A semi-victory

The past two months I have been embroiled in a passive-aggressive battle with my bank, FNB, over a little operational mishap. I have complained tirelessly to my friends, but spoken words are easily forgotten, whereas written ones last for as long as I pay my subscription fees.

Basically I had asked my private banker to get the forex team to offer me a better rate on one of my foreign payments. I was told to specifically decline the quote that I got via the online banking portal (which I cleverly screen-shotted), and it confirmed that I had successfully declined the quoted rate and that the workflow would be saved in the “Maintain” area for future use.



However, the next thing I knew, I had gotten a payment confirmation for a rate that was higher than the quoted rate. Imagine my WTF… I immediately emailed my private banker, who passed it on to the forex team… but after waiting over a month, I still had not received a call. Further emails to my private banker were ignored.

Screenshot 2018-12-25 at 19.36.28

Eventually, I emailed the generic contact address and got a call from a very unhelpful lady in the forex department. She told me it was simply their process to execute an instruction that was below the threshold for preferential rates… and upon learning that the payment I made was 1 CENT below the threshold, I was rather peeved at the fact that my banker did not inform me of this.

Even so, they still should not have executed the instruction without my approval of the rate. For context, it was a payment to my dad which I could have made at any time, and had they told me they could not give a better rate than 14.5544, I could have waited a few days, weeks or months even and done it myself via online banking.

Eventually, after uttering “The Consumer Ombudsman” several times, they offered to waive my monthly account fee of R360. At which point I said hell no, the money I lost from this exchange rate fiasco was way more than R360! I needed to be put in a position closer to what I would have been in, else the Ombudsman will be getting a complaint from me. (For what it is worth, SA has a pretty good deal when it comes to protecting the consumers.)

Round 2, they offered to waive 2 months’ bank charges and also promised for all future forex payments I would be getting a preferential rate regardless of the amount. And so, the forex saga ends with a semi-victory.

A less experienced me probably would have taken the R360 waiver and called it a day. But it really is nauseating how corporates try to take advantage of consumers and sweep their mistakes under the rug. Urgh. It saddens me that it has to take a mail to ceocomplaints @ fnb.co.za before anybody even contacted me.

Ridiculous Tuesday: Parking mishap edition

Brace yourselves, this may even be worse than that time I got a $78 fine for taking too long to walk to the parking meter…

Working at AG has many perks, but free parking is not one of them. Because I’m lazy AF, I generally load the maximum amount allowed onto my parking card. But due to the V&A’s incompetence, they haven’t been able to take credit card payments on their parking machines for quite some time now. Since I’m so used to loading the default amount, I forgot to check how much cash I had before I started loading the money. As it turned out, I didn’t have R1359 cash in my wallet (go figure). So I had to cancel the transaction and start over. BUT instead of returning my 4 R100 notes which I HAD JUST PUT IN 10 SECONDS AGO, I got 2 R50s and 2 R40s in change, and the rest came in R5 coins. It honestly sounded like I had won the slot machine at Caesars, the only thing missing was the flashing lights.

At this point, it was hitting 8:15, and I am a stickler for being on time.  (I literally was only late for work once and that was when my car wouldn’t start.) I was on the verge of returning another day but … those damn R5 coins. My tiny handbag wouldn’t have survived being weighed down and stretched out by those meddling coins. So I spent the next 5 minutes putting them back into the machine. Thankfully nobody was waiting behind me, or I would have died of embarrassment -_-.


Buying a flat: the good and the bad

Owning a property is one of those integral steps to becoming an adult, along with marriage and babies. And like the latter two, buying a property is incredibly difficult to accomplish alone (in Cape Town at least). Luckily my parents were kind enough to help me with a large deposit, otherwise I would have seriously struggled. I still wanted to maintain my lifestyle. After all, I didn’t study my butt off to become a professional only to be crippled by debt and have to live like a pauper.

I was lucky enough to get a flat in one of these new developments that are now popping up all over the show (Obs, Woodstock, etc), and here’s my experience:

  1. It takes longer than they say. My block was meant to be completed in March 2017. Hand over only took place towards the end of November 2017… So always take the completion date with a pinch of salt.
  2. Budget for extra costs. Shortly after signing, I was given the option to upgrade some of the finishes (like the counters, floors, have double glazed windows etc). They could easily add up to an extra R100K.
  3. Rather put the deposit in your own savings account to earn better interest. The default option was to have the deposit kept in the lawyers’ trust account, but they offered a measly interest (I think it was around 2.5%). An alternative to that was to keep the money in a normal savings / fixed interest investment account and have the bank issue a property guarantee. I ended up putting the deposit in the FNB money maximiser account where the return was around 7%. It made a sizeable difference given the amount of time it took for the developer to finish building the block (±2 years). If you have a large deposit, it’s definitely worth while doing that. I chose the FNB money maximiser because they guarantee that you won’t lose your capital.
  4. Be aware of the recoupment if you are claiming the UDZ benefit. One of the top marketing ploys is they tell you about the UDZ tax benefit where you can claim up to 55% of the purchase cost as a deduction over 20 years which is not ring-fenced. But they don’t mention the recoupment… ie When you sell your property, any deduction you’ve claimed previously on the property is added back to your taxable income in the year of sale. Of course, there is still the time value of money and if you’re a savvy investor, it is still better to claim the deduction now and pay the tax later. Having said that, the equities market is difficult to predict and if you are looking to flip in the short term, it probably isn’t worthwhile claiming this deduction.
  5. Don’t forget about the primary residence exclusion. Unless you’re uber rich and have many properties, it is probably better to live in the flat and claim the primary residence exclusion (R2m of the capital gain is disregarded on the sale of the property).
  6. You’re buying it new, don’t settle for damaged parts. When I got the keys to my flat, my dad noticed two small chips in the bath tub. The agent suggested they repair the bath tub but my dad insisted that they replace it. We bought the flat new so shouldn’t have to accept anything that is broken or sub-standard. After some to and fro, they eventually agreed to replace the whole thing.

All in all it’s been a good buy. It was quite easy to find a flat mate due to the location. While it sucks to still be sharing an apartment, it helps a lot to have that extra income. And now that my folks are back home, I can finally feel like a proper grown up. :-D

The 5 Love Languages

It’s no secret that I’m not very good at this relationship thing. I think not being able to keep a long term relationship is different to not knowing how to love someone. I do the latter pretty well, but somehow cannot lock down the former. Sometimes, in my extremely mopey moments, I like to see what my exes are up to – and they all seem to have girlfriends now. Yes, even the druggie, the alcoholic and the guy who never wanted to leave the house. So what exactly is wrong with me that I just can’t keep a relationship past the 3 months mark?

I’ve done a lot of introspection the past few days and have come up with a few thoughts.

  1. I give up too easily. 
    Even as I tell myself time and time again that I want the next one to be forever, I don’t put in the necessary effort to effect that. If something isn’t going exactly the way I envisioned, thoughts of breaking up start forming in my head. And the minute that process begins, it’s incredibly difficult to get things back to the way they were before.
  2. I’m not the best communicator.

    “Bottled up inside are the words I never said,
    the feelings that I hide, the lines you never read.”

    I’ve never been an open book, so it is difficult to read me. If I am annoyed, I’ll usually keep quiet until it reaches the boiling point… and even then, I’ll act out in a very passive aggressive manner. I think it is because I don’t like having difficult conversations. I often struggle to transcend my feelings eloquently into words. A lot of times, what is obvious to me is probably not obvious to someone else. I definitely need to work on this if I ever hope to have a successful relationship.

  3. I have a different love language.
    According to the website, this is how my love languages are ranked:
    9. Quality time
    7. Acts of Service
    7. Receiving Gifts
    6. Physical touch
    1. Words of affirmation

    I don’t think this list is complete. The one other thing I value is public acknowledgement – It isn’t enough that only your closet friends and family know about me. I want your extended circle of friends to know too. I’m a sharer of photos and memories, not merely a keeper of them.
    I also value gifts and small gestures a lot. A chocolate or a love note goes a long way. I need to know that I am always on your mind, so 1 text a day simply won’t cut it. I have to know that I am a priority in your life, not just a convenience.

  4. My parents’ messed up marriage.
    My parents don’t have a  good relationship – in fact, I’ll say they have the worst kind of relationship: the kind where neither are happy yet they’re forced to stay together. I’ve grown up watching this disaster of a relationship unfold and perhaps this is why I’m somewhat commitment phobic now. I don’t want to have the pathetic ruse of a marriage my parents have. I don’t want to stay in something that isn’t right for me. I want to have the freedom to leave whenever I want to. I feel incredibly sad for my dad, who is literally the greatest. But he’s stuck with a dead weight who is constantly criticizing, never apologising. I’m worried that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree and that I am more like my mother than I like to admit. The horror.Of course, it doesn’t help that they are still living with me. (Not for long I hope!) It’s hard not having my own space. I think it’s best to stay single for now, and give this relationship thing a proper try once they’ve moved back to China.

Four years and one month

Today is my last day at EY. What a bitter sweet moment. I have made so many good friends and memories during my time here, saying goodbye is incredibly hard. I am not an overly emotional being… I was probably the one one who didn’t cry at my valedictory, but today I was on the precipice of shedding a few tears.

Leaving was not an overly difficult decision though. Sometime last year I realised I was not cut out for the auditing life. Not that I minded the work… but the hours were just insane. It was not an oscillation between peaks and troughs… it was rough all the time, and often I would wake up in the middle of the night panicking about work.

“And I realized that there’s a big difference between deciding to leave and knowing where to go.”
Robyn Schneider, The Beginning of Everything

I didn’t know where I wanted to go. I just wanted to get away. I was even looking forward to a few months of unemployment, living off the grace of my parents. As luck would have it, I received an email from a recruiter. One of those generic mails that I normally trash… but that day, I decided to reply, even though I didn’t really meet the requirements set out in the job spec. I didn’t get that job, but they kept my CV, and a few months later, a new position opened up.

I’m usually not someone who believes in fate and I don’t go around sprouting “everything happens for a reason”. But sometimes it really does feel like that. I have a 2 week break before starting my new job and I am really looking forward to the new adventure. I will miss my friends at EY terribly. My new colleagues have some big shoes to fill.

Anger Management

“I was angry with my friend
I told my wrath, my wrath did end
I was angry with my foe
I told it not, my wrath did grow”
– William Blake

I got angry with someone last week – really angry. And I’m not the type of person to lose my temper… but the stress of having to run with multiple clients and the lack of sleep just got the better of me. I’ve barely had any time off these past two weeks, often only leaving work after 10pm. Even though I knew it was going to be crazy, it was still a shock to the system.

Up till now I have been fairly fortunate in that I’ve always had a strong team. I knew I could count on them to get things done… but I guess that luck has run out. The hardest part with being a manager isn’t so much the difficulty of the work – but rather the people management. Now that I am no longer the one doing the work, it is so much more difficult to keep things under control.

I realise that coaching and helping under-performing teams is part of my job, but boy it is an enormous task. I am not a micro-manager so having to check up on someone frequently is not ideal. While I understand there is a learning curve, I also expect there to be a degree of critical thinking which is unfortunately lacking in many people. I think that part makes me upset the most. Really wish there’s more sense in this world.

Farewell 2015

It’s kind of fitting that the first post of 2016 (and of my new blog) is to bid farewell to 2015. To say last year was pretty awful would be an understatement. I was encumbered with various health issues as a result of stress, wrote off my car, and became increasingly disheartened with my job. Nevertheless, among the horribleness that was 2015 lied a few gem moments and memories that I would carry with me forever. Below is a slideshow I created with my favourites of 2015.


Countless times I’ve wished upon countless stars in shooting skies
Only to realise miracles are nothing but star-spangled lies
A constellation of tear drops form clouds in my heart
And when it rains, it rains blood to fill an empty quart

Tugging on heart strings like a puppet master on show
Toying with feelings, next, my clarity you stole
Here I am, alone, with just these words to console
Hoping they could rebuild the fallen and make it whole

Wondering, waiting, wavering
Tonight my resolve is slowly weakening
Tempted to shout, though the silence seeps through
To my dreams, and in them, I weep for you

Life goes on

I’m not sure when it all began
That pivotal moment of change
It’s pointless to try understand
A world so strange.

Fairy tales are not written for me
And failure comes at no surprise
I cannot defy the gravity
Of Love’s demise.

I look to others with a green-eyed envy
Wishing I too can be master of the Art
My dreams are rejected, instead I carry
A broken heart.

Alone and wary this warm October eve
I glance up but there’s no star to wish upon
My inside is crushing, still, I make-believe
that life goes on

Parents don’t always know best

I get into a lot of arguments with my parents and majority of them end like this:

“You’re so young and inexperienced, blah blah, wait until you’re grown up.” or,

“Don’t be so naive. We KNOW what’s best for you.”

Except they don’t. Despite every attempt at trying to give me the best, despite every effort at wanting the best, they don’t always succeed.

Last week, I lost my parking bay to another tenant. No biggie because there’s parking off street. But no, my parents decided to go and make a “reserved” sign and plonk it on the lawn in front of an unreserved bay. (The complex has a few unreserved bays which work on a first come first serve basis.)

Their rationale was that “602 did it so why can’t we?” – Hmm, let’s see. Maybe “602” organised it with the body corporate? Just a thought.

NO MATTER! Mom said she spoke to the security guard downstairs and he said it’s “finnnneeee”. – Because the security guard knows it all…

So, while at work, I got an sms from my dad to say he plonked the sign next to “602”‘s. TWO HOURS LATER, I got another sms from my dad to say someone removed the sign. – Well, that didn’t take long, did it?

Now I have this useless piece of wood/metal sitting arbly in the corridor.