Category: General Interest

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What’s your money personality?

We all have a different relationship with money. Recognising your money personality can help you better understand yours. Although no member of each group has exactly the same attitude towards their finances, researchers have identified four common attitudes towards money: Money Worship, Money Avoidance, Money Vigilance and Money Status. 

Psychologists think that our internal beliefs around money were formed by our childhood experiences, the community we grew up in and the spending habits of our family. Here is a description of the four money personalities:

Money Worship

If you’re a money worshipper, you might think that money could solve all your problems and that you can never reach a point when you’ll have enough. People who fit into this category are most likely to overspend on themselves or others and rack up credit card debts.  According to research by Creighton University, this is the most common money personality among Americans.

People who fit into this personality type might have to put some measures in place to control their spending habits. They could make a monthly budget and remind themselves to regularly check their bank balance to keep a tab on their spending.

Money Avoidance 

Money avoiders believe that they don’t deserve the money they have and try to avoid thinking about their finances. If you’re a money avoider, you might try to shift your money onto others, rather than take responsibility for making financial decisions. 

Money avoiders can benefit from setting up automatic contributions to savings accounts or speaking to a financial adviser to remove some of the responsibility around their finances.

Money Vigilance

If you’re extremely frugal and firmly believe saving for the future is the best use of money, chances are you’re money vigilant. People who fit in this category tend to derive more satisfaction from reading the interest rate on their bank statement than from buying something new. What’s more, they’re likely to prefer a conservative investment strategy and avoid financial risk.

If you fit into this personality type, you should be careful not to allow secrecy to stand in the way of better money habits. 

Money Status

People who fit into this personality type equate money with status. As a result, they may be driven to earn more money than their peers purely for the sake of earning more money. Although people who hold their net-worth in such high regard are likely to be high earners, they can be liable to make risky decisions and buy expensive things that reflect their wealth. 

If you tend to focus on “money status”, it’s a good idea to stop and think before making an expensive purchase as you could be at risk of buying things on impulse.

Sources

What will the new normal look like?

The Covid-19 outbreak has provoked a crisis of such enormous proportions that things will not just go back to the way they once were. When some semblance of normality emerges, things will be different. We are set for huge social, cultural and economic changes. It’s unlikely that we will suddenly wake up in a world where anxieties around the crisis have vanished into thin air. Rather, a new normality will gradually emerge from its ashes during a transitional period that could last for an extended amount of time. 

As lockdown restrictions are eased, it’s probable that we will enter a phase where life will hang between normality and lockdown. The government may again assert its need to tighten the rules depending on infection rates or the capacity of the health system. The operation of some businesses may be severely restricted and some social distancing rules may remain for some time. In short, we are not going to be able to draw a line in the sand behind coronavirus when the lockdown ends, as much as we may like to.

How the world will look after the outbreak is difficult to call. It depends on many factors, for instance whether or not countries are able to reduce infection rates around the world, and how long it takes scientists to formulate an effective vaccine.

However, there are a few changes that we can infer from what we have already seen during the crisis.

Working culture seems set to change for good. For many, social distancing has seen a complete shift to working from home. Technologies like Zoom and Slack have enabled many to move seamlessly into this way of working. If employees can maintain the same kind of productivity while working from home, there will probably be a large shift towards remote working in the long run. 

The impact of large scale remote working would be huge. London and Manchester would no longer see their daily deluge of commuters from the surrounding area. Experts have hinted that this could change the entire makeup of the country. Rural villages and suburbia could again become a centre of working life. Big city offices may only host a businesses’ core staff and be used occasionally for whole-company events. Flexible office spaces or co-working spaces could become a regular feature in suburbs, towns and villages.

The Covid-19 outbreak also looks set to accelerate the country’s shift to becoming a cashless society. People are being discouraged from using cash as it’s thought that cash can carry the virus, raising the risk of transmission. The crisis may mean that we are increasingly accustomed to using contactless to make transactions and this could continue even after a vaccine is found. 

Sources
https://www.thersa.org/discover/publications-and-articles/matthew-taylor-blog/2020/04/transition-covid-lockdown

https://www.stylist.co.uk/long-reads/life-after-coronavirus-predictions-uk-work-health-relationships-politics-climate-change/372608

Ways to promote your wellbeing

The general uncertainty in these current times heightens our stress and anxiety. Usually, we like to feel in control and make plans for the future but it’s impossible to plan when there are so many unknowns.  

We’ve never been in this situation before. We don’t know what the new ‘everyday’ will look like. And so we feel uneasy and worried.

Here are a few helpful pointers for maintaining a positive outlook.            

Adopt an attitude of mindfulness

Stay in the moment, if you can. You can’t control the future so don’t even try. Just focus on the  here and now. If you can improve your positivity, it will help boost your immune system, reduce stress and increase your energy levels. Changing the way you frame things can also help: for example, instead of viewing the situation as being ‘stuck indoors’ see it as an opportunity to finally tackle a long overdue project.               

There are some great apps that can help with your mental fitness. Sign up for a free trial with Calm or Headspace. These are full of useful tips and resources on how to reduce stress, improve sleep and live better. Check out the meditation and mindfulness techniques. If you’re a business owner, the business version is also useful to help reduce stress at work and build up resilience among your teams.  

Get a good night’s sleep – regularly

Lack of sleep is known to be a major factor in poor mental health. The body’s natural rhythm gets out of kilter if it is not being reset every day through a regular sleep-wake pattern. Perhaps not surprisingly,  many people have been struggling to sleep properly since the outbreak of the pandemic. This is partly because their routine has been disrupted and their day lacks structure.

So try and go to bed at your normal time and avoid naps during the day. If at all possible, try and ‘park’ your stress at bedtime. Reassure yourself that there’s nothing more you can do for now. Tomorrow will be a new day. It’s a good idea to limit the number of news bulletins you watch. Unfollow accounts on social media if you find them unhelpful. You can also mute certain words on Twitter if they trigger anxiety.   

Stay active (physically and mentally)  

Make sure you get outside for whatever exercise you can. This will help you sleep better as your eyes will get the vital exposure to outdoor light they need. Your body will then produce the correct levels of the hormone melatonin, at the right time, to regulate your sleep and wake pattern.

Keep yourself mentally sharp too. Now could be the opportunity you’ve been waiting for to learn a new skill. There are a wealth of online courses at Learn Direct or Udemy, from traditional work-related subjects to topics such as reflexology, meteorology or even moon gardening! Time to expand your horizons even if you are at home more.   

Sources
https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/newsbeat-52311643
https://sport.leeds.ac.uk/5-ways-to-lockdown-your-wellbeing-boost-positivity/

How to reduce your monthly expenses

Many workers have lost their jobs, accepted part-time hours or been put on furlough as a result of the economic disruption caused by COVID-19. According to the Centre for Economics and Business Research, British households will see a drop in their disposable income of £515 a month – that’s £14.2bn for the country overall.

So what steps can you take to bring down your monthly outgoings? 

Review your TV subscriptions

With all major sports fixtures having been cancelled, you’re not going to be getting much out of a BT Sports or Sky Sports subscription at the moment. Investigate what options are available with your provider, such as a month’s free credit, a donation to the NHS, a different package or a temporary suspension. If you’ve been binge-watching films, check out which package between Netflix or Sky suits you best – and which has the most free extras. Remember, if you’re over 75, the charge for the TV licence, due to be implemented in June, has now been postponed to August.                                      

Look into remortgaging

The largest household bill for many people is their mortgage so reducing this can have a major impact. Bear in mind, most of the best mortgage deals are for a limited period so if you’re coming to the end of yours, or your property has gone up in value, it’s worth investigating what else is available. Remortgaging could save you a hefty chunk off your monthly expenses, especially with interest rates being so low at the moment. You may also be able to borrow at a lower loan to value (LTV) rate now, because you may own more of your property than when you took out the mortgage originally. 

Make sure you’re not just moved to your lender’s standard variable rate at the end of your current deal. You can, in fact, agree to a new rate six months before the end of the fixed-term so if your existing deal ends this summer, start taking proactive steps now. 

You may also consider contacting your lender for a three month mortgage payment holiday.  

Switch suppliers

You may well have noticed your energy bills going up as you’re spending more time at home. So this is a key area to try and save some money. Consumer watchdog, Which?, state that a household that uses an average amount of energy would save £388 per year if they switched to the cheapest deal on the market from the one at the level of the price cap. So if you’ve never switched supplier or you’ve not changed supplier in the last couple of years, you’re probably paying too much. Take the opportunity now to try one of the price comparison sites. Bear in mind though, that it’s worth digging a bit deeper than the initial list they present. 

Talk to your broadband supplier too and try and negotiate a better deal or think about switching providers to benefit from some of  the cheap introductory prices on offer. Many phone providers have also been offering free allowances so check to see if you’re entitled to any free data or minutes. 

Think about car insurance

You won’t be making as many journeys in your car. As a first step, ask your insurer to change your policy from commuter use to social use which may reduce your premiums. But Admiral, the UK’s largest insurer, has already given their customers a £25 rebate. This has prompted MPs to call on the Government to get other providers to follow suit. So while you’re talking to your insurer, ask them what they are prepared to do in these very different times.      

Sources
https://www.which.co.uk/news/2020/03/coronavirus-tips-to-cut-costs-on-subscriptions-shopping-and-household-bills/

https://www.theguardian.com/business/2020/apr/20/british-households-face-disposable-income-fall-of-515-per-month

The art of armchair travelling

The Covid-19 outbreak has meant that it’s unlikely any of us will be travelling any time soon. However, virtual escapism remains on the cards for anyone with an internet connection. You can now see some of the world’s most amazing travel experiences from the comfort of your chair. Best of all, you don’t even have to bother with flying or crowds of tourists. Don’t let anyone tell you that the lockdown doesn’t have its positives!

Here are some of our favourite virtual tours:

The Louvre

The Louvre is the world’s largest art and antiques museum, and is definitely an essential visit for any culture aficionados. The museum closed its doors on 13 March as Paris went into lockdown but this doesn’t mean that you can’t see some of its world class exhibitions. From Egyptian antiquities to the Galerie d’Apollon, online visitors are blessed with a wealth of cultural gems. You aren’t able to marvel at the famous glass exterior, but you can find out about the history of the paintings and the gallery.

The northern lights

The northern lights are one of nature’s most incredible sights. Caused by electrically charged particles from the sun interacting with the earth’s magnetic field, the aurora borealis can be seen in the world’s most northerly and therefore coldest regions. Well, the virtual tours courtesy of Lights Over Lapland mean that you can see them without braving the biting arctic cold. The tour takes visitors on a five-minute journey through a series of high definition 360 degree videos.

Zh?ngji?jiè national forest park, China

This is a wonder of the world you might not have heard about before. The quartz-sandstone pillars of Zh?ngji?jiè (pronounced jaang-jyaa-jie) are simply breathtaking. These dramatic pinnacles rise out of the thick forest creating a landscape like no other, full of mystery and awe. The interactive video tour allows visitors to see the landscape from a high-definition 360 tour.

Jerusalem, Israel

Jerusalem is blessed with a rich history that dates back to 3000BC and is home to religious sites important to Muslims, Jews and Christians. Israel is currently promoting a series of virtual tours which let you visit many of the city’s religious sites with an informative voiceover that gives you an insight into the history of the city.   

Grand Canyon, Arizona

At 277 miles in length and 1,857 metres deep at its deepest point, it’s not hard to understand how the canyon got its reputation as one of the world’s most breathtaking places. This virtual reality archaeological tour lets you go a little deeper than most other tours. Click on geological features to learn about their formation.

Sources

https://www.theguardian.com/travel/2020/apr/06/10-best-virtual-tours-of-worlds-natural-wonders-everest-patagonia-grand-canyon-yosemite

https://www.independent.co.uk/travel/news-and-advice/virtual-travel-experiences-vr-museums-galleries-national-parks-coronavirus-lockdown-a9409776.html

How to spot fake news

Social media and online platforms are full of misinformation and fake news at the best of times so in the midst of a pandemic, the problem only escalates. Conspiracy theories, fake cures and scams abound – myths that 5G causes coronavirus, that COVID-19 is a biochemical weapon released by China, or that drinking bleach can cure infected patients start to circulate like crazy.        

The power of social media lies in its ability to spread rapidly so the minute we like, share, or retweet something fake, we’re just amplifying it. We’re also more likely to forward something without thinking when we’re scared or angry because we’re anxious to ‘inform’ or protect someone else. 

So now more than ever we need to watch out for fake news. But how to spot what is genuine? And how to stop something going viral? 

Check the source

It’s always good to start from a position of scepticism. Ask yourself, is this real? Look to see who is sharing the information and who has published it. Does the language sound heavily biased or sensationalist? Memes on social media should be viewed with caution. They can often look authentic, especially if they feature a public figure and a quote. But double check the facts – did they actually say that, was it even the right era?   

Look more closely 

Zoom in on a picture to check all the details and confirm whether the location is authentic. Look for shop fronts, billboards, placards, car registration numbers or street signs. Does the language  on the signs in the image tally with the location in the headline? Platforms like Google, Bing, TinEye or Yandex enable you to check when an image first appeared on the Internet so you can tell whether it has been taken recently or it is an old picture doing the rounds.        

Anything odd?

Only the tech companies can really identify a bot account but there are a few things that may ring alarm bells. None of these on their own will mean it’s an inauthentic account but a few  combined begin to look suspicious. So you may see a long string of weird letters and numbers as the handle or username, for example @thedolandld2klht for a fake Donald Trump account. This suggests it has been created by an algorithm. There may be no bio or it may be at odds with the rest of their activity. You can also click on their profile picture and search Google to see if it is genuine or is just a generic stock image. Check through their timeline. Do they post content of their own and engage with other people or do they just keep retweeting content from somewhere else? As a general rule, if you see someone posting 60x times a day on a regular basis, be suspicious.   

If in doubt, don’t share! 

Sources
https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/av/stories-51974040/fake-news-and-how-to-spot-it

How long is it going to take the economy to recover?

The COVID-19 crisis will push the country into an unprecedented economic slump. Just how big the slump will be is currently unknown but experts’ predictions aren’t optimistic. One independent forecast by the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) warned that the economy could shrink by a record 35% by June, in the case of a three month lockdown followed by three months of further restrictions. This is just a prediction, but one thing for certain is that the lockdown will have serious economic implications.

When we start to talk about recovery, things begin to get even murkier as the impact of the current lockdown is unknown. We don’t know for certain how far the economy will fall or whether firms will be able to cope with any partial restrictions when things do begin to return to normality. What’s more, it’s possible that there could be further lockdowns to control future outbreaks before a vaccine is found. 

The government has said that it is “not just going to stand by” and let the economy slide. They have said that they plan to protect millions of jobs, businesses and self-employed people. This said, there is a limit to just how much they can do. The OBR predicts a further rise in the amount of borrowing by the end of the year up to £273 billion, which would represent the largest deficit as a share of GDP since World War Two. 

Robert Chote, chairman of the OBR, said that a drop of 35% in the economy would be “the largest in living memory.” The public body also predicts that unemployment will rise by 2.1 million to 3.4 million by the end of June. This would put the unemployment rate up to 10%, a level not seen since the mid 1990s. 

The total economy is set to contract by almost 13% in 2020. To find an economic shrinkage of a similar size, we need to go back much further than the 90’s or even the Second World War. The last time the UK economy declined by this amount was in 1709 when, again, nature was to blame. ‘The Great Frost’ struck Europe, killing hundreds of thousands and resulting in widespread famine across the continent.

Despite all this doom and gloom, the OBR does expect the UK economy to get back to its pre-crisis growth trend by the end of 2020. They also predict that unemployment will start to  fall, easing to around 7.3% at the end of the year.

Looking further into the future, a large amount of public debt will be the economic legacy of COVID-19. Public debt is expected to remain at 84.9% of GDP in four years’ time after peaking at over 100% by the end of this financial year. Whether this will mean a return to austerity remains to be seen. The UK could place a greater emphasis on tax rises to generate revenue, which could see a rise to corporation tax or higher rate income tax.

Sources
https://tradingeconomics.com/united-kingdom/unemployment-rate

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-52279871

https://www.newstatesman.com/politics/economy/2020/04/coronavirus-uk-economy-cuts-austerity-bank-of-england

Technology bringing the generations together

One positive outcome of the crisis has been the way technology is helping us to stay in touch  with each other, especially across the generations. Various apps are playing a vital role in keeping us entertained in lieu of all the social events and sporting activities being cancelled.   

As staying in becomes the new going out, we’ve highlighted a few ways to keep you connected.    

Video conferencing – not just for work!         

Zoom, Microsoft Teams and Google Hangouts may be effective for those working from home but it’s the video chat app, Houseparty, that has soared in popularity in recent months. 

It’s thought to be more spontaneous than the other apps as it allows you to mimic an actual house party, with friends chatting in different rooms. Previously popular with millennials and Generation Z teeenagers, adults now want to make use of Houseparty for their own connections.    

It’s getting to the point where people are attending more events in the virtual world than they were in the real one. You know you’ve really made it when you’re double booked for two online drinks parties or AperiTVs!

Inspirational ideas on Instagram 

You’ll find many celebrity chefs have taken to Instagram to offer free cookery classes during lockdown. There are lessons on everything from how to cook the perfect curry to how to bake your own bread.

Likewise, famous musicians are giving free ‘virtual’ concerts or even guitar lessons. And, of course, you can recommend your ‘favourite finds’ to friends and family. Why not challenge each other to mini contests, such as who can decorate the best cupcakes?             

Family time  

Regular video calls over FaceTime or Skype are a great way for all the family to keep in touch. Think of novel ways to make this inclusive. We heard of one family, for example, who deliberately arranged the call for lunchtime, propping the tablet up at the table so that it felt like they were all still sharing the meal together.     

Encourage grandchildren to show their grandparents what they’ve been up to. Get them to share stories, music or their artistic creations. Set up a board game challenge. You’ll no doubt find the youngsters can sort out any technical difficulties!   

Keeping fit – online

If you’re worried about what all those baking tutorials might do to your waistline, there are plenty of online exercise classes to sign up for. Joe Wicks has taken the nation by storm with his  YouTube daily P.E.classes. Originally aimed at children, these have proven equally popular with parents and grandparents. Enterprising local gyms and fitness instructors are also offering their usual classes in strength training, pilates and yoga online, so you can stay fit but keep in touch with fellow members at the same time.  

Technology is helping us to keep in touch in new ways with our friends and family through these strange times. Will the tools, which we are embracing now, represent a lasting shift in how we communicate in the future? 

Sources
https://www.ft.com/content/c7ce2ad3-7276-4d8a-9deb-21acca871082

Be wary of Covid-19 email scams

Scandalous though it may sound, cyber-criminals are using the coronavirus crisis to prey on unsuspecting individuals. 

Security experts have said they have seen an increase in email scams over the last few weeks, as if the world pandemic wasn’t bad enough in itself.    

We’re drawing these to your attention not to scare you but to raise awareness and encourage you to be on your guard. Here are 5 in particular to watch out for: 

Click for a cure

This follows the classic technique of tapping into everyone’s deepest wish. People who have clicked on the link, in search of a cure, have had all their personal details stolen. Although the email purports to be from a doctor who claims to have details about a vaccine, the attached document just takes the recipient to a spoof webpage to collect login details.        

The best way to check where a link will take you is to hover your mouse cursor over it. This will  reveal the true web address. If it looks suspicious, don’t click it.

Covid-19 tax refund

This email looks like it comes from HMRC and states that you are eligible for a tax refund. Who wouldn’t be tempted to click on that?!  

But if you do press the “Access your funds now” link it takes you to a fake government web page and encourages you to put in all your financial and tax information.

HMRC would never contact you in this way about a potential refund. The head of e-crime at  Mimecast says, “Do not respond to any electronic communication in relation to monies via email. And certainly do not click on any links in any related message.”

The virus is now airborne

Designed to look like it’s from the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), this email’s subject line reads, “Covid-19 – now airborne, increased community transmission.” It uses one of the organisation’s legitimate email addresses but is sent via a spoofing tool. By directing you to a fake microsoft page and asking you to enter your details, the hackers can get control of your email account.

The scams are effective not only because the forgery looks highly plausible but because the perpetrators know that everyone is feeling under considerable stress.

Two-factor authentication is one way to protect yourself so that you have to enter a code texted to you to access your email account.    

A little measure that saves

Purporting to be from the World Health Organisation (WHO), this scam claims that the attached document contains details of how you can prevent the disease’s spread. In fact, it will just infect your computer with malicious software which records every keystroke so that the hackers can monitor your every move online.   

Ignore any emails that claim to be from the WHO as they’re highly likely to be fake. Instead, visit their official website or look at their social media channels for the most up-to-date advice.    

Donate to the fight

The last example alleges it is from the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention and asks for donations in Bitcoin to help develop a vaccine. Although it may sound preposterous, the email address and signature evidently look convincing.

The security experts, Kaspersky, say they have discovered 513 files with coronavirus in their title which contain malware. Sadly, just as the real virus continues to spread, so too are these fake emails.  

The golden rule is that if you’re not sure about something or know that a particular organisation wouldn’t normally contact you by email, don’t click on any attachment. If you’re in any doubt about whether something is genuine, do ask a friend or family member. 

Sources
https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-51838468

How to avoid going stir-crazy during the coronavirus lockdown

The effects of the government enforced isolation period is being felt across the whole nation. It’s difficult for all of us to stay at home except for essential travel and one form of daily exercise. We need to adapt and find new things to keep our days filled to keep our spirits up.

Give yourself “micro-lifts” throughout the day

One of the main difficulties with self-isolation is that you’ll begin to miss the “micro-lifts” you have peppered throughout the day. Often it’s the little things, like popping out of the office to get a coffee at your favourite cafe or going to the gym, that enrich your daily routine with enjoyment and meaning.

The lockdown obviously means you’re going to lose many of your regular “micro-lifts”. So creating new ones is essential to keep your spirits up.

These could be anything, from a regular Skype call to a daily yoga routine. Be creative and try to turn the situation on its head, looking at what the increased time at home enables you to do rather than what not going out prohibits you from doing.

Learn something new

Not only does learning a new skill slow cognitive ageing, it provides you with the sense of achievement that comes through deepening your knowledge of something. While now isn’t the time to enroll in a face-to-face group class, there are plenty of online options available.

Many education providers, including some American Ivy League colleges, have responded to the coronavirus crisis by offering free courses online. A quick Google search will reveal the wealth of courses available. Studies show that learning which challenges you to come out of your comfort zone has the greatest boost to mental health.

Keep a healthy diet

When staying at home, it can be tempting to regularly snack to stave off boredom. Unfortunately, this means you’re likely to be consuming more calories and unhelpful fats. Mental health charity Mind suggests that healthy eating can improve your mood, give you more energy and help you think more clearly. 

Keeping to regular mealtimes and eating a balanced diet, high in fruit and vegetables, are two important features of a healthy diet. Of course, you can still treat yourself once in a while…

Keep a routine

When you’re at home, it’s easy to end up still in your pyjamas at 3pm because you don’t have to see anyone else during the day. Although it can feel nice to slow down and let yourself be lazy, in the long run this can be bad for your wellbeing.

Try to maintain a sense of routine as far as possible. If you’re working at home, try to work regular hours and get up at a sensible time. 

This said, don’t be too hard on yourself. It’s important that routine doesn’t become monotony. Be flexible and remember to change things up from time to time.