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The Fierce Girl's Guide to Finance

Get your shit together with money

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Fierce Girl

Hi there, I'm the Chief Fierce Girl. I work in the finance world, and moonlight as a blogger helping to empower women financially. Thanks for stopping by; I can see we are going to be great friends.

The time of the tight-arses has arrived: are you ready?

Well, that escalated quickly.

One week I’m all like  ‘sure buy some cheap shares‘ and the next I’m like ‘yeah, so you should probably start learning to grow your own herbs and bake your own bread’.

Things are crazy. Last night I spoke to my retired dad. He said he’s fine, as long as he doesn’t look at the stock market.

We talked about tightening our belts and digging out my Grandma’s CWA cookbook for some thrifty living recipes. Boiled fruitcake recipe available if anyone’s interested (oh wait, you need flour for that, and that’s become a weird luxury item).

His line of the week was: “The time of the tight-arses has arrived”. And damn, he is right. We’re cool all of a sudden.

People have been asking me about various topics and my main answer is: it’s time to hunker down. Sometimes doing nothing is the right choice.

A few people have asked: should I be buying shares now that the market is down?

My answer is: it’s not a bargain if you don’t need it.

If you were already in the market for equities, then sure, take a look in the bargain bin.

But like any shopping trip, you need to ask: is it cheap because it’s sale time or is it cheap because it’s a fluoro yellow mini-dress that nobody else wants? 

I have bought too many of the fluoro-dress-type bargains in my life, so now I’ve taught myself that if I wouldn’t buy it full-price, I don’t want it.

Consider Afterpay (ASX:APT), the market darling who was so obviously over-valued (in my view). It has dropped around 75 per cent – from above $40 in February, to $9.90 at the close on Thursday 19 March.

Investors are worried that all those customers who thought they could totally handle thousands of dollars of debt will, all of a sudden, be not-so-cool with it.

So, is Afterpay a bargain or a fluoro mini-dress? Time will tell.

I’ll be honest, the bargain hunter in me really wants to buy some. But mature Belinda reminds herself of the hot pink high-heels she bought from DJ’s on sale 3 years ago, which she has only worn once.

Also, I need to make an important point:

Only invest if you feel secure and have a seriously big emergency savings buffer. 

It’s clear to me that we are about to enter a recession after about 27 years of uninterrupted  economic growth in Australia. Many of my readers were either kids or not even born when the early 90’s recession hit (good but sobering read about it here).

Pearl Jam were releasing Ten, and they were rocking the finest op-shop fashions for a reason: recession.

Please enjoy this pic of me circa 1991, courtesy of my bestie

I don’t remember much beyond Paul Keating on the news saying it was a recession we had to have, which was apparently not helpful. I think he was trying to say that sometimes the economy is blown up like a bubble and needs a release valve.

For economic nerds, this market downturn is not surprising. The event that sparked it certainly is – nobody expects a pandemic.

But economies and markets always rise and fall – as you can see in the yellow columns below. (I pulled it from this good article).

This chart shows all the market falls since 1973. Source: Firstlinks

The thing that sucks is living through the falls – which we are now.

So, now is the time to shore up your resources.

If you still have a job, save your arse off. Stop wasting money – like NOW. Ignore the politicians saying it’s your duty to prop up the economy – screw that, protect yourself.

I am not in the most secure job situation, so I am not investing much in the market right now. I’m in ‘hunker down and max out the emergency fund’ mode. My emergency funds sit in my mortgage redraw, so I’m also reducing my interest costs (low as they are).

Remember that when you lose your job in a recession, it might not just be a few weeks until you get another one. It can be many, many months.

Without wanting to alarm you, look at how quickly the unemployment rate rose in the 1990s, while I was living in blissful ignorance, worrying about teenage boys and listening to Pearl Jam:

Yes, that’s a 38% increase in one year.

So, if you have the emergency fund situation sorted, maybe investing is an option. But first, make sure you are ready for a world where at least 1 in 10 people don’t have a job.

Sorry, this post turned out to be a major buzz-kill. I just want all you Fierce Girls to be in the group of people who can see what’s coming and prepare as much as possible.

This period is not about hoarding toilet paper; it’s about hoarding your savings in case the worst comes. 

And if it doesn’t come, and you sail through, then guess what? You’ve got a great savings fund to spend in a few years – on whatever badly-thought-through mini-dress options you desire!

 

A small request not to freak the hell out about the world right now

Sure things aren’t perfect. Sure we are facing an outbreak of Coronavirus, but maybe it’s best to just sit yourself down like Elle Woods watching hot guys play sport. (On TV though, to be safe).

Of course, some people will get sick. A small proportion will sadly die from complications, in the same way people die from the flu every year. But this is not 1918 and we are not all going to perish from a Spanish flu pandemic.

What we are really witnessing on the markets, in the media and in the supermarket aisles is panic.

This is a downturn driven by emotion.

I suspect that in the face of a vague sense of existential dread caused by climate change and growing wealth inequality and political instability, the virus is something to focus our collective panic on. We can’t stop companies burning dirty coal but goddamn it we can buy some hand sanitiser!

For most people, the biggest threat is not to our health, but to our economic security. There is quite likely to be a recession or at least a downturn. (A recession is technically two quarters of negative economic growth).

The biggest consequence of a recession is that people lose their jobs. Employers create fewer jobs. Casual staff have their hours cut. It takes longer to find a new job.

A recession means people buy less stuff and use fewer services and that’s at the core of the employment market.

What does this mean for you?

Build your emergency fund.

Ideally you will have three months of living expenses tucked away in a place that’s neither too easy to access (like, on a night out), nor too hard. You don’t really want your emergency funds in the sharemarket in case it falls in value at exactly the time you need it (like now).

Having an account with a different bank to your normal one is a popular option. Remember that the Australian Government guarantees bank deposits (up to $250,000 per account, per bank) so it’s pretty darn safe.

Another good idea? Start dusting off your CV and kick up your networking a notch.

Even in good economic times, you never know when you might walk into work one day and be made redundant (God, isn’t that an awful expression?).

So it’s not a bad idea to keep your CV up to date, know some relevant recruiters and make sure you’re out and about at industry events.

I know, networking events are hard work, but they exist for a reason – not because we enjoy balancing plates and wine glasses in one hand and trying to remember four people’s names.

What about my investments?

If you’ve already made your emergency fund, and are worried about your investments, this is a perfect time to do nothing. Or buy more.

OK that’s my opinion, and I’m not an adviser. But the key thing to ask is: am I an investor or a day-trader?

If you’re investing for your future self, then you have to remember that market downturns are as inevitable as someone on Married at First Sight cheating on their fake spouse.

If you don’t need the money right now, it’s time to chill. Or as some market pundits (like this guy) are saying, it may even be time to buy.

I’ve been dropping money into my Raiz account (because I’m too lazy to pick things). My friend just bought a big chunk of bank shares. Another friend who recently bought Gold ETFs is boasting about how well they are doing.

I’m not saying any or all of us are correct, but what we have in common is this: we have taken a view and acted on it.

We also have our other ducks in a row, in terms of mortgages and emergency funds.

The worst thing you can do right now is look at your portfolio on a daily basis. The shorter time-frame you look at, the worst it will seem.

This is the ASX100 if you just look at it over 6 months.

ASX100 chart
ASX100 Chart. Source: asx.com.au Period: 9/9/19 to 9/3/20

But this is what it looks like over the last 10 years.

ASX100 Chart. Source: asx.com.au Period: 9/9/10 to 9/3/20

Sure it’s down now, but it’s still up overall. It looks even better over a longer period but the ASX tool doesn’t go longer than that and I’m too busy to find another one.

The point is this: investing is a long-term thing.

So what I’m basically here to say is:

  1. Be alert but not alarmed. The world isn’t ending;
  2. If you have spare cash you might buy some cheap investments;
  3. But if you need spare cash in case you’re out of work for a while, keep it in the bank.

That’s it Fierce Girls. Stay cool.

Fierce Girl Live: Just one week until our Sydney event

Sydney friends, have you bought your ticket yet?

They’re just $22 – bargain huh? That’s what we’re about here at Fierce Girl Finance.

Here’s the deal: we get together in a great venue in Pyrmont, drink wine, eat cheese, then hear from three great women who have their money lives together.

If you’ve thought about investing but don’t know where to start, this event is for you. Details are:

  • Thursday March 5 at 6pm
  • Legalvision, 100 Harris St, Pyrmont
  • Buy tickets: click here

Can’t wait to see you there!

Do ONE thing to get ahead with your money

Here’s the thing. Adulting is A LOT.

A lot of tasks. A lot of responsibilities. A lot of items on the ‘live your best life’ self-improvement list.

If watching Miss Americana taught me one thing (and look, it taught me many), it’s that if even Taylor Swift feels overwhelmed sometimes, we all do.

We are all Taylor, yo.

And somewhere in between jobs and partners and kids and to-do’s, we are meant to be building our financial fitness.

Setting budgets, searching out specials, putting savings aside, and a whole lot of other things.

But it’s hard. And we are busy. So today, I’m here to make a deal with you.

How about you pick JUST ONE THING?

Just one thing to focus on this month, in the pursuit of financial-best-selfness.

Now, it’s totally up to you which thing you do. And guess what, I’m giving you five to choose from!

Option 1: Track your expenses everyday – You can either download an app (there are plenty) or simply log into your bank account every day.

 

The closer you get to all those spending decisions, the more you’ll be encouraged to think twice about them.

Beyonce  checking to see if Jay-Z spent too much on snacks at the basketball

For bonus points, you could download your statements from the last couple of months and do a backwards-looking review. But I don’t know if that counts as TWO things, so, no pressure.

Option 2: Give up one expense/bad habit – We all know our kryptonite spending habit. Maybe it’s buying that second coffee in the afternoon. Maybe it’s logging onto the Iconic to ‘browse’. Maybe it’s going up to the fun level of the mall when you only came to buy groceries (like me).

It’s easy to feel like a failure if you go too hard. Tempted to do a Marie-Kondo on your entire wardrobe and vow to never  buy another piece of clothing? Not recommended.

It’s impossible, and then failure becomes a demotivator.

Instead, target one habit that’s not serving you well and get on top of it.

To-do list One Thing Challenge

Option 3: Unsubscribe to all your shopping newsletters  – The email equivalent of an all-over body scrub at a spa. It legit took me five minutes and I feel so fresh and clean!

I found a tool called unroll.me and linked it to my Gmail. In seconds it had scraped a list of all my subscriptions.

No Supre, I do not need those personalised booty shorts.

No Review, I don’t care if you have 30% off clothes I don’t need.

So much less tempting if you don’t know about it!

Bonus round is reviewing all your other micropayment subscriptions like Netflix, Stan, Spotify, Apple Music etc. I’ve heard of people who pay for one streaming service, their family member pays for the other, and then they share. Obviously I would never advocate such unethical behaviour. Just the word on the street.

Option 4: Log into your super – The point of this is simply to make friends with it. Think of it as a friendly coffee catch-up with your retirement savings.

If you don’t know how to log in, that’s the main task. Set yourself up, even if means giving your fund (or funds) a quick call. If you already have a log-in, skip to the next part.

She knows it’s kind of dull, but even Katy Perry checks her super

Once you’re in, check your balance, update your contact details and make sure your employer has actually been paying you for the last year (can you believe this doesn’t always happen?).

Bonus round is reviewing your investment option and insurance coverage, and/or rolling over accounts with other funds. But that’s intermediate level – read this post for more tips if you’re keen.

Option 5: Make a mindful spending manifesto – I like this because it’s all about words, not spreadsheets. I really don’t enjoy looking at numbers on a page.

Instead, I think about where I want to be allocating my money. (There’s a whole post about it here).

Remember, priorities change over time. Last year I was spending a lot on fitness, including personal training. This year, I’ve got an annoying shoulder injury plus a reduced income, so I’ve dialled that down. Instead, I’m investing money in my business (including an accountant – FML).

I’m updating my priorities to keep my spending in line with my goals.

rihanna money
We all want to feel like Rihanna don’t we?

Honestly Fierce Girls, my friend Jess and I got so excited about this topic, we actually have another five activities to choose from. But I am going to give us all a month before I overwhelm you.

If you are on board with the One Thing Challenge, head on over to the socials to share your wins.

I’m thinking about creating a Facebook Group for this stuff as well, so let me know if you’re keen for that (via Facebook or Insta).

That’s all for now. Stay Fierce!

Do you ever do that in your work emails? Start the subject line with PLEASE READ?

Nah, me either. Would never be that desperate. Of course. Who would even?

Anyway, can I please take a few minutes of your time to tell you some cool things that have happened since that time I quit my job.

The First Ever Fierce Girl Finance Event!

If you’re in Sydney, (pretty) please come along to this super affordable event on 5 March to hear about how to get started with investing. It will be informal, feature women who I think are amazing but super relatable, and there will be WINE. All for $22!

All the details and tickets are here: Make Your Pay Slay All Day: get started with investing

Ok this is me hosting another event, but you get the idea.
A Low-key Media Blitz

The hardest thing about writing for Mamamia is that every time I go to the website, I get sucked into things like Married at First Sight recaps (which are hilarious).

However, I did write a useful piece you might enjoy:

From ‘what is a share’ to how to invest: 7 questions you’re afraid to ask a financial advisor, answered. Click here to read it.

I also went on a bit of a rant over at Yahoo Finance, explaining: Three money mistakes women make all the time. (Hot tip, it’s not buying too many lattes). Click here to read it. 

A brand new Instagram page

Yep, from shameless food prep photos to ‘save-and-share’ memes, the new Insta page is where it’s at, ladies!

Just head on over to https://www.instagram.com/fiercegirlfinance/ and behold my amazing design skills! (If by amazing you mean barely adequate).

Video Content on IGTV

To celebrate Valentine’s Day (well, distract myself), I scripted, filmed, edited and posted a video on IGTV and Facebook. Honestly, I impressed the hell out of myself and am legit baffled about how I could possibly still be single.

Anyway, here it is. (I promise I’ll get better with practise).

New brand and website

But wait, there’s more! I know right, I’m on fire.

You can see the new brand colours and logo on my Insta page.

In the background, I’m beavering away on a new website, which is going to be gorgeous and actually done by professionals (not me and a Canva template). So, stay tuned for that.

I need your help … please

Fierce Girl Finance is finding its feet again. After a couple of years of enforced anonymity, I am finally able to build it into the platform I want it to be.

So, how can you help?

  • Subscribe to the blog (see that button up top?)
  • Follow me on Instagram: @fiercegirlfinance
  • Share the content. This is the best way to support the brand, but also to help other ladies level up their lives!

That’s all for now. Take care and stay fierce babes!

My friend bought an apartment in New York and she’s here to help you save

Wanna know how I managed to spend three weeks swanning around New York City last year? I lived with my amazing friend Gigi, who is a legit Manhattan property owner. 

Yep, that’s right, home girl saved her way to a sweet apartment in the very hip East Village. 

Not only is she a great friend for letting me stay there, she is a certified Fierce Girl. 

Nine years ago, Gigi packed up, left Sydney and made a life in the Big Apple. And while she’s had lots of fun times and cool experiences, she’s also been really sensible with money. 

We started chatting about some of the ways we’ve both achieved our financial independence and there was so much gold, I’ve captured it all in one post. Please enjoy Gigi’s Guide to Life & Money. 

  1. It’s not about being a ‘tight-arse’, it’s about balance. 

When we started our chat, I was asking for Gigi’s best ‘tight-arse tips’.

But she pointed out that’s not the right way to frame it.  “It’s the same way I don’t like healthy eating being framed as a diet. To me, these are tips for how to live a financially healthy life.

“Not buying a flat white every day isn’t being a tight arse, it’s saying ‘I would prefer to do something else with that $100/month’. Same with not spending money on make-up, bringing lunch everyday or eating less meat (though I started doing this for environmental reasons, then calorie reasons, then money reasons).”

It’s not like we don’t have fun or anything

She explains that it’s not just about cutting costs, but redeploying the savings you make

“When I cut that coffee spending of $100/month, I top up my auto savings. But not by the full $100. By say $50 or $75. Because I don’t want to never buy another coffee again, I just don’t want to spend $100/month on coffee. Kinda of like not eating back 100% of the calories you burn at the gym.

“And don’t think that people who spend a lot on something big are always spending that much. For me, the way to have a guilt-free big Saturday night is to not buy lunch and coffee during the week.” (Can confirm: Gigi never tries to avoid buying a round at the bar).

This is basically the ethos behind Mindful Spending, which I have written about here.

  1. More isn’t always better. 

“Having one of something will make you happy, but having multiples of something won’t multiply your happiness. True with eating treats and true with buying things.”

Side note: Gigi decided a couple of years ago to lose some weight that had crept on during her party years in New York. She’s done an amazing job of losing it in a healthy, sustainable way. We both agree there are many parallels between healthy eating and healthy finances. 

Anyway, she had this insight from someone in the Reddit weight-loss group. 

“They pointed out that a biscuit/cupcake/icecream can be amazing but eating more of it won’t make it more amazing. It’ll never taste as good as that first bite. Something about it really resonated with me”.

Having just done a major clear-out of my wardrobe, I agree this is true. No more sassy slogan t-shirts for me.

  1. Meal planning makes cents!

Ah, see what I did there? 

Puns aside, planning healthy meals and bringing a salad to work every day were easy wins for Gigi on both the calorie-cutting and saving front. 

“Meal planning means you don’t buy random stuff you don’t need, and don’t waste it. One thing that helps is learning to love leftovers. Be ok with eating the same thing four days in a row.”

I know people who say ‘oh no, I don’t like leftovers’ blah blah. I say to those people, toughen up: it’s all in your mind. Humans evolved by eating the same animals and plants over and over, and you can too. (Admittedly, by day 4 it gets old. But you can definitely do 3 days) 

Anyway, if you want to get better at meal planning, I have your back! Here’s my guide.

  1. Let your sober self be cheap, and your drunk self splurge

Gigi crystallised this for me a while back. If you’re going out on the town, don’t be lazy – take public transport there. Then you can give yourself a leave pass to get an Uber home. 

Similarly, try and start the night at your house (or a friend’s) with a good bottle of wine or two. That way you can probably have some cheap snacks as well. I know it sounds suspiciously like the pre-loading you did when you were 19 years old. But this is the adult version, with a nice Pinot Grigio, not Smirnoff Black. 

  1. Make friends with your banking app

“Something I think is a great habit is to look at your spending and savings regularly. I log in to online banking and go through my spending twice a week, just out of habit. It shocks me when I hear that not everyone does that”. 

There are two advantages to this: it provides a reality check if your spendy self is getting a bit busy; and you notice any unusual charges that might be fraud. 

I also have notifications on my banking app (Macquarie) every time I make a transaction. As the world has become a tap-and-go free-for-all, that reminder makes me think twice about where my cash is going. 

  1. Say no to things you don’t want to do

Sounds revolutionary huh? But think – honestly – about the number of times you go to stuff without really being interested. 

Gigi’s actual words were: “Can ‘just say no to weddings you don’t want to go’ to be a tip?” I say yes. She figures: “If you care so little about it that you don’t want to be there, then the bride/groom probably won’t miss you”.

One thing that’s become outrageously expensive are hen’s and buck’s parties. Back in the olden days (pre-Instagram), it was a modest affair like a dinner, a club and maybe a stripper. But these days it’s easy to drop $500 on one event. WTAF? 

So while we aren’t trying to ruin your friendships, we would suggest that just because you’re asked to do something – from dinners through to hen’s parties – doesn’t mean you have to

  1. Just stop buying stuff

This is Gigi’s final tip. “Like, go a month without buying anything”. 

I know, she’s no Carrie Bradshaw, right? (She is, in fact, a self-declared Miranda).

It’s not like we don’t vacation in Mexico either

Like these tips and want more? Make sure to subscribe!

If you can shop for clothes, you can shop for shares

“Nobody in my family has ever bought shares. It’s all new to me. I’d like to be able to do it myself. Is there an ‘easy way’? Probably not.”

This is part of a message I got from an old friend recently. And I loved it!

I loved that she was taking an interest in investing. I loved that she was thinking about her future. I loved that she was stepping outside her comfort zone.

So … is there an easy way?

Yes and no.

The mechanics of it can be easy. Sign up to an online broker and make some trades.

A harder part is knowing what to buy (more on that below).

And the hardest part is feeling legit.

It’s a challenge, believing we have the right to be here, doing this thing that has always been done by “smarter/richer/more important” people – and mostly men.

But it’s time for you to join this world. And I’m here to give you your ticket.

I’ll admit: this post is kind long and involved. But hang in there.  

For many people, investing is a whole new world. New language, new ideas, new ways to think. It takes a while to feel comfortable.

It’s like learning anything though. If you ask the average bloke about the merits of skin serums vs moisturisers, he will look at you blankly. That’s because society hasn’t told men that skincare is important, or socialised them to believe that the way their skin looks is crucial to their social success. So they haven’t learnt about it.

But just because it’s new, doesn’t mean it’s beyond your skill or knowledge.

Don’t worry, Fierce Girl is here to help!

I thought a lot about my friend’s question and figured that if you’ve ever gone shopping for a particular outfit, it’s a similar process. Say you need something to wear to a wedding.

Step 1. The Brief

There are a bunch of things to consider. The time of year; the accessories you have and the ones you need to buy; if your stilettos will sink into the grass; the dress code (does formal mean a long dress?); how fat/skinny you feel right now. The list goes on.

There are also the practicalities. How much can you afford to spend? How many weekends do you have to go shopping? How many weeks do you have up your sleeve to buy online, get it delivered and return the five dresses you hate?

It’s a lot of thinking. But we do it, because we are competent, empowered women.

And that’s the energy we need to bring to investing.

This is my one and only ‘designer’ dress that gets dragged out for nearly every event. 

When you’re in planning mode, some factors to consider are:

  • Your goals – is the money for a general nest egg or ‘f*#k-off fund’; for a bigger purchase down the track (e.g. a home deposit); will it be part of your retirement savings? Being clear on that will help with the next point…
  • Your timeframe – are you likely to need this money in the next five years? If so, maybe just stick it in a high-interest savings account. Shares can be too ‘up and down’ for a shorter period. But for a longer period, you can possibly tolerate a little risk and volatility – i.e. you have longer to ride those ups and downs, and let them smooth out over time.
  • Your own mindset – financial advisers like to talk about ‘risk tolerance’. In one sense it’s determined by the timeframe – the more time on your side, the more risk you can handle. But there’s also your own personality. If the thought that your share portfolio could fall dramatically will keep you up  at night, then it’s probably better to go with a more ‘conservative’ portfolio. Don’t sell yourself short on this – some risk is needed to make money. At the same time, don’t go against your gut if it’s going to make you unhappy.

Step 2. The Research

Lady Gaga sorting through stock tips

The wedding outfit can require some serious thought, especially if you’re likely to see your ex-boyfriend or some chick from high-school who was mean to you.

Research is the answer. You scroll Instagram, makes wishlists on The Iconic, and wander the shopping mall at lunch. You also flick through a few fashion magazines for ideas – haha just kidding, what is this, 1997?

At some point you decide that ‘formal’ can definitely include cocktail length dresses, because, well, there’s a perfect one on sale at Rodeo Show.

You can apply this solid skillset to researching your investment options.

The first question is whether you want a DIY approach or someone to pick things for you.

The DIY Approach – Direct Share Investing

Nobody does DIY quite like Fifth Harmony

You can pick a few companies to invest in, then buy their shares (technically, they are called equities, but let’s stick with the common name here).  You do this directly through a real-life or online broker (discussed in this post).

Some challenges with this are:

  • you don’t know if you’re paying a fair price  – unless you go deep into their financial statements and think about things like price-earnings ratios.
  • It’s harder to spread the risk. The more companies you invest in, the less it matters when one goes badly. ‘Diversification’ is a key investment concept, and it’s hard to achieve it unless you have a lot of money to plough into shares.
  • It can be more stressful – Related to the above point, owning just a handful of companies means you watch them more closely and get emotionally invested in their ups and downs.

Personally, I’m not a fan of direct investing. But some people are really attracted to it because they like the control it gives them, or they enjoy all the research and trading.

But if this doesn’t sound like you then, another option is a managed fund.

Pay someone else to be smart

Back when I got married, I would never have pulled my wedding dress off the rack when I was shopping for it. But the lady at Baccini & Hill has dressed a few brides in her time, and she knew exactly what would look good on me, because she’s a professional.

Belinda wedding dress
Please enjoy this photo of me eating a party pie in my expensive wedding dress. But it looks good right?

If you want your shares to be professionally managed, you have two main choices:

  • Active Management – someone (usually a team) does all the research, selects the companies to buy and then does the buying/selling at the appropriate time. You pay fees to the manager for doing all this work (usually a percentage of the amount invested). Picking a fund manager is a whole topic in itself, which I’ll save for another time.
  • Passive Investing – This is where your portfolio mimics the performance of the market, instead of someone picking the best shares for you. It means costs are much lower, but you don’t have a chance to ‘beat the market’ (i.e. make more than the average investor).

Passive investing – through Index Funds and Exchange Traded Funds (ETF) – has grown in popularity in recent years. It could be worth considering if:

  • You’re not fussed about beating the market and are happy to earn the average
  • You don’t like paying a lot in fees
  • You want to start with a small amount (like, a spare fifty bucks or so)

It’s not as DIY as direct investing, but it’s also not as hands-on (or costly) as active management.

The cheapest way to access this type of investment is through an ETF provider – such as Vanguard, iShares or BetaShares. If this appeals to you, I recommend reading ASIC’s explanation, so you understand what you’re getting into.

You can also invest in Index Funds through a manager like Vanguard – i.e. you put in an application directly with the manager, rather than buying on the exchange. The difference between these approaches is subtle – check out this article for more details.

Still confused/scared/intimidated?

If you are baffled by how many products are on offer, and which one is right for you, a roboadviser can help.

Companies like Stockspot, Six Park and Raiz put together a basket of ETFs for you, based on your needs and preferences. There is a fee, but it’s generally a lot lower than paying a human adviser.

Speaking of humans, don’t rule out getting an adviser if you are really serious. Just like a personal trainer can get you over the fear or walking into a sweaty weights room full of men, an adviser can guide you through the world of investing.

You’ll pay for the privilege, but if they give you the confidence to step into investing, you could potentially make that money back over time.

Step 3: Get cracking!

I know this is a lot of information, and I’m not recommending you jump online and buy, buy, buy right now!

Do some more reading (or watching videos) to get your head in the game.

However, don’t wait to be an expert. Perfect is the enemy of done.

You can get started with a small amount of money, find your comfort factor, and then build from there.

And remember, if you can go shopping for clothes, you can go shopping for shares.

If Julia Roberts can do it, so can you!

Here are some more of my articles to help you get started:

 

 

 

 

 

Want to nail your finances in 2020? Start with these 3 questions

Hey, Happy New Year! How was your New Year’s Eve?

Did you party like it’s 1999 and spend 1 Jan on the lounge, feeling sorry not sorry?

Did you buy the kids sparklers, let them run around, and hoped they crash out before midnight so you could sneak in an early night?

Personally I’m a low-key NYE kinda gal. This year I stayed up and drank espresso martinis with good friends. I also made the lovely Amy Pearson take a bunch of photos of me looking festive. You like?

Anyway, we are all hopefully waking up to the new year and the new decade with a spring in our steps, a positive attitude and nothing more than a slight hangover.

And gurrrrl we are ready to OWN IT on the financial front. AMIRIGHT?

As Chief Fierce Girl, I’m here to be your head coach and head cheerleader, because I’m multi-talented like that.

We don’t need to make unrealistic resolutions. We don’t need to put our credit cards in the freezer. We don’t need to makeover our entire financial situation.

But let’s all do things a little bit better in 2020, starting today! Ok, maybe tomorrow if you need a burger and a nap.

And here are some questions to help you on the way.

1. What habits am I going to break?

We all have our pitfalls when it comes to spending. I’m sure you know yours. You don’t have to commit to fixing all of them. But maybe pick one or two.

This is mine: when I go to the shopping centre to buy groceries, I can do it all on the lower levels. I have zero need to get on the escalators and yet, I convince myself that I just need to ‘look’ in K-Mart in case there is something I’ve forgotten I need.

And then, not only do I go broke saving money in that bargains black hole, I see all the other shops. Like, once you’re up there, you may as well go up to Sephora. And so on…

So, this year, no K-Mart check-ins. If I haven’t written something on a list ahead of time, I am anchored to the boring grocery level. Sigh.

The key here is to start small and realistic. I’m lying to myself if I think I will not buy any new makeup this year. But I can definitely achieve the goal of not going up some escalators.

What are your bad habits, and which one/s will you tackle?

2. What habits am I going to create?

One of the keys to getting on top of money (or anything in life) is to slowly build good habits, which eventually add up.

Last year I committed to tracking all my spending for a while. Every coffee, every snack. Not gonna lie, I didn’t do it all year. But I did commit it to it for a couple of months to get a better handle on where my money goes. It was a useful exercise. (I used TrackMySpend app and recommend it. The part where you have to decide if it’s a want or a need is particularly illuminating. Like, is coffee a need if you’re a dirty caffeine addict like me?)

Other small habits you might consider, depending on your situation:

  • Committing to making your own lunch at least four times a week
  • Checking your bank statements at least weekly to see your spending and check there are no dodgy transactions
  • Learning something new about money regularly – perhaps it’s reading the Money section of the newspaper, subscribing to a blog like this one, or following some interesting money people on social media
  • Having a regular money date night – either with yourself or your partner. This is a chance to review spending, bills, goals, investments. Sure there are hotter date nights in the world, but at least you don’t have to try and stay awake for sexy time later on.

This is not an exhaustive list. I suspect you know which good habits you’d like to build. So, pick one and go for it. Then when you have nailed it, pick the next. Head over to my home boy James Clear and read his stuff on habits – he’s the best.

3. Am I treating myself or cheating myself?

Spending can be just like any other vices, such as drinking booze or eating junk food. It feels good, briefly soothes our soul, but ultimately takes us further from our goals.

But just like food and booze, it’s all about the dose.

It’s probably ok to treat yourself to a nice restaurant, a new outfit or a good facial if you have done it thoughtfully.

Like, you set a goal and achieved it. Or you want a special night out with your partner. Or you have finished a particularly stressful period at work and want to unwind.

But if it’s constant and mindless, you might be veering into ‘masking my pain and stress’ territory.

If you think you’re more in the latter, I’d urge you to think about your spending traps. Look at your bank statements, track your spending, listen to that annoying friend who guilt trips you for buying stupid stuff (apparently I’m one of them).

And then work out if there is a better way to handle your feelings or stress. (Yoga anyone?).

You can also put in place rules and hacks to help dial it down. I am a fan of filling my online shopping cart, then leaving it for 24 hours. In 9 out of 10 cases, I don’t buy it.

Or set up a dedicated ‘treat yoself’ account and limit your mindless spending to that

I personally would put most expensive beauty treatments in this category. Nobody needs eyelash extensions, botox or fillers. But I’m not here to tell you how to spend your cash – I just want you to really think about it. What’s driving it and is it taking you away from your goal?

And that’s all the friendly advice I’m gonna drop on you this New Year’s Day. I hope 2020 is a great year for you. And if you want to come along on the ride towards financial freedom, fill in that ‘subscribe’ box up top and stay tuned for more fun times!

Fierce Girl Finance

Four ways to feel better about the annual holiday shitshow

Remember those columns in women’s magazines with a list of ‘better’ food options? Swap this delicious-but-fattening food for that not-at-all-delicious-but-low-cal food!

Sorry New Weekly, but yogurt with carrot sticks is in no way equivalent to a creamy blue cheese on crackers. Pfft.

But could we apply the same approach to our thoughts?

Holidays are an absolute shitshow for our finances and our mental states. It starts with buying Christmas party outfits, bounces along through gift-buying, and blows out on family-holiday type activities.

Then we review the year just gone and what we’ve achieved – or not.

Nothing like a little end-of-year navel-gazing to make us feel like a failure. (Maybe there should be some sort of Men in Black-type device that wipes our January memories, and makes us forget all those new year resolutions we made).

But honestly, a lot of the negative emotions we battle during this period are a massive waste of energy. We’d do far more good by being a little kinder and gentler to ourselves.

And so I propose my own list of ‘Feel this, not that‘, holiday-season style.

  • Swap ‘Feeling Guilty’ for ‘Feeling Grateful’.

Things I would like to feel guilty for right now include: everything I’ve eaten for the last six weeks, not having an actual job, not having written enough content, putting my gym membership on hold, and spending vast sums on cocktails in New York recently.

For me, guilt itself is a guilty pleasure; I thrive on it. So, I have to work really hard on reframing those things.

Things I might feel grateful for include: delicious food shared with friends and family, having some freelance income, creating time to think of new content, taking time off to reset my fitness goals, and having an awesome opportunity to make the most of New York.

It’s not my default setting to think like this, but it is in fact possible. If you are piling up the guilty ‘shoulds’ of your life right now, maybe give this thought experiment a go.

Martinis and oysters in New York. No regrets.
  • Swap ‘Feeling Obligated’ for ‘Setting Boundaries’.

This time of year is particularly full of opportunities to feel obligated. You should attend this work event, go to that family thing, buy that person an expensive gift, make an effort to see that group of people.

This can stretch us even thinner at a time when we’re all so tiiiired. And it generally costs money too. Every time you buy a stupid secret santa gift, or attend a social event you don’t really want to, it’s a withdrawal from both of our bank accounts: time and money.

So perhaps, instead of agreeing to stuff because you ‘should’, consider saying no.

Like, setting boundaries around your time and attention. Accepting you can’t go everywhere and do everything and that in fact, nobody actually minds that much when you decline.

As a woman, flexing the ‘no’ muscle is one of the most difficult – and liberating – things we can do. So go on, give it a go! (Only if you want to, no pressure, guilt or obligation).

  • Swap ‘Fear of Not Being Perfect’ for ‘Celebrating Not Being Perfect’.

My hunch is that the two points above are related to this one. Everyone wants to do their best – as an employee, a mum, a wife, a daughter – or whatever the multiple hats we wear. (I should know – being a consistently cool aunty requires a lot of keeping up with the latest music, TV and memes).

Then why do so many of us constantly feel like we aren’t doing a good enough job? Why do we get so down on ourselves?

I think the long answer is a complex one, bound up in layers of expectation about our value and role in a patriarchal system.

But social media plays a role too. For example, I find this time of year bittersweet, watching everyone’s kids graduate and mark milestones. Most of the time I feel fine about not being a mother, but now and then I feel conscious that I have failed in some sense.

And everyone has their own insecurities. It’s so easy to forget that we are seeing other people’s highlights reels.

My friend Rosie Fiore is an internationally published novelist, just staged a play in London and recently completed a Masters degree. She is legitimately one of the funniest, smartest and most accomplished women I know.

And this week she said, “As I look back over the last two years, they seem characterised by failure, rejection and indifference. My self-confidence has been battered and it has been extraordinarily hard at times to keep going … But you know what? None of that shows on social media. What we see of each other, by and large, is smiling group photos and graduation pics. I am reminded of the maxim that we should not compare our insides to other people’s outsides.”

Girl, whaaaaat? Failure? No way!

But she’s right about one thing. We only see the outside. We are terrified of people seeing us fail and fall and falter.

But hey, we all do it, right? A lot of the time, many of us are just barely keeping it together.

Or not keeping it together at all! And then we have people who love us, and are there to hug us, and hold space for us, and help us till we can get back up again.

So why do we fear this failure, this imperfection so much? What if we just lean into it? What if we were all a bit more Celeste Barber, laughing at our own imperfections?

If you don’t love @celestebarber on Instagram are you even alive?
  • Swap Anger for Empathy.

This year I’ve watched several people I love be hurt by people they love.

It’s true that ‘hurt people hurt people’. And there is nothing more enraging than watching someone you love be abused or manipulated by another person. To see the toxic energy they are serving up to their so-called ‘loved one’, in service of their own demons and insecurities.

The easiest thing in the world is to be angry at these antagonists. To swear them off, ignore their calls and generally talk shit about them to anyone who will listen. I’ll be honest, I’ve done my share of those things.

But anger is like a difficult house-guest. It can quickly outstay its welcome, hanging around with its feet on the coffee table, serving no purpose and just making you feel icky.

I think it’s Brene Brown who asks whether we believe everyone is doing their best. I believe they are.

Sometimes they do it hobbled by pain or mental anguish or personality disorders.

But I have to believe it, because we are all human and we are all weak and we all just want to be loved. So I try to swap anger for empathy every time I can.

Turns out, this post wasn’t really about money, but also it was. Because our headspace is so tied to our behaviours. And if we can believe that we are doing our best, that it’s ok to be imperfect, and that we don’t need to feel guilty, then hey, we’re basically unstoppable, right?

And with that, let me and Frosty wish you a gloriously messy holiday season.

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