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02 August 2011
Reading this, I want you all to know I’m taking some annual leave. Outside the break from work the Silly Season hands us – not necessarily a very restful break – it’s rare for me to take time out, especially at this time of year. It’s just that in the whirl of getting everything done, I forgot myself, and as the saying goes, when we don’t discipline ourselves life has a way of doing it for us.
I ignored the early warning signs, kept pushing the overdrive buttons and found myself (as regular readers will know) a month or so ago in an ambulance on the way to hospital for my asthma.
It forced me to think (along with the cold, wet weather we’ve been experiencing in Sydney and Melbourne) about putting myself first. I realised if I didn’t I wasn’t going to be able to meet my obligations – family, work, community – and no one else was going to do it for me.
It’s similar to ensuring you have your super on track and up-to-date, that your budget is in place to meet your financial obligations as well as any unforeseen emergencies, and importantly, that your insured.
I know they say that self-awareness leads to much better self-management but I’ve also been told by psychologist acquaintances of mine that our very human tendency is to believe that in all the important areas, our jobs, relationships, how we cope with life, that sort of thing, we will perform better than the average person. It’s a phenomenon known as self-serving bias, and my theory is this bias also makes us believe that unusual things – good or bad – also won’t happen to us.
The LR theory on why we ignore the obvious goes like this: “The odds of something going wrong and me needing life insurance, income protection, enough super to cover my retirement and old age, are just not that likely. So, why plan for them.”
Take this statistic: only four percent of households with dependent children have life insurance. Now that is frightening. As for income protection, even people who run and own their own businesses, if they have considered it, often push it aside because they assume they’re immune or their budget priorities and hierarchies of need allow them to let it slip to the bottom of the pile. Double whammy for any family they have.
But it’s the percentage of women with underfunded super that still has me reeling. Women live longer and we can’t work forever. With fewer people coming up behind us, we are not going to have the workforce to support any realistic level of a pension. To think the government can step in and save us is ludicrous.
It’s why celebrating women and their achievements at Westpac branches throughout the country this year, and culminating in October with some fantastic events and opportunities, I am hoping women take the time to open a conversation with us about their worries and their successes and share their good and bad experiences.
Of course, on Ruby we have the perfect forum for communication and we always encourage member involvement – but there’s often nothing better than speaking with someone face-to-face about your needs and wants and getting information you can use. Better self-management often comes with the realization we are not alone.
October is also National Breast Cancer Foundation month and a time to remember and celebrate the role we can all play in finding a cure. It’s not just about giving financially, although that always helps. It’s about supporting with time and celebrating the dedication of those who make it their life work. Their unflagging optimism is inspirational.
I’d describe myself as a realistic optimist rather than a defensive pessimist (except when it comes to super), and most of the people I know tend to hover in the same area. It doesn’t surprise me to read about the crises in retail or to hear the effect of the Carbon Tax will be to raise prices in certain areas and dampen private consumption. Most of the women I know have been tightening their budgets for a while now. That is what we know about women, they tend to calculate the risks and plan to be prepared. And in that, they will often prioritise other needs above their own, because, let’s face it, we are saints.
Jokes aside, household budgets are getting tighter and the lack of retail spend is an indication our consumer confidence has seen better days but, for the sake of having good mental health, it is important to keep things in perspective.
Constant negative thoughts are known to play havoc with your mental and physical health and they are often irrational and unrealistic. Bring those anxieties out into the sunlight to be examined more closely and the vast percentage can be dealt with easily.
It’s just not helpful to remain defensively pessimistic all the time – cautious optimism is where we need to go.
Which brings me to our exciting upcoming Ruby survey. We want to know what you think about a whole bunch of issues that affect women and what better way than to ask you the questions we hear being asked every day around the water cooler, in our boardrooms and around our management tables, on the streets and in business. Your answers will help us understand what our successes look like and… our anxieties. By discussing them we can alleviate the burden of them.
No doubt we will also uncover fantastic strategies for coping and keeping mentally and physically fit as well as inspiring stories of realistic optimism. I can’t wait to hear from you and to report back on what we uncover.