8 December 2019
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Life in the fantasy lane won't take you far

It looks like so many of us are so underwhelmed by reality that we’re going long on unreality or fantasy stuff, with the new Avengers: Infinity War (pictured) film set to kill all box office records, eclipsing the benchmark set by another fantasy film of the past — Avatar.

But what’s so wrong with reality that it can’t get the people of the world excited? I was looking at a book on the passenger seat of my car (my wife reads at every available opportunity) and it was that old, brilliant chestnut Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill. On spotting it I thought: “That person has her sights set on success!”.

I have to admit I can get sucked into the great relaxation of taking in a film. In fact, last weekend I saw The Death of Stalin and Last Flag Flying, two great films that actually added to my excitement for reality rather than leading me to a world of escapism.

What worries me is that we all have a finite time on this great place called earth and every minute wasted can’t be trivialized. (Those businesses that leave us hanging on the telephone line rather than taking our number and calling us back, please note this!)

Given our precious and limited time, I reckon we have to do our best to make ourselves as great as we can be. Sure, fantasy has a role — I’m sure what I do in the mad, mad world of money is linked to my early childhood preoccupation with caped crusaders, such as Superman and historic defenders of the underdogs, Robin Hood and William Tell!

However, we need to be cautious about too much escapism. As the CBA was told from the APRA report this week, the bank was in need of a reality check with its crazy, silly love approach towards each other at the executive and board level coming back to bite them at the Royal Commission.

Everyone needs to hear it as it is, if they really want to raise their own personal bar of self-improvement.

Here’s a staggering fact that I discovered this week that might even shock a few climate change alarmists.

On April 5, 1815, a volcano called Mount Tambora erupted on the island of Sumbawa in Indonesia. By the way, in those days of imperialism, Indonesia was called the Dutch East Indies but wait, there’s a lot more excitement to this story.

The blast was so loud that Thomas Stamford Raffles, the lieutenant-governor of British Java and founder of colonial Singapore (yep, the guy who they named the Raffles Hotel after) feared the enormous bang was cannon fire. He was 800 miles from the scene of the crime perpetrated by Mother Nature!

What followed was an ash plume that trumped the earth’s climate, such that it actually changed the world’s climate. Crops failed right around the world in the ensuing year from China to the USA, as Roncevert Ganan Almond put it in www.thediplomat.com.
But wait, there’s even more.

“This foreboding environment inspired Mary Shelley to pen her masterpiece Frankenstein, a tale drawing upon human ambivalence and fear in the face of technology and industrialization.”

How cool is that fact? (I actually felt younger using that “how cool” turn of phrase. And that’s cool.)

Thankfully, I don’t think we’re living a new age Frankenstein environment but merely a modern era where we are shocked by the rise and rise of tech companies and digital disruptors like Amazon and Facebook, leaders like Donald Trump, as well as generations of young people who seem like visitors from another planet!

We even have escapees from the baby boomer era like Richard Branson reaching for the stars, in competition with a today equivalent in Elon Musk of Tesla fame.

Amidst all that might worry you (Donald Trump, climate change, Chinese leaders for life, just about everything from the Middle East to Brexit and even will Prince Charles ever be King?), the truth of history says the ingenious nature of humanity is that we will come up with a solution.

And there’s a greater chance of that happening if we all put our shoulders to the wheel and encourage all our followers — the people who look up to us for leadership — to strive to get the best out of themselves.
So how do they do that?

It’s really simple — they should be encouraged to allocate more time to facts that will change their life and elevate them. Swap entertainment for entertaining education.

Anyone who wants to see this in action should check out the work of maths teacher Eddy Woo and his fantastic WooTube, and watch my Coffee with Switzer with Eddie here.

If you’re someone who has never been a maths person or you have a kid whose a struggler with numbers, see how Eddy has the made the reality of maths entertaining, educational and enjoyable.

He’s thought of a thing that has never been — innovative teaching of maths using video and YouTube — to create Wootube, so students can take their lesson home with them and do their homework at school!

Imagine if every teacher and every parent strived to do a Woo in guiding their charges —what a world we could create.

The failure to embrace the facts of life (no, not the birds and bees but say scientific, business and economic) can lead to productivity-killing and money-losing decisions.

A friend who is a high achiever in business has lost money with her investments so she came to us for help. She asked if she should put her money into Australian Super because as she said: “They’ve been doing 11-12% returns.”

Now I’m someone who likes funds like this one and other such as REST, Hostplus Sunsuper, Cbus, etc. but my friend has got her facts from la la land.

When we produce a statement of advice for our clients, we’d shoot for annual returns of 7% or so over a 10-year period, so 12% would be beyond our promising powers.

But if my friend did her homework on the facts, she would’ve found that REST is the top-performing super fund over 10 years to 31 December 2017 but its annual average return is 6.5%. (SuperRatings.com.au).

“Over 10 years, the second top-performing super fund, delivering an average annual return of 6.3% over 10 years, was UniSuper Accum (1) – Balanced option. The third and fourth top-performing super funds were CareSuper – Balanced option and Equip MyFuture – Balanced Growth, respectively, with an average annual return of 6.2%,” SuperGuide.com.au tells us.

“The fifth and sixth place-getters were Hostplus – Balanced and Cbus – Growth (Cbus MySuper) respectively, with an average annual return of 6.1% over 10 years.”

My friend has been over-influenced by shorter-term numbers and a part-time commitment to the relevant information. For a reliable guide to performance, history says a 10-year period is best.

Superguide.com.au again: “What is especially interesting is the top-performer over 5 years, Hostplus – Balanced (11.3% p.a.), is also ranked as the top-performer over 3 years (10.1% p.a.), and over 7 years (9.8% p.a.). Over 10 years however, Hostplus – Balanced ranked 5th with 6.1% p.a. to 31 December 2017, and over 1 year, ranked third with a return of 13.4%.”

Of course, super and investing generally has never been made entertaining and that’s why people like my friend have only a sketchy knowledge of what’s what. As the old saying goes, “a little bit of knowledge is a dangerous thing.”

This is why I’ve always tried to make the world of economics, business and finance facts as entertaining as possible, because the education dividend is far more exciting than any Avengers film.

And that’s a fact!

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