By: Rita Cool – Alexander Forbes Financial Planning Consultant
Change is as certain as death and taxes
Big changes can create financial transitions in a person’s life that can be good or bad. Examples are when your spouse passes away, when you get divorced, when you get retrenched or retire or when you sell your business. All of these have financial as well as emotional implications.
Your transition could have happened suddenly or it could have been anticipated and you are prepared for it. You can be happy about the change or it would cause unhappiness or grief. Unless you are emotionally ready to make a decision on the money or assets that are affected by the transition, it is likely that you could make a mistake with your decision. An emotional decision on your finances could have far-reaching implications not only for you and the rest of your life but also for your family.
Change often causes stress
Different people deal with stress and change differently. For some, change and stress can create a loss of identity, a feeling of hopelessness, confusion and numbness or an overwhelming fog that clouds decision making . Others harness the stress and use the opportunity that change brings with clarity, focus and with composed behaviour. They are realistic about the new possibilities and feel energised. For some people, the transition process is short and for others it takes longer – sometimes years to work through to the final phase.
During a transition you should remember that you don’t have to do it alone. You are also not the only person who has dealt with something like this, so what you are feeling, whatever you are feeling, is normal. Use the right financial adviser to help. You can deal with an adviser who is equipped to deal with the emotional issues that surround you during transition so that you can then take the correct financial steps when you are emotionally ready. This is the way forward for financial planning, focusing not only on the numbers or a product but foremost on you, the person.
Deal with your emotions while you deal with your finances
The processes that are used with financial transition help you to look at the big picture – not only at what is happening but also what you want to do to after the change has happened. The process doesn’t do the emotional work for you; it gives you tools to deal with the issues. It is not life coaching, nor does it replace therapy, but it helps you deal with your emotions while you also deal with your finances.
The specially trained adviser uses tools to help you clear your thoughts so that you can deal with all the different issues without being overwhelmed. To start, you can write down the items that you are thinking about or are worried about and grade them according to urgency and importance. You might find that you are worried about unimportant things that might never happen. It also helps that you don’t forget things that are important to you just because you will deal with them later. Each item is dealt with when necessary – not all at once.
The adviser can help you to see if you are okay financially when change happens and for how long you will be okay before you need to make financial decisions. If you are okay with your retrenchment package for a while, do you really need to make an emotional decision on your retirement savings or whether or not you will pay off the house with that package? Or in the event of a divorce, how will your income change and will it affect the children, to what extent and when? This is not a “hide your head in the sand and hope problems will go away” deferral of decisions; it just gives you time to think about your situation rationally with the help of an adviser who is skilled in dealing with emotional issues.
The process can also help you to manage expectations, not only of yourself but also of what other people expect from you. That could be income expectations, donations or inheritance. Your adviser can help you draw up a personal statement that you can use if anyone expects things. This helps you focus until you can deal with those expectations.
Once you have moved past the transition and have reached the new normal in your life, you can also make decisions on your long-term situation and goals by creating a bliss list. Your adviser can be part of the journey to reaching your financial goals.
Rita Cool is completing her studies through the Financial Transitionist® Institute to become a certified financial transitionist.
THE OUTPERFORMER’S APPROACH TO FINANCIAL PROCESS AUTOMATION
By Michelle Trapani, Director of Product Marketing at Kofax
Achieving more with less is the mantra of our times. C-suite leaders demand greater efficiency. CFOs are looking to reduce costs. Customers and employees expect stellar experiences. The ability to outperform these expectations hinges on your financial operations, a vital area impacting every facet of your business.
For instance, if vital master data is incorrect, it’ll have a negative impact on service level quality, as well as the reputations of the finance and purchasing departments. Without accurate and timely visibility into processes, transparency is reduced, and it’s more difficult and time-consuming to manage compliance. The combination makes it harder to please executives, CFOs, customers, and vendors.
That’s why financial process automation is the key to operational efficiency and the overall success of your business. Even small- and medium-sized businesses are investing in process automation to optimise the financial processes within enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems, such as SAP.
For many, accounts payable is the first financial process to be automated. Like many other financial areas, Accounts Payable (AP) is mired in paper and consumed by highly manual tasks. For these reasons, once AP is automated, the benefits become quickly apparent, leading firms to immediately consider which other financial processes they can optimise. However, outperformers know the approach that yields the greatest return is automation of the entire purchase-to-pay process chain.
Why? Let’s consider what benefits can be gained from automating document-driven and transactional processes tied to an SAP ERP system – in AP and beyond.
Why a high-level of automation is an advantage
We don’t have to look far to see how end-to-end automation eliminates labour-intensive work, reduces costs, and increases process efficiency. Organisations with high levels of automation provide indisputable proof of the advantages of the outperformers’ approach.
According to research by Shared Services Link and Kofax, just 12 percent of organisations with high levels of automation manually process their invoices compared to 74 percent of those with low levels of automation. In addition, only 41 percent of highly automated companies experience problems with purchase orders, 24 percent have poor visibility into spend, and 8 percent fail to capture early payment discounts. By comparison, those with low-level automation report these same problems significantly more often: 68 percent, 23 percent, and 24 percent, respectively.
In an age when process automation has become table stakes, there are clear advantages for organisations that optimise processes across the business. “Best-in-class” firms – those with high levels of automation – don’t only become more competitive, they save time and resources as well.
Comparing “best-in-class” organisations to others illustrates the sharp differences. According to Ardent Partners, a “best-in-class” organisation processes 57.1 percent of all invoices “straight-through,” in just 3.9 days at an all-inclusive cost of $2.87 per invoice. By contrast, the gap with other organisations – those with low levels of automation – is wide: Only 16.1 percent of invoices are processed straight-through, and a single invoice takes 17.1 days to close and costs $15.38. Further, “best-in-class” organisations experience 81 percent lower invoice processing costs and 77 percent faster invoice processing cycle times.
Why ERP optimisation?
Another reason to follow the outperformers’ approach is to increase the return on investment of Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software. Many organisations haven’t fully leveraged their investments in ERP software, like SAP, giving them plenty of hidden opportunities to exploit.
“ERPs are not optimised for all the complex activities occurring today, such as matching printed or electronic invoices with supplier master data, purchase orders, shipping, tax and discount data,” says consultancy The Hackett Group. “Since it can be cost-prohibitive to replace a legacy ERP, companies often augment them instead with document management systems.”
When processes are paper-driven and manual, financial teams struggle to meet the volume-based performance requirements set by their CFOs. Meeting the high bar for raw numbers of invoices and payments processed is exceedingly difficult without automation. Think back to the pain points listed above. Every time the process is interrupted because the PO number is wrong, there’s an invoice exception or an early pay discount is missed, the process slows appreciably – or breaks down entirely.
One option is to use a certified add-on solution providing a single software platform to automate a series of processes directly within the ERP system. For SAP users, this type of solution offers more than integration with the ERP system; it provides the exact same look and feel as any other SAP transaction. It can be presented inside of the SAP GUI, providing non-SAP users an intuitive interface, and offering a real-time view of workloads, pending tasks, document inflow, ongoing transactions, and up-to-the-moment validation against SAP data. Solutions like this are proven to help users become more cost efficient, improve control over financial processes and shorten total processing times.
How to dominate your financial process
As the examples above show, expanding process improvement from AP to the entire purchase-to-pay process chain allows you dominate your financial processes in SAP, realise maximum efficiency and take your current ROI to the next level. Whether you’re just starting your automation journey or want to expand past AP, a full-scale strategy for end-to-end financial process automation will enable you to begin working like tomorrow, today.
About the author
In her role as Director of Product Marketing, Michelle Trapani delivers market positioning, strategic narratives and go-to-market strategies driving awareness, preference, and growth – bringing an increased level of insight, leadership, and overall execution discipline to Kofax’s growing business. Michelle was most recently with Cinch Connectivity Solutions where she reduced product launch times from eight months to eight-12 weeks. Previously, Michelle was with Adobe, Equinix, IBM, Infogix, iPass, Macrovision and Vision Solutions. Michelle earned a Bachelor of Arts degree at Illinois State University.
SAFEGUARD YOURSELF FROM FINANCIAL STRUGGLE AND UNCERTAINTY IN THE CASE OF DEMENTIA
Despite the rising incidence of dementia globally – The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates one new case every three seconds – and the risk of losing mental capacity in old age, few individuals plan for this possibility.
Dementia is caused by a variety of brain illnesses that affect memory, thinking, behaviour and ability to perform everyday activities. The WHO estimates the number of people living with dementia worldwide will almost triple to 152 million by 2050.
September is Alzheimer’s awareness month, an international campaign by Alzheimer’s Disease International to raise awareness and challenge the stigma that surrounds the illness. Financial management is one of the first tasks which deteriorate with the condition, leaving people struggling to do simple tasks such as paying bills or managing their tax affairs.
“Most people don’t like to think about death, dying or incapacity,” says Mark Hawes, certified financial planner at Alexander Forbes. Figures from the Masters of High Courts back up this assertion, revealing that more than 80% of South Africa’s working population don’t have wills.
“If you have been diagnosed with dementia, the best way to avoid unnecessary financial burden or being taken advantage of financially, or otherwise, is to put plans in place immediately. If one day you are not able to look after yourself, you and your family should know who these responsibilities will fall to.”
Most types of dementia are progressive. Therefore, the earlier it is identified the better. In addition, the easier it is to put the necessary preparations in place. Very importantly, while our faculties are still with us we can and should be involved in the important decisions for our own future.
At the very least, it is time to ensure that your wishes are documented, understood and are willing to be carried out by all involved. Naturally the inverse is true. For the caregivers and the persons tasked with the respective areas of responsibility, making sure that you understand and are willing to carry out the wishes of the affected person (within reason) is paramount in the early days of diagnosis.
“It is therefore important to allocate someone you trust with different areas of your life. Consider your options and where you have existing policies in place, double-check what you are covered for.”
Putting your plan in place simply gets everyone pulling in the same direction. Do this for at least three areas with the help of a trusted professional:
- Set up or review your will
To ensure that this is done accurately, you need to be fully informed about what assets and other financial products you have. Importantly, remember that all retirement funds fall outside your estate and so beneficiaries should be nominated on each retirement fund respectively. In addition, bring in your trusted and professional financial adviser to make sure your legacy planning is effective, efficient and accurate to ensure that your wishes and priorities are met.
- Choose your healthcare professionals and caregivers
Understanding the expected treatment and what your lifestyle may look like in the years to come will provide insight into what facilities and care you may require. This information puts a sense of control and independence back in the affected person’s hands. It will create a great sense of comfort that the challenging journey ahead will be manageable and on your own terms. Of course, it is always recommended to include your loved ones when making the decisions – especially the ones who are expected to carry out your wishes, if only to understand if they have the capacity to do so. The cost of care for those with advanced dementia should also be factored in, as full-time nursing can be expensive. Knowing your expected care and the respective costs puts you back in control.
You can then compare your requirements with any existing insurance policies to see where you can provide the financial resources. Importantly, as cash flow may come under pressure for you and your family, you would also be able to see which policies are no longer a priority and can be cancelled. In addition, you will be able to allocate your savings and investments toward your expected expenses or make alternative arrangements with the people in your support structure – especially your family where available.
- Who will conduct your financial transactions on your behalf?
The Covid-19 pandemic has seen increased reports of fraudsters targeting unsuspecting and vulnerable people. Those with dementia who are already struggling to use ATMs or do internet or telephone banking may be more prone to being targeted or simply telling strangers their bank details. Now more than ever identity theft is a real concern.
It is therefore highly recommended that a trusted and responsible person or family member is appointed to conduct financial transactions on behalf of the affected. For high net worth people, a special trust can be set up and preferred trustees (along with an independent professional trustee) appointed to ensure the financial affairs and assets are managed effectively. Again, legacy planning is crucial to helping the affected person to rest easy.
Many people are unaware that a power of attorney is invalid if a person is no longer of sound mind, and financial institutions will not assist until the person is placed under administration or curatorship.
Therefore, it is important that this person is aware of your lifestyle and preferences. This can be simply from what groceries you buy to which financial institutions and structures your make use of. The latter should be considered together with your trusted professional’s financial adviser.
Hawes says it is important to know what policies one has and what they cover. “You need savings to cover your cost of living when you’re alive and no longer working. Understand your medical aid and what they will cover – at minimal, you should have a hospital plan and gap cover.”
Hawes also advises introducing your trusted confidant to your certified financial planner, in the event that something happens.
“Many people only bother to find out their family history after something happens to them. Find out if you have a history of cancer or heart conditions, Alzheimer’s or dementia in your family. By having these difficult discussions now, a person is better able to decide how their money should be used, and is less likely to be financially exploited at a later stage.”
THE OUTPERFORMER’S APPROACH TO FINANCIAL PROCESS AUTOMATION
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