May, 2013

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Are you financially ready for a family emergency?

By Mike Aquino for Yahoo! Southeast Asia | BDO Money Matters – Mon, 20 May 2013

To have children, the author Elizabeth Stone once wrote, “is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.”

Sleepless nights ensue—once, you were the sole subject of your financial priorities, now you’ve got your spouse and kids to worry about. Even if you’ve got things well in hand now… are you sure you’ve got everything covered, even the emergencies?

While Filipinos are generally not lacking in the sacrifice-everything-for-their-children department, most of us don’t have the financial savvy to properly prepare for a future emergency. “We have this, ‘sige, bahala na, the money’s there’ mindset,” says personal finance consultant Randell Tiongson. “A lot of people start with the life insurance policy, the educational program, all these things, but what about emergency funds?”

Tiongson believes in a certain order to laying the financial groundwork for a family emergency. “There are certain things you have to satisfy first,” explains Tiongson, pointing to your home finances and your debt. Tiongson suggests you do the following, in order:

1. Sort out your finances. “You should spend less on what you make, be able to balance your checkbook, see that you’re spending less than what you’re earning, and generating enough savings. That’s one,” says Tiongson. “If you’re in debt, then the next step is getting out of debt.”

2. Start an emergency fund. “It seems to be uncommon to a lot of us Filipinos,” says Tiongson. “But right financial planning necessitates that you set aside a certain amount of money for emergencies—what we call an emergency fund.”

Tiongson varies the amount he advises you reserve for your emergency fund, depending on your employment situation. “For employees, I’d say three months is the least,” he explains. “If you’re in business, six months to a year. In business kasi, hindi mo alam what’s going to happen.”

Emergency funds are not to be invested in stocks, property or mutual funds. “Ideally, it has to be cash or near-cash,” says Tiongson. “Time deposits are okay, if they can be cashed easily. When you put your emergency fund in, say, a bond fund, there’s that risk of fluctuation: if it fluctuates and it’s the time you need it, lugi ka.”

3. Buy life insurance. For the worst emergency of all—the kind that takes you permanently out of the picture for your kids—you’ll want to make sure they’re taken care of even in your absence. “If you have a dependent, like children, you want to cover that,” says Tiongson. As a rule of thumb, Tiongson suggests you get coverage equivalent to “between three to five times your annual salary.”

4. Cover health emergencies. If you’re an employee, chances are most of your medical expenses are covered (to a certain point) by the office HMO. But if the office HMO doesn’t cover your dependents—or fails to cover them to your satisfaction—the option to buy further coverage is always there. “You buy something that you can afford,” says Tiongson. “Of course, the really good ones are expensive. You may want a bigger room, but can you afford the premium?”

Tiongson suggests you make a priority of keeping tabs on your HMO and insurance premiums. “You also have to track that these things are being paid,” he warns. “Baka mamaya hindi naman bayad ang premium. If it’s not paid, what good is it?”

5. Get a lifeline. Tiongson advises that you use a line of credit—personal loans or credit cards—as a backup emergency fund: not to be used until all other options are exhausted.

“The idea is you start a savings program, but you keep credit handy,” explains Tiongson. “That’s why you should be very careful managing your credit—baka mamaya kung kailan mo kailangan, na-max out ang credit card mo!”

Take note, the order of these items is not interchangeable: the first two items should always be first on the agenda, though not necessarily in consecutive order. “I recommend you do this simultaneously,” says Tiongson. “Fix the way you spend, slowly get out of debt, and at the same time, build your emergency funds before you do other things like buying insurance.”

How To Keep Your Cool Under Pressure

By Mel Sin for Yahoo! Southeast Asia | Sat, 4 May 2013

There are days when you feel your buttons are being pushed way too hard. But the last thing you want to do is detonate in bad language and angry gestures! So here you go – our tips on how you can keep cool in various situations and come out of it smiling (even if you were boiling inside to begin with!).

How to keep cool… with your kids
One for the moms: Like it or not, but kids can have a knack for bringing out the worst in adults. And it may seem easier to just give up and throw in the towel when dealing with a difficult child, or lose your temper, which isn’t exactly ideal.

So how do you keep your cool when your temper is red hot? Try this: Look at the situation in perspective. Your child may have a reason for lashing out or could be having an off day, which is completely normal as we are all entitled. So instead of being angry, take a breather and know that your child doesn’t intend to drive you crazy; he or she just needs a little more attention than before.

The other thing that works? Get goofy! Nothing works like being silly. This provides a great distraction and soon everyone–kid and you included–will forget why you’re angry in the first place. Sing a silly song, dance crazily, or just have a tickle fest. It works all the time.

How to keep your cool… with annoying colleagues
We all have them–annoying colleagues who just say the wrong thing and do the darnest thing to get on our nerves. From not meeting their end of the bargain to simply not knowing when to shut up, we don’t blame you if there are days when you feel like using the tape to seal your colleague’s mouth shut.

Wait, let go of that masking tape and opt out of violence instead. You don’t want to blow up and be known as the “Crazy One” at work. First things first, to remain calm and to keep your composed professional self–breathe. While your first instinct may be to snap back at your colleague, you’re better off stepping back and taking a deep breath instead. This buys you time to stop you from saying something you will regret. If you must, vent to a friend (someone completely out of your working zone) over a cup of coffee. Just being able to let it all out can do wonders to your mood.

Still annoyed? Find your happy place. Whether it is a few minutes on your favorite website or moving on to the next level on Candy Crush, taking time out will distract you from what’s bothering you in the first place, lets you ease your stress, and help you get back to work in a better mood.

How to keep your cool… when fighting with your partner

You’re both raising your voices and tempers are rising. But before that fight with your boyfriend or your husband turns into an all-out argument where you’ll both regret the things that come out from your mouth, try this.

In the article Fighting Happily Ever After by Elizabeth Bernstein from online.wsj.com, Dr. Howard Markman, professor of psychology at the University of Denver as well as co-author of Fighting for Your Marriage, calls it the “speaker-listener technique”. In this technique, Bernstein explains that Dr. Howard suggests  “couples who have adisagreement should call a couple’s meeting, set a time limit of 15 minutes, and discuss the issue at hand. He even suggests flipping a coin to see who gets to speak first.”

After stating your piece, you should then give your partner the chance to speak, explaining one’s position. “A lot of times, all you need is to be listened to,” says Dr. Markman. Through this exercise, the resolution will then become obvious, says the good doctor. If not? It’s time to schedule another meeting.

Remember the few golden rules of fighting: don’t make it personal, stop trying to win all the time, and make sure to listen. You’ll soon realize that the argument was for nothing.

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