Troy Carter overcame ‘financial PTSD’ to launch Lady Gaga

Troy Carter dreamed of being a rapper when he was growing up in the rough part of West Philadelphia. The son of a single mother, whose father served 12 years in jail for murder, he dropped out of school and managed to hustle his way into the orbit of Will Smith, also a Philadelphia native. After a short time signed to Smith’s record label, he found his true talent was managing other musicians.
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With a can-do attitude and determination to succeed, Carter founded his own management firm and soon flourished. He signed the then little-known rapper Eve and helped her not only make records, but expand her career into film, television and a fashion line.

Carter sold the business in 2004 for more than $2 million, spending the proceeds on houses, cars and lavish new offices. However, over the next two years the deal with the purchaser fell apart, Eve fired him as her manager and not only had he spent all the money from the sale, he was severely in debt.

Carter’s car was repossessed, his home mortgage was foreclosed and his wife and mother sold their respective wedding rings to forestall eviction from their house.

Looking back on this time, Carter believes he was suffering from financial post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

In line with PTSD experienced by survivors of physical trauma, Carter was repeatedly reliving the experiences of his past. The anxiety and fear experienced as a child about having money for food and rent were inhibiting his ability to make sound financial choices as an adult.

The phenomenon is more common than you might think. A study in the US indicates that nearly one in four Americans experience PTSD-like symptoms as a result of acute financial stress.

Even if you have not experienced financial trauma, many of us engage in what psychologist Dr Gay Hendricks describes as “upper limiting behaviours”.

In his book The Big Leap, Hendricks explains that most of us form a set of beliefs about ourselves, and our place in the world, in childhood. These beliefs form a kind of “thermostat” to the maximum amount of wealth and happiness we subconsciously feel we deserve. Unwittingly we can self-sabotage when we feel that we have exceeded this upper limit. It’s the reason lottery winners so often quickly return to their pre-win financial position, but also why we often pick a fight with someone close to us, or get sick right after a positive event or achievement.

Hendricks writes the cure for upper limiting behaviour is relatively simple. He suggests making a list of the behaviours associated with upper limits in your life. For example, excessive worry about things you cannot control, unwarranted blame and criticism of yourself or others, deflection of compliments or positive feedback, arguments or chronic illness. Monitor your life and, when one of these manifest, ask yourself if this is actually a reaction to moving beyond your upper comfort zone.

For Carter, embracing this mindful approach really worked. When he was at his lowest point, a friend introduced him to a young singer, Stefani Germanotta, who had just been dropped by recording label Def Jam Records.

With his understanding of female artists and fashion from his time with Eve, and his very limited resources forcing him to pioneer a new approach to distribution via social media channels such as Facebook, Carter helped her become Lady Gaga, one of the most successful female artists of all time. Their joint success has even been chronicled in two Harvard Business School case studies.

The difference for Carter the second time around, was that when challenges presented themselves, including Lady Gaga leaving for a new manager, he had not over-extended his lifestyle and had built an impressive list of other clients allowing his management company to continue to thrive. He also wisely invested the funds from the boom years, taking stakes in more than 40 start-up companies, including Spotify, Warby Parker, Songza, Dropbox, Fab and Uber.

What could you achieve if your negative financial experiences from the past were not holding you back?

Catherine Robson is the founder of award-winning financial planning practice Affinity Private. Twitter:@CatherineAtAff.

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The awards bringing ‘street cred’ to interior design

The 2017 Australian Interior Design Awards shortlistForget disposable decor and choose handmadeThe latest retro trend making a comeback
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With over 450 submissions making 2017 the biggest field ever to present projects in the 14-year history of Australia’s premier interior design excellence awards – or IDEA – the final entry gates closed at the start of this month.

And that became the signal for some of the country’s most respected designer peers to get down to the long winter business of sifting, selecting, and debating what, why and who has orchestrated the most outstanding projects in 11 different categories, from residential, to workplace, to hospitality, to events and objects.

After that, the seven jurists of the calibre of last year’s overall winner William Smart of Smart Design Studio, Albert Mo of Melbourne’s Architect’s EAT, and Hannah Tribe of Sydney’s Studio Tribe, sort out who they deem worthy of the five special awards that include the gold medal, designer of the year, emerging designer and editor’s medal. All are career-defining accolades.

Yet while the main prizes are announced in a blaze of publicity at the late November gala event, even being commended, or making the shortlist is welcome acknowledgement because, as long-time industry operative and winner of last year’s award for residential decoration, Andrew Parr underlines.

“The IDEA awards are similar to the national annual awards of the Australian Institute of Architects. They have real street cred.”

Having been in the interior design industry since he graduated from what was then Melbourne’s only specific degree course at RMIT, (“the rest were decorator courses”), Parr, a director at SJB Interiors which is in the prize or shortlists almost annually, believes the industry has matured remarkably – especially in the 17 years since the Sydney Olympics stimulated Australia to take interior design seriously.

“The industry grew up very quickly with Sydney and with a lot of high-profile hospitality venues there evolved both the work and the clientele. There had always been hotel design here, but where other hospitality work had been random, suddenly it was being done by serious designers.”

Since then, the leading and influential edge that stimulates new applications of interior design has been shifting from one category to another. Parr proposes the cross-pollination is now very blurred across all industry sectors: “There is a lot of cross-over, a lot of fusion.”

But he does cite workplace design as being the currently interesting laboratory “because office design is becoming more residential. With relaxation areas, cafes and communal spaces, offices are offering the best time you’ve ever had away from home”.

Winning the vaunted residential decoration award in 2016 for his own home, Peninsula Residence, demonstrated Parr’s preference for “composing spaces using large furniture and with colours given to me by the house or that referenced every shade of green outside the windows”.

Ordinarily, he admits, he isn’t a big user of red. But having found it as lino in the 1958 Modernist house, he reintroduced it in the form of a red leather chair, red details in the kitchen, and in more startling applications on the walls of the stairwell and bathroom.

“I did what the house told me to do.”

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Risk-averse politicians in danger of boring us to death

Two weeks ago Gladys Berejiklian was given the honour of delivering the inaugural address to the Canberra-based National Press Club’s new outpost in Sydney.
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As anyone who has watched press club speeches knows, for politicians in particular they provide a great opportunity to grab national headlines and possibly set an agenda.

They are long form, set pieces with a national audience that give the speaker an opportunity to go a little deeper into a subject or perhaps make a persuasive argument for reform.

So when Berejiklian climbed to the podium anticipation was high that we might witness the new Premier place a marker; perhaps offer a signal as to where she wanted to take NSW in the two years before the 2019 election.

Instead, we got what amounted to little more than a stump speech. Yes, the Premier called for Canberra to butt out of NSW’s business and for the state to get a greater share of GST receipts.

But neither of these remarks is groundbreaking. For a Premier who has yet to establish her reputation and is struggling to escape the shadow of her predecessor Mike Baird, it was a significant missed opportunity.

The fizzer of an address did tell us something, however. It confirmed that, post-Baird, NSW politics is suffering an inspiration deficit. Indeed, our risk-averse political leaders are in danger of boring us to death.

It’s not just Berejiklian who is to blame; when was the last time something opposition leader Luke Foley said registered with you?

In both cases it may be symptomatic of a deliberate small target strategy that could well run right up until the next state poll.

Ask a cabinet minister why it seems very little is going on in government at the moment and they will likely smile and respond with: “Isn’t that a good thing?”

Inside the government there is a view that the electorate remains shell-shocked by the pace of change under Baird as Premier; that voters need a period of calm.

So, despite Berejiklian’s repeated claim that she is full steam ahead on reform, thus far her government appears determined to be quite the opposite. The determination to not make waves extends even to a reluctance to comment on topics of significant interest.

Take the debate over voluntary assisted dying legislation this week that was sparked by a cross party working group’s unveiling of a draft bill that will go before parliament in August. When news first broke in January of the group’s intention to develop a bill, as befits a political leader, then Premier Baird was happy to put his personal view on the record as did Foley. Yet when Berejiklian was invited on Tuesday to do the same, she declined.

Given the entire parliament has been on notice since January, this is extremely unlikely to be because she has yet to form a personal view. As for Foley, you would think an oxygen-starved opposition leader would be jumping at the chance to fill the void. Yet still we hear very little.

Each leader likely has their reasons. Berejiklian has the Baird backlash. In Foley’s case it may be the desire to make the government the story while there is still residual voter anger over reforms such as council amalgamations and the impact of major infrastructure projects.

He also could be keeping his powder dry until closer to the election so as to not have the government attack his policies for two years.

Foley and Labor seem to be adhering to a classic small target strategy, honouring the adage that the electorate doesn’t vote oppositions into government, they vote governments out.

Both strategies are an insult to voters, who deserve more than to have two of the highest offices in the state effectively running on automatic pilot.

Whether this changes before the election campaign is anyone’s guess, but the signs are not encouraging. The next opportunity is in next month’s state budget.

Pressure is building on Berejiklian to make good on her pronouncement that housing affordability is a priority of her government, alongside local infrastructure and a strong economy. A couple of days later Foley gets a moment in the spotlight with his budget reply speech.

For both it’s a set piece opportunity to make a splash. They should take it.

Sean Nicholls is state political editor.

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Why the ongoing focus on school results?

march 10 2011 news henrietta. gary schafer photo Canberra Times.Asingleshaft of sunlight singles out DAramalan College year 7 student Patryk Bylinski as he waits to commence the NAPLAN test with over 200 other students. Photo: Gary SchaferIt came as a surprise earlier this year to see a full-page advertisement by a Canberra private girls high school boasting about the academic success of its high achievers.
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Each student was shown with her Australian tertiary admission rank score and the name of the university she was accepted into.

(Private schools don’t have the field to themselves. A number of public schools have better results, and at least one parades them on its website.)

I know schools have always been competitive, and I know ATAR scores mean something, but in a month in which thousands of Australian students sat their national literacy and numeracy tests, it’s worth asking whether more tests and a greater emphasis on test results actually harms us.

An Australian National University lecturer told me recently about a number of first-year students who were so worried about attaining high marks they were paralysed and unable to start assignments. “This is the time of their lives when everything should be low-stakes,” she said.

Year 12 scores are a far from perfect predictor of professional success and an even less perfect predictor of personal contentment. They tell us little about so-called “soft skills”, such as getting on with people and developing decent and mutually supportive relationships. They tell us little about the employability of young people and their capacity to take part in and contribute to society.

When students are told that marks are more important than anything else, they can lose perspective. On an SBS Insight program, former high-performing students who left school were asked about their lives. Liesel described the stress she felt because she got up at 7am, rather than 5am as she used to for her HSC.

“I feel so lazy that I’m not doing enough or I’m not changing the world or I’m not doing, I’m not the best in the world at something anymore,” Liesel said. “I get fives at uni, which is a credit for statistics, which I’m really proud of, but that’s not good enough for me. I want sevens and I want to be the best in the world, so I’m really struggling to come to terms with that sort of not doing enough.”

Psychologist Rebekka Tuqiri says pressure is good when it motivates us, but too much of it damages our brains and prevents us from performing well. The answer isn’t to avoid stress, but to build resilience.

At a symposium on mental health at the ANU this month, students and staff tried to come up with a definition of resilience. The one they liked best was “the ability to bounce back”. The seminar heard of a radical proposal (an idea only) to ditch the usual system of grades for first-year students and instead award only a “pass” or a “fail” so they felt less pressured and able to collaborate, experiment and even play.

Our experiences in homes and offices tell us that openness and cooperation help make things work. Complex cooperation (the kind that is needed in increasingly complex workplaces) requires practice and skill. “Modern society is really, ironically, deskilling people from many of the competences they need to deal with a very complex world,” says sociologist Richard Sennett (author of Together: The Rituals, Pleasures and Politics of Cooperation). He wants classrooms to more often arrange themselves into groups of students who study together and talk about what they are learning face to face.

Our headlong rush into isolating technologies makes this more difficult, but Sennett finds that, where it does happen, students are better able to communicate and less accepting of economic inequality. As he puts it: the more unequal a society is, the less social it is.

At a forum on student engagement and success organised by my local Parents & Citizens Association this year, parents were divided into groups and asked three questions about what they wanted for their children by the end of high school: This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

How would a reverse mortgage affect my age pension?

I am 69 and am considering obtaining a reverse mortgage lump sum with a bank and would like to understand the impacts on the age pension tests. As this is effectively me taking on debt, how does Centrelink treat the money? My questions: 1. Is the lump sum considered an asset? 2. Is any interest earned on the lump sum considered as income? 3. If I give part of the lump sum as a present to my son is it considered a gift? 4. If a gift, how does Centrelink deem the gift? As income or assets, or both? I am not interested in the government reverse mortgage scheme. Mine would be privately arranged. F.F.
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Reverse mortgages have not proven popular in Australia, possibly because the loan rates are significantly higher than standard variable mortgage rates. In its recent survey, research company Canstar listed only four on offer and their rates are Bankwest 6.2 per cent, CBA 6.37 per cent, Heartland Seniors Finance, Victoria, 6.19 per cent and P&N Bank, WA, 6.24 per cent.

Bankwest allows a loan up to 25 per cent of the property value, the others up to 20 per cent, while Bankwest and P&N only pay lump sums, the other two offering periodic payments. Google the survey results at “Canstar reverse mortgages”.

Under Centrelink rules, if you draw a lump sum from a reverse mortgage, up to $40,000 is exempt from the assets test for up to 90 days but is immediately subject to deeming by the income test until you spend it. You can gift $10,000 to your son before June 30 and another $10,000 in July and still fall within the gifting rules that restrict gifts to a maximum of $10,000 per financial year up to $30,000 over five consecutive years. Excess amounts are counted by both means tests for five years.

If you draw regular payments, they are not counted as income by the income test and, if spent immediately, say, to pay bills, have no affect on your age pension. But if the money builds up in your bank account, it is subject to the means tests.

Centrelink’s Pension Loans scheme (which one can also find on Google) has attracted criticism for being “just for the wealthy”, which I think is a little unfair.

Under the scheme, people who own their own home or investment property, can take out a loan via fortnightly payments to top up an age pension or, in limited cases, no pension, up to the maximum age pension rate, to be repaid when the property is sold. The current rate charged is 5.25 per cent.

The catch lies in the eligibility requirements. Property owners are eligible and only if he, she or their partner is of age pension age (which rises to 65.5 from July 1) and one or both receives a reduced, or zero age or veterans’ pension. The latter case must be due to the effect of one of either the income or the assets test, that is they get a loan if denied an age pension by one means test but not both.

In other words, you are not eligible if you either get the full pension or have too much income AND too many assets to get any pension at all. The latter restriction is obvious in that if someone is too well-off to get a part age pension under either test then the government has no place offering them a taxpayer-subsidised loan.

The former restriction, for the full pensioners, can be justified in that full pensioners are already getting an income stream equal to the maximum fortnightly loan available, without any need to pay anything back. The reverse argument, if you excuse the pun, is that people on a full pension are more likely to need a loan more urgently, although the counter argument is that a homeowner on a full pension is more likely to depend fully on the home as an asset to eventually fund a move into aged care.

I am a 61-year-old woman, single with no dependents. I own my unit and earn $65,000 a year of which I salary sacrifice $2200 per month to superannuation, which I will cease or reduce to $1500 a month after June 30. I have $730,000 in super with three fund managers, which forces me to scrutinise performance. I have some $324,000 in a portfolio of cash, shares and unit trusts. I would like to retire in early 2018 when I will be 62. I plan to carry out some renovations, replace my car and travel overseas once every one or two years. Do I have enough funds to retire? And when I do retire should I convert all (or only part of my super) to pension mode? K.S.

I estimate you are bringing in around $33,700 a year after tax and super contributions. If you retire with current assets and spend about $50,000 on a new (small) car and (minor) renovations, and $10,000 on a trip, you can expect to have around $1 million (and hopefully more) to fund your retirement.

If you are able to receive $33,700 after tax, or with no tax payable, from your portfolio, you will have sufficient for your life expectancy of 25 years plus a further five years if you are healthy, providing you don’t buy a Rolls Royce or go around the world on the Queen Mary more than once.

Since superannuation can provide you with a tax-free income, then I suggest you marshal as much cash as possible, without triggering any capital gains tax liability e.g. by selling shares, and place it into a super fund before June 30. The current maximum untaxed non-concessional contribution of $180,000 falls to $100,000 after June 30.

You can expect to receive income around $10,000 to $15,000 a year from your current non-super portfolio, which means you’ll need to draw a minimum 4 per cent pension from between a third to a half of your current super assets. If you have enjoyed the experience of running your non-super portfolio, have you considered running your own self-managed super fund?

How will the new super rules affect those on high defined benefits, such as retired prime ministers, judges and so on? I.M.

You’ll be pleased to know that “constitutionally protected” super funds are caught under the new rules. For example, concessional contributions to such funds will count towards the concessional contributions cap of $25,000 a year. Although they cannot result in an excess contribution to that fund (and this is true for all “capped defined benefit funds”), they may cause concessional contributions to other funds to breach the cap.

Constitutionally protected funds will also be subject to the $1.6 million “transfer balance cap” that limits the amount that can be used to produce an untaxed pension.

Are you still resenting the successful lawsuit launched by judges to exempt them from the old “surcharge” on super contributions that existed between 1996 and 2005? Now that was truly an act of the elite likely to cause resentment among us lesser folk.

If you have a question for George Cochrane, send it to Personal Investment, PO Box 3001, Tamarama, NSW, 2026. Help lines: Financial Ombudsman, 1300 780 808; pensions, 13 23 00.

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