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01 May 2016

Battlelines Drawn

01 Mar 2016

Battlelines Drawn

In our first two newsletters of 2016 we covered some areas around personal well-being – planning for the year ahead and how we should reinforce this by “rooting the routine” as our quote from Gustave Flaubert (19th Century French novelist) advised us: “Be regular and orderly in your life, so that you may be violent and original in your work.”

Sadly we’ve seen little evidence of this sound advice in our country’s
government, parliament or students this year where very little has been regular
and orderly, and the violence and originality have certainly not been related to
work; except, and this a big except, Pravin Gordhan.

Dissecting the Budget Speech on the 24th of February

So much has happened since the Budget, it is almost forgotten, but I believe it is the key to what is happening at the moment, and a clear indicator of
things to come.

I listened to the Budget Speech on the 24th February, and have to say my initial reaction was somewhat depressed as I did not think it went anywhere near enough to solving our problems. My thinking was that the next morning’s budget analysis and comment was going to be largely about what should have been, and what wasn’t, in the Budget. To add to this the accountants and financial planners I spoke to were much of the same opinion.

How wrong we were!

There were two panels analysing the budget – a political panel and an economic panel.The political panel included Mmusi Maimane (DA), Dr. Pieter
Mulder (FF) and Floyd Shivambu (EFF), Ndabakayise Gcwabaza (ANC – Acting Chairperson: National Assembly Appropriations Committee) and Nqabayomzi Kwankwa (UDM – Chief Whip).

The economic panel comprised economists – Iraj Abedian, and Dawie Roodt, members of the Davis commission -Thabo Legwala and Tania Ajam and from a rating agency – Konrad Reuss (MD of Standard and Poor in SA).

And the highlights of the interactions:

  • Floyd Shivambu provided the most lucid and entertaining comments. “The EFF accepted the budget, although don’t think for one moment that we’re on the same ideological page as the ANC, but we’re on board to save the country from a downgrade and will start fighting once the ship has changed course.” And then he proceeded, very animatedly, to outline how Zupta was taking “state capture” to new levels. Riveting stuff!
  • Iraj Abedian wins the economic panel prize. He called Gordhan “a genius” for presenting this budget given the time he had, the power struggles going on in the ANC, and the state of the economy. And why “genius”?
  • We need to remember his constituency – it is not primarily business, it is the people on the street. Where will we be with civil unrest? His budget acknowledges that by not reducing income grants.
  • We thought a VAT increase was on the table. That’s too unpopular politically, so what did Gordhan do? He does it stealthily with a sugar tax, a tyre tax and an additional petrol tax.
  • And most importantly says Iraj, is that Gordhan spoke about public private partnerships as being fundamental to growing the economy. That’s a serious change of direction the right way.
  • And that’s not all! Consider these statements: “But I know you will all join me in acknowledging that the real champions of our development are activists (read civil society!) and entrepreneurs, officials and facilitators who get on with the job…” He put forward steps to increase accountability; he instituted a transparent public procurement officer in the treasury and made clear reference to the serious problems in state enterprises.
  • To cap it all at the end panellists were asked to rate the budget. Konrad Streuss of the rating agency Standard & Poor gave it an 8!

The Budget has drawn a line in the sand. On the one side we have the “Constitutionalists” and the other the “Tenderpreneurs”. Commentators
speculate as to who is in which camp, and who is going to win. Barclays seems to be betting on the Tenderpreneurs – they’re leaving town;

Old Mutual ‘s recent announcement seems to be putting them on the side of the Constitutionalists – they’re coming back!

The outcome is uncertain, the stakes are very high, and the tension levels are being ratcheted up. It seems the battle lines are being drawn up between the Hawks and Mr. Gordhan. History tells us we are unlikely to fall over that precipice, but it’s Frans Cronje’s rocky road looming ahead.

From a financial planning point of view – you need to weigh up the outcomes, and allocate your resources accordingly. I believe a minimum of 30% in offshore related assets – preferably quality equities.

Ronnie van’t Hof

Happy New Routines

01 Feb 2016

Don’t make New Year resolutions,
make New Year routines!

We may be overt or closet “New Year resolutionaries”, but at some level most of us tend to plan to do something a little differently at the start of a New Year. The start of 2016 reminds us that there are life changes and improvements to be made, and with January now over, we can start to evaluate our success rate thus far!

Unfortunately, less than 10% of us manage to stick to our New Year resolutions, so this partnership between intention and reality is generally doomed! Which is a shame, because we obviously make resolutions to build on meaningful areas of our lives, so they must hold some value for us. And we know that building meaning is psychologically and physically good for us, because living a life that is perceived as being meaningful has been shown to link to longevity, psychological health and career satisfaction.


But before we rush off in the pursuit of meaning, the caveat is that for life to be meaningful it has to be coherent. Coherence has three simple components:

“I get it”
i.e. my life is not chaotic or random, but rather events are generally ordered, structured and clear.
“I've got this”
i.e. I feel that I can generally cope with the challenges and demands that life throws my way.
“I get the picture”
i.e. my life makes sense to me on an emotional level and is worth the energy I invest in it.

The route to “getting” coherence does not seem to be the resolution road, but rather, as Jan Stanley (MAPP ’10) points out, in designing routine. Routines contribute to coherence. Does routine sound boring? Yes, in the sense that it limits choice, excitement and possibilities. But it also limits distraction, flip-flopping from one thing to another, and being indecisive. Jan suggests that we design new routines that are in keeping with our New Year Resolutions, and then “let the power of repetition” take over.

“Root” the routine:

Be regular and orderly in your life, so that you may be violent and original in your work. Gustave Flaubert (19th Century French novelist)

The mundane and the routine is the safe harbour for our big adventures. And, as many of our big adventures have a financial component, financial routines are an excellent way to start our “routine” practice for 2016.

Your financial advisor is a good companion in the routine of reviewing your financial strategy at the beginning of a new year, updating your will, checking your policies and insurance cover, and ensuring that your income and expenditure is at an optimal balance. And if you are planning some life changes, or entering a period of transition in 2016, now is a good time to get a financial planning perspective on what may lie ahead.

To use a bit of poetic licence, we can then change Gustave Flaubert’s quote to read:

“Be regular and orderly in your financial planning, so that you may be violent and original in optimising your life plans!
Jan Stanley (MAPP ’10): Positive Psychology News Daily January 2016
Dr Kelly Flanagan, Blog: 8th July 2015 (UnTangled)
Wissing, M., Potgieter,J., Guse, T., Khumalo,T .& Nel, L. (2014). Towards Flourishing. Contextualising Positive Psychology (2014).
Pretoria. Van Schaik Publishers.

Happy new Year from AQB

08 Jan 2016

“Happy” precedes the ancient celebratory wishes at the start of a New Year, and is also one of the most used, yet least understood words in the English language. Defining “happy” however, allows us to consciously increase both our well-being and “wealth-being”. Well-being is an umbrella term which incorporates happiness, as it is about our total engagement in life. “Wealth-being” is our term for both the creation and management of wealth, which impacts on our well-being. We live in volatile political and economic times, so a re-calibration of both these aspects of committed living during a brief respite prior to the beginning of a new year is important for our strategic life and financial planning.


The Study of Well Being
Satisfaction with Life
Maintaining or Improving Your Satisfaction Level
Download OnBalance Life Plan

The study of well-being

The study of well-being is as old as the Acropolis, which was the backdrop to the ideas of Aristotle about what constituted the good life and whose theories have continued to be debated across time and cultures.

Today, the burgeoning movement of Positive Psychology has attempted to scientifically define well-being and its benefits to ourselves as well as to broader society.

The following two-pronged model gives a useful overview of well-being:

Hedonic well-being Eudaimonic well-being


(hedonism = the pursuit of pleasure)


(eu=good, and daimon = spirit within/true self)

Happiness, pleasure, satisfaction, and comfort i.e. “the pleasant life” Description Meaning, purpose, expression of true happiness, pleasure, satisfaction, potential, being involved with something larger than self i.e. “the good and purposeful life”
Subjective well-being (SWB); what we think our lives are like, and how much we experience positive emotion as opposed to negative feelings. Defined as Meaning –making; managing life’s challenges , meeting goals, developing the best within one’s self.
Time perspective: Rooted in the present Time Perspective Time perspective: Integrates past, present and future.

Satisfaction with Life

We know from our own lives that feeling good and functioning well can occur separately, or be interrelated.

Experiencing them together in the right balance can contribute to flourishing. Adding money to the balance adds to the complexity of well-being. Does money make you happy? A qualified “yes!” People in a country with a high GDP score higher on happiness than those in a country with low GDP, and higher individual income is associated with higher SWB (subjective well-being), although once a certain level of income is attained it appears to have a less significant effect on well-being. The downside, however, is that constant ruminating about money and having strong material aspirations can decrease our sense of well-being. A complex relationship!

If you would like to evaluate your current satisfaction with life in a more scientific way, you may be interested in completing the following scale, which is one of the most widely used short measures of happiness.

(This scale has also been tested in several South African studies and among culturally diverse groups, and is regarded as a valid and reliable measure of life satisfaction in the South African context).

Satisfaction with Life Scale (SWLS):

Source: Ed Diener, Robert A. Emmons, Randy J. Larsen and Sharon Griffin as noted in the 1985 article in the Journal of Personality Assessment.

Instructions: (Approximately 2 minutes to complete)

Below are five statements that you may agree or disagree with. Using the 1 – 7 scale below, indicate your agreement with each item by placing the appropriate number on the line preceding that item.

Please be open and honest in your responding.

7 – Strongly agree

6 – Agree

5 – Slightly agree

4 – Neither agree nor disagree

3 – Slightly disagree

2 – Disagree

1 – Strongly disagree

____ In most ways my life is close to my ideal.

____ The conditions of my life are excellent.

____ I am satisfied with my life.

____ So far I have gotten the important things I want in life.

____ If I could live my life over, I would change almost nothing.

TOTAL: _____________


30 – 35

Very high score: highly satisfied

25 – 29

High score: satisfied

20 – 24

Average: slightly satisfied
(ave. of life satisfaction in economically dev. nations)

15 – 19

Slightly below average life satisfaction

10 – 14


5 – 9

Extremely dissatisfied

Maintaining or Improving Your Satisfaction Level

The purpose here would be to evaluate your general level of life satisfaction, and then determine what lifestyle or financial changes you could make to either maintain or improve on these self-determined levels in the relevant domains of your life. Our “On Balance Life Plan” can be accessed at the end of this article, and is a practical way to increase domain-specific subjective well-being.

Various research studies have indicated the following:

Growth and challenge, as opposed to complacency, may be some of the reasons why people have high life satisfaction.

Areas of dissatisfaction on the scale can be positive in that it provides motivation to change.

If life dissatisfaction is a response to a particular event/s, then it is likely that a person will return to a former higher level of satisfaction over time.

People scoring high on life satisfaction tend to have close and supportive family and friends.

The experience of work as meaningful and important– whether paid or unpaid – positively influences life satisfaction.

Failure to make adequate progress towards goals can cause dissatisfaction

Engagement in a religious or spiritual life, learning , growth and productive leisure, contribute to higher satisfaction.

Our innate temperaments influence our degree of life satisfaction.

Certain losses such as being widowed can cause long-term decreases in life satisfaction.

The pursuit of important goals that are based on our values and strengths contribute to our well-being.

On average, levels of happiness stay stable across the lifespan, but it seems that older adults experience less intense emotions than younger people.

High levels of well-being are associated with better health and fewer physical symptoms, more positive social interactions, higher productivity and work quality, less intolerance and more volunteering and community work.

In conclusion, your level of well-being is something that not only has personal ramifications, but societal ones as well! If you feel that your well-being is being negatively affected by your concerns with money, or if you feel that work or societal stresses are having a negative impact on your life satisfaction, it may be useful to talk to your financial advisor for an independent perspective!We wish you a happier New Year, filled with eudaimonic well-being and the right balance of hedonic happiness, with a strong underpinning of “wealth-being”.

Yours faithfully,
The PSG AQB team


Wissing, M., Potgieter,J., Guse, T., Khumalo,T .& Nel, L (2014). Towards Flourishing. Contextualising Positive Psychology. Pretoria. Van Schaik Publishers.

AQB on the Move

01 Aug 2015

AQB Financial Services is expanding and is on the move!

Whilst our Head Office and staff complement are firmly Knysna based (16 staff), our association with PSG and the expanding footprint of our clients have led us to extend our presence, method of operation, and the services we offer.

PSG –AQB has opened a new office in Plettenberg Bay

PSG –AQB has set up a specialised brokerage capability in its Knysna office, thus offering clients in the Southern Cape managed share portfolios and share dealing facilities.
In Johannesburg this service continues to be offered by Bruce Wolov through PSG Online’s offices in Houghton.

In order to enhance the client experience in Johannesburg, and to add to our flexibility, we have entered into a membership agreement with The Inanda Club whereby we have access to the new facilities at the club – private lounges, meeting rooms, catering facilities, and presentation rooms. This is to ensure that clients, who prefer to meet us away from home or their offices, are now able to meet with us in a truly high quality environment. As a result we have moved from our Tudor Park offices in Randburg effective 1 August 2015.

In Cape Town, Flagship Asset Management (Pty) Ltd, an asset management company, has entered into an agreement with AQB whereby we are exclusively contracted to provide Personal Financial Planning services to Flagship’s clients. To give effect to this AQB will set up an office within Flagship’s offices in Constantia. This office will also effectively operate as our Cape Town base.

What remains the same is our commitment to your financial wellbeing.

Ronnie van ’t Hof
and The PSG-AQB team

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