More Self-Esteem

I keep referring to Florence Littauer’s book Personality Plus – simply because it held the key to my personal development.  

Funnily enough, reading this book and others recommended by my ‘Network 21’ support group (see my first Self-Esteem post) and listening to speakers talk about their lives and their challenges brought me back to my childhood.  

Me, Mum, baby sister & Nanny (‘proof’ we were special!)

As a little girl up to the age of 6, I was my mother’s “darling Shirley-Anne”. She adored me and I idolised her. She took me shopping, bought me pretty dresses and sang to me at bedtime. I was perfectly happy. She made me feel important. 

Things changed as I grew up. I spent less time with Mum and more with Dad, learning about the sharemarket. I was absorbed with books and learning to play the piano. I told her I didn’t  want to wear dresses and preferred shorts and T-shirts! I didn’t want my ears pierced either. She was disappointed because I now had an opinion which conflicted with hers. 

Her words kept echoing even many years into my adulthood: “Let me choose your outfit for you, you might buy the wrong thing!” … said to me as a teenager wanting something new to wear at a party. And: “… you really should get your ears pierced and use earrings – you need to light your face up!” Whenever I was paid a compliment, she’d say, “Yes, she’s just like her mother!”; or “of course she’s smart, she learnt from me.” It was so different from Dad’s “Yes, that’s my Shirl”, as he patted my head. 

Dad worked hard as a stockbroker, and his business soon flourished. He loved his friends (usually also his clients) who came from all walks of life. He spent most of his time with them. My mother didn’t ‘fit in’ with his crowd, feeling more at home as an executive secretary at the Hongkong and Shanghai Bank, and showered with gifts from bosses and appreciative customers. 

But she had strengths I have always admired, and still do. She learnt shorthand in a Japanese internment camp in Singapore during the War. She worked straight after the war as a stenographer and within months was elevated to executive secretary. She earned more than my father in his government job, and helped support her mother, sisters and brothers. She sent me to Sydney in the 1960s to complete high school, and helped Dad buy a seat in a stockbroking firm (where he did extremely well).

But she had one weakness. She wanted control. We had to listen to her because her advice was better than anyone else’s. She craved attention and praise even if it meant taking it away from people she loved. She would keep reminding us of the sacrifices she made. 

This trait is explained so well in Wayne Dyer’s book, Your Erroneous Zones

“Love is a word that has as many definitions as there are people to define it. [It’s the] ability and willingness to allow those that you care for to be what they choose for themselves without any insistence that they satisfy you.”1

Mum retired from work at 50. She kept saying I was her “Rock of Gibraltar” – but really, she wanted me all to herself. She showed signs of depression (casually referred to as a “nervous breakdown” in the 1970s). I was the eldest worrying daughter who was there by her side,  wanting so much to help her. Of course I couldn’t; she needed professional help, which she refused. 

In hindsight, I should have been more assertive and not allowed myself to be dominated. But that realisation only became clear as I sat through the Network 21 seminars, and read more books. 

Even at nearly 40 years of age, I was the proverbial doormat and lacked personal direction and goals. Now I had a choice: either to be influenced by past conditioning or to take control and change. How could I achieve this? 

As I’ve said before in my posts: when you’re ready, a way will appear. This time it was the book Believe You Can by Allen Carmichael: 

“Far too many people, in making what they think is a positive decision, spend too much time thinking about how the result can be achieved. The decision must be made on the WHY not the HOW. … the desire to change must precede commitment to ACTION.”2

So this was my weakness: over-thinking, over-analysing, and no action!

I wrote these words and put them under my pillow:

Decide. Take action. The ‘how’ will reveal itself.

And it did. 

In books, tapes, meetings and my Network 21 support group, I got all the help I needed. But perhaps I also needed to heed Mum’s advice about makeup and skincare … 

Tania’s still a great friend & trusted adviser

Throughout my singing career, I applied foundation, rouge on Mum’s insistence (she said my skin “lacked colour”), a bit of eyeshadow – all later washed off with simple soap and water. Tania Belej from my support group came to the rescue, spending an hour with me using Amway’s ‘Artistry’ product range to “Cleanse, Tone, Moisturise”. WOW! My skin glowed. I was so excited. I bought the products and have never used other brands since. I now had a practical skincare routine and of all people I became good at this, doing “beauty breaks” with family and friends.

Next, it was clothes. I was clueless. On stage singing with my aunt Margaret in the ‘70s, I wore tailor-made outfits, with styles picked from fashion books and material bought from Hilda’s (then a large retail clothing store in Singapore). Later in Sydney, I stuck to drab-coloured wear, mainly because I couldn’t find  off-the-shelf clothes to fit me, and I was too afraid to try anything on. 

Viv’s an expert at matching skin tones to clothes!

In the 90s, Network 21 invited an image consultant, Vivienne Cable, to talk about matching your complexion with the right “cool” or “warm” colours in clothes. I saw Viv then at her Sydney store. She knew exactly what to do with me, and with sizes 6–8 available, I was in heaven … and best of all she said I could wear black (the colour Mum said I should never use!). Viv now consults by appointment only; please contact me and I’ll pass your details on to her.

The very last step for me was to change from within. 

Emotionally, I was a habitual worrier, lacked confidence and was scared of anything I couldn’t control. I resisted even the slightest urge to express my opinion, fearing no one would agree with me and that it would start an argument. I had to overcome my fears and anxiety to complete my transformation.

‘FEAR’ = False Evidence Appearing Real.  

I conquered it by deliberately putting myself in situations I would never contemplate being in, for instance: 

  1. Driving further than 10km away from home in the evenings when it got dark. I saw prospects in Outer Western Sydney, the Upper North Shore and as far south as Wollongong. In spite of my map and written directions, I’d inevitably get lost. Where were those house numbers or street names?? Sweat was pouring. I stopped to  look at the map again, sipping tea from my flask. How good did I feel when I found the place!   
  1. Piercing my ears, tattooing my eyebrows and using electrolysis (not wax) to remove hair from my upper lip. All involved some pain and embarrassment. But you know what? I met the loveliest people in my search and best of all discovered ‘Emla’ cream! 
  1. I role-played with a very patient mentor who fired questions and objections at me on the phone. How absurd I thought at first! I stuttered, hesitated, couldn’t find the words; I was hopeless. “You can do this” I was told, “Keep going!” And after nearly 100 pretend phone calls later, I got better. I was able to speak assertively with confidence and conviction.  Almost there. Now I had to do this on my own with real people.

So thank you Tania, Vivienne and my patient mentor. My self-esteem returned at 45 and has grown exponentially!

My next post will be on Posture: and it’s not about walking while balancing a book on your head. It’s another secret to success.     

1 Dyer, W.W. (1976). Your Erroneous Zones, pp.29–30. Hazell Watson & Viney Ltd: Aylesbury, Bucks, United Kingdom. 

2 Carmichael, A. (1993). Believe You Can, p.37. Wrightbooks Pty Ltd: North Brighton, Victoria.


Self-Esteem

As I wrote about before, my early days in Singapore were sublime – particularly the years 1970 to 1979. We had a cook who churned out delicious meals, another lady to clean the house, and a devoted driver. 

With no housework or cooking concerns, my time was spent doing what I loved: working with Dad in the sharemarket (with clients crowding around us hanging on our every word), and singing at night with my aunt Margaret at the Tanglin Club. We had waiters attending to us the minute we walked in, feeling the audience’s anticipation to hear us sing. 

I recall reading this in Dale Carnegie’s famous book: “ … the deepest urge in human nature is the desire to be important.”1 I was happy because I was important. Then, I didn’t see a need to be good at anything else. 

But when I left Singapore for Sydney in 1980, I became Mrs (Married) Average. No-one knew of my previous life. I couldn’t cook (my husband taught me how to do fluffy rice in a saucepan and roast a chicken). Food shopping scared me; I was too nervous to drive further than 10 km from home. I started work at the Prince of Wales Hospital, which was to become my second home. I held various positions there until I finally retired in June 2021. 

When I first started work however, I just didn’t fit in. I thought it silly that people would talk so much about sport, recipes and planning holidays (borrowing on their credit card no less!), when they should really be discussing ways to make and save money. I hated the idea that we had to take morning and afternoon tea-breaks. How unproductive. I stubbornly chose to stay at my desk, have my snack and work. I’d be alone even on my lunch break, reading the financial pages. It’s no wonder everyone thought I was a snob and left me alone.  

I became withdrawn, had low self-esteem and confidence – all because I didn’t feel important anymore. I was, however, determined to get my health right, start a family and build my share portfolio. Living from paycheck to paycheck was not what Dad told me to do. 

I also knew I would never reach my potential if I continued feeling sorry for myself. But how could I reclaim my lost self-esteem?

As I wrote in my Diet & Your Colon posts, Dr Walker’s books dramatically proved my health. My son was born in 1983 and I did learn how to cook, making fresh meals for him. I tried not to be overly-critical of work colleagues, focussed on my work, and even got off my desk for small-talk during our tea breaks. This slowly broke the ice, but there was still a long way to go. 

In November 1989, my sister invited me to a business meeting. It turned out to be the Amway business and people in the room were part of the ‘Network 21’ support group. Now please read on, I’m by no means introducing Amway to you! 

My first thought was to excuse myself and leave. But there was something about the people there that made me want to stay and find out more. Yes, Amway had their own brand of washing powder, cleaning products, skincare and vitamins. But it wasn’t about the selling. It was about forming a network where products purchased for yourself or others in your line of sponsorship generate turnover points determining everyone else’s bonus level. The goal was to develop a business producing passive income

I paid $55 to join so I could try the products at a discount, with 90 days to get my money back. So I bought 20 products. I was amazed at the quality and still buy them today.  

Again, it wasn’t the goods, but the networking idea that intrigued me. I knew it was something I could be good at. I was impressed by the people in the room, who were so much like my father’s clients – smart, interesting and humble, And I felt comfortable with them. 

I went through the Amway bonus system; it was fair. If you did nothing and your group became millionaires, your share would be close to zero. The Australian Department of Consumer Affairs said Amway was a socially responsible, ethical business. So now it was up to me.  

That night I couldn’t sleep. This was a business with no overheads or compulsory inventory. Plus I had support. All I had to do was follow the Network 21 rulebook, read their recommended books, listen to tapes (cassettes then!) and go to meetings. So simple. I thought, “I can do this!”

Reality hit me. I could not build a business the way I was (ie. without self-confidence). I realised this at my very first meeting. The 7-hour long $15 seminar was actually all about GOALS. Okay, so what was a ‘goal’ exactly?? I had none. 

Affirmations? Attitude? Posture? Comfort Zone? Body Language? Totally unfamiliar and puzzling to me. I felt my brain was about to explode! 

A much-repeated mantra of the group was “Do what needs to be done when it ought to be done, whether you like it or not!” It stuck. DISCIPLINE. I had to acquire it. 

I’m with my lifelong Network 21 friends: Uschy (left) & Anita – Sydney, 2006

In meeting after meeting with professional speakers you’d otherwise pay a fortune for, mentoring sessions, books and tapes and new diary contacts, I headed off to various homes to explain the business to my prospects. Some abruptly said, “No, not for me!” I was hurt at first, but later swallowed hard and asked, “Do you perhaps know anyone else that may like this?” “Yes!”, they said, which encouraged me to go on.

That 15-year journey was an amazing learning curve in my personal development. I learnt skills money couldn’t buy. I made new friends and contacts as my list grew – whether or not they joined me. They were people I would never have discovered if I stayed home fretting!

My involvement with the Amway business for the last 10 years has solely been as a consumer. My work at the Hospital and passion for share-investing made it difficult to be fully committed. 

In Invest 5.0, I talked about the importance of recognising your personality and temperament, and referred to Florence Littauer’s book Personality Plus. By knowing more about myself, I understood more about people and knew how to bring out the best in them. I got so good at it! But there’s a new term now: ‘DISC Profiling’ (Dominant-Influential-Compliant-Steady).

Network 21 is hosting a free, 90-minute Zoom seminar on it this Sunday, 3 October, from 5.00–6.30pm. It’s obligation-free with no ads.  

https://us02web.zoom.us/j/82837204530

More to come on Secrets to Success in the coming weeks. See you soon!

1 Carnegie, D. [1936, 1981] (1989). How to Win Friends & Influence People [Revised edition], p.47. CollinsAngus&Robertson Publishers Limited: Pymble, New South Wales. 


September 2021

In this post I’ll be reviewing shares I recommended in Invest 6.0. Many thanks to Sam for contributing in part to it. He has a PhD in Accounting, and will be a regular finance and tax writer on Shirl’s Pearls.

Many shareholders, and self-funded retirees especially, received their paychecks in dividends this month. Last year was a drought for most of us – some dividends were scrapped altogether and others were reduced substantially. 

Thankfully, Australian banks have recovered from the millions they paid in compensation and fines as a result of the recent Royal Commission, and the shock of the pandemic. I’m glad to report that dividends this September are (almost) back to normal! 

The extended lockdowns in NSW, Victoria and the ACT may result in more ‘bad bear days’ for shareholders and super funds. Each state (apart from WA, evidently) is struggling to keep its economy alive, and some are worse off than others.

If there is the slightest risk of inflation, the Reserve Bank will likely increase interest rates; the way I look at it, from such a low base it’s not likely to hurt the property market. But borrowing beyond our manageable limits is too risky.

No-one can, or should, attempt to predict the future.  Stick to the fundamentals and don’t get carried away by the hype. ‘A rising tide lifts all ships’ — but don’t be one of the dead fish on the sand when the tide goes out!  

While things are still uncertain, it would be a good idea to hang on to some cash until we spot an interesting stock to buy. One such stock could be Jalna Dairy Foods (jalna.com.au), believed to be planning to list on the ASX. I like it and will keep you posted. 

New listings known as ‘IPOs’ (Initial Public Offerings) of mining stocks are also coming in thick and fast. Why? Because gold, silver, copper, aluminium, nickel, graphene and ‘rare earths’ are now in demand. Everything to do with technology and quantum computing will need these materials – and there will surely be more exciting discoveries to come! 

The most exciting of these materials is GRAPHENE, the building block of graphite, which has been termed a ‘miracle metal’ due to its exceptional strength (it is 200 times stronger than steel) and good electrical conductivity. As a result, graphene has many potential applications, including batteries, transistors, computer chips, medical equipment, and electric vehicles. For example, introducing graphene to the lithium-ion batteries used in smartphones and laptops has been found to make the batteries more lightweight and charge much faster than other lithium-ion batteries. Researchers are still learning about graphene and its properties, so watch this space!

The key factor with these materials is do we refine them here in Australia, or send them off to Malaysia or China for this? I would love for us to do it all. Here’s where energy supply and costs come in. I believe we’ll see reliable, emission-free nuclear energy, shunned for so long, finally up for debate.

The Sydney Morning Herald published an interesting article last August on Australian innovation. It’s not related to the stocks I’ve picked, but there are many clues that will lead you to at least 1 or 2 industry and tech stocks that are up and coming.  

Meanwhile, we’re counting on the vaccine to deliver us from lockdown by Christmas. I will be so happy when all businesses – the travel and hospitality industries particularly – get their credit card and Eftpos terminals working furiously again. Don’t we miss our retail therapy? The touch and feel of what we want to buy … browsing and enjoying a coffee in a busy shopping centre … let online shopping take a back seat for a change!   

A word of caution when investing in IPOs of small mining stocks (which make up the lion’s share of all new ASX listings due to the Australian economy’s emphasis on resources) – these are speculative, as they are still in the ‘discovery’ stage and have yet to start production – they don’t produce any revenue. 

Watch for words describing the company’s projects as ‘exciting’, ‘significant potential’, ‘high grade’, ‘highly prospective’, ‘close to ports’ and ‘established infrastructure’ – these are all signs of a speculative investment. This means that in any given 52-week period, there is a high likelihood that the stock will at least double in price – but with an equally high (if not higher) likelihood that it will halve in price too!

My advice on speculative shares? If they are issued at 0.50c or less a share, I pick one or two which I believe have potential and buy $1,000 worth (or not more than you or I am prepared to lose). I look at the people involved and their track record: in particular, whether they have technical know-how and experience in the business. We’ll explore this in more detail in future posts.

Here’s an update of share picks from the table in Invest 6.0

I am pleased with my stock picks so far – and especially happy with the dividends! I will certainly hold on to those for a few years, Telstra especially.

Next week, Sam will help us understand the tax implications of franked dividends. Tax law is complex – but doesn’t have to be boring, and we should all learn the basics on our path to building wealth!


Lockdown Tips #5

You don’t need to be lonely! 

This week I’d like to introduce you to my cousin Efrem.

Efrem is in his ’50s, an MA Honours graduate in English, Literature and Anthropology. He has  taught in high schools and coaching colleges in Sydney for over 20 years. Observing psychological aspects of education has helped him to better understand people and address their needs. His professional career and lengthy volunteering experience have given him the necessary empathy to positively impact people’s lives. Efrem now works for a major Sydney charity, helping people with chronic illnesses.  

We both share the same interest in people; we love to know how they tick. We have talked over this for hours at his favourite Surry Hills café in Sydney – with our extra large cappuccinos, cheese toasties and a jug of water … pre-lockdown of course. I have yet to meet someone with such an infinite understanding of human nature, rich knowledge of history, literature, philosophy and religion. I don’t need reference books or Google, I just call Efrem! 

So I’ve asked him to talk about loneliness (so prevalent at this time), explain its causes and what we can do to avoid pitfalls of depression, anxiety and hopelessness which can result.

Efrem – over to you.

Efrem discusses ‘Loneliness’ in the first of his talks on Shirl’s Pearls
As Efrem says, ‘loneliness’ is defined by psychologists as “feeling lonely more than once a week”
The 3 forms of loneliness – existential, emotional & social, can hugely undermine our health

Closing words from Shirl

Many years ago I attended a seminar where the speaker talked about affirmations. We had A4 sheets and a pencil on our chairs, and were told to write what we wanted to “be”, “have” and “become”. I was in my late 30s then, extremely shy and lacking in confidence. But I knew exactly what to write. At the top of my list was “I want to have many friends, and be a public speaker.” I still have that list today, 40 years on.

We were told “nothing changes if nothing changes … take action!” So I did. I read books on personal development, joined a business network, visualised and verbalised the list everyday on my morning walks. And you know what? Eighty percent of my affirmations have come true! 

Today we have so much more expert support. We CAN overcome loneliness. Efrem has helped us understand what it’s all about. If this sounds like you, please reach out to professionals and friends who can help. Use the tools. Be consistent with your action plan, and rewards will come sooner than you think.


Lockdown Tips #4

I’m so lucky to have such a talented pool of friends and Pearlers … Following on from Tony, Jeff and Phil now share their advice on getting through lockdown. Absolutely brilliant. THANK YOU! 😊

What a pet can do for you by Jeff

I’d like to show you the benefits of living with a pet, whether you’re in lockdown or not.

I’m a single pensioner in my 60s, and I absolutely LOVE dogs! (sorry, cat people). You really couldn’t ask for a better companion in this awful time of COVID lockdown.

Dogs love you unconditionally: you’re their life, and they are yours. They just want to be with you. Apart from their obvious gestures of love towards you, just look into your dog’s eyes their love for you is obvious, and they recognise your love for them in return. It becomes a privilege to care for this most loving and loyal creature. Make the most of this precious gift! To me they are family – period.

Rosie’s last months on her pram
My Rosie as she was – snug on her bed

But alas, dogs don’t live as long as us. Seven months ago, my beloved Shih Tzu, Rosie, had to be put down due to cancer after 12 years of us bonding together. We had the most perfect 12 years – she chose me at the pound, not the other way around. I was blessed to have her in my life. Rosie was initially given a month to live, but my love and care and the doggie pram I pushed her around in, extended her life by 2 years and a month. The cancer then got worse, and I had to do the right thing (by her, not me) to have her put down.

My grief was and still is overwhelming. I’ve felt a loss of purpose in life and felt more alone. I no longer have a loving companion, no snoring in my room at night, no Rosie chasing her teddies or sitting happily at my feet. And now the COVID lockdown has reared its ugly head.

The loss is such that for my own health and wellbeing, I need another dog-companion. I know my Rosie, whose presence I feel, wouldn’t want her Daddy suffering like this. With so much love left within, I really need to love a new companion! 

Before the lockdown, I tried every pound and animal rescue place imaginable, both up and down the coast and out west to Dubbo – but to no avail. I was exhausted just trying … filling out application forms in case there was a suitable dog for adoption – only to be then told I was No. 30 in line. 

I blame it all on the 2020 lockdown. There are now absolutely no small dogs available. I was told the cost for a Shih Tzu, poodle or Cavalier Spaniel puppy can be as high as $5000 and even $6500, which I simply can’t afford. Whilst I know my problem is minor compared to the toll of lockdown on others and the horrible loss of life, in my own sphere, it isn’t. I’m simply not travelling well at present.

Pet insurance?

Adopting a rescue dog or puppy may also mean getting pet insurance – as your dog may have or develop future health issues. 

Pet cover? Think twice

My Shih Tzu Rosie was a rescue dog, and within 3 weeks of adopting her, she needed intestinal surgery due to maltreatment from her previous owners (including feeding her the wrong food). It cost $3K, but I paid $2K with insurance. No pet insurance company offers 100% coverage. Over the years, Rosie developed more health problems (eg. a kidney issue which cost $4K but $2.5K with insurance). But by then my faith in pet insurance began to wane.

When Rosie turned 10, my insurance premium rose from $90 to $130 a month! But because she was insured earlier, she was still covered for existing ailments. You can’t get insurance if your dog turns 10 without previous cover. Some conditions are excluded, and the disclosure statement is often not very clear in this regard. For example, teeth are not included, and there are yearly limits on some procedures depending on your level of insurance. Most insurers offer 80%, 70% or only 50% coverage. I thought my insurance would help when Rosie was diagnosed with cancer, but NO. Most of her new ailments were not covered; not once in the 2 years of her cancer did I actually use my insurance. I decided to cancel it, save money and self-fund her care. And it made a huge difference. 

Some clinics such as ‘Greencross Vets’ in Sydney offer their own pet plans, which I took up; I kept that going until her death. The $16 monthly plan gave free vet visits, saving about $80 a visit. Vaccinations were free, with formal appointments rather than lengthy walk-ins.

Overall, I think insurance can be important early on, but a total waste of money after that. You’re far better putting money aside to fund your pet’s healthcare. Insurance doesn’t offer value for money. Rosie meant everything to me and wanted for nothing – and I felt no guilt cancelling her insurance. We love our dogs, but in reality have to consider what we can actually afford.

So for those of us who are alone and lucky enough to have a canine, feline or bird companion, I wish you all well. To those of us who don’t, hang in there and keep trying to find one, as I will be. In the meantime, it won’t be easy – but I know the memories of our lost loves will tie us through!

Musings during lockdown … by Phil

“Not enough time” in a lockdown day to do what you want to do? Really?!

Paradoxically in this day and age, a lockdown is both restricting AND emancipating:  restricting in that it may stop us doing our ‘usual’, but emancipating in freeing time we didn’t  have before. We can experience new things, eg. the effect of Shirl’s Pearls on the body, mind and financial health!  Even before we get out of bed in the morning, there’s that damn internet. But if we use it and not let it use us, there are endless treasures to discover. We can immediately ‘visit’ friends and family – whether they’re next door or on the other side of the world. It may not be hugging the flesh, but it’s pretty damn good with as many or more laughs!

Someone close to me said, “We can now carry the Library of Alexandria in our pocket!” We can learn about anything we’re interested in – think TED Talks, YouTube, Wikipedia, and so many relevant sites by just googling a word. And of course, there’s MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses), which every major world university offers free to all – an amazing range of amazing subjects easily accessed online. I’m currently halfway through a Uni of Tasmania Wicking Institute MOOC on dementia, brilliantly structured and presented. At the end of a module, you will have really learned and gained new knowledge. 

So many other paths to wander in … cooking, new adventures in the kitchen … and what could be more fun than learning a dance on YouTube like the Salsa? Research suggests dance could be premium training for body and mind coordination to carve new paths into that ol’ plastic brain …  Or what about that other language we’ve wanted to learn? Do it online. That musical instrument you’ve thought about picking up, or one that’s gathering dust? An easy YouTube lesson may be the first and most difficult you take. 

One way into Zen

Exercise? Again, YouTube has endless at-home workouts you can do in the sitting room or yard. We can still venture out for a walk, a jog, a boot camp in the park for 2, and even fishing (you’ll need a licence). And who cares if we don’t catch a fish at all? It’s going somewhere beautiful … and more Zen.

Now let’s get a little more serious. Almost none of us had experienced or even imagined a pandemic or its impact. Lots of folk have been hit hard. Displaced younger working kids who until now could take work, income and affordability for granted. Mental health issues exacerbated by isolation and suspension of face-to-face counselling; deepening of loneliness; many suffering increased financial pressures; greater risk and opportunity for  domestic violence often fuelled by an increase in alcohol and drug abuse; gambling losses becoming even more facile from home with the onslaught of outrageous TV advertising campaigns; and a spike in thoughts of suicide by troubled folk (though hopefully there’ll be less actual suicides if available supports are accessed).  

And this brings us to what may be the most fulfilling and gratifying of all endeavours at this time: giving some help and support to those in need if you have some time. Volunteering opportunities are available through churches, synagogues, mosques, other spiritual communities, charities like the Salvo’s or St Vincent’s de Paul, and local community centres.

As a Lifeline telephone crisis responder, I hear people’s issues first-hand. Lifeline trains its volunteers to connect with people seeking some comfort and relief from the crisis they feel overwhelmed by, and to collaboratively assist them in finding a way out. The demand for its services has surged to unprecedented levels. 

I’m also a First-Aider with St John Ambulance, and have been with St John’s and Lifeline for over 10 years. I certainly plan to continue while mentally and physically able to. St John’s now trains on Zoom, but City-to-Surf, Oxfam Walk, music fests and local sports activities have been suspended.  

I believe the truly wonderful and gratifying aspect of our society is our willingness to volunteer our time to help others such as the RFS, SES, Blaze-Aid, CWAs, and numerous other organisations. Of course, there must be a sensible balance and we mustn’t forget our own wellbeing, health and enjoyment. If we’re no good to ourselves, we’re no good to anyone else. If that’s a cliché, it’s for good reason!

So, is there enough time in a lockdown day to do what you want to do? The answer is probably “NO” – but there’s certainly time to do some new, truly amazing, compassionate, and inspiring activities that can make us better, wiser, healthier and more interesting!

Last words from Shirl … 

Sadly this year, I’m hearing much more of “I’m feeling flat”; “I can’t get motivated’’; “I usually love walking but now it’s a chore”; “I hate my hair” (me too!); “When will this end?”; and “I’m totally over everything Zoom!” … than I did during last year’s lockdown. It’s understandable, we’re all human. We need to talk and connect – and our computers may no longer be a welcome diversion. 

When I feel despondent, I walk. To relax, I read … newspapers in particular. Those in Sydney like the SMH, Australian, AFR and Daily Telegraph offer attractive discounts for 12-week subscriptions (for digital access, home or newsagent delivery). Reading the papers indoors or outdoors with a cup of tea or coffee (or an apple!) is heaven. No ads, no clumsy clicks that open yet another unwanted website. Try it!

Share your thoughts on our Let’s Talk! page


Tribute to Our Divine ‘M’

We lost the last link to the previous generation of our family when our beautiful Margaret passed away on 5 August 2021 in Noosa, Queensland. She was a gifted musician and singer – and a wonderfully warm, giving, human being. Her shining legacy and impact on our lives will be felt forever. This is our Tribute to You, Margaret!

‘Quizas’ by the Trio Los Panchos was a ’40s song that Margaret always sang she loved its rich melody, Latin rhythms & major-minor key shifts

From Geoff:

I married Margaret in 1981 in Sydney, and we spent 40 wonderful years together. It was a beautiful marriage – Margaret turned my life into A LIFE! ‘I’ll Get By’ was our wedding piece, and the words of that song always remained true for us.

From left: Margaret’s brother-in-law Hans, sister Poppy, Margaret & Geoff – Noosa, mid-’90s

“I’ll get by as long as I have you / Though there’ll be rain and darkness too / I’ll not complain, I’ll see it through … ”. Our life in a song. Thank you Margaret – Much love, Geoff.

From Shirley:

Margaret, or ‘M’ as she was known, dodged the bullets of her cancer for 6 years, surprising her doctors. Her last few months were the most difficult, but she got her wish to remain at her Noosa unit to the very end. I was only an hour’s flight away in Sydney, heartbroken that the pandemic separated us. I couldn’t hold her in my arms and sing to her in her last hours of life. 

Left: The Manasseh Sisters at the start of their career: Margaret (left) & sister Poppy – Singapore, late ’40s; Top centre: The Sisters on stage, New Years Eve – Spore, early 50s; Bottom centre: The reformed Manasseh Sisters: Margaret (3rd from left) & Shirley, with ‘The Constellation – Tanglin Club, Spore, 1975; Right: M, Shirley & bassist David Loh – Tanglin Club, late 70s.

I will treasure every visit I made to Noosa to see Margaret and her husband Geoff. The last time was in April this year, just before the Sydney lockdown. M gave me cassettes of all our recorded music, her scrapbook and photos. She knew she didn’t have much time left.

Sitting at her home ‘office’ table with her notes, diary, medication and TV guide, she reminisced about her life in Singapore, and the horrors of being interned during the Japanese occupation there. Her mother was widowed at 35 with 5 daughters, 2 sons and 5 stepchildren.    

M and her sister Poppy worked as waitresses serving Japanese troops during the War, and also began singing together. A high-ranking Japanese officer loved their voices so much, he placed an order outside their home forbidding entry to Japanese soldiers. A lady at the restaurant kitchen gave them food to put in their apron pockets to take home. Someone was certainly watching over this family who were so vulnerable in the face of war! 

The best part of my childhood was spent in my Gran’s flat (we lived in the same block), listening in awe to M and Poppy – the much-loved “Andrews’ Sisters of Singapore” – sing and play their guitars, harmonising perfectly (both learned guitar in their teens). Our beloved Poppy was just as vivacious as the pictures show, and a very good lead guitarist. She remained a crack cryptic-crossworder and witty joke raconteur right until she left us in 2013. M always felt her loss. 

Singapore’s Manasseh Sisters made ‘Rum & Coca Cola’ their hit too, in the late ’40s–early50s

But the mid-’60s were a happy time for M and Poppy, after they settled in Sydney. They had full-time jobs, and Poppy married in 1969. My mother then insisted M should return to Singapore, saying “We CAN’T let that voice die!” (I was singing solo in nightclubs then.) M arrived in 1970 with her trusted guitar. We found a bassist and drummer, and began our career as the reformed ‘Manasseh Sisters’.

Our best and happiest times were with our band ‘The Constellation’ at Singapore’s exclusive Tanglin Club. We performed there for 7 years. 

Listening to the tapes and looking back at our careers now, it’s uncanny how well our voices blended and harmonised. We had such different personalities: M lived for the moment, I planned for the future; she loved her scotch and soda, I stuck to water with sliced lemon. But on stage we were ONE. Our strengths prevailed over our weaknesses. We didn’t simply sing: M was the supreme entertainer and communicator who lit up the stage; I was the administrator who scheduled rehearsals, selected new songs and compiled song lists.

We alternated smoothly from verse to chorus if a song had a wide vocal range – and no-one could tell us apart! We all memorised our music, lyrics and arrangements. The ’70s song ‘Rose Garden’ was one that took the longest to perfect; I still recall our frustration, and then elation when we got it right! 

‘Rose Garden’ was a huge favourite at the Tanglin Club

My dearest M: We celebrated your life each day you were alive. Now we reminisce and will shed many tears. You’re there in my heart and in every note I sing. I can still hear you harmonising with me. And for all those lovely years we had together on stage, I thank you!

One of M & Shirley’s last songs sung together at the Tanglin Club, 1977 – ‘Tie a Yellow Ribbon ’Round the Ole Oak Tree’

From Joyce:

Joyce & Margaret – Brisbane, 2000

It is so surreal, really, to be writing this. I don’t know where to start, because there is so much. Margaret was just here only weeks ago, and now, devastatingly, she is not. And yet … she is. Mainly because she is unforgettable. I cannot think of a single person I know who, once they met her, disliked her. It would not be incorrect to say that everyone loved Margaret.

You see, Margaret shone. As I remember her now, it’s as if she came with a light around her. She shone with deep love from within: love for her family, love for her friends, love for the love of her life, the husband she left behind, Geoff. Margaret loved life itself, the music and poetry in it; she loved making music; she fell in love with a melody, with well-constructed, meaningful lyrics, with the pathos of a love song, but also with the energizing rhythms of a Latin beat. Actually, she was so enthused about everything creative – the performance arts, unique voices, outstanding renditions, artworks. She had the amazing ability – and desire – to absorb it all.

Sister Poppy embraces the winner of the Frankie Laine Singing Competition S’pore, early ’50s

Unbelievably it seems, this wonderful woman, my aunt, was even more: conversations with her sparkled with her wit and humor and she appreciated a good joke and told them well; her laughter was hearty and infectious. They were also filled with her insatiable curiosity about everything right to her last few days – from computers to politics to cooking and recipes, to philosophies and religion. She had an inspiring appreciation for so many things – and so many people. You always felt Margaret’s love and so, it was always easy to love her back. She was generous of spirit, she supported us, encouraged us and although she quipped, “If at first you don’t succeed – GIVE UP!”, she never did, nor did she expect us to. 

She lived life her way all the way to the very end – courageously, energetically, lovingly and empathically – through a hectic childhood and being interned by the Japanese in WWII, enduring and overcoming personal hurdles to shine brighter than before, even winning, as a teenager, the Frankie Laine Singing Contest. She sang beautifully and played the guitar – and although she found it increasingly difficult to continue playing her favorite instrument, she accepted the rapidly changing situation in her life uncomplainingly. Instead, she was eager to watch ace guitarists shred the strings on YouTube. We had enjoyed exchanging clips of so many performers in this way over the years, especially so in the last few.

Yes, there is much to remember and much to write, because Margaret was involved in so much, the best you can find in a human being. In losing her, I personally have lost the most understanding, encouraging, supportive aunt I could ever have the blessing of knowing.

Rest well, my dearest M. I will always remember you with the greatest admiration and love.

From Gloria:

Margaret inspired me to strum the guitar like she did – and I learnt while watching her. Her voice was amazing, and her ear for harmony was so perfect! She recorded the opening to my weekly program on Singapore radio, ‘Let’s Make Music’, in the late 1970s. And here it is:  

M opened ‘Let’s Make Music’, overdubbing & harmonising with her own voice
The Manasseh Sisters in song: M on rhythm guitar, Poppy on lead S’pore, early 1960s

M never really gave advice; she was more focused on listening intently on what you had to say – like a ‘master listener’ – so you would always feel special to be in her presence, knowing what you had to say was very important to her. I loved her sense of humour. I miss her dearly, and can’t yet come to terms with her being gone. 

Forever young in our hearts
Forever young in our thoughts
Forever in our music, where your music will live on for all generations to follow!

We think you’re just SENSATIONAL, ‘M’! 🎤🎶🎸

From Susanna:

I remember Aunt Margaret as a woman who loved life and loved music, and who always presented herself with so much poise. She had a gentle and loving nature. When she sang, it was with all the love that was in her heart. As we grew up in a family of singers and musicians, there was this time I specifically remember when my cousin Gloria and I (aged 13) went to a gig with Margaret and cousin Shirley who were singing with their band at the Singapore RAF Army Base. Both Gloria and I were on stage with them playing the maracas and tambourines – and we had a ball! Since that time, I learned the guitar and in no time at all, I too started playing music professionally. I would say that our music careers were really very much influenced by Margaret. I believe our families will always have singing and music in our homes throughout the generations to come.

Thank you Margaret for sharing your beautiful voice and music with us, and with so many people internationally all these years, and for triggering that spark of music into my life!

From Natalie:

(Left) M, Joyce, M’s sister Paula & Natalie S’pore, 1978

I will always remember the first time I met my aunt Margaret. I was 8 years old, growing up with much of our family living in Singapore. 

Margaret came to Singapore in 1970 for the first time since I’d been born, after she had migrated to Australia. During her visit, I happened to find a crushed dollar bill on the ground. I was so gleefully enamored and smitten by this lovely, younger and hip Aussie aunt, that I picked the dollar up and lovingly enclosed it in a ‘love-letter’ to her – in the way 8-year-olds do to family members they love. I remember how touched she was by it, and saved it for a $1 bingo ticket that week at a local recreation club. As luck would have it – or maybe it was simply the energy of love and abundance attached to the gift – she won the grand bingo prize of $1,000! 

Needless to say, the whole family was treated to a lovely weekend lunch, while I was shyly designated “star of the afternoon” by her. 

Margaret was a beautiful, warm, loving, smart and witty lady with a gentle nature whom we all loved!

From Efrem:

I grew up with my beautiful and elegant aunt Margaret in Sydney during the ’60s and ’70s. My childhood and teenage years were spent with her always being a living, loving presence nearby; an enduringly calm and deeply caring figure in the background of my formative life. I only ever heard kindness and encouragement fall from Margaret’s lips, and not once did she utter a hard or unkind word to me in all the years we spent together on this earth.

Efrem, M & Shirley – Noosa, 2017

After spending much time away, I had the distinct privilege of reconnecting with Margaret during her senior years in Tewantin, Queensland. Hence it was with great delight that I realized that she had grown far wiser and more insightful than I had ever known her to be. Margaret had become even more deeply loving than she was in earlier years. Her bright soul and sharp, beneficent and ethical mind shone for all to see. I knew then that the time-honored definition of enlightenment was true after all:

“True enlightenment is when a person has nothing left inside but love.”

From Dave:

Replica of M’s Akai multitrack reel recorder, 1970s

The divine, UNREAL (her pet word) ‘M’ was my aunt, godmother and mentor in music. Her rich contralto, gift for harmony, vocal arranging and multitrack recording on her Akai reel machine (as the one pictured) virtually ignited my desire to sing and perform. We both stuttered badly in childhood: singing helped us “smooth the words”. Sometimes I couldn’t even get her name out – but she always waited patiently until I did. Whilst untrained in classical music, she loved Brahms and Chopin, and would perfectly vocalise (or whistle) the exquisite melodies in Schubert’s Serenade and Chopin’s E major Etude. She always knew a “goosebump” tune or performer when she heard one! 

M had a great sense of humour and theatrics, setting me up for a practical joke when I was 4. Answering the urgent doorbell one wet night, I saw a terrifying woman with gapped buck-teeth resembling a certain ‘Emma S–’ (M was deft with orange peel). M was fun, fun, fun. At parties in the ’70s we’d play an ill-matched couple, where the tipsy husband would teeter an empty liquor bottle on his head and the wife would clutch a dyspeptic stomach. M would give a bold, powerful rendition of ‘If I Were A Rich Man’ – complete with Tevye-beard and clucks and squawks of farm birds. In 2017, she laughingly dubbed me “Mr Fu-Manchu” for my Manchurian? moustache …

‘Lyme Regis’ Apartments where Dave lived with M Sydney, 1979
Efrem, M & Fu-Manchu Noosa, 2017

We both so loved words. I once lived with M in Sydney; crosswords were everywhere, but mostly in the loo. We did cryptics together when I last saw her in 2017, and had (polarised) political debates. She kept up with PC-tech to the end – skyping, emailing and sending us all quality YouTubes of performers and musicians. 

A patient listener who would intuitively interject at the right moments, there isn’t anyone who hasn’t warmed (even spilled the beans) to M’s honeyed, coaxing tones when with her in person or on the phone. In the last few years she would always say to me how much she loved “all” her nieces and nephews, and wished “we could be together” like old times. More so in her illness, M lived in the now – as she herself sang in one of her signature songs: “Domani, forget domani … Let’s live for now, and anyhow who needs tomorrow? … ”

So for me and I know many of us, the name ‘Margaret’ will always be linked to the one and only ‘M’.

We’ll love & miss you FOREVER, Margaret … but as you often have the last word, please sing again with Shirley the song that meant so much to you!

‘Yesterday When I Was Young’ by Herbert Kretzmer and Charles Aznavour

M’s nieces & nephews Noosa, 2017
From left: Gloria, Efrem, Shirley, Susanna, Natalie & Dave; Joyce present in spirit (not the wine)

Credits

Thank You from Shirley to

Geoff, Joyce, Gloria, Susanna, Natalie, Efrem and Dave for expressing your thoughts so beautifully and digging deep for the photos. You have given M so much joy with your calls, emails and YouTube links to the music she loved. She got a kick out of learning new skills on her beloved computer – describing it as “unreal”!

Hans for providing a trove of photos and info about M and Poppy.

Lionel for his brilliance at restoring the quality of analogue cassette tapes and winning over digital (it’s possible).

Lina and Dave for putting this Tribute together with text, photos and audio files.

Andrew ‘The Master’ Oh for his flute on ‘Rum & Coca Cola’, ‘Quizas’ and sultry sax on ‘Rose Garden’ and ‘Tie a Yellow Ribbon’. 

Noel ‘The Magician’ Elmowy from Inrock Studios Sydney, for his synthesised bass, steel drums,  percussion and piano on ‘Rum & Coca Cola’ and ‘Quizas’; sound editing and final remastering on those songs, ‘Let’s Make Music’ and ‘Yesterday When I Was Young’. 

Karaoke Version for backing tracks of ‘Quizas’, ‘Rum & Coca Cola’, ‘Rose Garden’ and ‘Tie a Yellow Ribbon’.   

Acker Bilk & His Orchestra for ‘I’ll Get By’ (written by Fred E Ahlert) from the album ‘Clarinet Moods’. 


Lockdown Tips #3

This week, I’ve asked my good friend Tony, a social worker, to provide ‘Locky D’ tips for those of us living alone. I love what he’s written, and so apt for this time. 

I’m Tony – an avid Shirl’s Pearler. I’ve lived on my own in a little studio for the past 8 years, and have an active social life and a good network of friends. 

This has been challenged during the COVID situation. The key is staying connected. Here are the survival strategies that I’ve used.

  1. Get to know your neighbours

I schedule a weekly walk with my neighbour at 3pm every Monday. We make it an adventure by walking a different way each week and going down streets we’ve never gone to before. It’s a great way to chat about the week, explore, exercise and maintain a friendship! 

2. Surround yourself with positive people!

About 3 weeks ago, a friend organised a group online meeting to socialise. I thought this was a good idea, so I joined. During this meeting, 2 people dominated the meeting and just had a negative rant about things – such as people taking too long in the supermarket, a person not coughing correctly, another sneezing incorrectly, and all the doom and gloom of the world. I didn’t enjoy this, and thought it a pointless exercise as I did not want to be around the negativity.

I rang an acquaintance to reach out. By the way he was talking, you would think the world was about to end! Again, I just didn’t want to buy into the negativity and it did not serve me any purpose. He was saying extremely negative, unfounded statements and I didn’t want to hear it.

I now have to be a bit selfish and exercise self-care. It is a dilemma. I want to support people who may be struggling, while caring for myself at the same time. I’ve decided to focus on my own self-care and support, and reach out only to those who aren’t choosing to catastrophise the COVID situation and who maintain a positive attitude towards life.  

Have a bit of a routine where you ring a different person at the same time each night (or day) for a chat each week. They will expect your call, and it gives you something to look forward to.

3. Have informal online work meetings at work

I now attend online staff meetings. They have an important place.

What I also find useful is to have a couple of trusted colleagues with whom you can have an informal online catch-up – where you can talk about things that you may not feel comfortable talking about in person. This serves as a type of group supervision and is a good outlet to talk about work stressors.

4. Utilise your interests and what you can do (reading, golf, cooking, gardening?) 

I’m lucky that I play golf – and that’s one thing that is allowed. As you can only play in groups of 2 instead of 4, demand is high and tee-times are limited. I play once a fortnight instead of twice weekly. Still, it gets me out for a few hours; I can socialise with my golfing partner and play the game I love.

Get out your old recipe books and cook. I always knew Margaret Fulton would make a comeback!! I’m not a great cook, but I’m revisiting some old recipes. Cooking up a storm is fun and a good way to fill in time.

I’m not much of a reader – so to fill this void, I’ve asked my mother for a copy of my grandfather’s memoirs. I read a few pages a day; by the end of the month, I hope to learn more about a man I admired and felt some nostalgia for. Try reading Shirl’s Pearls too!!

We have a verge garden which I help look after. Doing some weeding and planting is a good time-filler. It’s also enjoyable! 

5. Reduce media watching & have a media detox!

The media love a good health crisis more than ever. They love to play on people’s fears and exploit our vulnerabilities. 

Don’t buy into the long-range COVID forecasts! The situation changes quickly and we simply don’t know what the future is long-term. It’s purely speculation and not worth getting caught up in. Just remember, it will end and it is only a matter of time before we get back to normal!

I watch the daily update and watch the news about twice a week. I think going for a few days without it is good for the mind …

6. Have a bubble buddy

I have a friend who lives locally who’s my ‘bubble buddy’. Each Friday night we take turns in hosting a get-together just for the two of us. The host cooks a meal, we have a few beers, watch the football and catch up.

This gives me something to look forward to and is always fun to do!

7. Stay right away from the non-conformists

There are many idiots out there who want to defy the rules, think that everything is a conspiracy, that vaccinations are a bad thing and that their self-entitled freedom is more important than community safety. Avoid them. They’re bad news and likely to be the ones who’ll catch this thing and spread it to others. I know of a lady who died this week who was one of these people. When she was sick, she said how much she regretted having these beliefs. 

Stay at home as much as possible and get vaccinated. Do your QR coding with vigilance and wear a mask at outdoor venues

Last words from Shirl: Always stay active. Include more raw fruit and vegetables in your diet so you’ll emerge from this lockdown fit and not a kilo heavier!   

Saw this on my walk today … let’s do it!!


Lockdown Tips #2

I hope my lockdown video for this week will help and amuse you! The points in it are so important that I’ll list them again in this post.  

  1. START WITH A MORNING WALK – it’s VITAL. With gyms in Sydney still closed, it’s even more critical. Don’t lie in bed ruminating with “Should I get up or not? … it’s cold … I’ll do it tomorrow … “. Sound familiar?

    I absolutely promise that the very  day you start this new routine you’ll never look back. Your eyes and your cheeks will glow, you’ll feel more positive, and tackle the rest of your day with more energy than you thought you had. In fact, some people I’ve talked to have slowly cut their dependence on antidepressants with regular walks. Its effects are even better in the gym, once it reopens! Read the 20 Benefits of Walking in Move! 1.0 again.

  2. Have CITRUS FRUIT and at least 2 glasses of water before your walk. After 7 hours or so of sleep, you must hydrate! Water stimulates your colon – perfect with your walk to prevent constipation.

  3. FREE YOUR MIND while you walk. Look at the trees, the sky, listen to the birds. No talking on smartphones – especially if the kids are out with you. The hour or so you have on your walk is precious. Don’t waste it. Attend to any young kids at home, and then take them out with you. 

  4. Use your family lockdown time WISELY. Infants and toddlers can be draining I know, but try talking calmly to them, sing a song together or hum a tune. 

  5. Teach kids HEALTHY EATING. Start with helping them understand the body’s digestive process. Knowing how their heart, lungs, liver and kidneys function reinforces the importance of eating and exercising well. Read my post on ‘Sweet Addicts, Healthy Kids’. There are excellent books available suitable for kids 5 years and up, and I’ve put up a couple on the video. Order 1 or 2 online if you can – I recommend the Australian site ‘Booktopia’.

  6. Teach kids to SAVE. Principles of building wealth and saving is what ALL children should be taught – and it’s your job! Critically they must learn that money is not about greed and power, but having choices and being financially independent. Start with credit card debt. $1000 owed could double and even triple over time if not paid off in full. But saving only small amounts can increase month after month, as long as they keep saving. 

  7. Teach kids SHARES – from as early as 8! If they save only $500, you can buy shares for them until they turn 18.

Explain bank interest to them, and how today’s rates are so low that shares are the go. If they’re mature enough, throw LICs and ETFs at them. I cover this in Invest 3.0. They could buy a share in a store they actually go to, eg. JB Hi-Fi or Athlete’s Foot.

They love their smartphones don’t they? Do they know who their phone internet provider is? Telstra, TPG or Aussie Broadband perhaps?

Ask them what they think their phones and iPads are made from? Statistica.com provides very useful smartphone data for them to look up – eg. iron, lead, zinc, tin, copper and aluminium to name a few. Now, which ASX companies produce these materials? BHP and Rio Tinto are 2.

Get the kids to pick 2 stocks each, eg. JBs and Athlete’s Foot. They can start a ‘pretend’ watchlist on the ASX website. Check the share prices with them often. At least 1 person in the family will be hooked, want to know more and do their own research – exactly what happened with me. I sat with Dad everyday while he showed me his list of rubber and tin stocks! 

Now, isn’t this so much better than talking about absolutely nothing or posting on social media? TIME is their greatest asset: make sure they know how to use it!


Lockdown Tips #1

You’ve had a lot to take in recently with ‘About Investing’ – and your responses have been very encouraging! I’ll update you with more investing tips in the coming weeks. In the meantime, log on to the ASX for more info if you haven’t already.

Meanwhile, just when we thought it was safe to leave our masks at home … it’s lockdown in Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide as at 21 July. How long for, we’re all asking? It’s like predicting the sharemarket’s ups and downs. No-one can. 

We’re confined to our homes. Working, schooling and caring is difficult and frustrating at best. If your work’s an ‘essential service’, at least you’re getting out-of-doors therapy. The rest of us have to make the best of it. (By the way, I think hairdressers and barbers are essential; maybe we could go in, masked, one at a time?) 

Loo paper aside, how should we prepare?

  1. Buy fresh, green vegetables and carrots. (You can’t give the “no time!” excuse now!) Make a lunchtime and evening salad with grated (or whole) carrots and your choice of sliced fennel bulbs, cos lettuce and celery. Scrub and wash the veggies and chew. Skip the processed dressings: lemon juice, parsley and rocket are enough to liven them up!  
  1. Buy citrus fruit (including kiwis), apples and/or red papaya. Slice and eat with a squeeze of lime. Have your citrus juiced or quartered first thing in the morning, and apples between breakfast and lunch.
  1. Stock your pantry with healthy carbs – ie. wholegrain oats or Weetbix, sourdough, Turkish, multigrain or wholemeal pita bread, pasta, and rice or rice noodles (no instant noodles or horrible flavour sachets). All can be bought from your nearest supermarket; Deliveroo can knock on someone else’s door.

    I know you’ll rush for comfort food (‘discomfort food’ as I term it) – this becomes especially unhealthy if you’re stuck at home, sedentary and eating it daily. It’s dangerous, addictive and a hard habit to break. 
  1. Exercise. The gym’s closed, so WALK! I do at least 2 to 3kms a day (or more if I need to). PLEASE make this a must-do part of your day. Don’t make friends with our arch-foe  resistance, which lulls us into this ‘‘why bother?’’ attitude. Succumb and you’ll regret it. 
  1. Relax and focus with a good book. I recommend Eat Like The Animals by Stephen Simpson and David Raubenheimer. Their 2 videos have featured on my website for many weeks now. I still have copies to give away, so please watch the clips to find out how to get one. Read the book for your own sake and for your kids! 

Healthy light food & snack preps 

  • Have your healthy breads toasted with egg, cheese, tuna or shredded chicken or falafel. Add lettuce or tomato. 
  • For snacks try Vita-Wheat with peanut butter, Greek yoghurt with honey.
  • If you need a sugar fix, have dried figs, pear or apricot. Soak overnight, drain the water, add a dollop of cream and a few walnuts or almonds. 
  • Pastry lovers should try a crumpet instead of a biscuit. How does cream cheese and jam or just honey on one sound? Kids will love it too!
  • If you desperately need chocolate, dark is best (it’s low in sugar), but milk chocolate is OK. Have a few almonds or walnuts with it for fibre. 

All this and suggestions for lunch and dinner meals are in my earlier posts.

Emotionally distance yourself from any nasties still lurking in your pantry. NOW’S THE TIME TO THROW THEM OUT!!  

Please keep your questions, comments and suggestions coming – I simply LOVE receiving them!

Share your thoughts on our Let’s Talk page


Invest 6.0: Future planning

We’ve come to the final segment of our stockmarket adventure, where I’ll explain retirement funds and give you a selection of shares to start your portfolio. 

  1. Decide the kind of investor you’d like to be. Make it simple and narrow it down. Are you ‘conservative’ or ‘active’? I’ve made suggestions in Invest 5.0 to help you decide, so you can enhance your investment options.
  1. Know what your financial position will be at retirement: this applies whether you’re conservative or active. It means knowing your income and expenses, which will depend on your tax bracket, mortgage repayments, and any pension and/or social security benefits you may receive. 
  1. Know your tax threshold according to your tax bracket. The Australian Tax Office provides details of individual income tax rates. Saying “I can’t get my head around any of this!” will not get you far – you will never understand if you don’t take the time to find out. BUT: if you need an accountant to sort out your tax, get one. 

Buying & keeping shares

Having started so early, the sharemarket is now my second language – but what I learned in the 60s and 70s was not complicated!  

  1. We bought dividend-paying ‘yield’ stocks, giving us a good income 
  2. Saw new opportunities in ‘growth’ stocks
  3. Picked 10 of those growth stocks and discussed them with our groups
  4. Traded and waited.


Some of my shares took off within months, others after years; four would die a slow death. Still believing they could be resuscitated, we have this bad habit of clinging on and not selling even if the share/s make up just a fraction of our portfolio. Psychologists believe our reluctance to take a loss is greater than accepting a gain. Very true!  

TIP:  If your stock falls, say by 10–20%, it may be a good idea to get out of it quickly. As long as you can show profits from other share trades in your tax return, you can also off-set losses.  

Internet & media

The internet has now made investing easier. We simply click to buy, sell and research without having to talk to a single person or see a stockbroker. But the noise-info from financial ‘experts’ and economists has overwhelmed and confused many of you. Notice that their predictions are always accompanied by “maybe”, “most likely”, and/or “if management continues on this growth trajectory … “ Is this at all helpful??

The fact is nobody knows the future and profits generated the year before may not continue to the next. Have you picked up how the media, right on target, come out in droves when there’s a ‘bear’ market crash? They simply love the chance to go on TV or social media, telling you how much the shares have fallen and how much your  superannuation has dropped. And they do the opposite when shares rise sharply in a ‘bull’ market – crying “it’s boom time’’ rattling off the stocks that have risen so much, it makes you sick that you didn’t ‘get in’ earlier!! 

You know what? WE can do much much better.  

Spend-control

First remove the fear of investing. I get it that most of you are clinging on to your hard-earned savings, earning a measly 1% interest. Let’s put spending in perspective.  

In the past year, how much have you ladies spent on toiletries, fragrances, shampoos, and skin-care? Clothes, shoes, accessories? Cleaning products, cookware, kitchen gadgets? And how much have you men spent on electrical gizmos, computer games and equipment, and sports gear? Have we actually used every single item of stuff we’ve bought?

And then there’s eating out. Have we splurged on decadent breakfasts or lunches where only 1 serving costs more than an actual dinner? Have we bought presents thoughtlessly? We often give kids rubbish. Why not deposit money in their bank accounts?

Calculate all your misspends. Excluding food you’ve thrown away, what does it come to in the course of a year? We don’t give a thought to the money we’ve wasted but focus instead on the money we may lose!

My father and his friends would frown on such thinking. They invested wisely with thousands, but avoided supermarkets for Singapore’s (clean) wet markets – buying fruit and vegetables dollars cheaper per kilo.   

Managed funds

You might be feeling complacent with your superannuation and other managed funds without getting more involved – but you should read your fund’s annual financial report. In particular:    

  • How your fund is performing
  • Management and investment fees charged
  • How and where your money is being invested.
  • Invest in at least 1 online daily newspaper – they’re quick to alert of any argy-bargy with investment products.

In a superannuation portfolio for example, you’ll usually see a pie-chart divided into coloured segments totalling 100%, showing where your money is being invested. Fund managers will alter percentages according to market changes in the short to medium-term. Here’s the pie-chart of my own super fund:

  • Equities: Shares
  • Private equity: International or Australian companies unlisted on stockmarkets
  • Cash: Safe and secure with low risk, giving 2–3% interest
  • Australian Fixed Interest: Bonds loans issued by the Australian govt – less volatile than shares but lower expected return
  • International Fixed Interest: Bonds as above
  • Credit Income: Covers a range of alternative debt investments
  • Liquid Alternatives: Combines equities (shares), bonds, currencies & commodities
  • Property: Office buildings, shopping centres and industrial estates; residential property, eg. apartments & retirement villages 
  • Infrastructure & real assets: Utilities & facilities providing essential community services.

TIP:  Click the ‘Asset Classes’ link on your super fund’s website for more information.

Superannuation funds usually give you 4 investment options:

  1. Cash‘ 
  2. Capital Stable‘ 
  3. Balanced‘ 
  4. Growth‘ .
  • Cash, Capital Stable and Balanced are safer for those in or near retirement, safeguarding income from regular allocated pension payments in any sharemarket crash. 
  • Growth means share investments for younger people with time to recover after a downturn.  It’s still important to have the Growth option in all portfolios.  When the market recovers, you don’t want to lose out by having all your capital staying in ‘safe’ mode. 

TIP: If super funds bidding to buy Sydney Airport are right, there’ll be a substantial revival in both local and global travel.

A few of my own ASX picks

FINAL TIPS:

Avoid travel stocks WEB, QAN and HLO at present – but keep watch. Every living being with money saved up will be packing their bags to cruise and fly once vaccination rates go up and that awful green spiked ball disappears from our screens.  

Keep up with business news in your daily papers and online. Subscribe to at least 1 of Motley Fool’s many specifically targeted newsletters (eg. ‘Share Advisor’, Extreme Opportunities’, ‘Dividend Investor’ or ‘Hidden Gems’). 

Observe. Talk to people. You’ll develop a keen sense of what the future holds. Therein lies the secret to share investing. Simple enough? 

“TIME IS MONEY. BUT WEALTH IS THE RESULT OF TIME.”

The perfect quote from Scott Phillips of The Motley Fool to end my About Investing series (for now). I simply loved presenting it to you – GOOD LUCK!