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Afra’s Taking Stock of 2016

Afra Schimming-Chase is a certified Financial Planner with an academic legal background. She is also a Partner at FranklinCovey Namibia, a motivational speaker and a passionate Namibian who has shared on MYD, her wisdom around life and money.

Here Afra has prepared for us a guide, and shared with us a tool, that will help bring clarity to our relationship with our finances in the year that was, to enable us to create a healthy blueprint for our money matters in 2017.

2016 – The Year of Taking Stock by Afra Schimming-Chase

Every year, just about around this time, I get requests for articles covering how best to manage your money matters through December and January. I used to light-heartedly joke about the fact that these two months are no different from year to year, wondering why it is that we continue to practice folly, in that we keep doing the same things over and over and expect a different result. We playfully refer to January as “JanuWorry”, where there is more month at the end of the money.

I had the opportunity to participate on two talk shows on NBC on this fiery end of year topic, and this year, something was different. The questions were different, people took more interest in understanding why it pays to take care of your money every month of the year. For me professionally, where in previous years, the months of November and December were rather “dry” in terms of financial planning business, because everyone was holding on to their salary and their bonus for fun in the “Silly Season”, only to be regretted when JanuWorry dawned and there were no funds to cover school uniforms and other back to school expenses; this year was different. Clients were interested in putting a little extra away, others were cautiously interrogating their statements to determine whether they needed to add more, 2016 is different.

For many of us, 2016 has been a really tough year. I noticed a Facebook post recently, where someone lamented being the only person who had a great year in 2016 – and whilst I embrace the perspective that as challenging as 2016 has been, it has offered some of the most amazing opportunities for growth, really brought out the warrior in many of us – by all accounts, it has been a challenging year.

In world affairs we saw Brexit happen, and then we got Trump, and being one particularly reserved on political commentary closer to home, it is impossible to ignore that this year has proved trying for the Namibian and South African Economies, to say the least. As consumers, we are all feeling the pinch, the higher food prices, the inability to keep up a lifestyle one may have grown accustomed to, concerned that things won’t get better, bounced payments most unexpectedly (mostly for policy premiums, I might add).

This year has felt peculiar, offbeat, otherwise. In fact, I would term 2016, the year of taking stock. Taking stock in all areas of our lives, including our money matters. At the end of each year, with a friend or two, we have engaged in what I’ll call a completion exercise. A process to wrap up the year, take stock of what we set out to do at the beginning, analysing month for month, considering lessons, blessings, successes, failures and near misses. Previously, I have not felt the need to apply this process to money matters, but I do believe it has tremendous value and so I share it here as a tool to finish 2016 on a definitive note, and allow 2017 to express itself in its own right, without the baggage of the past year.

Take Stock – the process is infinitely simple, all it requires a willingness to introspect and be insightfully honest with yourself. A word of caution, you might not like what you see when you unpack 2016, but thankfully, it is almost over, and from these lessons, come the gems for 2017. The trick is to complete the process in no more than 20 minutes, to write down the answers that pop up for you in response to the following questions:

  • What do I need to take responsibility for in 2016? Considering your money matters, what do you need to be accountable for? What choices may you have made or not made during the year, and how have they impacted the real picture of your finances? It is important to understand that this process is not about blaming yourself for not having started that emergency fund through a money market unit trust fund that could have earned you some good interest this year. Rather, it is about taking responsibility, in other words, to respond, or be response able taking ownership for what your money matters reflect in 2016.
  • What do I intend to complete in 2016? Completion is about conclusion, bringing to an end, terminating. Take the time to finalise any loose ends you may have around your finances. Are your documents filed? All bills settled? Any creditors you need to get back to? There may be behaviours you don’t want to repeat in 2017, take time to consider all these areas. This is really the essence of taking stock. Becoming clear about what needs to remain in 2016 and close that off.
  • What would I like to be acknowledged for? One of the most common needs we share as human beings is the need to be acknowledged and appreciated. This part of the process is an opportunity to state to yourself and for yourself, what you are proud of, what you are thankful for. I have read somewhere that taking care of your money is a form of self-care, and when you take the time to acknowledge what you have done well, it paves the way for more positive experiences. It could be that you paid off a debt that was niggling in the back of your mind and causing you unnecessary stress, or you successfully lived within your means, or tracked your expenses, or started that emergency fund, or learnt to say no to that person that always needed money at the same time at the end of each month. Jot those examples down, between January and December, there are some gems you would do well to record.

Once the process is done, and you are complete with your experience of 2016, this is where the fun begins, you get to create 2017! Take the time to plan your year from a money perspective, in fact, start with a spending plan for December and January, putting down all the expected and unexpected expenses over the next two months. Most of us really do not like the idea of having to plan our money, and yet, when money has a purpose, you are in control of where it needs to go, as opposed to when money has no purpose, and you find that you spend without much of a vision or plan, and it simply goes everywhere.

To keep you in check on your spending plan, it would be worthwhile to keep track of your expenses. There is something about writing down your spending that creates awareness, and often leads to reduced, better planned spending. December and January are great months to consistently track expenses. You may even find creative ways to curb spending during the Festive season.

Review the 3 initial steps of the process to create your blue print for your money in 2017. You get to create, on the mental plane first, either writing down your plan, finalising an annual budget, planning your savings and investments, creating an abundance board as a vision of what you would like to achieve in 2017. With your vision in mind, you get to create on the physical plane, by taking actions in line with your vision, to complete 2017 on a positive and inspiring note!

I hope you engage in the process and enjoy it, in all likelihood you’ll find that having written down all the good, bad and ugly of your money in 2016, offers so much material in creating a new year.

To conclude; “do not be dismayed by the brokenness of the world. All things break. And all things can be mended. Not with time, as they say, but with intention.” May you manage your money with intention in 2017.