Laying the Blueprint for Financial Wellness

I was recently invited to share my thoughts with almost 400 delegates of the 1st Virtual Youth Congress organised by the Rotary Club of Makati Jose P Rizal. It was a mutually meaningful talk based on the feedback of the very engaged attendees and at my end, it was quite inspiring to do my own share of addressing the still prevalent “sandwich generations” among Filipinos.

I call it “sandwhich generation” when children take care of their ageing parents at retirement (because they have not prepared for it financially) while they take care of their obligation to their own family…thereby affecting also their capacity to prepare for their own retirement.

I shared with them my own vision board that I drew 22 years ago. It is a crude representation of the future that I then want but it has served as my guide and the basis for a more comprehensive financial plan that i diligently implement. I am happy to say that all except two goals (we were only blessed with one child and at my age, I can’t bear another one (sigh) and the brand of dream car that I now find impractical to buy).

My crude Vision Board reflecting the future that I want which I drew 22 years ago.

I outlined 4 steps as a guide in preparing one’s road map towards Financial Wellness:

  • Envision – Know what you want in every stage in your life. Visualise how the future looks like for you. Just the broad strokes.
  • Plan – Put a price tag to the future that you want. Once you know what you want, you can then determine how much fund you need to build-up between now and the time you need it. The key word is “build-up” which requires you to start early to take advantage of the time horizon where you can grow your money.
  • Execute – Start putting the elements of your Financial Plan. One thing we discovered about investing is that people generally have a mismatch of their goals and the investment vehicle they use. For example, a young couple wants to start early in setting up the college education plan for their 2-year old child and yet, they put their money in a savings account with little or negligible interest income. A basic principle in investing is that you can take more risks (ie invest in an equity fund that may be more volatile) if you have a longer time horizon.
  • Track and Review – Our goals and aspirations change so it is important to track and review where we are so far and make the necessary adjustments while we still have time.

I closed by reminding the delegates that their youth is their main advantage and they must not waste it by starting early and making the right choices.

This thing they call Plantherapy

A garden is a grand teacher. It teaches patience and careful watchfulness; it teaches industry and thrift; above all it teaches entire trust. — Gertrude Jekyll (2011) ‘Wood and Garden: Notes and Thoughts, Practical and Critical, of a Working Amateur’ Cambridge University Press

I joined the plant craze at the start of the pandemic quarantines last year to have something to do in the weekends and give me some diversion from the work-from-home set-up. As a self-confessed shopaholic, it did fill the void of not being able to go to my favourite retail shops.

This home garden has gotten so much attention from me in the past year than it has ever got in almost a decade it existed.

I do have a little garden in our modest home and a few potted plants but after a year of potting and re-potting and weekly trips to nearby gardens, every corner of our home has plants and our garage has turned into my plant showroom. Now, trips to nearby provinces for staycations are not complete without a visit to gardens and every time, we go home with the good company of plants that fill every available space in our car.

In the article Is Plant Therapy a Real Thing, author Patricia Marie Cordero Irizarry shares the study of The American Horticulture Therapy Association (AHTA) that traces plant therapy’s roots to ancient Egyptian times where garden walks were prescribed by doctors for those suffering from mental disturbances. We have read many books and articles on beautiful medieval gardens and many researches found that the healing benefits of gardens date back to 2000 B.C. Read more

Monthly Agriculture shares the research of Dan Buettner who found a common hobby among Japan’s centenarians: gardening. The same article refers to the Harvard University study that also found something common among people who live near greeneries- they tend to live longer given the lower possibility of cancer or respiratory illnesses. It further shares that in Scotland, doctors prescribe walking in nature to reduce blood pressure, anxiety, and to increase overall happiness. Read

My own personal experience is a testament to how my plants have become my de-stressors. The sight of new leaves give me joy and the new knowledge I have gained in tending to my “babies” is not only refreshing but insightful as well which can very much be applicable not only to my corporate work but also to life itself. For instance, I learned that plants can grow really big by putting them in big pots but you do not transfer a plant from a small pot directly to a big one as its roots will have a hard time growing. Instead, transfer it to a pot amount 2-4 inches bigger in diameter than the old pot until it outgrows it again. Isn’t that the same as human potential? A talent not given the environment to grow will not reach its full potential.

I guess, after 27 varieties of Philodendrons and counting; more than a dozen Calatheas and Aglaonemas; an increasing collection of Monsteras and Rubber Trees and many more, I can call myself a certified Plant Momma.

Indeed, there is such a thing as plant therapy and it is real!

Community Bubbles…a silver lining!

It’s more than a year now since the pandemic struck the world and brought us back home…figuratively and literally.

In our country with the longest lockdown in the entire world, we are back to where we started a year ago – enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) in the entire Metro Manila and some nearby provinces. We are seeing record-high daily reported infections as there are now 4 confirmed variants in the country.

We are back to where we started a year ago…

But just like any crisis, there are opportunities that surface and one of these is the emergence of community markets to bring goods and services closer to the consumers so that there is no more need for residents to leave their homes for essential items. With the plea to “stay home” and supermarkets having long lines with limited customers allowed at a time, more and more have opted to buy online but given add-on delivery fees, community markets have become the better alternative.

Subdivisions cafes, restaurants, grocery stores are now offering take-out, pick-up and delivery options and condominium residents found a business outlet right in their own buildings selling various stuff to fellow condo dwellers.

Our village is a fine example of this community economic bubble. We are a community with a little over 130 households and yet the range of offerings is just so interestingly good: from fruits & vegetables; to seafoods and packed dishes; cookies, breads, ice cream and home-cooked snacks – the entrepreneurial juices of the neighbourhood really came out during this pandemic. There are even medicines and PPEs as well as medical tele-consult with neighbour doctors offering their professional services so there is no need to go to over-capacity hospitals. It gave all of us a sense of security knowing that we have doctors a few minutes away.

And the best thing? We got to know each other! It took the pandemic to get our homeowners association to finally get organised after years of failed attempts. Since it was lockdown, homeowners were forced to be home so we got quorums during our general assemblies and with almost all stuck at home, we realised what needs to be done in our village and everyone became more engaged in village concerns.

Out of the crisis, another amazing thing happened…we gained new friends in the neighbourhood and what used to be just a wave and hi-hello became getting-to-know conversations and for the first time in almost a decade of living in the village, we were invited in our neighbors’ homes and we invited them to ours. That’s what I call a silver lining!