The Experts

Maureen_jordan
Maureen Jordan
Women's Business
+ About Maureen Jordan

About Maureen Jordan

Maureen Jordan holds a Bachelor of Arts (Economics) and a Law Degree (Honours) and has carved a niche in the media to balance her world of work and family.

Her company, the Switzer Group, owns divisions in media and publishing, financial services and business coaching.

During her 20 year involvement in media and publishing, Maureen has held Editor in Chief roles for esteemed publications such as Charter Magazine for the Institute of Chartered Accountants in Australia and has authored several books including Women Entrepreneurs, which she wrote for the Federal Office of Women, Small Business Start Up Guide published by Allen & Unwin and Finding And Managing Your Mortgage, Wiley Publishing.

As group publisher of Switzer Media and Publishing, Maureen has initiated and managed the publication of specialty books, magazines and content for some of the country's leading organisations. Clients include Optus, Mortgage & Finance Industry Association, IBM, Hewlett Packard, the Commonwealth Bank, Telstra, AMP, IP Australia, Yahoo 7, the University of NSW and law firm Griffith Hack.

Such is Maureen's commitment to business that in 1996 she was inducted into the Australian Business Women's Hall of Fame in Melbourne, as well as being a finalist in the Sydney Business Review's Business Women of the Year 2003.

Early in her career, Maureen taught in both the secondary school system - public and private - as well as teaching at the University of New South Wales.

Maureen's knowledge of small business and the economy, combined with her legal skills, has enabled her to not only put a firm footing under her own long established business, but has also given her the credibility to assist others.

Lest we forget

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Last Sunday was a beautiful sunny day in the small country town of Blackheath, less than two hours drive west of Sydney. On the second Sunday of the month, there’s a growers market that attracts suppliers and health-oriented customers from all the bordering towns. We spend a fair bit of time in the Blue Mountains and particularly in Blackheath – it’s a relatively short drive but a far cry from the hectic pace of Sydney life.

It was also a Day of Remembrance, a day we call Armistice Day.  It marked the 100-year anniversary of the end of World War 1, described by H.G. Wells in 1914 as “the war to end all wars”.

In this small park, the monthly venue for this alternative market, stood Corporal Tom Newkirk. The shrine of Remembrance borders the park and the highway and as we strolled near it, with our bags full of organic fruit and vegetables, our sour dough hand-kneaded bread, sugar-free fig and chocolate jam and other products carefully made with the same care of a bygone era, the crowd was gathering. It quickly became obvious that speeches were about to begin and Corporal Newkirk, who fought for his country in Afghanistan, dressed in uniform decorated with numerous honours, obvious signs of courage in battle, stepped towards the microphone to begin his tribute to those who had fallen, giving us the ability to stroll peacefully around markets, sipping coffee and listening to music.

Tom Newkirk joined the Army later than most, at 26, but it had always been in his family. His father, both grandfathers, grandmother and great grandparents all served their country.

This is Tom’s speech:

“I feel very privileged to be speaking on this Remembrance Day. The 100th Anniversary of Armistice day. Where on the 11th of the 11th 1918, the guns fell silent after four horrific years of war.

We’re here today to honor our heroes, to remember their achievements, their courage and their dedication, and to say thank you for their sacrifices. Thinking of the heroes who join us in this group today and those who are here only in spirit, a person can’t help but feel awed by the enormity of what we encounter. We stand in the midst of patriots and the family and friends of those who have nobly served.

The Greek philosopher Thusidides once said, “The bravest are surely those who have the clearest vision of what is before them, glory and danger alike, and yet notwithstanding, go out to meet it.”

The service members we honour today came from all walks of life, but they shared several fundamental qualities. They possessed courage, pride, determination, selflessness, dedication to duty and integrity – all the qualities needed to serve a cause larger than one’s self.

They didn’t go to war because they loved fighting. They rose to the call to be part of something bigger than themselves. They were ordinary people who responded in extraordinary ways in extreme times. They rose to the nation’s call because they wanted to protect a nation which has given them, us, so much.

In my early military years in training as a solider and then as combat medic, I trained hard alongside so many good mates, and, this is where I met my wife. Military life wasn’t easy. It tested me. The extreme heat, the heavy backpacks and rifles, the extremely long hours and the time away from family and friends. It was in the Army I learned about resilience, fortitude, pride, courage and integrity. About Comradeship, brotherhood and my new-found military family.

Later I served in Afghanistan with the Australian Special Forces, deploying with the 2nd Commando Regiment and again found myself away from my family and friends, in the heat, carrying extremely heavy loads and fighting alongside my brothers. I was now married and expecting my first child, a son. It was in Afghanistan I probably came closest to experiencing what the soldiers who had gone before me a long time ago experienced, however the conditions of my service when compared to theirs was very different. We had regular food, sanitary water, regular resupply of ammunition and other stores and were able to be relieved from the front line at a moment’s notice. Upon return to Australia, we have been treated with compassion and cared for by the Defence Force…. Another crucial component of service not afforded the Australian heroes that served before me. But today is not about me.

On this Remembrance Day, I’m reminded that we share one crucial thing…we both took into battle the values and ideals that we as Australians hold dear today. For example, the importance of teamwork and the way we look out for each other; The Australian sarcastic humour; the opportunities we have to teach our children; a community fresh food market; a BBQ and a beer.

My time away reinforced my belief that this country we live in, is the best country in the world.

Today, people throughout our country will gather together to remember, to honour, and to pay gratitude to those who have served our country. Our gathering is just one small spark in the flame of pride that burns across the nation today and every day. It’s not a lot, but it’s one small way we can honor those who have made the ultimate sacrifice so that we can live in freedom.

Your presence here today and that of the people gathering all across Australia is a tribute to those lost troops and to their Families.

It is a way to say, we remember you.

From the Soldiers who shivered and starved through the winter, crouched in the muddy trenches of France, to the platoon who patrolled the hazy jungles of Vietnam, and the young man or woman patrolling the mountains between Indonesia and Afghanistan, we remember and honor them all.

In short, I would like to remember what they fought for. They fought for this country, Australia.

Thank you for giving me this opportunity to speak, and I can say I’m proud to be Australian and to have served for my country alongside those who have gone before me but never came home.

We will remember them. Lest we forget.”

It would take a hard heart not to be moved by such words from a young man who risked his life so we can stroll freely.  I know we say and hear “Lest we forget” on occasions such as Anzac Day and Armistice Day but for the rest of my life I will never forget Tom Newkirk, who took me out of my daily complacency to think about the heroes who have gone out to meet danger for us — a danger I’d not thought about deeply until the 11th of the 11th in a park in Blackheath. Financial markets rise and fall. Prime Ministers and Presidents come and go. But men and women who face the horrors of war and too often fall, should never be forgotten.

 

Pre-Cup Pony Tales

Monday, November 05, 2018

Are you one of those people who leans in to other people’s conversations? Do you find yourself accidentally listening to the strangest stories on buses, trains, trams, movies theatres etc. that lure you in, even though you know you’re trespassing? 

People who become an uninvited party to other people’s conversations are called eavesdroppers. Under California Penal Code 632, eavesdropping is a crime, can be prosecuted as a misdemeanour or felony and can carry up to several years in state prison! And in Utah, it’s also illegal to trespass with the intent to eavesdrop.

Down under, Aussies can eavesdrop at leisure, with the only possible consequence being filthy stares from those into whose chatter you intrude, if you’re caught. Of course, it’s illegal to record a conversation between parties without their consent and you can understand the criminal nature of the act, if you deliberately stood under the eaves of someone’s home with the purpose of hearing information that could be used for no good purpose. I can wear that. 

But if someone was sitting innocently in the foyer of a plush Melbourne hotel (as I was a few years back ahead of Cup Day) and accidentally overheard a conversation (that led my ‘worse’ half to win a small fortune on the GGs) well, surely they wouldn’t be imprisoned for that?

Let me put my case before you, and you be the judge. 

Here I was on this typical Melbourne racing Carnival day, waiting for Pete to finish a speech he was giving to ‘adoring’ fans. I flew down from Sydney to meet him and we’d planned an OTT weekend (that’s “over the top” and it’s the way I like to spend my breaks) outside the city. I’d booked it, so it was bound to be special, with a hefty price tag attached!

While sitting in the hotel lobby, I realised I was in the company of race goers – all dolled up to the nines, with those crazy half-hat, half-headband fascinators, which never cease to surprise me how aptly named they are.

One lady, who looked particularly fascinating, was directing flowers, chocolates and champagne by the crate load to various rooms, instructing the eager hotel staff to place them in numerous suites in correct positions. A celebration was in toe and my curiosity juices were flowing. This particular woman spoke so loudly that it wasn’t a case of me eavesdropping, more a case of her not been discreet. And maybe I should have tuned out but I was keen to know the reason for the planned festivity. When her loud voice dropped to whispers, I admit I started leaning in – and perhaps this is where I could have been done under 632 of the above code. All was revealed in those few minutes of sotto speech and I had this gut feeling that I was onto a winner.

Armed with my ‘inside’ information, I positioned myself far from the maddening crowd and watched the happenings from a distance.

When Switzer arrived, I grabbed him by the arm, dragged him out of the hotel, pulled his ear closer to my mouth and whispered “Find a TAB and back number 4 in the 9th at Flemington”. He was astounded, as I’d never shown any interest in the GGs but like the good man he is, he did what he was told. 

The horse romped home, we pocketed our winnings and celebrated in style in our out-of-town getaway, returning home with a fist full of dollars. Howzat!

My second pony tale has nothing to do with eavesdropping, more with listening. Again I was meeting Switzer but this time we’d been invited to a function at the Inglis stables at Randwick. As Pete couldn’t get there on time (doing another infernal speech!), I went along to a pre-lunch treat, where a small group sat in the stands while the horse trainer, Chris Waller, spoke for 30 minutes. I’d never heard the name Waller before but found him and his story leading up to his success so inspirational. At the very end, by popular request, Chris gave us his tip for the day’s race meet. When Peter arrived, I told him that I’d been completely engrossed in the speech by this amazing horse trainer. Of course, Peter knew him but smiled when I revealed that Waller’s suggestion was to follow the progress of this mare (which sounded something like Blink), the likes of which Waller said he’d never seen before. This was in the days when the odds on this neddy (her name was actually Winx!) were still in a punter’s favour. An initial bet was placed on this magnificent filly and over time, we made several trips to the TAB to collect, until the old racing maxim of “don’t run down stairs and don’t bet odds on” influenced our occasional try at what the great Aussie author, Frank Hardy, called a “four-legged lottery.”

So what’s the moral of my pony tales? Well, if you’re going to be an eavesdropper, don’t waste time tuning into those who don’t have anything valuable to say! And if you’re in California or Utah, don’t get caught eavesdropping, if you want to avoid the slammer!

Good luck in the Cup tomorrow. If I overhear some good oil, I’ll be sure to let you know!

 

Put the bat down, Wendy

Thursday, November 01, 2018

Have you ever been treated so poorly by a business when you have a genuine complaint that it flicks on your anger switch? The way some businesses treat a complaining customer can really stir anger in an otherwise mild-mannered individual.

If temperatures do start to rise, who’s at fault? Should the business just expect a reaction when they’ve treated a customer’s complaint with indifference? Or should the customer be controlled and prepared and calmly sock it to them rather than threaten to clobber the business, metaphorically speaking of course!

According to a study by Dr Kiju Jung, senior lecturer and marketing professor Donnel Briley at the University of Sydney Business School, consumers who complain politely about faulty goods or services are more likely to get a satisfactory response than those who get angry. 

The Sydney Uni duo said they conducted the research because they wanted to “turn marketing on its head.”

“Marketing is generally about how businesses persuade consumers to love their product; to buy their product.

“The question we wanted answered was: how do consumers effectively persuade companies to give them restitution when they are unhappy.

“We found that parents are right when they say that it’s important to be polite and when you are not, you often don’t get what you are looking for.

“When you are angry you convey all of the wrong type of emotional tones to the recipient. You have to bear in mind that there are humans on the other end of the interaction. The more irritation you direct at a person or their organisation, the less likely they are to see your point of view,” Professor Briley explained.

Dr Jung added that anger rarely works but “sometimes it can be effective if you get really mad in some face-to-face interaction. 

“Store managers may just want to avoid the situation as soon as possible and give you what you want. But going mad usually doesn’t help.”

After analysing more than 200,000 complaints about services and products in the US finance sector, the study found that customers were more likely to get favourable treatment, if they provided lots of detail in support of their complaint.

“Business decisions are usually made based on facts and supporting record.

“The longer the narrative is, the longer the written complain, the more likely it is that you are going to get restitution,” said Dr Jung.

Professor Briley and Dr Jung chose to study customer relations in the financial services sector because of the “pivotal role” it plays in the life of most families.  

“We are talking about mortgages; we are talking about banking; we are talking about large amounts of money that can cause large amounts of financial stress,” said Professor Briley. “A successful complaint that is able to get some sort of financial restitution can be tremendously important to individuals and to families.”

Dr Jung added that around 80% of complaints in the US financial services sector failed to win any form of compensation.

“It is important to treat people the way you would want to be treated,” the researchers concluded. “If you have a complaint, be thorough. Make sure you properly lay out your case in terms of what the problem is but don’t convey anger. You want to retain politeness.”

A contrasting view is held by a seasoned speaker and trainer in the customer service area. Since 1985, at over 2500 conferences and meetings, Martin Grunstein has been presenting and training businesspeople to increase their profitability through improved customer service. While the University of Sydney Business School advised the consumer to be nice, Grunstein has always been a crusader for the business to be nice to its customers. 

“It is obviously true that if you are nicer when complaining and people find you easy to deal with they will try to help you more. BUT as I am a business advocate rather than a consumer advocate, I believe that whether the customer is nice or not, they should still receive quality service in all areas including complaints,” he said.

Grunstein studied Psychology and Marketing at the University of NSW. He spent four years in sales and marketing with Colgate-Palmolive before setting up his own business, consulting to the broad spectrum of businesses on how to provide outstanding customer service.

“There is no law that says customers have to be nice for us to deal with them. If we deal with these people poorly, even if they are unpleasant, the revenge they can exact through word-of-mouth and social media can be very damaging and when people listen to their stories or read their posts, they believe them, even if they are exaggerating or lying.

“If you choose to go into business, not every one you deal with will be “nice”. Accept that, deliver quality service and enjoy the success that come from that,” he concludes. 

If you are at the receiving end of poor treatment by an uncaring business, maybe a better line, to quote Jack Torrance from the Shining once again, could be: “You didn't let me finish my sentence. I said, I'm not gonna hurt ya. I'm just going to bash your brains in.” But perhaps they could send the police to arrest you so best to avoid lines like that and keep calm and prepared, like the good professors in the above study suggest! 

 

Crazy rich Asians + the Aussie property market.

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Saturday three weeks ago proved to be a warm one in Melbourne, where anyone who’s spent time in this world-class city knows that living in hope for continuous bursts of good weather is living in vain. 

My buddy and I love the place and choose to spend every week living between two great Australian metropolises to tell the tales of each. This particular Saturday, we wandered down Ferrars St from our place in Albert Park, cut through South Melbourne markets (grabbing a burek as we passed from the ‘cash only’ strict owner of the outlet that boosts us with carbs) to get us to Flinders Lane in the heart of the city. These precincts are property hot spots for Melbournians, full of cafes, period houses and proximity to just about everything.

My mate had already convinced me that the film, Crazy Rich Asians, awarded 99 points from critics including the harsh taskmaster Rotten Tomatoes, was worth watching. His two bad calls of late led me to inform him that three strikes and he’d be ousted from his Saturday selection post (maybe even ousted from his abode if he gets too bad). Luckily for him, he still holds this coveted position of ‘who in the Switzer household gets to pick the flick’.

Small theatres can add a certain appeal to film watching. You get to see audience reaction and the room full of young Asians was filled with intermittent laughter as the crazy antics of these rich older Asians emerged. No doubt they found many things the film explored close to home.

Nothing in the film fell into the exclusive territory of crazy rich Asians. Parents and even grandparents thinking they have the right to interfere in the mate selection process of their offspring is nothing new. Just ask Romeo and Juliette!

What the film captured was the wealth, the extravagance and the property portfolios of Asians in Singapore and Malaysia. And it’s this wealth and desire to secure property abroad that is the focus of several businesses that have sprung up here in Australia.

Monika Tu is no crazy rich Asian. Tu’s property services company smooths the way for high net worth Chinese investors and immigrants coming down the Yellow Brick Road to Oz.

With Black Diamondz, I created a concierge service to provide new migrants, predominantly from China, personalized assistance to help them settle into the Australian lifestyle. I noticed that while many real estate agents were happy to sell Chinese migrants a luxury property, they were not providing them with what they really needed: assistance in integrating into the community.  My team and I help our clients navigate the challenges new migrants face.  Anything from finding the right schools for their children, introducing them to relevant business connections and connecting them with like-minded people.  Finding a home is one thing but creating a life for your family is another and we are the best at doing this for our clients,” she said.

Tu is well placed to comment on what’s happening on the Australian property scene.In the past five years, I’ve witnessed a change to the investment landscape for my buyers, yet only a small change for my buyers wishing to live here in Australia.  These buyers represent the majority of the clients I work with.  My buyers are generally looking for a friendly and safe neighborhood, in close proximity to good schools and amenities.  The trends extend to the business opportunities in the areas as well as the potential resell value,” she added.

With the market falling, most Australians know that there are buying opportunities in certain suburbs in particular.  The majority of my Asian buyers are looking for established homes in sought after areas such as the Eastern Suburbs of Sydney, Mosman, the North Shore and Upper North Shore.  They want properties that are relatively low maintenance yet still offer the lifestyle they crave.”  

I asked Tu what drives Asian buyers in their selection of where to buy real estate. “A big factor when it comes to migrants purchasing property in Australia is the Significant Investor Program Visa (SIV Visas).  Since the program’s launch in November 2012, there have been 2,022 of these visas handed out and each of the holders is given the right to buy property here in Australia.  These new arrivals are generally looking for properties in excess of $5 million.  The SIV program contributes extraordinarily to the Australian economy and has delivered over $10 billion in complying investments to Australia since it began!

But Tu admitted that there has been a slowdown in the investments market, mainly due to the changes in government policy both here in Australia and in China. 

The residential market will continue to be strong as long as we continue to offer a world class lifestyle and a safe environment.  Australia is in a unique position for the Chinese, as it has all they are looking for within a relatively short flight from home, making it ideal for business people looking for a better lifestyle for their families,” she said.

Despite the residential market slowing for Asian buyers, Tu sees buoyancy elsewhere. “We are starting to see the institutional and private companies show strong interest in commercial, industrial and retail real estates.  In the next year, Black Diamondz will focus on these areas,” she said.

Spoken like the award-winning entrepreneur Monika Tu actually is.

 

Oh no, caught again, this time “soloing”.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

In previous episodes…an innocent woman was convinced to deposit money into a bank account or the ATO would send police to arrest her. And a grandmother was to be exposed for travelling to X-rated sex sites, unless a bitcoin deposit was made to a certain account. In today’s episode…

The email read: From Nadine Basaldua <order@kentuckysbestroof.com>

Tiскеt#453490704 [maureen@switzer.com.au] 19/10/2018 06:20:10 I think this is important

“Greetings,” my e-pal wrote as I clicked my day into gear.

“I hope u don\'t mind my language sentence structure, since i\'m from Denmark. I toxified your machine with a virus and now have all of your private files out of your os. It previously was mounted on an adult web page then you\'ve chosen the movie, clicked on it, my application quickly gain access to your computer. Next, your web-camera started to record you soloing, on top of that i captured a footage that you\'ve looked at. Soon after a little while furthermore, it pulled out all your social contact information. If you ever need me to remove your everything i currently have - send me 770 eu in bitcoin its a cryptocurrency. This is my account number : 1QJYpCpBriDUNGYfESpzMtDyqd7inhajpA Now you have 21 hr s. to make a decision The moment i will get the deal i will wipe out this movie and every thing completely. In any other case, you should be certain that your evidence is going to be submitted to all your friends.” 

Goodness, this time naughty Nadine, with her magical peeping Tom software, has caught me ‘soloing’!  OK, I get that but hold on there, Nadine, before I even entertain the thought of paying up, let me get across bitcoin. In the last episode, I promised you I’d ask Peter Switzer about this somewhat confusing crypto currency caper.  

Switzer was outraged (not because I was accused of “soloing”) because the scoundrels were besmirching the ‘good name’ of bitcoin, a currency favoured by those who tend to prefer travelling on the dark side of life.

I decided to take this into my own hands and without a second’s delay I called my friend, John Karogonis, who runs the CEO Circle, of which I am a member. John is well connected and had invited those who fight against cyber crime to talk to Circle members. I knew John could connect me with the right people.

I’m currently talking to key experts who are able to throw more insights into what’s been done to beat these scammers. I’ll give you this info soon. In the meantime, I googled some Aussie websites to see what advice they were offering to those accused of “going solo” and engaging in other offbeat/closed door activities.

While I wait to talk to cyber crime stoppers, here’s some ASIC (Australian Securities and Investments Commission) recommendations:

“Warn your friends and family about scams. If you’re a business, let your industry association and other contacts know about the scam. If you've sent money or shared your banking details with a scammer, contact your financial institution immediately. They may be able to stop a transaction, or close your account if the scammer has your account details. Your credit card provider may be able to perform a 'charge back' (reverse the transaction) if your credit card was billed fraudulently. Report scams to the authorities via the Report a scam webpage.”

There are so many stories out there of innocent people getting scammed, where vulnerable men and women have been targeted via Facebook and then emotionally manipulated. I’ll take you through two of those true stories soon so you too can warn anyone who might fall into their clutches.

Until we talk again, avoid the porn channels. As the Holeproof underwear ad in 1985 warned: “One day you're gonna get caught with your pants down!” Ha!

(To be continued…I can’t let go of this!)

 

All my friends are getting married

Monday, October 22, 2018

The way societies celebrate a marriage varies: most of us are familiar with the wearing of “something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue” and a gala day that ends with a bouquet tossed to unwed guests in the hope that one day they’ll walk down the aisle too.  Other cultures have their traditions and superstitions. According to the website www.brides.com: “Some are sweet (female guests in Sweden kiss the groom when his new wife leaves the room), while others are perplexing (couples in Congo are forbidden to smile on their wedding day!). And some are downright strange (engaged pairs in Mongolia must kill and butcher a chicken to find a healthy liver before being allowed to wed). 

Apart from the joy when someone ties the knot (hopefully for life), the big day can quickly rack up a nightmare bill. Since the film Father of the Bride, wedding expenses for the average person have gone through the roof, with wedding planners (like OTT Franck Eggelhoffer in this Steven Martin/Diane Keaton comedy) brought in at huge expense to turn the happy day into a Hollywood blockbuster. 

According to a survey run by Bride to Be magazine, the average cost of a wedding in Australia is now $65,482. That sounds ridiculous and could be a deposit on a house! 

Be a disruptor, buck the trend and consider going for something fun but lean.  

If you’d like to start your married life with less pomp and pageantry, here are 7 ways to save on wedding costs.

1. Mamma mia, you can save with a budget

Sit down with your partner and work out exactly how much you can afford to spend, and how much you actually want to spend. There’s a trend these days for the happy couple to pay their own way, so budgeting is important. Do you really need five courses or would you rather spend more on drinks? Could you skip the live band for a solo artist and get a better photography package? Budgeting is about prioritising what’s important to you. You don't have to have it all on one day.

2. Use the paddock out the back

If it’s OK for Peter Switzer, Brad and Ang, it’s OK for you! Look into hiring a house on Airbnb or have it in your own backyard. This way you get total control of the day and make the experience much more intimate. And you don’t just cut down on the venue hire, with total design control you can minimise other costs such as music, food and drinks.

3. Any day of the week is fine

If you give invitees enough notice, they probably won’t mind taking leave from work for the day. Booking your venue well ahead can save thousands. 

4. Ditch Franck!

Do you really need a Franck in your life to control your show? Do your own event. Make it a ‘you & him” day, not some extravaganza. A young friend of mine said to her Mum during her wedding speech: “Thank you Mum for giving me the wedding I never wanted.” This girl had been used to riches all her life and simply wanted to have a low-key day, relaxing with her nearest and dearest. But Mum had watched too many episodes of Father of the Bride and the wedding was high society and high cost. 

5. Nobody told me the flowers cost this much!

Weddings are full of hidden costs. Some venues stipulate you must use their suppliers rather than your own. It’s not uncommon for packages to include clauses for using their DJ, bartender, florist, caterer or wait staff and probably all pricier than your own. Remember, e-bay and op shops have great recycled clothes for the entire wedding party. Do it different: you don’t have to look all glitter and glam. No-one ever went broke buying second hand. It’s hip to recycle. 

6. Something’s gotta give

With enough time and planning, you may find there are plenty of things you can do yourself –invitations, table decorations, the spectacular dress you’ll probably never wear again. Having family and friends help out can also be a good way to keep down costs. My Mum had all her friends cook food for our home wedding and they were the waiters too. That way they got to come to our wedding and enjoy the night. Try an unusual venue: a shearing shed could be fabulous. And food can be costly. Meal courses can be replaced with canapes. Not a fan of cake? Who says you need one? Why not try something entirely different: don’t bring a present, bring a plate! Support the notion: let’s share food and fun together to celebrate our union, without having to spend a bomb to impress guests you may not even see in 10 years’ time. 

7. The Elopement

Friends of mine ran away when they were young and had a cowboy/cowgirl wedding in a chapel on Las Vegas Boulevard. On their return, they made sure they signed the appropriate legal documents to legitimise their union but it was their kind of fun. The photos are great, their kids think they’re uber cool and they had their honeymoon paid for at the same time! And by the way, they’re still together and going strong. 

Weddings can be expensive. Get a high points credit card for all those big purchases and get something back – use the points for your honeymoon flight. 

Now let’s say all up you save $5,000 to $10,000. Peter Switzer says you should put this money straight into your super, so when you’re old and grey and still in love, you can use the money to renew your marriage vows in style!  “Here’s my take on a couple both aged 30 and planning to spend $60,000 on a wedding. If they halved it and say got married with their family in an intimate church ceremony and then threw a party at home and saved $30,000 and they threw the saving into their super fund, that $30,000 rolling over at 7% doubles every 10 years. It’s $60,000 by the time they’re 40. It’s a $120,000 by age 50 and $240,000 by age 70 and $480,000 by the eventual retirement age of 70!,

“Go for a financial planner rather than a wedding planner,” Switzer concludes!

 

Malcolm called Wentworth

Monday, October 22, 2018

Like the champion racehorse Winx, the most frequently quoted forecaster of election results in Australian history, Malcolm Mackerras, predicted the Phelps win in Wentworth! “My strategy has been to make a forecast long out from polling day and then stick to it - except in extreme circumstances where my reputation for good political judgment required a change of prediction,” Mackerras said in his article published on this website last Thursday. 

In another article published on Thursday 20 September under the heading “How will Australia’s wealthiest electorate vote?”. In that article Mackerras gave the Liberal candidate Dave Sharma a 55% chance, the Independent Kerryn Phelps a 35% chance and the Labor candidate Tim Murray a 10% chance. After preference distribution he placed Sharma first, Murray second and Phelps third. 

“The essence of my reasoning was that Labor had a good candidate and, for a variety of reasons, could not ‘run dead’. As I now see it that was my first error. Labor’s campaign has proved that it can ‘run dead’ Every piece of evidence available to observers is that Labor is ‘running dead’. Their reasoning for such a strategy is that Labor cannot win the seat but Phelps can. Therefore, Labor can inflict the most damage on Scott Morrison by coming third and hoping for a highly disciplined transfer of preferences from Murray to Phelps,” he maintained.

In his second article Malcolm called it a two-horse race because Labor had effectively nobbled Murray! “The big question, therefore, is this: “how much Labor leakage will there be?” The answer I feel now compelled to give is that, say, one fifth of Labor preferences will ‘leak’ to Sharma. For that reason I have changed my probability statement. I now give Phelps a 55% chance of being the next member for Wentworth with a 45 % chance for Sharma,” he concluded.

And as the results from the Wentworth by-election were announced, Mackerras yet again called it correctly — Phelps had done a Winx, coming from behind to win with a “leg in the air” but the question remains: Will the good doctor be able to keep on winning at future elections, like the great horse that goes after her fourth Cox Plate next Saturday?

And even if postal votes surprisingly go Sharma’s way, the swing against the Libs was historically huge in this normally blue ribbon Liberal seat.

 

What me? Caught watching X-rated videos.

Friday, October 19, 2018

On Wednesday I received an email that had the subject heading “maureen – george”. 

(The bad grammar has not been changed to not protect the dummies who send these pathetic emails!)

I get a lot of emails but the name George is very special to me so combined with my name I opened this one, even though I’d never heard the name of the sender.

“I know george is your pass. Lets get straight to the purpose. There is no one who has paid me to investigate about you. You do not know me and you are most likely thinking why you are getting this mail?”

Indeed, I was thinking just this. Full of typos as this email was, I was a tad worried as I did have a “pass” that I use for general log in social purposes that has the name of my much loved black Labrador in it – so while the password wasn't the full one, I was intrigued how the word “george” was known. 

The unsolicited email continued:

“Well, i actually placed a software on the adult streaming (sex sites) web-site and there's more, you visited this web site to experience fun (you know what i mean). While you were viewing videos, your browser began operating as a RDP having a key logger which provided me with access to your screen and also web cam. Just after that, my software program gathered your entire contacts from your Messenger, Facebook, and e-mailaccount. Next i created a double video. 1st part shows the video you were viewing (you've got a nice taste ; )), and next part displays the view of your web cam, and its u.”

Now I always try to see the lighter side of things so I looked over the top of my glasses and said jokingly to my rather well-known partner: “Have you been logging into these porn sites with my password?” Wondering what I meant (but not denying it!), he sat closer to me to see what I was reading. 

“You have just two choices,” the email from the mysterious Robbyn Opanasets (ogojannaplf@outlook.com) continued. “Let us review these choices in details:”

Well I probably should have bailed out at this point. Curiosity is supposed to kill the cat but I’ve never seen one die by this means, so I read on:

“Very first solution is to just ignore this email. Then, i most certainly will send your very own recorded material to each one of your contacts and also think concerning the awkwardness you will get. and likewise should you be in a romance, how this will affect?”

Mmmm…bad grammar but seriously, would my contacts really be startled by what the email described as “you’ve got a nice taste” selection? So I continued reading!

“in the second place solution would be to give me 7000 USD. i will name it as a donation. as a consequence, i most certainly will straight away discard your video. You can keep your life like this never happened and you would never hear back again from me.” 

Mmm…donation. I wonder if that would be tax deductible? I should call Fred (my accountant) about that but let me see where this is going…

“You'll make the payment via Bitcoin (if you do not know this, search 'how to buy bitcoin' in Google). BTC address to send to: 1EzcNKDed7XpcEb2LRrx4U8WrHf8dRecQS 

[CaSe-SeNSiTiVe so copy & paste it]. 

“if you may be making plans for going to the police, good, this e-mail can not be traced back to me. I have dealt with my moves. i am just not trying to ask you for very much, i would like to be compensated. You now have 48 hours to pay. i've a special pixel within this email, and at this moment i know that you have read this message. if i don't get the BitCoins, i will certainly send out your video recording to all of your contacts including members of your family, colleagues, etc. However, if i do get paid, i will destroy the video right away. if you need evidence, reply Yup then i will certainly send out your video recording to your 12 friends. it is a nonnegotiable offer, that being said please do not waste mine time and yours by responding to this message.”

Payment by bitcoin? Not sure if I know how to do this but Peter might be able to help. Could I trust Robbyn though to “destroy the video right away”? So many things to think about…

Now you know that I’m taking the mickey out of this scammer and 48 hours have passed and my family haven’t called me in disgust at my new found past time. But these kinds of emails are disturbing, and could suck in some people. 

After writing yesterday about a young woman who was actually ensnared by a scammer, I received comments from readers that said:

“Q. What is done to arrest or curtail these scammers and fraudsters?

A. Nothing.

The ATO knows it is going on but it is too difficult to track down. The scammers are on Skype or VOIP. It appears that Interpol is not interested because it is happening in other countries as well e.g. USA.”

I’ve been talking with police and others who deal in cyber crime and in the next episode of “Meet the Scammer” I’ll try to get answers to the question immediately above. Are these fraudsters as elusive as Osama Bin Laden? Why can’t they be found? Stay tuned! 

 

I’m from the ATO and I’m coming to arrest you.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

This is Part 1 of our story on scamming and the financial and emotional effects it has on innocent Australians. Only the names have been withheld to protect the innocent. 

“I was left a voicemail message from a man claiming to be from the Australian Taxation Office,” Ms X said.

“The voicemail stated the Australian Tax Office had found a fraudulent amount in my tax from 2012-2017, a mistake made by either myself or my previous employer. I was told they had sent out a warrant for my arrest. The scary thing is, these people knew my name, date of birth, my home address, and even where I work (which isn’t advertised anywhere public).

“I immediately rang this number back, as I didn’t think scams normally leave a voicemail.

These people continued to tell me I had to pay an amount of $4,000 to erase the warrant. I immediately panicked, as I didn’t have this amount in my immediate bank account, and all reasonable thoughts went out the window.”

Ms X was told to go to an ANZ bank and deposit the money straight into a specified account.

“I thought it sounded very official, as I kept being transferred to people who I thought were solicitors. I also went into absolute panic mode, as at the beginning of the conversation I was told my phone had been tapped and that I couldn’t tell anyone, otherwise I would be arrested straight away.” 

Ms X tried to call the ATO to confirm the call but was placed in a queue, and her anxiety was intensifying.

“I waited on the phone for over 20 minutes and didn’t want to risk if this was true, so I hung up from being in a queue to the ATO and rang the number back. What was truly sickening about this call, is that I was in absolute hysterics, crying and hyperventilating to these people on the phone, thinking I was about to get arrested.

“I was told “it’s fine, darling, just take deep breaths, as long as we’re on the phone to you no-one can harm you”. 

Ms X said that on reflection, the thought that people could still go through with this, while someone was so distressed, disgusts her.

“The scammers “settled” for a much lesser amount after three hours of being in absolute hysterics on the phone to them,” she said.

Miss X learned later that this was indeed a scam and has since spoken to the police and the ATO. While wanting to remain anonymous, she asked that her story be told because she didn’t want this to happen to someone else.

Tomorrow’s story involves an innocent woman who was told that she’d been caught watching X-rated movies and would be publicly exposed if she didn’t pay up! These are true stories. The author asks: what is done to arrest or curtail these scammers and fraudsters?

 

Want to be richer and more confident?

Thursday, October 18, 2018

From Wednesday to Friday evening last week, while the rain beat down day and night, I MC’d the 2018 National Conference for the Association of Financial Advisers (AFA) at the Royal Pines Resort on the Gold Coast. Established in 1946, the AFA is Australia’s oldest association representing financial advisors and the value of financial advice.

At the conference, the AFA launched a research White Paper called The Value of Advice. The paper centred on the effects on ordinary Australians of getting advice. Conducted by specialist financial services research firm CoreData, a global research and consulting business (with offices in Sydney, Perth, London, Boston and Manila), the paper revealed that these effects were profound and long lasting, in not just the financial sense, but emotional and behavioural as well.

CoreData conducted a quantitative study of 946 mass affluent Australians, looking at variations between advised and non-advised customers, along with 15 in-depth interviews of Australians receiving advice. It then conducted advice modelling of common scenarios using common financial planning software. Founder of CoreData, Andrew Inwood, presented the research to the 600-strong audience at the conference. 

“Three scenarios were chosen,” Inwood said. “’The Big Check Up’, designed to model the effects of getting advice in the last part of your working life; “The Loss of a Partner”, designed to model the effects of a married couple with two children in their early 40’s; and “The Upstarts”, designed to model the effects of getting advice as a couple with young children in their early 30’s.”

Inwood said that CoreData took a deliberately conservative approach to the modelling, building in the cost of advice, consistent returns, consistent cost of living and returns and removing any assumptions of extra assets from the death of parents or exceptional returns. 

“The research really shone a light into the three benefits of working with a financial planner,” Inwood said. “People working with a planner are better off, emotionally, financially and behaviourally.”

“Emotional benefits relate to day-to-day wellbeing and happiness. Research participants indicated significant emotional benefits. Peace of mind and confidence with managing finances was a major value proposition of financial advice.

“Financial advice leads to better financial decisions. Advised clients typically pay less tax, have little to no bad debt and have their money working harder for them and end up better off, if they stick with the plan for any reasonable period of time,” Inwood added.

CoreData’s research revealed that the behavioral benefits are longer-term structural habits. “The research revealed that working with a financial adviser trains better behaviors. Advised clients are more in control of their finances than unadvised individuals.”

Inwood told delegates that the evidence for advice presented from the research was particularly compelling for those who started the advice journey early.

“In all three scenarios, we tested the results that showed that advice provided very real financial benefits, particularly for the younger customers – but the effects on their state of mind and financial confidence were most interesting.”

“For example in the “Upstarts” model, the research showed that if the subjects stick with the advice practice, they will be more than $700,000 better off at retirement.  For the “Big Check Up”, they would be $127,000 better off. And for the “Sudden Loss” scenario, the single parent would be $29,000 a year better off.”

And then the surprise findings were highlighted: “In this research, it was found that 50% of mass affluent Australians (those earning between $76,000 and $149,000 a year) would have exhausted all their savings within three months, if they lost their job. That number halves for advised Australians, with 50% being able to cope for more than six months.

“The financial confidence and behavioral data is substantial, with 82% of those with advice stating that they were confident about retirement and 54% stating that since receiving advice they were saving more.

“The data is very clear,” Inwood concluded. “Australians (who seek advice) are relatively richer, better insured and more confident.”

One last point needs to be made in light of the Royal Commission into the financial services industry. Like lawyers, accountants, doctors and tradespeople, there are people of different quality and integrity and it’s wise to be aware that not all experts behave well.

The fact that some financial advisers have not covered themselves in glory should not stop you for looking for a trustworthy adviser who, if they’re professional and work in your best interest, should be able to make you materially more comfortable. And with that goes happiness as well as confidence.

 

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