One perk of my job is that I get to hang out with some pretty rich people.
Ok, when I say ‘hang out’, I don’t mean we are drinking champagne on their yachts. More like, we are in meeting rooms and they are telling me the finer details of their investment strategy, so I can PR the shit out of it.
How rich? Well some are just really well-paid, others have a few million sunk in their fund management companies, and a handful are serious, yacht-owning, penthouse-buying ballers.
(On a side note, they are generally totally low-key about their wealth – you have to notice their watches, or do the sums on their ‘funds under management’ to get the idea).
Anyway, because I love you Fierce Girls, and am always thinking about ways to help you own it, I have been asking these people what advice they have for the mere mortals among us. Here are some of the wise words I’ve heard.
Don’t Panic. This is from a lovely fund manager who grew up on a pineapple farm and has just launched one of the biggest listed investment companies on the ASX. Oh, and he was a professor of finance at one stage (WTF).
His message was that in the current housing market, it can feel like you have to do something fast or you’ll miss out forever. That’s a natural reaction when prices go up as fast as they have been. And it doesn’t help your FOMO levels when you read about 30 year old property barons. (By the way, Buzzfeed has a very interesting take-down of these stories – recommended read).
Yes house prices are crazy, especially in Sydney and Melbourne. But every generation has its challenges in getting onto the property ladder.
My Gran and Poppa lived in a car container for the first year of their marriage. Gran said she felt pretty lucky, because all some people had was a tent! That was actually a thing in post-war Australia – building materials were rationed, hence all those pokey little fibro cottages. Buying land was kinda easy, but building a house on it? Not so much.
And then our parents’ generation struggled with 18% interest rates and a major recession. Yes, they were still spending less in comparison to wages (as I explain here), but I’m sure we can all agree it felt pretty fucking stressful at the time. And unemployment was high AF, so there was also the chance you could lose your job.
Yes, it’s hard and scary to buy property now, but it always has been. You have to accept that and find a way around it. Maybe you can’t buy in Sydney, for example, but can you buy somewhere else for under $500K and rent it out? Probably.
You still need to do boring things like cut back your spending and save like a tight-arse – but I can tell you right now my Gran was not getting her nails done when she was living in a one-room shed with a husband and a baby.
And if you play the long game, knuckle down, and get serious about saving, you will get there eventually.
Start investing early and take on more risk when you’re young – This solid piece of advice comes from one of my favourite low-key rich people. He manages ridiculous amounts of money for ridiculously rich people, but still gets excited about getting a great deal at the Anytime Fitness near his apartment building. And when I say his building, this guy’s company literally built and sold the whole thing.
The second point is that you can tolerate more risk when you’re young, because you have a longer investment horizon. If you lose a little bit one year, you have more years to make it back.
Markets are volatile, so you have to build in the likelihood of loss every now and then. In fact, most super funds work out their investment risk based on how often they can lose money. A medium-risk option might tolerate 2-3 years of negative returns over 20 years, while a higher risk option would make a loss in 4-6 years – although aiming for higher returns too. (There’s a good explanation of this concept here).
The upshot is, you can’t make all the money, all the time – but if you have time on your side, you can upsize your risk profile, as well as capture the magic of compound returns.
As you get closer to retirement, and have less time to make up for losses, you should dial down your risk profile accordingly. Some super funds now just do it for you – it’s called a ‘lifecycle’ strategy.
(If you want to read about risk and the different ways it applies to your money, check out my earlier post.)
The key here is that you don’t have to drop a million bucks on a property to make this advice work. You could sign up to the Acorns app, for example, and start socking away loose change into an ETF. (Of course, do your own research on it).
But remember, you can start small, just as much as you can start early.
So that’s it for now. I have a few more nuggets of advice up my sleeve, which I’ll share in future. In the meantime, ladies, stay Fierce.