Look, I know that I don’t technically have any kids.
But that hasn’t stopped me from adopting a bunch of other people’s kids.
I don’t want to boast, but I am a pretty cool aunty. From lounge-room nightclubs, to makeovers, to climbing trees, I’m up for whatever shenanigans are on the go. And I do all the voices when I read stories.
I want to be a positive force in these kids’ lives. But it’s not all about teaching them feminist theory
(ok maybe a sprinkling of that). So, I’ve been thinking about the money lessons I have learnt over the years, and hope I can share with them.
1. There’s no right or wrong way to spend money.
I know some people who have wonderful holidays but forever-on-hold home renovations. I know people with homes straight from the pages of Vogue Living, who barely ever buy new clothes. I’ll drop money on travel at the drop of a hat, but agonise over supermarket specials.
The key is to learn what means something to you, and spend more on that – while spending less on the other stuff. The people who are successful with money have worked out that you can’t have it all, and so they work out what to sacrifice. It’s what I call ‘Mindful Spending‘.
The tricky thing is finding a life partner who either shares these tastes, or working out a system to compromise. But if you can do that, you’ll get ahead.
2. Growing up means rejecting some of what your parents taught you.
We absorb so much of what we know about money (and life) without examining it. I’m not saying to reject everything – but to recognise which things are unconscious lessons, and then decide if you want to keep them.
Part of it is generational – my parents and grandparents grew up in a world of affordable homes, for example, so their experiences are shaped by that. It blows my mind to see the number of baby boomers who believe, without question, that property investment is a one-way ticket to riches. (I suspect their confidence will be tested in coming months.)
I’ve realised that my parents have a fairly risk-averse way of approaching money and it’s rubbed off on me. Now, I actively work on increasing my risk appetite so I can make some damn money in the markets. (I just sold all the cash and bonds out of my little portfolio. It’s now all equities, to see if I can pick up some gains in the market recovery. Very unlike me).
The key is to learn from your elders, but also plot out your own path in a rapidly changing world.
3. Love is great – but always get a prenup.
Ok, this is just a clickbaity summary of the most important lesson: never rely on someone else for your money. Love is a wonderful feeling, but it can lead us to poor financial decisions. Having a life partner is great, but they may not always be around. So, my hard-won advice is very practical.
Always have access to your own money. Don’t put every last cent into joint accounts. If you come to a relationship with significantly different levels of wealth, protect yourself with a financial agreement. Don’t ever give up your earning capacity and professional skills – they will never leave you for another lover.
4. It’s never too early to take an interest in money
I’ve met plenty of people who wish they’d got serious about the money earlier in life. But I can’t recall anyone saying they wish they’d started later.
The great thing is, you don’t even need to be earning lots of money to learn about it. Managing pocket money, and understanding your money personality, is a great start.
I had my first job at 13 and remember stashing away my $5-an-hour pay packets to save for a Double-Tape-Deck-CD-Player.
It was my first taste of setting a goal and relishing the achievement of it. Can’t say all my subsequent choices were perfect, but I did fund three European backpacking trips before I turned 25, so I must have been ok.
So, if your parents don’t have all the answers, look at the people around you who might (like your awesome aunty). Ask them questions, be curious.
Sure, people won’t tell you their financial details, but they will probably tell you their wins and losses, their regrets and achievements.
In the end, I want the girls and boys in my life to inherit a world with equal pay and opportunities, where they can build the lives they want and make positive money choices. I know all my Fierce Girls want that too and salute everyone who is working towards that.