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How did the Brits get into this mess and does it matter?

In the meantime, South Africans have their own votes to cast.
Anti- and pro-Brexit demonstrators wave EU, British Union flags, and banners during protests outside the Houses of Parliament in London. Picture: Luke MacGregor, Bloomberg

Even this far from the epicentre of the Brexit debacle, it is easy to get caught up in the discussions about how complicated (and crazy) it all seems.

It used to be fairly widely accepted that the UK had a reasonably good deal with the European Union. For the most part, we got to have our cake and eat it. Sure, it wasn’t perfect, but it was pretty good.

Brits were able to hop over the channel by plane, train, coach, car, whatever suited our whim or budget at the time. We could go pretty much on the spur of the moment to get our fill of interesting food, sunshine or snowy slopes, and a general change of scenery.

In fact, if we liked the change of scenery that much we could stay there permanently, no questions asked. Subject to normal procedures, such as job interviews, we could start working and immediately enjoy the same benefits as locals. 

On top of that, we got to keep our Great British pound, complete with pictures of the Queen and various historical British figures. We weren’t forced to accept a common interest rate or any other bank policy adopted by the other 27 members.

I remember as a child feeling outraged at the very suggestion that the pound could disappear altogether, and the sense of victory when we learnt that our currency wasn’t going anywhere, any time soon.  

Life was pretty great if you had a British passport … until it wasn’t. Suddenly, murmurings that we would do better on our own were rife. People started saying that we didn’t need the combined negotiating weight of other countries. In fact, they said, it was those very same countries and their rules that were stopping us negotiating deals that would really advance the British economy.

Older generations became more vocal in their nostalgia for the “good old days”, where Britain reported to Britain and didn’t have to abide by anyone else’s rules. Brits never saw themselves as European anyway.

Fast forward to today’s complete chaos and indecision. Few people know what they want and no one can agree on anything except the desperate hope that someone will have a brainwave before the next vote, and the headache will miraculously melt away.

Whether this is worrying for you personally or you are watching with detached amusement, remember that it is always better not to be too distracted by global events or non-events, as this may turn out to be. The UK and EU parliamentary members will continue to cast their votes for millions of subjects and the show will go on.

In the meantime, South Africans have their own votes to cast. Whatever happens with Brexit, or indeed the South African national elections in May, each of us has to make choices in our own lives that set us on the right path.

This means not sitting back and waiting to see what happens, or hoping that your problems will miraculously melt away. Rather take a step back, filter out all the macro noise and take a long hard look at yourself, your relationships, your career, your investments, your savings and so on. 

Are you living your best life? Are you informing and educating yourself to make sure that your skills and experience are relevant to the changing workplace? Are you making sure your value is known? Are you preparing for a decent retirement? Are you surrounding yourself with level headed, loyal, discerning people who will steer you back on to the right path if you should veer off track or flounder.

What about your finances? Are your investments and savings in order? Are you losing a big chunk of your savings to high fees or poor performance? Evaluate your plans and check that you are on track. Make sure that you are getting the lion’s share of the return on your investments.

Understand how much money you need to be putting away now so that regardless of whether British people can easily spend weekends in Paris or even set up home in sunny Spain you are in a good position to sustain yourself and your loved ones.

Mica Townsend is a British CFA charterholder and business development manager at 10X Investments. 

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Another advert. Geezzzz.

Sound advice. I have seen people with serious financial and personal issues getting sucked into things that have a remote connection to their own lives, like Brexit because of Facebook propaganda. Deal with your own life first, then worry about the rest of the world.

End of comments.





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