IN THIS ISSUE
- Unprecendented Times
- Federal Government Economic Support Packages
- Barry & Glenys Elliot – Clients Since 2015
- Economic & Market Update
- Financially Navigating COVID-19
- An Overview Of The Available Concession Cards
- Introducing Karen Maher
- Working From Home – Adjusting To The “New Reality.”
- GFM Wealth Video Recordings
By Paul Nicol
The past couple of months have been a time of unprecedented turmoil and volatility in both our daily lives and global share markets. The spread of the COVID–19 dealt a severe, unexpected shock which for many is having a profound impact. The distressing scenes at the current epicentre of the outbreak in both New York and Europe are heart–wrenching to observe. It is a grim time in many regions of the world.
Fortunately, Australia has continued to manage the outbreak of COVID–19 much better than most other countries. It would appear early actions taken by State and Federal Governments to close borders and introduce mitigation strategies to slow the rate of contagion have been successful. This, along with testing, has ensured the pandemic has had a manageable impact on our hospital system. A real blessing is that Australia’s hospital system is world-leading with a significant emphasis placed on building extra capacity to allow a risk-managed return–to–work strategy, with top priority given to looking after our incredible health care workforce.
Unfortunately, during this period the Australian equity market had its fastest 30% fall in the history of the Australian Securities Exchange, with only the 1987 crash coming close in terms of severity. However, what has also taken most by surprise has been the speed of recovery in prices. Since bottoming in late March, the market has recovered around 10% of the fall. This extreme volatility is a sure sign of investor uncertainty and lack of conviction.
Countries have responded to the spread of COVID–19 by shutting down social events, venues and other gatherings, which has seen a vast number of the workforce being laid off. For most OECD countries, over 60% of their GDP lies in consumer spending, and a consumption-led recession will inevitably lead to a material rise in unemployment over the next six months.
Fortunately, policymakers both here in Australia and around the world, have taken aggressive actions, including the lowering of interest rates to near zero, protecting the vulnerable with programs like JobSeeker and JobKeeper and protecting the financial system with asset–purchase programs and other liquidity measures.
The focus of investors and the broader population is now turning to when the current COVID–19 measures can be relaxed, given the extraordinary impact on the economy and Government finances. We expect the Government to take a cautious approach such that the current social distancing and work from home policies will likely, to a large extent, remain in place for some weeks, if not months, yet. In this edition of Trade Secrets, we are heavily focusing on COVID–19 related topics which we hope you find useful.
Please take care and stay safe.
Federal Government Economic Support Packages
By Patrick Malcolm
To date, the Federal Government released three stages of an economic plan to cushion the economic impact of the COVID-19 and help build a bridge to recovery. In this article, our focus is on the economic package related to support for households including casuals, sole–traders, retirees and those on income support.
1. Expanding Eligibility and Qualification for Income Support Payments:
The Government has put expanded eligibility and qualification criteria in place for six months.
Eligibility for JobSeeker Payment and Youth Allowance for jobseekers will also be expanded to assist:
- Sole traders and self–employed people; and
- People caring for someone infected or in isolation as a result of contact with COVID-19
Access to payments will also become easier with the temporary removal of the requirement for an Employment Separation Certificate, proof of rental arrangements and verification of relationship status.
2. Coronavirus Supplement for Income Support Recipients:
The Government is temporarily expanding eligibility to income support payments and establishing a new, time-limited Coronavirus supplement to be paid at a rate of $550 per fortnight.
The Coronavirus supplement will be paid for the next six months. Eligible income support recipients will receive the full amount of the $550 Coronavirus supplement on top of their payment each fortnight.
3. Two Economic Support Payments:
In addition to the $750 stimulus payment announced on 12 March 2020, the Government will provide a further $750 payment to social security and veteran income support recipients and eligible concession cardholders.
The first payment will be made from 31 March 2020 to people who will have been on one of the eligible payments any time between 12 March 2020 and 13 April 2020. The second payment will be made automatically from 13 July 2020.
Eligibility for the second Economic Support payment is for the same group of people but only if they do not receive the Coronavirus Supplement with their payment.
4. Early release of superannuation:
The Government will allow individuals to access up to $10,000 of their superannuation in the 2019/20 Financial Year and a further $10,000 in the 2020/21 Financial Year. These payments are tax–free and will not affect Centrelink or Veterans’ Affairs payments.
If you are eligible, you must apply directly to the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) through the myGov website. You are not required to apply through your super fund. The ATO will issue you with a determination and, if you’re successful, direct your super fund to release your super payment.
5. Temporarily reduce superannuation minimum drawdown rates:
As we have detailed in emails, the Government is temporarily reducing superannuation minimum drawdown requirements for account-based pensions and similar products by 50 per cent the for 2019–20 and 2020–21 Financial Years.
6. Reducing social security deeming rates:
On top of the deeming rate changes made at the time of the first package, the Government is reducing the deeming rates by a further 0.25 percentage points to reflect the latest rate reductions by the RBA.
As of 1 May 2020, the lower deeming rate will be 0.25 per cent, and the upper deeming rate will be 2.25 per cent.
On Wednesday the 15th of April, the Government legislated the JobKeeper payment scheme, which is estimated to see up to six million workers eligible for a fortnightly payment.
The JobKeeper payment will be paid to businesses that have suffered a significant loss of revenue as a result of the pandemic, to help them restart when the crisis is over. The fortnightly payment of $1,500 is the equivalent of around 70% of the national median wage.
8. Mortgage repayments:
While it was not an announcement by the Government on Sunday, the following is an excerpt from an ABC news article concerning statements by the big four banks about home loans:
- A CBA spokesperson said:
- “All of our home loan customers will be able to pause their repayments for up to six months should they need to”
- “Westpac customers who have lost their job or suffered [a] loss of income as a result of COVID–19 should contact us for three months’ deferral on their home loan mortgage repayments, with extension for a further three months available after review.”
- “[Customers can] Pause home loan repayments for up to six months, including a three–month checkpoint.”
- “[Customers can] Request a deferral of home loan repayments for up to six months, with a review at three months, with interest capitalised.”
If you have any further questions about the above, please do not hesitate to contact us.
barry & glenys elliot:
CLIENTS OF GFM SINCE 2015
By Patrick Malcolm
Barry has kindly written the article below on their family, working life, retirement and their experiences as clients of GFM Wealth Advisory and GFM Gruchy Accounting. We much appreciate Barry’s contribution to Trade Secrets.
Although our relationship with GFM Wealth Advisory commenced “only” 5 years ago in February 2015 when GFM and P Gruchy and Associates (now GFM Gruchy Accounting) amalgamated, we have been a client of P Gruchy and Associates since 1974 after we returned from the U.K. At this time, I commenced private practice at St. Francis Cabrini in association with Brian Barrett and Michael Fogarty, who were already clients of GFM Gruchy Accounting. I also commenced orthopaedics at the Alfred Hospital as an Honorary Assistant Orthopaedic Surgeon and an Assistant Orthopaedic Surgeon at the Children’s Hospital.
Both Glenys and I were born in country Victoria, and both attended Rochester Higher Elementary School until intermediate when Glenys went to boarding school in Ballarat, and I went to boarding school in Melbourne.
In 1963, Glenys and I were married and lived in St Kilda Road near the Alfred. After matriculating, I obtained a place in the Melbourne Medical School and graduated MBBS in 1965. Glenys started nursing at the Northern District School of Nursing in Bendigo, and after graduating came to Melbourne nursing at various private hospitals including, as a theatre sister at St Georges and Vimy Private Hospitals. In 1966, our first daughter Simone was born, closely followed in 1967 by Andrea, and then in 1971 by Tania.
I was a resident medical officer at the Alfred, spent a year at Monash University in the Anatomy School, then a registrar at Prince Henry’s Hospital for two years, passing the FRACS in 1971. I then joined the Australian Orthopaedic training program spending a year at the Alfred, the Royal Children’s and then overseas experience at the Royal Infirmary and Princess Margaret Rose Orthopaedic Hospital in Edinburgh, Scotland. The three girls accompanied us to Edinburgh, where the two eldest went to school.
After a couple of years, the Honorary system was terminated by the Government, and a salary system was introduced. At this time all the girls were at school, so Glenys started to work in my rooms at Cabrini Medical Centre as Secretary/Office Manager.
I gradually moved up the orthopaedic ladder at the Alfred, finishing up as Head of Elective Orthopaedics and became involved in Hospital administration on the Management Executive Committee and then as Medical Co-director of the Musculo- Skeletal Services responsible for trauma, intensive care, orthopaedics, plastic surgery, burns and the hyperbaric treatment unit. I continued this role until retirement from the Alfred in 2005.
During my career, I had also joined the RAAF Medical Reserve in 1969 while at Prince Henry’s and later did orthopaedic sessions at Headquarters Command in St. Kilda Road and the RAAF Hospital at Laverton. I undertook two terms as Surgeon to the Butterworth Air force Base in Malaysia, the second with Glenys and the girls living on the base. I also spent some years going to Indonesia as an Overseas Examiner to the Indonesian Orthopaedic Association Examinations.
Glenys and I have been lucky enough to travel to orthopaedic conferences around the world, mainly Europe and Asia.
We have both played tennis regularly for many years at a private court in East Malvern until the property was sold.
In 1996 we bought the small property in Fern Hill and the family planted 8000 Pinot Noir grapes on 5 acres – something I can’t recommend! I became involved with the local wine region and joined the local committee. We spend considerable time at the property in our retirement.
Over 30 plus years we had been extremely happy with the accounting advice of P Gruchy and Associates, and have been equally impressed by the financial advice the GFM team has provided since 2015.
Our broad perception of GFM Wealth Advisory is of a well-run, knowledgeable and ethical business, who to date have been very helpful in furthering our financial position. In our experience, GFM Wealth and GFM Gruchy Accounting have seamlessly integrated, and we have found all staff across the organisation an absolute pleasure to deal with.
Glenys and I value stability in our relationships. To date, this has been a feature of our relationship with GFM Gruchy Accounting and long may it continue with the combined GFM Wealth and Gruchy business.
Most importantly, Glenys and I have no hesitation in recommending GFM to friends and relatives who would benefit from good, ethical, high-quality accounting and financial advice.
Economic & Market Update
By James Malliaros
In March, COVID-19 was classified as a global pandemic. The disease spread further and more rapidly than had previously been anticipated, forcing authorities to take drastic measures, in some cases shutting down entire countries to try and slow the spread of the disease.
It has dealt a severe and unexpected shock that has impacted people and markets around the world. It is impossible to calculate what it means when people across the world cannot leave their homes; cannot go to work; and cannot go to stores, restaurants, movies, sporting events, vacations or just about anything for months on end. These are unprecedented massive shocks to the way we live our lives and to the economy. There will be repercussions for a significant time.
The negative economic impact of COVID-19 will likely lead to a global recession in the next few months. As a consequence, nearly all asset classes, including equities and credit, have sold off sharply over the last couple of months as investors priced in the likelihood of lower corporate profitability.
Additionally, massive layoffs are likely to alter consumer behaviour as spending is curtailed in favour of safety and savings. History indicates that it takes years for employment to return to pre-crisis levels.
From a policy-response perspective, both governments and central banks have announced unprecedented fiscal and monetary support packages to minimise the economic impact of the shutdowns.
Following the lead of other central banks, the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) wasted no time in cutting interest rates almost as low as they can go, lowering the official cash rate by a further 0.5% to a new record low of 0.25%. This directly targeted consumer spending for when Australian businesses reopen their doors.
Concerned that further measures might be required to prevent an economic meltdown, the Federal Government also announced significant fiscal spending to combat the virus- related slowdown.
Three separate packages were announced in March as the COVID-19 situation worsened. An initial package was announced early in the month, targeting business investment and providing stimulus payments to the most severely affected households and temporary financial support to small and medium-sized businesses. As the situation worsened, it was subsequently announced that small businesses would receive cash payments of up to $100,000 and that commercial loans would be partially guaranteed. Welfare payments were also doubled. Finally, towards the end of the month, the Treasurer announced the JobKeeper subsidy to be paid to businesses to assist with staff costs and minimise layoffs.
The scale of these packages is enormous and unprecedented in the history of this country. Collectively it could cost the Government more than $300 billion, or more than 16% of GDP. The scale of the spending is significant, and it will take many years for it to be repaid.
These measures should help, but quarterly declines in global growth (GDP) appear likely to be the worst since World War II. This is backed up by the IMF’s latest regional growth forecast in which it has projected the global economy to contract by 3% year on year in 2020, a massive -6.3% decline from its growth forecast only three months earlier. This would represent the most significant global activity decline in 90 years and is much worse than the contraction during the Global Financial Crisis of 2008/2009.
Among major economies, US growth was downgraded to -5.9% year on year and Europe by -7.5% year on year. Even Australia was forecast to contract by -6.7% this year.
Source: Perpetual, IMF
Interestingly the IMF forecast a strong recovery in 2021, assuming the pandemic fades and lockdowns are gradually unwound. However, it flagged several scenarios, including the pandemic proving more persistent than first expected, which would have a more significant and protracted impact on economic activity and financial markets.
Many are therefore wondering how to navigate the shocks, and questioning where do we go from here?
In terms of equity markets, history suggests markets bottom when there is a sense that the bottom for the economy is in sight. However, it’s more complicated this time with unprecedented stimulus and liquidity, which has seen markets rebound. This could either signal optimism over a far quicker recovery from the pandemic than first thought or that the market is getting far ahead of itself. We may, therefore, now be entering the 4th phase of the crisis.
- Phase 1: COVID-19 concerns limited to China and the effect on supply chains
- Phase 2: The realisation that this is a global crisis – peak fear and uncertainty over the rate at which the virus spreads and the ability of governments to respond.
- Phase 3: Upside surprise from equity markets in response to aggressive monetary and fiscal policies.
- Phase 4: An emerging appreciation of the scale of uncertainties we still face: how long do measures stay in place, how are they rolled back, what is the economic impact and how does that effect company earnings. This is a bit of a waiting game which could present challenges for the equity market as some of the economic numbers become apparent.
As a result, there has been significant commentary about which letters of the alphabet a correction may resemble. A U-shaped recovery is a steep decline and recovery but with a decent period spent in a trough. An optimist view is a V-shaped recovery which encapsulates a sharp but brief economic decline with a rapid recovery. A negative case is an L-shape scenario with eventual recovery out in the future but a prolonged period of difficult times. We suspect the market is heading toward U-shaped recovery, but likely with some significant ups and downs during the recovery phase.
We view this COVID-19 crisis as a shock to growth, which can be observed on both the demand side and the supply side. Short term, we anticipate another few months of volatility as the COVID-19 crisis continues, but remaining a disciplined investor and even seeking out opportunities as it plays out may well prove to be a smart strategy. But for now, diversification is crucial in this uncertain environment, as is ensuring liquidity in investment portfolios.
Financially Navigating COVID-19
By Rebecca Lowe
In the current environment we find ourselves in, there is no doubt that it can feel unnerving to have little control over what is going on in the world around us. For retirees and pre- retirees, it can be especially unnerving to see the funds that you have been diligently accumulating to support your retirement, experience high levels of volatility on a day to day basis.
While we may not be able to control much in this environment, we can control how we react to what is going on around us. By reviewing and adjusting the things you can control, you can still make your retirement plan work, although some tweaks may be required in the short term to ensure you can meet your long–term goals.
Below are some things that can be considered to support your long–term retirement goals.
Assess your spending requirements
With many of us being forced indoors at this time, you may find that your discretionary expenses have also decreased, with more time spent curled up at home with a book and less time eating out! During this time, perhaps review your income needs. If your expenses have decreased, you could reduce the drawdowns from your asset base, which in turn will increase the potential longevity of your asset base.
Eligibility for other income sources
While most people don’t like to see their asset base decrease, it could lead to you becoming eligible for the Centrelink Age Pension or concession cards. Being eligible for an Age Pension payment will assist in meeting your income requirements, and support reduced drawdowns from your asset base.
While concession cards do not provide a regular payment, they can provide you with discounts on expenses such as council rates, utilities and medical prescriptions. The exact benefits you are entitled to will depend on the concession card you are eligible for and will vary from state to state.
For pre-retirees who have been considering retirement but not yet made a final decision, perhaps you could consider working a little longer than you initially planned. Doing so will enable your asset base to recover from the current market volatility, and increase your ability to make additional contributions to your asset base.
Stay focused on your goals
Often in times of increased market volatility, it can be easy to become obsessed with the value of your savings, particularly as many of us are stuck indoors with much more time on our hands! While short–term volatility can be unnerving, riding out this period of market volatility can lead to meaningful gains over the long term.
Most market experts agree that periods of heightened volatility are not the best time to make significant portfolio changes. Your financial plan has been created to meet your long–term goals, and as such, it is important not to make reactionary changes. Stick to your plan, understanding that this is part of the journey to achieving your long–term goals.
During this time, try not to let concerns about your plans overwhelm you. GFM Wealth Advisory remain open and available to answer any questions or talk through any concerns that you may have.
An Overview Of The Available Concession Cards
By Nicola Beswick
Governments offer a range of concession cards for people and varying types of situations. These include the Pensioner’s Concession Card (PCC), Low-Income Health Care Card (LIHCC) and the Commonwealth Seniors’ Health Card (CSHC).
This article is a recap of the eligibility criteria for these three concession cards, which if you do not receive at this point it will be worthwhile reviewing this information against your situation – especially now that financial markets have moved. If you think you are eligible for any of these benefits, please get in touch.
Pensioner Concession Card
You can get a PCC if you receive one of the following Centrelink payments:
- Age Pension
- Bereavement Allowance
- Carer Payment Disability
- Support Pension
- Newstart Allowance or Youth Allowance
- Parenting Payment single
You are also eligible if you’re 60 years of age or older and for more than nine months have been receiving:
- Newstart Allowance
- Parenting Payment partnered
- Partner Allowance
- Sickness Allowance
- Widow Allowance
The criteria to receive the card is based on the above- referenced Centrelink payments. If you qualify for one of these payments, you’ll automatically receive the PCC. The table below also outlines the upper income and asset test threshold for which an individual would lose their Centrelink payment and therefore lose the PCC:
|Income Limit (p.a.)||Asset Limit|
The card is valid for two years, and you will be sent a new card every two years on your birthday if you remain eligible.
Many people who lost the age pension when the income and asset test threshold was changed in 2017 received a PCC that is not income or asset tested. Therefore, they will retain the PCC indefinitely.
Commonwealth Seniors Health Card
You can get a CSHC if you:
- Are not eligible for the Age Pension or other payment from Centrelink but have reached your age pension age
- Income is tax-adjusted income and deemed income from account-based pensions (unless the pension met the grandfathering requirements)
- Are an Australian resident or you hold a special category visa
This card is valid for one year, and you will be sent a new card each year in August if you remain eligible.
While there is no assets test for this card, if you have a financial asset base that is at, or below, the level of financial assets as outlined in the table below, it is likely that you will be eligible for this card:
|Income Limit (p.a.)||Deemed Financial Asset Limit|
Low Income Health Care Card:
You can get a LIHCC if you:
- Are aged 16 or older
- Live in Australia
- Are an Australian citizen
Also with this card, there is no asset test, however, like the CSHC, if your income and financial asset base is within the levels outlined below it is likely that you’ll be eligible for this card:
|Income Limit (p.a.) to apply||Deemed Financial Asset Limit to apply||Income Limit (p.a.) to retain||Deemed Financial Asset Limit to retain|
This card is valid for one year, and you must renew your card each year.
A summary of the various entitlements provided by each card is provided below.
|Pensioner Concession Card (PCC)||Low Income Health Care Card (LIHCC)||Commonwealth Seniors Health Card (CSHC)|
|Eligibility||Receipt of a Centrelink payment (e.g. Age Pension)|
Income & Assets Tested
|Over age 16|
|Age Pension |
|Pharmaceuticals Benefits Scheme||Cardholder & dependants||Cardholder-only|
|Access to subsidised hearing services program||Yes||No|
|Winter energy concession||17.5% discount off mains gas usage during 1 May – 31 October each year after first $62.40 p.a.||No|
|Annual electricity concession||17.5% discount off mains electricity account after first $171.60 p.a.||No|
|Water & Sewage concession||50% reduction. Maximum $328.90 or $164.45 for a single service||No|
|Ambulance||Free in an emergency or on the recommendation of an appropriate health professional||No|
|Motor Vehicle Registration||50% reduction – cardholder or spouse.|
One concession per card
|Stamp Duty Concessions||Full exemption for Real Estate to $330,000|
Partial exemptions to $750,000
The potential monetary value of holding one of these above- described cards is outlined in the table below. Please note that it is possible to hold both the LIHCC & CSHC at the same time.
|Council rates||Up to $235||-||-|
|Water||Up to $329||Up to $329||-|
i. Victorian Health and Human Services department example, $101 off $672 quarterly bill.
ii. Victorian Health and Human Services department example, $88 off $580 quarterly bill (only available from May – October).
iii. 3000 postcode, includes Transport Accident Charges (TAC).
As indicated above, the LIHCC provides up to a $1,059 per annum benefit compared to the CSHC. Compared to the PCC, up to $1,560 could potentially be saved, in comparison to the CSHC. This is $501 per annum more than the LIHCC, due to the TAC and Council rates savings included in the card.
Introducing Karen Maher
By Paul Nicol
Karen Maher is an Associate Financial Planner at GFM Wealth Advisory.
Karen joined GFM in January 2020, after working for the last 9.5 years at a small financial planning firm which specialised in assisting pre-retiree and retirees.
During the last 9+ years, she completed a Diploma of Financial Services and in particular enjoyed working with clients who held a Self-Managed Superannuation Fund (SMSF). The transition to GFM Wealth has provided her with the opportunity to expand on this knowledge.
She enjoys the variety of work in financial planning and seeing the peace of mind that quality advice and planning brings to clients.
Karen has one daughter and in her spare time enjoys keeping fit at the gym and spending time with family and friends.
Here’s a quick Q & A with Karen:
Q. Your family?
A. I have a daughter who is 14 years old and we are in the process of adopting a greyhound, our first family dog which is exciting.
Q. Favorite holiday destination?
A. A few years ago, we went to Vietnam which was a favourite, with delicious food. I hope one day to return to Europe with my daughter who has not yet been. She has been studying French for a few years so a trip to France where she could practice her conversational skills would be great.
A. I enjoy keeping fit which previously involved going to the gym most days for different classes and riding my bike when possible.
Q. Favorite food/drink?
A. I love sushi and rice paper rolls – I think I could live off these two foods and be very content.
Q. Your proudest moment?
A. I have had many proud moments watching my daughter grow up over the years with her academic and sporting achievements as well as her evolving into a remarkable person.
Q. What sports do you follow?
A. I don’t follow a sport as such. My daughter does competitive gymnastics where she trains 10+ hours per week as well as her compulsory weekend sport for school. Most weekends involve taking her to her sporting activities.
Q. Best part of working at GFM
A. I’ve really enjoyed in the last few months having the opportunity to meet and get to know Paul’s clients as well as the team at GFM.
Working From Home:
Adjusting To The “New Reality”
By Witi Suma
As a consequence of COVID–19, many people are working from home, with most doing so for the first time. Being thrust into a remote working arrangement forces us to suddenly manage various complexities, such as having to convert a part of our dwelling into a temporary office, and having to share our workspace with housemates or family. Parents with school-age children are also now having to adjust to the challenges of arranging online learning.
For some people, working from home can be attractive, i.e. not having the daily distractions of phone calls, interruptions from colleagues and meetings, and being able to work at your own pace. However, without a specially set up workspace and a schedule, it is easy to be distracted and get little done.
Create a separate workspace:
Going into an office each day makes the separation between home and work obvious as we have a designated workspace which helps us to switch “on” as we enter it at the start of the working day, and “off” as we leave. To replicate this sense of separation at home, set up a designated workspace – one for each individual in different parts of the house. If your house is small and you don’t have enough separate rooms, a workspace can simply be a corner of a room such as in the living room.
If sharing the space with others, it is vital to put in place some house rules to deal with interruptions, noise and other distractions, and to advise others when you will be in meetings or times when you need to focus. Earplugs or noise-cancelling headphones are handy to help you concentrate in a shared household.
Use the commuting time to prepare for the day ahead:
Before COVID–19, much of our time in the morning was spent commuting to work which gave us a chance to prepare for the day ahead. Now that most of us work from home and thus are not required to commute, it is just as important to utilise this time of the day to prepare for work mentally. Meditating or reading are relaxing rituals to get you into a calm state before the day starts. Doing some exercise is a great way to start the day – going for a run, walking and hiking are some activities that allow you to meet your exercise needs while maintaining social distancing. If it’s wet outside, consider indoor activities such as yoga, or partaking in one of the many exercise classes available online. Dancing is also a great way to keep fit!
Set up a comfortable workstation:
At work, your employer is required to ensure your workstation is ergonomic and comfortable for you to perform your duties. It is just as essential to ensure that at home, your workstation is also set up to ensure you are physically comfortable and protected from strain or injury. Make sure you sit comfortably and can do so for several hours. Consider using a standing desk – if you don’t have one, improvise with a high benchtop. Sit near a window if possible as this helps to improve your focus and creativity, and try to find a spot in the house that brings in natural light. Also, have your favourite things around you, such as pictures, plants and flowers to inspire you.
Although it can be tempting to stay in our pyjamas all day, the act of getting dressed helps to psychologically draw the line between being at work and being at home. It is not only the act of changing clothes but also the whole ritual of getting ready for work – i.e. taking a shower, brushing your hair, putting on makeup, etc. Remember you may be required to participate in a video meeting at any time, so it’s best to look presentable!
Take scheduled breaks and remove distractions:
When working at home, set your start and end times, including when you’ll have your lunch break. It is best to stick with your usual office hours, as this is particularly important when you need to collaborate with colleagues. Having a set starting and finishing time also helps to establish boundaries – at the end of the day, make a point of packing up your work, which helps to signify that you’ve “left” work for the day.
Organise and prioritise your tasks with a “to-do list” which helps you to keep focused and add structure to your day. Set a timer for any breaks you take. Consider working in say 45 to 50-minute blocks with a 10-minute break to help stay productive. Remember to get up often to move and stretch your legs.
If regularly checking Twitter, Instagram or Facebook tends to distract you, consider installing a social media blocking tool on your devices to turn off notifications during the day, or at least until lunchtime when you have a break. Switching off these distractions takes discipline, but helps you to focus on your work productively.
Keep up the communication:
One of the benefits of coming to work is the interaction we have with colleagues. This is one of the first things we miss when we work remotely, and this lack of human interaction can lead to feelings of isolation, which can have a flow-on effect on our productivity and morale. Rather than using email, consider picking up the phone, texting, or doing a video chat to assist in countering these feelings of isolation. By doing so, it also helps to avoid or reduce the risk of miscommunication. Furthermore, emails can build up very quickly and become unmanageable, so it is a good idea to consider using online “chat” tools such as Slack or Facebook Workplace. Zoom and Skype are great video conferencing tools to use for client meetings as well as catch-ups with colleagues.
If you take a phone call and you don’t need to be in front of the computer, consider taking the call outside with wireless headphones and go for a walk, which is excellent for your cardiovascular health and overall wellbeing. Even if you don’t get a chance to go for a walk, be sure to get some fresh air during the day. You can do this by taking your coffee breaks in the garden or on the balcony.
Being required to work from home suddenly can give rise to various physical and psychological challenges. These can be overcome by creating a separate workspace in the home, by scheduling in breaks and cutting out distractions to help you to stay on track with your work and maintain your productivity. Regular communication with the outside world using the range of technological tools now available also enables you to maintain some normality and keep you from feeling isolated.
GFM WEALTH VIDEO RECORDINGS
By Paul Nicol
Over the last month, we have emailed clients three of seven short videos produced before the outbreak of COVID-19. We decided to produce these videos to give our clients and prospective clients a better sense of what we stand for as an organisation and how a snapshot of our clients perceive our business.
The first video in the series is members of the GFM team explaining who we are and what we stand for. It is in times like these we are very proud of the work we do. The GFM “DNA” is to put our clients first and to ensure we are available to assist. The quality of our advisers and the stability of our team is critical to ensure we make the right decisions for our clients while navigating this volatile environment.
The second video in the series is of selected GFM clients. At GFM, the deep connection we form with our clients which is intrinsic to our core values. A big thank you to Tony and Denise Harford, Peter and Kath Baylie and Helena Christos for volunteering to assist with this video.
The third video in the series is a client profile of Bernie and Anne Shinners who have been clients with GFM for more than 25 years. Bernie and Anne have a wonderful family of 10 children (yes 10!!!) and a quickly growing number of grandchildren. Both Bernie and Anne worked very hard and diligently, combining employment demands and raising their family so that they are now enjoying a wonderful retirement. Bernie and Anne are representative of the typical GFM client who are an absolute pleasure to assist and deal with.
We are privileged that Bernie and Anne were prepared to share their life story and their experiences in dealing with GFM.
The remaining videos in the series will be emailed in the coming weeks which is a profile of our senior advisers, Nicola, James, Patrick and Paul.
We hope you enjoy the videos.
GFM IS NOW ON LINKEDIN
GFM have recently established a company LinkedIn page, and we are posting interesting and informative content regularly. Many of our team are also on LinkedIn, and we invite you to follow GFM and connect with the team. Below is the link to our company page below. Follow us for regular updates.
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