have inspired youth worldwide to answer the question: when is enough enough?
When it comes to climate action, what will it take to instigate the necessary change? How radical must we be? 15-year old Greta Thunberg, a Swedish schoolgirl, sat outside Swedish parliament on a school strike in August last year.
There was no point going to school if she did not have a future, Greta claimed. She promised to do all in her power to focus government and media on the climate crisis. Greta then grabbed world attention at the UN COP 24 when she blamed world leaders for stealing and burning her future.
“You are not mature enough to tell it like it is …. You have run out of excuses and we are running out of time,” she said. “Our civilisation is being sacrificed for a very small number of people to make a lot of money …. The suffering of many pays for luxuries of a few”.
In March this year an estimated 1.5 million children and students around the globe went on a school strike, pleading for us to panic now and implement urgent “system change not climate change”. Outspoken and clear-thinking Greta has been nominated for a Nobel peace prize.
This urgent call for change is a growing global phenomenon. In October 2018, 100 UK academics signed a call to action, and Extinction Rebellion (XR) began. In a few months this became an international apolitical movement using non-violent and often curated and artistic civil disobedience to achieve radical change. The aim? To persuade governments to act now on human extinction and ecological collapse.
On 16 April 2019 XR almost shut down London with thousands taking to the streets, occupying various bridges and blocking roads with colourful creative protests. At the time of writing this, protests were reported in about 80 cities in 33 countries with more than 200 arrested in London alone.
Scientists have long warned that our carbon intensive society’s burning of so much coal, oil and gas will tip us into devastating climate change. As global carbon emissions soar, so do extreme and catastrophic weather events. Droughts, all-time high heat waves and raging megafires are becoming the new norm on hothouse earth. It is feared that we will not survive the “accelerating feedback loops (that) could interact in catastrophic ways: collapsing ice sheets; faster-than-expected sea level rise; forest dieback; ocean acidification and thawing permafrost.”
I have known of these issues and have worked to spread awareness and instigate change since the 1970s so am encouraged by this new wave of activism. Yet I despair at how many (even family and friends) choose to remain unaware or indifferent to the unfolding planetary disaster. I doubt many could, like Greta, convince our families to become vegan, refuse to fly around the planet or resist buying new clothes to reduce our carbon footprints.
Surely each one of us can take some action to contribute to a healthier future.
On the last day of an energetic and happy holiday, I suffered a heart attack. Although I had ignored slight twinges in my heart for a few months, it was a shock. Fortunately, I knew what was happening, having lost a partner like this 10 years ago, and, aware of the symptoms, I received timely and good care.
What attacked my heart I asked? Genetic high cholesterol, I am told, exacerbated by an often-careless lifestyle and diet. Though mostly vegetarian, fit and active, and has alleviated the stress of a hard-working life in recent years, I have not paid due attention to diet. The medics casually told me to follow a Mediterranean diet, though the first meal the hospital offered was a lump of minced meat on white bread topped by a hard-boiled egg!
In an attempt to recover as quickly and sustainably as possible, and though I have known about good food all my life, and even worked at the first raw, vegetarian, health food restaurant in Los Angeles in the early 1970s, I have again been researching current trends in healthy nutrition.
The clear message about our diet and our health
There is a lot of conflicting information to wade through, but the trend towards veganism and cutting out sugars is resounding. Since so many of our illnesses, heart disease, stroke, diabetes and various cancers, are linked to inflammation, caused by ingesting animal fat and sugar, this makes a lot of sense.
Increasing numbers are also becoming aware of the severe impacts of animal products on the planet and climate change because as meat and dairy are ingrained into our diets, they are also rooted in our environment. To produce one kilo of meat requires 25 kilos of grain and 15 000 litres of water. If all that grain was fed to humans, we could feed an extra 3.5 billion people. Livestock farming uses 30% of the earth’s surface, in a world where water, land and food are becoming scarcer, massively inefficient and inequitable!
Animal agriculture is responsible for 18% of greenhouse gas emissions and when livestock byproducts are added this accounts for 51% of emissions! This industry is further a major cause of species extinction, ocean dead zones, water pollution and habitat destruction, including rainforests.
70 billion farmed animals are reared annually worldwide and 6 million are killed for food every hour. Most of these animals, sentient beings, are reared in terrible conditions causing them to suffer.
This morning I sip my tea with almond milk, grateful to be alive as I contemplate the good news that food marketers have realised the potential and now offer a wide range of delicious plant-based foods and alternatives to every kind of animal protein that helps me to feel better about my body and the planet.
Resources for healthy eating from Jeunesse (online, deliveries and some Cape Town restaurants and caterers):
Spar offers over 100 options for plant-based meals, and there are more on Woolworths shelves daily. Unilever has just bought the Dutch based Vegetarian Butcher.
Here are some plant-based food deliveries and restaurants:
http://www.puregood.co.za/ a corporate catering business that dishes up super affordable, deliciously wholesome and ethically produced meals to working professionals in Cape Town
Can you recall how many times you have said, “I just want to be happy”, or have uttered the same sentiments to your children or loved ones?
Happiness is a basic human need; everyone deserves to be happy. Sonja Lyubomirsky, in her 2007 book, The How of Happiness, describes happiness as “the experience of joy, contentment, or positive well-being, combined with a sense that one’s life is good, meaningful, and worthwhile.”
Happiness, or being happy, is not often easily achieved. Let me explain by asking you this: Do you set tasks or goals in the pursuit of happiness? Do you start your happiness sentences by giving yourself a deadline? For example; “If I had …, I would be happy” or “When I accomplish …, it would make me happy?”
The pursuit of happiness starts from within. Happiness exists within each of us. And here’s the truth: we are the catalysts of our own happiness. So, to be happy, you must know what makes you happy. You have to discover that place in your heart that makes you leap for joy. And that takes courage. The courage to embrace the opportunities that life brings your way.
Happiness asks you to be brave, to actively challenge yourself to embark on journeys that may scare you, and to be fearless in your pursuit of that which brings you joy.
When we allow others to decide for us, permit the voice of fear to enter our minds, play it safe or prioritise pleasing others ahead of ourselves, it is then that we lose our way in the pursuit of happiness.
The key is to be authentic and true to ourselves.
Here are my top four tips for actively practising happiness:
Life is a journey, not a destination
Life itself is the great journey. There is no destination. Be conscious that each moment of every day is a part of this journey and that each moment has the potential to fulfill you. Our family life, work, hobbies, morning walk, time with friends – all these are unique opportunities to experience moments of happiness. Hidden within these simple daily activities lies the meaning of our lives. Simply appreciate what is in your life today. Practise finding joy today. Practise feeling compassion today. Experience today to its fullest potential.
Celebrate your uniqueness
Your uniqueness is your greatest gift. Applaud your own ‘me-ness’ and that of others. Just being who you are, and authentically being yourself, brings a special gift to the world.
Have conversations with your inner voice – that voice that reminds you of who you are and what you need to be fulfilled. Listen to your intuition. Prayer, meditation or just spending quiet time with yourself, by yourself, will facilitate an awareness of a deeper sense of meaning and purpose in your own life.
Every moment counts
Practise finding simple moments of joy in the everyday. Notice how many daily experiences bring you pleasure. Think of happiness as something to be experienced and enjoyed many times.
Author of Mindpower, John Kehoe reminds us to practise happiness rather than to search for it. He believes that happiness is a choice; if you want to be happy, look at your life and find reasons to be happy. Likewise, if you want to be unhappy, then you will find many reasons to be unhappy.
I’d love to hear what brings you happiness and am excited to share many happy conversations with you this year.
In his project to track how people perceive beauty, from a child to an older person, Louie Schwartzberg records an interview with each. It is the older man’s profound insights that were most striking. Click here to watch the TED Talk.
Here are some gems from the project:
You think this is just another day in your life? It’s not just another day. It’s the one day that is given to you today. It’s given to you. It’s a gift.
If you do nothing else but to cultivate that response to the great gift that this unique day is, if you learn to respond as if it were the first day in your life and the very last day, then you will have spent this day very well.
Begin by opening your eyes and be surprised that you have eyes you can open, that incredible array of colors that is constantly offered to us for pure enjoyment.
Open your heart to all these blessings, and let them flow through you, that everyone whom you will meet on this day will be blessed by you, just by your eyes, by your smile, by your touch, just by your presence. Let the gratefulness overflow into blessing all around you, and then it will really be a good day.
When Louise and Roger Ketley returned from a series of family scuba diving and snorkelling holidays at Rocktail Bay in northern Maputaland (KZN), it was with more than fond memories!
Having witnessed turtle nesting and hatchings, these Chartered clients set the goal of volunteering with a project to fulfil their hope of witnessing baby turtles’ frantic race to the sea. This objective recently found its fulfilment in a conservation programme in Greece – a volunteering project that suited both of the Ketleys, as a ‘senior’ married couple.
Louise and Roger signed up for the final two weeks of a programme run by GVI (Global Vision International), a UK-based volunteer organisation focusing on wildlife conservation and community-based projects around the world. Here is their experience in their own words.
Duties and discoveries
Based in Giannitsochori, a small, traditional Greek village, we were housed in a modest and comfortable bungalow with proper bedding, a private toilet, hot shower, air-conditioner and bar fridge. We met the other volunteers and staff members at dinner in the campsite taverna (it became a welcome oasis with superb local cold beer, metaxa, and first-class coffee!).
We were seven volunteers (the average age of which shot up to about 35 once we joined!) and three GVI staff members: two Spaniards, two Columbians, two English, and one American and Hungarian, plus us two South Africans … 10 in all, and only two men. Being somewhat older than the others, we did not know quite what to expect or how we might fit in, but the GVI staff made us feel welcome and we enjoyed mixing with the youngsters – I couldn’t help wishing that I was 40 years younger!
The project coincides with the loggerhead turtle nesting and hatching season (June to September) during the hot summer months. Although we had the weekend off, we three new volunteers received a briefing on that first Sunday, and then duties for the week were allocated to the teams. Volunteers participate in different roles depending on the time in the season, including daily beach surveys to record nesting activity and to protect turtle nests against predation by mammals and inundation by sea water, measuring the turtles and recording data, excavating nests, stacking protective nest grids, and camp duties when not on surveys. Volunteers also provide important conservation information to overseas visitors and the local community.
In the stretch of beach monitored by both GVI and ARCHELON (the Sea Turtle Protection Society of Greece) were over 3,000 turtle nests: the beach was segmented – both north and south of the camp site – and in the GVI areas alone, spanning roughly 10 kms of beach, there were over 800 nests. September being the end of the season, many had already hatched, but we still expected to see some hatchlings. Nest excavations would be our main task, though, as it is important to determine how successful nests had been.
Camp duties included cleaning and cooking, and stacking protective grids once returned from an excavated nest. Provisioning and cooking were interesting challenges given special dietary requirements, from vegans, vegetarians and low carb diets to straight-forward carnivores! The local water is drinkable, but we bought bottles of spring water just in case.
Each beach survey team comprised the GVI leader for the day plus two or three volunteers; the camp duty team consisted of the two remaining volunteers, while the third member of staff would have a day off, or would shop for supplies or collect the two survey teams from the beach. The plan was to be back at the camp site for lunch. On occasion, after dinner, we would enjoy a spectacular sunset swim together.