Emergency Fund…taken for granted no more!

Having an emergency fund is a must in any financial plan as we do not want to touch the savings we have for our children’s education or the retirement fund we diligently built-up when some unforeseen events happen.

Although the pandemic disrupted this principle especially those who lost their jobs or got saddled with sickness, this simple guide remains to be relevant: a prescription of at least 3 to 6 months of your monthly cost of living and if you have more savings, it is better to put the excess in an investment fund that gives you better returns.

But first, why is an emergency fund important? Quoting Zach Buchenau, a personal finance expert (https://bethebudget.com/why-is-an-emergency-fund-important/) “emergency fund is important because it acts as a financial cushion in the event of an unexpected expense. Whether it be medical bills, home repairs, or a family crisis, an emergency fund can help you steer clear of debt, protect your assets, and avoid unnecessary financial struggle.”

So how do we build an emergency fund? Here’s a simple guide: Read more at https://www.saveandinvest.org/military-everyday-finances/start-emergency-fund

  • Chart your monthly income and expenses. This will help you determine not only your monthly cost of living but can also help you identify where you can cut expenses in order to set aside for the rainy days.
  • Set your emergency savings goal. As I mentioned earlier, a quick guide is 3 to 6 months.
  • Develop a plan to start saving. For some, cutting costs is a must and tracking your expenses can help you find what items you can give up to give way to savings.
  • Put your emergency fund in an accessible place. A regular bank savings account is a good place for this as you can access it without paying penalties. As such, do not mind the very low interest rate as that is the reason why you can withdraw it anytime.
  • Stick to your plan. It may not be easy as there are lots of reasons we come up with why we can’t set aside the amount regularly until the fund goal is reached but resist the temptation and stick to the purpose of the fund – it should only be used for Emergency.

I must add that expenses like tuition fees are not “emergency” expenses as these are scheduled and can be planned ahead. There are health plans that can help cover medical expenses and it is always advisable to get covered for these expenses too.

Finally, this Covid-19 pandemic has exposed our financial vulnerabilities and has taught us so many lessons including ensuring having a sufficient emergency fund, having health plans and insurance coverage. Let us not waste these lessons by not acting on them and plugging the holes in our financial plan.

Let’s not take for granted setting up an emergency fund anymore. It’s one lesson from this pandemic that we must learn and act on.

Losing a Mother

“Mothers are like glue. Even when you can’t see them, they’re still holding the family together.”

Susan Gale

She was 75. She had me at 20. So, she was lent to us by our gracious God for 55 years and I said “thank you for the 55 years of loving me.” This was the gist of our last conversation on my birthday when she greeted me 10 days before her last breath. She was already sick at that time but we were hopeful that she would get well as we always looked at her as ageless.

She had me at 20. She became a widow at 39. We had her until 3 months after she turned 75.

No one is really too old to lose a mother. Losing a mother leaves a vacuum in the family no one can fill. For the 4 of us siblings, she was our home – literally and figuratively. Despite our invitations to stay with any one of us, she opted to stay in the home she and my father built together before he passed on 35 years ago. She was someone who never imposes her being mother on us. We could genuinely be ourselves with her and she would just smile listening intently to our stories of adventures and misadventures.

A celebrated moment on a Christmas that we were complete after almost 30 years since Anne (2nd from left) was living in the UAE.

While we did our best to give her the comfort she deserves in her old age without her having to ask, as she squeezed every penny she earned to fend for us when we were growing up, there are still regrets – we wish she could see what we are doing with the farm properties she along with our father passed on to us; we wish we could have brought her to more places when she was still stronger; we wish we could have visited her more before this pandemic happened; we wish we could have given more…the list goes on.

A sweet memory with her 2 grandchildren on her 72nd birthday

I am sure many can relate with me so for those whose parents are still around and who are blessed with the opportunity to show gratitude, go thank them, hug them if you can, be generous with them…while you still have them around.

God loves our mother so much that He took her to her final resting place where there is no more pain. Only eternal peace. And where she is welcomed by our dear father – the only love of her life.

As we promised, we will take care of each other. So long!

Beyond great legs…start running!

All women love strong and shapely legs right? As we age, the forces of nature work their way towards our body and puts unsightly bulges here and there and we start looking at our old photos and wish…

…And wish we go back to our past shape. Hey, we actually can for as long as we are willing to do the sweat price (because the easier cosmetic route does not give you the benefits beyond what the eyes can see).

This teaches a simple truth: Effort produces results, no effort produces nothing. The effort is worth it.

Amby Burfoot, podiumrunner.com

I started running in July 2018 at age 52 so it’s not yet too long ago but this is the best I have felt so far as far as my body condition is concerned. I’ve never been really overweight though but at that time, I was heavy at 134 pounds and I didn’t like it when I noticed I had to buy clothes a size bigger than the previous year so I thought it was time to level up my work-out. (I am 113 pounds now and overachieved my 115 pounds goal). It was so timely because I had been wanting to join the Angkor Wat Half Marathon which our company was a sponsor of. I downloaded a 5K Runner App and the rest is history. Since then I had been running at least 3 times a week. Prior to this pandemic, I travelled a lot so my running shoes are always with me. That’s another benefit of running – you get to explore new places and see them from a different perspective when the place is still quiet and not busy at sunrise (I’m a morning runner).

Running is certainly one of the best, if not the best, exercise to tone your legs but beyond that there are so many other health benefits. Amby Burfoot’s article published in Podium Runner lists evidence-based benefits and I am sharing six (6) of them here (for the complete list, please read: https://www.podiumrunner.com/culture/10-amazing-benefits-running-might-not-known/

  • Running adds years to your life and life to your years. Because of the overall effect of running in the body (cardiovascular, body composition, hormonal balance), studies show that runners actually gain 3 years into one’s life span.
  • Running helps you sleep better.There is a direct correlation between exercising and getting a good sleep and many studies validate this.
  • Running can improve your knees and back. I am sure you have heard the opposite of this and would not believe this is a fact. Burfoot shared a study of 675 marathoners by The Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery which revealed that the “arthritis rate of active marathoners was below that of the general U.S. population (Arthritis prevalence was 8.8% for the subgroup of U.S. marathoners which is significantly lower than the prevalence in the matched U.S. population of 17.9%). I am sure, a big part of this is the fact that runners take extra care of their knees by doing strengthening exercises to make sure that they continue running.
  • Running helps you lose weight, and keep it off. We all know of those who lose weight by doing some diet of sorts and while there had been success stories, there are more cases of “losers” who gained it all back again. On the other hand, if you lose weight by running (as it is one exercise that really makes you burn more calories) and you keep on running at least three times a week, you will most likely keep the extra pounds away. The average person burns 280 to 520 calories with 30 minutes of running. Amount of calories burned depend on weight, time spent running and speed. ~https://caloriesburnedhq.com/calories-burned-running/
  • Running improves mental health, and reduces depression. For sure, running makes you feel good. It gives you a rush of endorphins that runners refer to as runners high. This chemical in the brain has been found to have many positive effects on the body including pain reduction, boost in happiness and pleasure and reduction in stress and anxiety.~https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/runners-high
  • Running lowers your blood pressure. Running and other moderate exercise is a proven, non-drug-related way to lower blood pressure and this is because running strengthens one’s heart muscles and make it more effective.
Pre-run and Post-run stretching

I have to stress how important pre- and post-run stretching is to avoid injuries and muscle aches. Pre-run stretches should be dynamic (active stretches where you engage your muscles and joints warming them up causing blood circulation) while post-run can be static (stretches where you hold a pose for 15-20 seconds) to cool down your muscles and slow down your breathing. Check this CNBC-TV18 you tube video for great pre- and post-runs stretching routine: https://youtu.be/qq1kGDd4Q60

Running and Yoga

Since running involves the use of the same muscles and joints, I can say that yoga is its perfect partner as the latter works out the other muscle groups and joints not used in running. Thus, it further enhances your run. Yoga exercise improves mobility and strengthens your core which improve one’s stability and performance. The other great thing with yoga practice is it teaches you the correct breathing which is so helpful in running. Read more on mobility : https://strengthrunning.com/2019/10/mobility-training-for-runners/

Psychic Rewards

Another reward that makes me feel so good is when I know that someone has been encouraged to exercise because of me. I was able to organise an informal group of runners (mostly beginners) and we would participate in different runs. Some of us even joined runs abroad (Cambodia and Vietnam) and we had so much fun!

There you go – there are just so many benefits that running gives and it certainly goes beyond having great legs. Just a word of advice though, if and when you decide to start running, make sure you build your endurance and increase your mileage just about 10%-15% every week. This way, you avoid getting injured and be traumatised so early before reaping any of the benefits and if you have a medical condition, make sure you ask your doctor’s advice if running is good for you.

And make sure you invest in a good and appropriate pair of running shoes!