Live within your means

Financial literacy statistics slideNovember is Financial Literacy month. Last week, I had the pleasure of attending the National Financial Literacy conference in Montreal. It was an inspiring two days of learning how we are doing as a country in helping Canadians have the knowledge, skills, and confidence to make responsible financial decisions.

Since I work for a company that helps people be financially secure, financial literacy has always been a passion of mine. One key theme from the conference was how being financially secure plays into our overall wellness and happiness.

Here were a few statistics shared at the conference:

  • 47% of Canadians live pay cheque to pay cheque
  • 35% feel overwhelmed by debt
  • 74% have saved only one-quarter or less of what they feel they’ll need to retire
  • 1 in 4 could not come up with $2,000 within a month in an emergency
  • 46% say they will have to work longer than they planned five years ago
  • 50% believe financial stress is impacting their performance at work

And Canada is further ahead than most other countries in the world.

The key to financial wellbeing really comes down to one simple tenet: live within your means and don’t spend more than you earn.

Of course, this is much easier if you have a good job and good income. It’s not as easy if you are a single income family or living close to the poverty level.

We also live in a highly commercial society that is constantly enticing us to spend money.

I walked out of the conference last week and went for a walk on St. Catherine’s Street. Every store window had the word “Sale/Vente” blazoned on it promoting early Christmas offers. (And yes, I did spend money shopping). One person shared a story about a friend of hers who was visiting L.A. who saw a purse on sale from $5,000 to $1,200 and couldn’t pass it up because it was such a “steal”. We are programmed to spend.

So how do we do a better job of living within our means? It starts with lifestyle choices.

Look at how you spend your time and consider making shifts in your leisure activities. Choose activities that require no spend or very little spend: hiking, free community concerts and events, and hobbies at home or spending time with family and friends that cost little money. If you are struggling each month, make a budget and stick to it. Decide which expenses are necessary and which ones are discretionary. See if there are ways to reduce both.

This week’s #HappyAct is to live within your means and look after your financial wellbeing, especially this holiday season. Next week, I’ll share some of the best sites and tools shared at the conference to help you take control of your finances and be financially secure.

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The rise of incivility in the workplace

man sticking out his tongue at a phoneEarlier this month, I participated in Respect in the Workplace training at my work. It was excellent.

While there was a pronounced focus on harassment, timely given the Me Too movement and stories of sexual abuse and harassment out of Hollywood, there was also an important emphasis on respect and incivility.

Incivility in the workplace is on the rise. Both McKinsey and Harvard Business Review have published excellent articles on this trend and the hidden costs.

According to one study in 1998, 50% of workers reported they were treated rudely at least once a month. In 2011, the figure rose to 55% and 62% in 2016. That’s twelve times a year most of us experience some form of incivility at work.

What happens when we experience incivility in the workplace? We feel devalued, hurt, emotionally upset. It becomes hard to concentrate and focus on tasks at hand. It is emotionally draining. If it festers or the conflict worsens, the fight, flight or freeze response begins to override our ability to function. We disengage or we leave altogether.

Incivility results in lower productivity, higher employee turnover, and lower employee engagement.

What wasn’t addressed in the training was the root cause of this disturbing trend. Some may attribute it to Trump or social media. I believe the root cause is directly related to the amount of pressure and stress on employees to deliver results at all costs—often at the cost of incivility.

And here’s the scary part–none of us are immune.

A few weeks ago, I found myself speaking a bit icily on the phone to a colleague who had not communicated with me that they would miss a requested deadline. There was no phone call or email to let me know they could not complete the work, despite several attempts on my part to follow up with them.

Who in this case was disrespectful—me for adopting a clipped, direct tone (but hopefully still professional) to the conversation, or my colleague for not communicating with me in the first place? You tell me.

There is one thing I do know. People will always take their cue from the people at the top. Leaders must live, breathe and model respect and civility in the workplace if it is to be sanctified in the culture of the organization.

There is a nasty trickle down effect that occurs when a leader speaks or sends an email with highly caustic or sarcastic language to employees. It sends a message—it’s OK to act this way, when it’s not OK.

This week’s #HappyAct is to take a stand against incivility in the workplace. We all need to be leaders to make our workplaces happier, positive places to be.

Visit PetSmart at Halloween

Dog in hat and sunglassesCalling all ghosts and goblins. If you want to get into the Halloween spirit early, and put a ghoulish grin on your face, visit PetSmart this week.

Every year, PetSmart offers Halloween photos of your pet in costume. Last year when we visited the store before Halloween, the store was filled with primped pets prowling the aisles. There was a ghoulish greyhound, a devilish Dalmatian and a schnauzer dressed as Superman.

At PetSmart, trick or treating takes on a whole new meaning. Raise your paw, get a treat. Roll over and speak. Woof down another treat.

We popped into PetSmart on Saturday—there weren’t many dogs dressed up since Halloween was still 10 days away, but there was a big lab growling at the Pet Smart mascot, and a little Jack Russell trying to catch the rats in the photo display.

This week’s #HappyAct is to visit PetSmart before Halloween. Just don’t shell out near the fish tanks and steer clear if a black cat crosses your path.

Ed. note: I didn’t get many good photos at PetSmart this week, so I’m sharing a couple of costume pictures of our loveable mutts.

Dog in flamenco costume

 

Always see with your heart

Facebook this morning is full of images and RIP messages for a very special golden retriever: Smiley.

Smiley was born without eyes, and a rare condition that made him look like he smiled all the time. He worked as a therapy dog bringing joy and happiness to everyone he met. His owners had to put him down yesterday.

His owners posted this yesterday, “The little dog with a big heart and a grand purpose left us today at 12:30pm. In Smiley’s honour, please be kind to one another, give back, and always see with your heart.”

This week’s #HappyAct is to always see with your heart and keep smiling. RIP Smiley.

Ten cool apps for an appy Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving—the time to give thanks, spend time with family with friends and download some new apps on your phone as you curl up into turkey-induced coma on the couch.

Here are some of my favourite apps to check out that are useful.

  1. TeamSnap—Have a child on a sports team? TeamSnap allows coaches and parents to see schedules, who’s available for practices and games and even allows you to upload photos from games to create an online team photo album.
  2. Carrot—Developed in partnership with Canadian Diabetes Association, the Heart and Stroke Foundation and different government agencies, Carrot rewards you with Aeroplan, Petro Points or other reward program points for making healthy choices, taking fun interactive quizzes and even for your daily steps.
  3. Slack—Tired of endless emails at work? Slack is quickly becoming the go-to app for teams and companies who are looking for simpler, easier ways to communicate and collaborate. Many teams at my company are using Slack.
  4. Calorie counter and diet tracker—A great post-Thanksgiving app for losing weight and getting healthy.
  5. Aura: Meditation and Mindfulness—it’s like having your own personalized mindfulness coach who will guide you for three minutes a day to better mental health and happiness.
  6. AroundMe—Handy app for finding restaurants, gas stations or businesses nearby.
  7. Find My iPhone—even if your iPhone isn’t missing, it’s fun to track yourself on the map; if it is missing, it’s a lifesaver.
  8. WeTransfer/WeDownload—you don’t even need to download the app for this one, just go to the website. Allows you to transfer files up to two gigabytes free—great for sending videos, large photo collections.
  9. Stubhub—buy or sell tickets to any sporting event or concert.
  10. Yonder Outdoor Adventures–Check out posts from fellow outdoor enthusiasts on the best hikes and paddles around the world.

And if downloading apps isn’t your preferred way to while away Thanksgiving Monday, Clare informs me there is a spongebob marathan today “Spongegiving”.

What’s your favourite app? Leave a comment. Appy thanksgiving, everyone!

Swimming in a fish bowl

Author and her husbandWe’re just two lost souls swimming in a fish bowl, year after year.”

-Wish You Were Here, Pink Floyd

This isn’t the blog post I was planning to write. I had planned to write a funny, light-hearted post about 25 years of marriage.

Yes, Dave and I are celebrating our twenty-fifth wedding anniversary this week. We’ve been two lost souls swimming in a fish bowl running over the same ground for 25 years and for the record, there’s no one I’d rather splash around with in the fish bowl of life.

But today, as I sat on the dock, my eyes filled with tears and I began crying.

Crying hopelessly for two dear friends who after decades of marriage had their happily ever afters stolen from them–one friend who lost her husband to brain cancer and another who had to put her husband this week in a home because of Alzheimers disease.

It’s just so unfair and incredibly sad.

But if there’s one thing 25 years of marriage has taught me, and the events of the last few weeks, it’s that there are no guarantees.

No guarantee people will grow old together.

No guarantee you will remain in love.

No guarantee that the phrase in sickness and in health will take on so much meaning.

No guarantee life won’t turn out the way you planned it.

To Dave, I simply say thank you for 25 wonderful years. I hope I never take you for granted, and whatever fate befalls us, I hope you will continue to be my faithful partner, swimming in circles, by my side.

And to Jack and Tom: I wish you were here.

Leave a legacy

willow trees
Trees I planted 30 years ago

“Everyone must leave something behind when he dies, my grandfather said. A child or a book or a painting or a house or a wall built or a pair of shoes made. Or a garden planted. Something your hand touched some way so your soul has somewhere to go when you die.”

Ray Bradbury, author of Farhenheit 451

I’ve never thought much about what my legacy to this world will be. My children, perhaps. I live a small life so I highly doubt my name will appear in any history book or there will be a statue erected somewhere in my honour. I’m just one of a billion ordinary people in the world going about their ordinary lives.

Recently, I spent the afternoon in Mississauga strolling through JC Saddington Park by the lake. Many residents of Port Credit may not be aware that JC Saddington was actually a landfill site before it was converted to parkland.

I helped plant all the trees in that park as a summer student working for the City of Mississauga forestry department. The soil was clay and the conditions were terrible, but I marvelled as I strolled through the winding paths to see that the little wispy willow whips I planted more than 30 years ago had grown into beautiful graceful trees providing much-needed shade to the park goers on an unusually hot September day.

This week’s #HappyAct is to do something that will leave a mark on this world. As Mr. Bradbury said, “It doesn’t matter what you do, so long as you change something from the way it was before you touched it.”

If you’re interested in planting a tree to leave a legacy, join the legions of volunteers who will be planting trees this week (September 27 is National Tree Day). In Kingston, there’s tree planting at Lemoine’s Point next Saturday, September 30th at 9 a.m. at the south entrance.