Many investors and homebuyers are dealing with a high degree of uncertainty at the moment. Declining housing finance commitments and national auction clearance rates falling to around 50% throughout June (according to Australian Property Monitors) tell the story. This uncertainty is being realised by a high level of inaction as people do the one thing that comes naturally in times like these: wait and see.
The current state of the global and domestic economy raises many more questions than it is provides answers for: what has inflation got to do with your wealth creation? What happens to your wealth when a country goes into deflation? Where are interest rates going and what will it take for it to come down? Should you fix your interest rate now? If so, for how long? Will Australia escape the current recession in the developed world? How much of the wealth that you've created from your properties today will still be yours tomorrow?
Bill Zheng, CEO of Investors Direct, admits that "over the last 12 months, like many property investors and owners, I've been anxious about what the property and finance markets will bring over the next few years. I've been more anxious than what I would like to admit in public as I am expected to know the 'answers'.
"For quite a while I've been confused by the fact that property prices have been going up, at least up until now, in Australia while the opposite has been happening in the US and UK. Particularly while money has become less and less available for mortgages in all these countries."
Paul Clitheroe, chairman of the Financial Literacy Foundation Advisory Board, commenting on the Federal Government's "Financial Literacy: Australian's Understanding Money" study, observed that "we [Australians] know we're not good at some things, like investing and ensuring enough money for retirement. Even more interesting is that we know it's important to learn more about the things where our confidence is lacking and a lot of us want to manage our money better.
"It's easy to say that money's boring or money isn't important to be happy in life, or to put off doing something about it because you think it's just too hard. The findings of this research show that a lot of people think just that."
Bill Zheng agrees: "The main reason we put the most important things off is that we usually don't make a commitment to schedule the time to reflect and bring the unconscious awareness into conscious action items.
Zheng explains that it is only through scheduling the time to do your own research and study that you can find certainty in uncertain times. "I disliked the feeling of confusion and uncertainty about our current economic environment so much that I went into a period of intensive study and research," he says. "Through my research I'm happy to say that I was able to understand what has happened and what will happen next in the property and finance markets in Australia and around the world.
"Then I went through a period of self examination including some of the key beliefs I hold in relation to capital, property, finance, business, career, growth, cash flow, systems, leadership, productivity, relationships, family, passion, talent, duty & purpose, etc."
Zheng continues: "This self examination exercise revealed to me that some of my expectations were ahead of my reality, that there were gaps between what is the truth and what I observe to be the truth, and most importantly that what has worked for most property investors in the last 20 years may not work over the next 20 years.
"I must admit that it's so hard to question things that have worked for us so well for so long, and see the merits of other options. If we're given only two options to choose, I wonder which one is harder for most people: 1. wrong but wealthy; or 2. right but broke?
"Through my research and self-examination I decided to make some major changes to the way I invest in properties and run businesses, and more significantly the way I would like to conduct myself in other areas of my life."
So what can you do to find some certainty about how you personally will be affected by the changes that are happening in the global economy at the moment?
The Financial Literacy Foundation's study revealed that most Australians when seeking information and advice rely on financial advisers (82%) and accountants (81%) to help them improve their knowledge on financial matters. Family (63%), banks (60%), friends (55%) and seminars/educational institutions (52%) were also popular. Not surprisingly, the internet (48%), magazines (48%) and newspapers (47%) also rated highly as places where people look for finance-related information.
Zheng is not surprised by these findings. "It's little wonder that most people rely on their financial advisers and accountants for advice. They're experts in their field and what they can do more so than, say, family members, banks or newspapers is explain to you how events in the wider economy can affect you personally. Experts in their field are always better equipped to distil what are very complex and intricate issues and explain how they are likely to specifically affect your own personal situation. So in times like these it's very wise to seek these people out and listen to what they have to say."
Investors Direct is running a series of full day educational seminars in Melbourne, Brisbane and Sydney in July and August. Sponsored by Your Investment Property magazine, the "Creating Your Own Certainty in an Uncertain World: Real Money & Property Strategies for 2008 & Beyond" seminars are designed to help you critically examine Bill Zheng's latest research and findings with minimum time off from your life, so that you can come to your own understanding and action plan that will bring greater financial certainty to you and your family. Click here for more information.
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