Reading this will help  you lead a stress-free life

I read over the weekend that a first-generation Greek immigrant to Australia lives, on average, two years longer than a first-generation Aussie.

This is according to three different data sets taken in 2004, 2010 and most recently in 2018.

Why?

Well, apparently, it’s to do with their Mediterranean diet, home-grown vegetable gardens, some religious fasting and frequent socialising.

Today the average Australian lives to 83 years of age. That has increased from 74 years in 1980. So, the current older generation are living almost a full decade longer than the previous generation (their parents). The biggest influences on life expectancy are diet, fitness, lifestyle (smoking and alcohol being the main ones) and stress.  

I can’t help but think we are better making progress on the first three but regressing on the last one.

The Finnish Institute of Health and Welfare conducted three studies between 1987 and 2014 and concluded heavy stress reduced life expectancy by 2.8 years.

Spend five minutes with anyone older than 70 today – immigrant or otherwise – and you learn the goal was to own their own home, pay the debt off as soon as possible, and always have some ‘cash’ set aside for an emergency.

Afterall, born in 1940 thereabouts, they were raised in a post-war era by parents who had endured the great depression of the late 1920’s and early 1930’s.

Owning their home, paying off the debt and squirrelling away some cash for a rainy day would have been drummed into them from an early age.

It makes sense when you think about it; stress causes conflict, interrupts sleep and brings on fatigue. At least that’s what it does to me!

I’m told that my great grandmother would keep a stack of cash hidden inside the mattress of her bed.

Today we live in a cashless society and with the emergence of e-commerce and digitalisation (not to mention online gambling), it’s never been so easy to spend money.

Which brings me to my bulletproof tip this week.

 

BULLETPROOF TIP:  Streamline your bank accounts. If you’re not sure where to start, here is a little step you can take. Set up the following three bank accounts:

    1. Everyday account — you probably already have this account. It is for all of your ‘needs’ and ‘wants’. Your pay should be deposited into this account and most day-today expenses should be paid out of it.
    2. Future account — this is for future you. Set up the account with a different bank to the one that has your Everyday account. Don’t get internet banking or a card for this account particularly if, like me, you need to take a little extra precaution against raiding it on a night out. Set up an automated transfer from your Everyday account to your Future account of 10 per cent of your after tax pay to transfer the day after you get paid (whether weekly, fortnightly or monthly).
    3. In Case of Emergency (ICE) account — Your ICE account is for the ‘one-off’ bills. Again, set it up with a different bank to your Everyday account. Set up an automated transfer from your Everyday account to your ICE account for whatever amount you need to cover the one-off expenses that come up throughout the year. It’s normally somewhere between 10 and 20 per cent of your after-tax pay. I’d suggest not a getting a card for this one as well.

 

 

I’ve got my own modern-day version of the ‘cash mattress’ which is my streamlined, James-proof, bank accounts.

Two weeks ago,, I wrote about how paying 10 per cent of my pay each week into the ‘Future James’ bank account immediately made me feel less anxious about my finances.

A week before that I wrote about the mental freedom that came from understanding that we control how much we spend if we make the conscious decision to be disciplined around what is a need and what is a desire.

I get paid every fortnight on a Friday morning (dangerous, I know). The money goes into my Everyday account. From there automated transactions are set up – the first, to pay my home loan, the second to my Future James account, and the third to my ICE account.

I don’t have a card for any of those bank accounts and I keep the internet banking details locked away in a book at home to prevent me transferring between accounts at vulnerable times.

The Future James and ICE account are effectively my modern-day version of the cash mattress.

For those who get paid monthly, are self-employed or don’t have consistent income, the structure might be slightly different – you probably have to do it manually – but the same principles apply.

We will always spend as much as we earn unless we make a conscious decision not to.

If you’re needing help with this aspect, my FREE budget tool helps you figure out how much you need to allocate to each of these transactions.

Supercharge my saving

Question

I’ve got a goal of saving $50,000 and have got my budget set up, saving 10% etc. Is there anything else I could do to supercharge my savings?

Answer:

Nice goal and good question. There are a few things you could do to supercharge your savings:

  1. Try increasing your 10 per cent allocation to 15 per cent or even 20 per cent and see if you can get rid of some expenses to make up the difference. This will reduce the time required to get to your goal by as much as half!
  2. You could try and increase your income by doing some overtime, picking up another job on the side or even sitting down with your boss and asking if there is anything you could be doing to earn more money.
  3. If (when) you start earning more money, you should try and maintain your expenses so that the additional income goes toward your Future You account.
  4. Once you start to get a decent amount of savings ($10,000 or $20,000) you could start placing it in term deposits, so it starts earning some interest.

Hope that helps!

Should I wait?

Question

I’m looking for my first home but not sure whether I should wait two years until things get back to normal. What do you think?

Answer:

First of all, I don’t think we will see a ‘normal’ again. Secondly, I don’t think that would be a good idea. 

House prices are up by 20 per cent in the past 12 months. That works out to be just under $12,000 per month over the past year.

Most people can’t save $12,000 per month. I’m not saying that house prices will continue to grow by that much over the next two years. But I’m certain that they won’t crash or drop in value. Therefore, I don’t see the upside to waiting when the downside could be paying more than what you would have to pay today.

Having said all that, you should absolutely wait if you have uncertainty around your job security, don’t quite have enough deposit saved, or if the repayments (with a 2 per cent interest rate buffer) are going to stretch you.

If those things aren’t a problem for you, then my view is why wait?

Paying off my investment debt?

Question

Is it worth converting to principal and interest on investment property loans given such low interest rates? Or should I wait until I have paid off my home?

Answer:

Good question and I get this one a lot. 

The answer is no. If you have home debt which is not tax deductible. The difference between the repayments on a $500,000, 30-year interest only loan and a 30-year principal and interest loan is ~$750 per month. That’s $9,000 per year.

That money is better off going toward paying off your home loan which isn’t tax deductible. If you did the numbers on it, you would find it will take years – perhaps even decades – off the timeframe for making your home debt free.

Life-changing!

It’s never too early or late to grow your wealth

P.S. Personal finance is cited as the single biggest cause of stress for one in two Australians. It doesn’t have to be the case for you. Get the book.