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.
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!
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.
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.
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).”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
Like these tips and want more? Make sure to subscribe!
“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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
Here are some more of my articles to help you get started:
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!
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 wayequivalent 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.
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?
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.
This was the question posed to me by Mike the chef and impresario at B&H Deli, East Village, New York City.
Yes, I am in New York. Please allow me one smug mention of the fact.
So, Mike is part chef, part performer and part host. He welcomed me back since my last visit (a few years ago) as though I’d only been away for a quick holiday.
He asked me what I’m doing now (good question, Mike – what am I doing?) and I told him I write about money.
Which leads back to his question. How does one get rich?
I countered with my own question: how do you make the perfect omelette?
His answer? Love.
Unfortunately I have no such heart-warming answers for the rich question.
No secrets, hacks or shortcuts.
But isn’t that great? There is literally no secret to getting rich.
All the information is out there. It’s in books, on blogs, in newspapers. It’s as simple – and as difficult – as this:
Spend less than you earn
Invest the rest
What does ‘rich’ mean anyway?
Now, let’s take a moment to interrogate the word ‘rich’. It’s a very slippery one. Does it mean spending summers on private yachts in Europe? Buying the fancy moisturiser instead of the cheap one? Sending your kids to private school? Having a gun that shoots dollar bills like Cardi B?
Or does it mean having the ability to leave a situation – a relationship, a job, a home – that is no longer good for you?
Obviously it could be all of these things. I don’t really like the word myself. I think we can be rich in blessings, friends, family, opportunities and the like. But rich with money seems a little superior – too much hubris.
I prefer to talk about wealth. It speaks to resources – having the things you need to lead the life you want. To make decisions that make you happy. To have a safety net if things go wrong. That’s way more important than the ability to buy ‘stuff’.
Don’t get me wrong, I like stuff, I just don’t think it’s the most important part of the money conversation.
Anyway, back to the two steps to wealth. The Dickens fans among us* will know the famous Micawber principle. Back when being in debt got you arrested (true story), Mr Micawber was always in and out of debtors’ jail.
He would tell young David Copperfield: “Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen pounds nineteen and six, result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds ought and six, result misery.”
The thing is, Mr Micawber knew how it worked. He was aware of the perils of spending more money than you earn. And yet he did it anyway. He seemed constitutionally unable to live within his means, causing all sorts of trouble for him and his family.
If you have a touch of Micawber in you, you’ll know it can be hard to match intention with behaviour.
If you have bought one more thing because you could just Afterpay it; if you have maxed out a credit card without quite knowing how; if you have come back from holiday with a credit card hangover; you’re not alone.
There are sophisticated companies out there, doing everything they can to part us from our money. They have algorithms and data and shiny sales and targeted campaigns and behavioural tracking and a whole bunch of dark arts to make us do exactly what Mr Micawber warned us against.
The Tricky Part
I wish I could tell you there’s an easy way to fight this. But there’s not.
It’s the hard stuff – inner work stuff.
Finding out what emotions, fears or insecurities make you spend more than you plan to.
Identifying your bad habits, spending traps and weak points.
Staying close to your bank statements so you see where money is going out the door.
It’s another mental load, I’m sorry to say. Part of the hundreds or micro-decisions we make every day.
I see a lot of parallels between money and food. We live in a world where delicious, calorie-dense food and drink is all around us, all the time. It’s quick, cheap and easy. And so much harder to shop, cook and clean up in the kitchen. It’s so much mental energy to say ‘no’ to yummy food all the time.
But it’s a muscle. It responds to repetition. It gets better when you practise.
And it needs a reason to stay on track – a goal that is clear and specific enough for you to say ‘put that donut down’ or ‘abandon that shopping cart’.
If you’re interested in goal setting, and want an impassioned reason why it matters, check out this post.
If you’re thinking about some of the emotional stuff underlying your relationship to money, read this one.
If you are totally fine with your money mindset and just want the 411 on how to invest, go straight here!
I want to explore these issues more going forward, because I think it’s really important to educate women about how to invest, but it’s also critical to examine our relationship with money.
In the meantime, as we get ready for a new year and a new decade (WTF), I’d encourage you to spend a bit of time thinking about how you want to evolve your relationship with money. And guess what, I’ll be here to help!
*Side story for Dickens tragics: I went to trivia in Louisville, Kentucky recently, and one of the questions asked about an American novel published in serialised form in the mid-18th century. I was lost, because my American literature knowledge is patchy at best. Finally, they read out the answer and it’s David Copperfield! WTAF? Americans, stealing Dickens from Great Britain! Obviously some of us protested to the quiz master, but he seemed unmoved.
So I approached him and explained it could have been a mistake since Dickens was very popular in the US and used to go on reading tours here. Old mate was totally not listening to me because he was on Wikipedia, scrolling through the Dickens page, TO CHECK IF DICKENS WAS AMERICAN! Ok I have already ranted about this throughout this great land of America, but I’m glad to have another chance here.
A long time ago I bought a variety box from Sephora that came with a set of Huda Beauty false eyelashes. I often looked wistfully at this wonderful creation.
If only I were that kind of woman. You know, the type who can skilfully apply false lashes and breeze out into the night.
Well dear reader, it turns out I am.
My friend Amara provided encouragement and coaching. I watched Huda herself apply them in an Instagram video. She made it look not that hard.
And so, with a wedding to attend, I figured it was now or never.
First attempt was clumsy. They seemed huge, I could feel them attached to my eyelids, and they obscured my vision slightly.
But by the end of the night, having consumed at least an entire bottle of champagne and taken about 347 selfies, I was telling anyone who’d listen that they had become part of me.
‘I’m actually a cyborg now: part human, part eyelash’. You’re dead right, I am an entertaining wedding guest.
So anyway, I pulled them out again for Cup Day, because well, why not look good if work is paying for your lunch and booze?
This time it was much easier; they stayed in place easily and I quickly activated cyborg mode.
Then this week, I lashed up for a Fierce Girl photo shoot (more to come on this). By now, I managed to do it no-stress, first time and at 6am. Kim Kardashian, eat your heart out.
The reason I am telling you this otherwise tedious story, is that it proves a point about life, cosmetics and investing.
I had previously approached the issue with a lack of confidence. I was overawed. “I’m not the type of person who does that”, I told myself.
But I’ve almost mastered it now, thanks to gentle encouragement, online research and a first attempt that felt, frankly, clumsy and uncomfortable.
I also chose a quality, trusted brand. (Surprisingly, the $3 ones from Daiso are vastly inferior to the $40 ones from Sephora. Who knew?)
If you’ve thought about investing, but been overwhelmed by it, you should take heart from this story. And the next one.
I met a bloke at the ASX Investor Conference in Brisbane last week. I call him a ‘bloke’ because that’s what he is: a salt-of-the-earth fellow with a broad Queensland accent.
If this were a meme, the conversation would go:
Queensland bloke: You know what, I’ve made an average of 7% a year since 1999 by investing in shares.
Consider: if old mate had invested $10,000 back when Britney was singing Hit Me Baby One More Time, then added another $500 per month, he’d have made up to $285,000 by now. (That’s an estimate only and doesn’t allow for the sequencing of returns, but you get the picture).
If he does the same for the next 10 years, it could jump to over $600,000, thanks to the magic of compound interest. As the Backstreet Boys said in 1999, I Want it That Way.
Following this unsolicited disclosure, I asked my new friend some questions. He holds about 25 stocks at one time (pretty standard). He picks them based on broker reports, media articles and a good old dose of gut instinct. His best performing pick was Blackmores – bought in at $10 and it’s now over $200 per share. Part of his rationale? He saw the products in the pharmacy and knew the brand.
He also picked some dogs, like Slater & Gordon, where he threw good money after bad. (Nothing about investing in a law firm sounds attractive to me, but … each to their own.)
He lost a lot in the GFC, but hung in there and the portfolio recovered over time.
And that, my friends, is how you make money in equities.
I’m here to tell you, if old mate Queenslander who lived on a farm for twenty years can do it, you can too.
There are different ways to access listed investments. A fund manager can do it for you, you can buy a low-cost ETF, a roboadvice provider can hook you up, or you can just choose them yourself. I’ve written a whole post about it here.
The overarching message is this: anyone – including you – can build their wealth through listed investments. You need some baseline knowledge, a willingness to try and a good deal of patience.
You can always start small – exchange-traded products don’t have a minimum investment. (Well, technically buying one unit is the minimum).
Of course you need to be mindful of risk and time horizons. A rule of thumb is that shares suit investors who have at least a five-year time horizon. That allows the ups and downs to balance out over time.
And diversification is important. Old mate had actually lost money on the property he owned (it was in the country) so was happy he had his wealth spread across different asset classes.
Long story short, if I can nail false eyelashes, you can totally nail the stockmarket.
I dropped maths in Year 12. Messed up chemistry because ‘I didn’t know there’d be so much maths in it!’.
Picked a university course devoted to History, English, French and Latin. Because of course employers want to know if you can decline a Latin noun (I can, but it hurts my head these days).
The important point here is that contrary to popular belief, you don’t need to be good at maths to be good at money.
The maths can be handled by the calculator in your phone or the Excel on your computer. All those times spent crying over an inability to do long division? Wasted. (Serves me right for being such a geek.)
Having observed a bunch of people in the finance industry, and quite a few rich people, I can tell you there are qualities that make you good with money that have nothing to do with your grasp of trigonometry.
Let me share a few of these qualities.
This is the big one. In the finance industry, it often veers off into arrogance, and while that can make people insufferable in conversation, it does help them to take action.
Let me be clear, I’m not talking about being reckless. What I’m advocating is a willingness to educate yourself, do your research, form a view and then take action.
As long as you’re following the basic principles of investment, taking action is generally better than doing nothing at all. (Basic principles like don’t put all your eggs in one basket, don’t chase ‘get rich quick’ schemes, don’t borrow more than you can afford).
You can always start small until you build your comfort factor. Basically, if you can operate with even half the confidence of a mediocre white man, you’ll be fine.
There is no one, single way to get ahead with investment. Some people swear by property , others love a managed equities fund and some think ETFs are the way to go.
Personally, I think a bit of everything is good – it’s pretty much how I think about dating: spread the risk and reward, and avoid catching feelings for anyone in particular.
But the key is to do your homework. Read about the things you might invest in; hear from different commentators and sources; pick up magazines or newspapers that cover new topics. Always keep learning.
One of the world’s best investors, Warren Buffett, spends five to six hours per day reading five newspapers and 500 pages of corporate reports.
I mean, if I were that rich, I’d probably allocate at least half of that time to watching Rupaul’s Drag Race and drinking martinis* … but you do you, Warren B.
It’s hard to get excited about anything if you aren’t clear on the ‘why’. Too many of us just stumble around with our money, hoping for the best. Will we have enough stashed away for Christmas, next year’s holiday, or some far-off but vague retirement? Fingers crossed!
Ladies, I want you to be crystal-fucking-clear on what you’re trying to achieve. If you’re saving for a specific thing, write it down, give it a timeline, give it a spreadsheet.
If you’re investing for the future, get down and dirty with what that future entails. Is it a lifestyle? A destination? A few years out of full-time work to raise kids?
Whatever it is, the more you can picture it and feel it, the more motivated you’ll be to work towards it.
Right now, I’m in a period of transition, and my old goals are giving way to new ones. (Hot tip: you can always change your mind about your goals). So now, I’m focused on a short-to-medium term lifestyle goals.
When I was in Year 12, my bestie and I would keep ourselves sane during the HSC by picturing the cute outfits we’d be wearing clubbing (picture Sporty Spice circa 1996).
Right now, I’m getting pumped about the ability to wear jeans, feminist-slogan t-shirts and a pair of Air Max 90s from my (possibly-excessive) collection. The more I can push those smart, corporate Review dresses to the back of the wardrobe, the better.
Sure, wearing trainers isn’t everyone’s jam.
But that’s the fun of it right? We all have different goals and dreams and views on footwear. But having clarity about your own goals is one of the best damn motivators around.
And guess what, I even made you a worksheet to help you work out some goals. You’re welcome!
So there you have it Fierce Girls. The Three C’s of Getting Rich.
That’s totally just something I made up then by the way. But it sounds convincing and who doesn’t love a listicle, huh?
Long story short, you can get on top of all these investing stuff, with a bit of time, attention and a touch of fake-it-til-you-make-it attitude.
*Probably have already overallocated my time to these pursuits, to be honest.
The work break-ups. The relationship break-ups. The break-ups with a part of yourself – a bad habit, a way of being, a view of yourself.
The ones that hinge on a conversation, and they’re done straight away. No more. Just gone.
The ones that seem settled but drag on. Back again, back for a while, back against your better judgement. Until finally, it’s done.
The ones you saw coming but couldn’t avoid. You resisted, you tried, you struggled, but in the end you could no longer hide from the fact that it was over.
The ones that came out of the blue. You thought things were fine, and then all of a sudden it wasn’t. It was over, and you were blindsided.
The tangential ones. Where another break-up came with collateral damage, and you suddenly lost people you cared about. They disappear, alongside the network of family and friends that come with a relationship or a job.
I’ve had all these permutations in my life.
I used to be scared of them. I thought they signalled failure. I was scared of what comes next. Resistant to change.
But life gives you change whether you want it or not. You move states and change schools, your parents divorce, your best friend careens away into illness and addiction.
You try on different identities, change jobs, move countries, move states. You leave beloved bosses, you grapple with the pain of divorce, you emerge stronger and full of fire. Burnished by the flames.
And slowly, you realise that change has become a habit. You’ve learned to “love the sound of your feet walking away from things that aren’t meant for you”.
And this, my friends, is where I find myself.
Once again, I’ve tried on an outfit I thought I wanted. I bought it, took it home, wore it around.
But it doesn’t fit. I can’t do the corporate thing with the resolve and passion it needs. I wish I could, in some ways.
Ironically, for someone who writes a finance blog, I don’t care enough about money to give up things like creative freedom.
Alas, dear reader, I cannot. I make a very unconvincing corporate boss-lady.
My dad observed to me that I’ve never been interested in building an empire. ‘No’, I replied. ‘I want to build a revolution’.
And thus I find myself at a crossroads. My corporate career is asking too high a price. It demands that Fierce Girl stays small and quiet and anonymous.
Sometimes you need an ultimatum to find out what really matters. Asked to choose, I chose the risky path. For the first time in 20 years I’m walking away from a salary, a safety net and all that jazz. It’s kind of nuts.
But if not now, when?
I had a chance meeting in my apartment building recently, where a lovely woman was delivering things to her friend with Stage 4 brain cancer. Her friend is 43 years old and has just months left to live.
Now I don’t want to get all dramatic on you, but sometimes the universe offers up a sign, if you choose to make sense of it. And I ask again, if not now, when?
And so I look to Queen Beyonce for inspiration. “If I’m gonna bet on anyone, I’ll bet on myself”.
What’s next for Fierce Girl.
Without the shackles of a corporate contract, I’ll be back with my name and my face on the blog. (I did a photo shoot today!)
Gurrrrl, you’re gonna get sick of this face. I’m gonna be out here advocating for change, hustling for women’s empowerment, speaking truth to power, and giving you all the awesome content you need and deserve.
More ways to level up
A blog is a great start to help you change. But real change often comes in the depths of personal connections. So there’ll be more ways to learn and grow and invest. Podcasts, videos, webinars – whatever you like ladies!
And events – all the events. Seminars, and workshops that bring all this stuff to life.
More epic shit to help you step into your power
Education is only one part of the path to getting your shit together with money. The other piece is behavioural change, to help you make good decisions on the reg. Fierce Girl will be giving you tools to make good decisions, as well as the education that underpins it.
And don’t worry, there’ll still be a ton of free stuff. The blog will always be free. But some of you want more, Imma make you pay for it. A sista’s gotta make a living up in here!
I’m working on a new brand and website and it’s gonna be awesome.
So that’s the update today. Thanks for listening… And sharing and supporting. Let’s get cracking on the revolution.