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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.

Don’t get mad, get busy*

*Actually, get mad too. It’s fun.

Fierce Girls, I wrote a different post for you last week. But before I had time to post it, the election happened.

It didn’t go the way I’d hoped. I got together with a few friends to watch it unfold on ABC, and it was like the worst party ever. (Great food, wine and company notwithstanding).

But maybe you voted for the LNP Government, and hey that’s cool, because this is a democracy. It’s not a perfect system, but it’s far better than the alternatives.

In the same week though, Alabama passed some of the most punitive and backwards abortion laws in the world. If you’ve somehow missed it, this is some next-level Handmaid’s Tale shit.

Anyway, this is not an election analysis.

It’s about power.

Cynicism is our greatest enemy. And the antidote is activism.

I’m paraphrasing Billy Bragg, one of the greatest influences on my life.

I know you’re not ready to rise up in the streets and stuff, and I’m not saying you have to. Activism takes many forms.

So does power, and it’s not all in the corridors of Parliament House.

One way to wield power is through your wallet.

From nailing your bank account to reining in frivolous spending, money is one of the most effective ways to give the finger to the patriarchy.

Every dollar you earn and own is another way to increase your choices.

Every time you put money towards buying a home, investing for the future or creating a savings fund, you are putting more space between you and chaos.

Because if there’s one thing the powerful men of the world worked out a long time ago, it’s that money equals power.

That’s why I ask, nay implore you, to think about how you spend it.

I know this sounds like a feminist conspiracy theory, but anyway… The more we’re convinced to allocate our resources to beauty, fashion and anti-ageing, the more power we concede.

I’m not saying never have a facial. I’m not saying don’t buy a Fenty Beauty palette (because holy shit, it’s great).

I’m just saying that if you are spending hundreds of dollars on fillers and botox before you’ve set up an emergency fund, you are not stepping into your full power.

Or that if you have bought a new dress for every wedding you’ve attended, while your partner has rolled out his five-year-old suit again and again, you’re possibly not making the most of your money.

And if you would like to see Paris before you die, but you accidentally keep spending money on twenty-dollar cocktails and cabs home, it might be time to take a different approach.

A long time ago, my friend Gigi and I cooked up this great list of money-saving tips (which went low-key viral btw). Read it here.

And I want to give a shoutout to Gigi, because she is the Fierce Girl we all need.

Girlfriend packed herself up and moved to New York City eight years ago. She rents an adorable little apartment in the East Village with her cat Iris, living her best life as a single gal. Kind of like Sex and the City minus the designer clothes and poor choices in men.

And she has also been saving like a trooper, and is very close to buying her own apartment in Manhattan. #goalsAF

Gigi and I still have mad holidays together and go out drinking and make questionable decisions late at night. But we also respect the fact that we can’t have all the things, all the time. And so we make our own lunches, buy things on sale and catch public transport.

Anyway, this is a really long way of saying please take charge of your money. Do it for yourself and for the sisterhood. As Queen Bey says, “Best revenge is your paper”.

Perhaps make a Mindful Spending Manifesto and see if you can stick to it. That way you have more chance of reaching your short- and long-term life goals – regardless of whichever pale, stale and male PM is in power.

 

The single biggest risk to your money is probably not what you think

There is one thing that can change your financial path forever, and it’s not betting on the share market. It’s not entering the Gucci store. It’s not even buying a house.

It’s walking down the aisle.

When you get hitched to a partner, you’re hitching your wagon to their financial future. And even if you’re already married, please read on, because this is literally one of the most important posts I am ever going to write on here.

I know it’s easy for me to sound like the bitter divorcee who lost money in a divorce settlement. (I did, but I am less bitter about it these days).

That’s not what this post is about. I’m at the age (40) where marriages are starting to fall apart. I see it among friends, acquaintances and friends of friends. After all, the most common age for getting a divorce is 45.5 for men and 42.9 for women (ABS).

Like any long-term decision, marriage is a calculated risk. There is a 1 in 3 chance it will end in divorce. If someone offered you a raffle where 1 in 3 tickets offered a prize, you’d jump right in.

And yet, so many people get married without even considering the ‘what if?’. The suggestion of a pre-nup, or to not change your surname, is taken offensively.

We are socialised to believe that romantic love is the most important part of marriage. This is a relatively recent development (it took off with the rise of the Romantic novel in the 18th century).

For thousands of years, though, marriage was  an economic and child-bearing union. (Well, more of a takeover than a union, because the man got to control all the woman’s wealth once it was done).

Our ancestors were generally more clear-eyed about the fact that marriage is about far more than love. And in the age of Instagram weddings, it’s easy to forget there’s a shitload more at stake than a perfect photo album.

Once you’re married, everything you earn and own belongs to you both. Louder for the people at the back!

This is fantastic when you’re sharing and building together. But if it falls apart, everything you have worked for can be pooled together and a line drawn down it. (And that line may not be in the middle.)

Not only that, you will likely have to start over in a practical sense. New life, new home, new furniture, new insurance, new kitchenware. The things I own today bear very little resemblance to what I owned five years ago.

There is another big complicating factor in all of this: children. If you bring kids into the picture, there’s a good chance you’ll take career breaks that mean you earn less, reduce your super and even stunt your career progression.

Sorry, I know this sounds terribly unromantic and depressing. But hey, we aren’t just here for the LOLs; we’re here for the learning too.

A little bit of planning goes a long way

So I want you to consider marriage (or even de facto living) in this way: there’s a high chance it will be great and last forever. But there’s also a chance that it won’t.

It’s like car accidents – you really hope you won’t have one, and mostly you don’t. But guess what, you have to insure that vehicle every year anyway.

So I want to position this concept as Independence Insurance (thanks to a friend came up with this phrase, you know who you are).

This is the kind of insurance you take out regardless of how happy your relationship is. Because you just never fucking know.

Bae might come in one day and say s/he’s leaving. Maybe you catch them cheating (hey, if Beyonce isn’t safe, who the fuck is). Or the red flags you ignored before, gradually become so big and red you can’t stay, without harming your mental health or your kids’.

The progression of every break up is different, but the one thing they all have in common is the sense that ‘it wasn’t meant to end like this’.

So what does Independence Insurance involve? Well, the good news is, you don’t have to buy it or renew it or find the paperwork for it every year. It’s more about keeping some things in your control.

Always have at least one bank account in your own name. Up to you how much you have in there. I think at least a couple of thousand is a good start. Not only can you buy surprise presents with it, you can also get the fuck out of dodge if you need to. Honestly, this is such a simple thing to do and if I could go back and change one thing about my marriage, it would be this.

Have a car in your own name. If you only have one car, you may have to battle this one out. But if you have two, have one in your name. In NSW you can’t have two owners on the registration (not sure about other states), which is bloody annoying. But if things turn bitter and your partner has their name on both cars, guess what, s/he can keep them both. Happened to someone I know. Her ex has their two cars sitting in the driveway and she can’t do anything about it until they go to court (some years hence).

Don’t stop investing in your career and earning power. I know, this one is a lot more work than opening a bank account. But think of the women you’ve seen struggle after divorce because they put their own career on the backburner, to raise kids. It’s true, childcare is eye-wateringly expensive, but you need to think about the cost of not working. Not in today’s salary terms, but in the many decades from now if you’ve fallen behind your peers. Or you’ve kept low-stress, flexible, low-paid part-time jobs and now find you’re stuck there.

As my friend said, she never again wants to wake up and feel like she’s trapped in a relationship because she can’t afford to leave.

Take an interest in the financial paperwork. If you’re the spouse who leaves this stuff to your partner, it might seem like they are doing you a favour. But it has a lot of risk too. When I was married, I was the only one who knew how to access our mortgage redraw. If I was a bitch (which I am obviously not, ok), I could have easily drained thousands of dollars out of it, spent it, and he would neither have known nor had any recourse. Paperwork and banking is the worst, but it’s also the key to staying in control, as it gives you full visibility of your position.

Ok let me stop now and apologise if I sound a little preachy. I just want us all to be the best version of ourselves, and that means being realistic even as we are hopeful. I have more on this topic, so stay tuned.

And let me tell you I very much believe in romantic love. Just not as it applies to me haha.

 

3 things I learnt in the Christian Louboutin store

It was the outcome of a conversation at work. Long story, but I decided I needed a pair of designer heels to signal to the world that I was serious. I wanted to prove (to myself, mostly) that I’m a successful, grown-up woman who can do all the serious career things.

And so, my friend who lives and breathes designer shopping, excitedly took me to Pitt Street the very next day.

I had some major ‘Julia Roberts on Rodeo Drive’ vibes to be honest. I pretended like I go into stores that sell thousand-dollar shoes all the time, but as you can guess, I have literally never been in one.

Anyway, I didn’t buy any. It was a little disappointing in the end – not for my wallet, which was totally supportive of my decision. Definitely for my friend.

But life is full of unexpected lessons, so here are some thoughts I had following the great Designer Shoe Store Trail of 2019.

  1. Price does not equal comfort. I had this idea that if you paid a lot of money, these heels would magically not hurt your feet. This is a lie! In fact, those Louboutins were red-soled harbingers of death to the balls of your feet. Also, my ‘plump’ feet didn’t really fit into them or any of the fancy brands, except Salvatore Ferragamo, which is made for well-heeled (pun intended) ladies of a certain age who brunch in Double Bay.
  2. It’s hard to rewrite your money script. I’m a massive tight-arse when it comes to clothes and shoes. Who was I kidding? Like yeah, I’ll shop at the usual suspects like Wittner and Nine West, but I ain’t paying full-price. So it’s hard – impossible even – to go from $100 for a pair of shoes to literally ten times that. And then I started thinking about all Nike Air Maxes I could get for that much (to add to the slightly obscene collection already going). Well, anyway, is it any surprise that I abandoned the whole plan? This isn’t a bad thing – it’s part of mindful spending to know what you’re willing to drop your hard-earned dollars on. Or not.
  3. Self-confidence is about what you think, not what you wear. Sorry if this sounds like a motivational quote from Instagram. Like, it’s still important to look polished and professional. But I was expecting that buying some shoes would convince me that I’m legit. Maybe banish some of my impostor syndrome feelings. It turns out the only way to do that is through some serious inner work. Ugh, so much harder than just going shopping. In fact, that’s how it always is. Buying stuff is never a replacement for self-development. Annoying!

‘Don’t ask, don’t get’ – and other life pro tips for IWD2019

In my view, every day should be International Women’s Day. We have thousands of years of patriarchal oppression to make up for right? But since it’s only once a year, I’m writing in honour of it.

Normally I just talk about ‘money this’ and ‘finance that’, but today I’m sharing a random collection of life and career tips that I’ve collected over the years.

While I sometimes think I could have pushed harder and been more successful by now, I’m not a total failure in the old ‘adulting’ department. So here is some of my hard-won knowledge.

  1. Don’t ask, don’t get

If I could only choose one piece of advice this would be it. It’s just as useful in the bedroom as the boardroom, to be honest. Women who don’t articulate their desires are far less likely to have them met.

I used to just get given a payrise or promotion and be like ‘wow, thanks!’. Never occurred to me to ask for more – which is actually a thing you can and should do. Similarly, when you’re making a big purchase, why not ask for a discount?

So now I ask, no matter how uncomfortable it makes me feel (i.e. a lot). Maybe you get a ‘no’, but maybe you get a ‘yes’.

Whereas if you don’t ask, you’ve given yourself a ‘no’ from the outset.

  1. It’s not about having time, it’s about having priorities

People ask me how I have time to do all this food prep and go to the gym five days a week, and all the other stuff that means I can wear sequin hot pants at age 40. I make time because it’s a priority.

I have no kids or husband to deal with, so I actually have plenty of time.

If you do have kids or a crazy job, and can’t make time for that stuff, then that’s cool too. Your priorities are different. It’s not wrong, you’re not lazy, it’s just a fact of modern life.

Money helps in this situation. If buying pre-packaged meals helps you hit your calorie target, then do it. If getting a personal trainer means you optimise your time in the gym, then invest. If you can pay a cleaner and steal back two hours of your life, then why not?

Sure, we should be responsible with our money, but we should also be realistic. We all have competing priorities – the key is to work out the order they go in, and build a life around that, with no judgement and minimal guilt trips.

  1. Choose a leader, not a job

I’ve been so lucky in my career, working for talented people who taught me a lot. My first boss taught me everything I know about PR, even if she shouted at me now and then. My editorial director in a London book company was inspiring even if she described me as ‘bossy and opinionated’ (in an affectionate way). This week I attended a retirement dinner for the man who told me I was a shit writer, then turned me into a good one. And my current boss has taught me that ‘no’ is just the start of a negotiation.

However, the thing they have in common is that they weren’t just managers, they were leaders whose values I was aligned with.

So the point I’d make is this. When you’re planning your next career move, look for a leader you’d follow into a fire. It’s not always about the company brand, or the title you’ll get, or even the money. Find yourself a boss you like, who sees you as a person, not just a resource – and you’ll go further at work.

  1. Be your own cheerleader

It’s great to have someone who spots your talent and rewards you accordingly. But people are busy and focused on their own stuff. Simply doing a great job isn’t enough to help you climb the ladder.

You need to make your case and highlight your good work. I know, that sounds awkward AF.

Drawing attention to your wins, describing yourself positively, pushing your case in a performance review: they all sound about as comfortable as a strapless bra that’s a size too small.

This week I had to write an announcement about myself for my boss to send to all staff. At first I was all like ‘oh I sound like a douchebag’.

And then I was like ‘oh stop it, who cares, you’re the head of PR and if you don’t PR the shit out of yourself, who will?’. So, I pretended I was writing it about someone else, and it was totally fine.

So my main point here is, cheerleading for yourself is not a natural or comfortable thing for most women – but do it anyway, like Rihanna putting her own damn crown on.

I got totally rejected by a guy the other week.

Baffling, I know.

So, we met online, organised to meet for a drink and he walked in and looked pretty cute.

He’s gainfully employed, seems to have his life together and has a command of basic English – all of which you can’t take for granted in modern dating life.

We are having a good conversation and it turns to investment. He has a couple of investment properties; one of them is okay-ish and one of them is a dog. But he’s planning to buy another one.

So in my very direct way I’m like, ‘what about diversification?’ and ‘why go further into something you’re clearly not great at?’. Then I continue, ‘Haven’t you thought about shares? Can I recommend you research low-cost indexed funds? Your investment strategy sounds pretty dumb’.

In the retelling of this to my friends, the general consensus was (in Whitney’s words) ‘boner-killer’.

Whereas I thought I was helping him reassess his life choices in a positive way, apparently I was just coming off as a difficult, mouthy blonde.

You won’t be surprised to hear I didn’t get asked for a second date.

All week I kept thinking of Clueless, when Cher says, ‘did I stumble into some bad lighting?’.

Money, men and masculine energy

But my sad/non-existent love life is not the point of this post. What I started thinking about was the great sense of confidence old mate had about his investments, even though, in truth, he was not that good at it.

To his credit, he has done something. He’s made a move, and he’s owned it.

I think of this as a masculine kind of energy. Apparently I have a bit too much of that myself, because no guys ever want to date me. But what’s wrong with backing yourself sometimes?

What I see sometimes in the women around me is a lack of confidence in their financial ability. They see money as something complex and threatening. They think of ‘investment’ as a big, scary word.

So they leave it alone,  do a budget that gets them through to payday, buy a house they can just afford, pay their compulsory super … and that’s it. They don’t plan world domination.

Or they let their partner do the heavy lifting on the finances, and thereby open themselves to him making a bad decision on his own.

So I’d like to throw a challenge out to all my ladies. How about we all be a little more blokey when it comes to money?

And I don’t mean ‘use things without reading the instructions and then screw it up’.

I mean ‘hell yeah, I’ve done the research, spoken to the experts and educated myself. I’m going to take action’.

What sort of action? Well that depends where you are on your journey. Perhaps it’s starting out with the above-mentioned low-cost index funds. Maybe it’s buying an investment property. Maybe it’s adding more to super. Maybe it’s just setting up a high-interest savings account.

The key is to make a decision. Don’t second-guess yourself to the point of paralysis. Educate yourself to the point of confidence. Then go out and OWN IT.

Just don’t use it as a dating strategy, or you’ll end up like me, watching Chvrches concerts on YouTube, in my underwear, writing blogs and eating 85% dark chocolate.

Wait, that sounds fucking awesome … no wonder I’m single.

This is legit the only thing you need to read about the Royal Commission

And it’s not even that long!

I want to say a few things about the shit that went down with the Hayne Royal Commission into banking and financial services. The final report was released on Monday,

I know, it’s the last thing you want to think or read about. But go with me for a quick moment.

But first of all, can we take a moment to appreciate the awesome awkwardness of the photo call.

The fact that Hayne gives zero fucks about hiding his disaste for the whole thing is just glorious.

Ok, now I want to get to the real point. There were 76 recommendations that came out of the final report. I’m not gonna lie, I haven’t read most of them. I usually nerd out on this stuff but it’s been a busy week.

What I have done is read a shitload of commentary on it. And I came here to say this: don’t trust anyone with your money.

I’m not saying bury it in the backyard.

I am saying that a recurring theme was people having no bullshit filter.

The hearings were full of stories of people given poor advice by dodgy bankers and advisers, who didn’t see it for what it was.

Like, people close to retirement were given supersize home loans for risky property purchases. Or parents went guarantor for their kids’ businesses and didn’t realise their own home was on the line. Awful stuff, where people lost their homes, marriages and families.

There will always be fraudsters and dodgy dealers. But much of the poor behaviour recounted in the Commission wasn’t technically illegal. It was just risky business.

People who couldn’t afford to take on risk were told to do so. And because they trusted ‘professionals’, they just went along with it.

So what can you do? Educate yourself.

Take it from Elle, education is the best revenge

Sorry, no silver bullet.

To become a truly fierce girl, you need to take some responsibility for, and interest in, your finances. Read books and blogs. Talk to smart people. Pick up the business section of the paper now and then.

If you’re making a big decision about your money, go in with a serious amount of your own research. Line  up any advice or recommendations against your gut instincts. If it doesn’t sit well with you, think twice about it. And never feel afraid to ask ‘dumb’ or ‘rude’ questions.

The fact is, the Commission didn’t recommend fundamental changes to the sector. And greedy/unethical/incompetent people will continue to litter the finance industry the same way they do every industry. (You probably work with some yourself). As a result, you have to be on your game.

Sounds harsh, but the best defense against getting ripped off is to be a bossy, know-it-all, difficult-question-asking bitch.

Which is great, because that’s totally my style!

 

 

If you’re not making your own bowls, do you even like money?

If there is one food trend I can get on board with, it’s bowls. Poke bowls, buddha bowls – call them what you want, they rock.

I’ll be honest, I make a lot of bowl-based meals at home because I live alone and feel empowered to eat on the lounge (more than I should). Pre-chop your steak and veg, throw it in a bowl, add some hot sauce and you’re ready for a solid session of one-handed bliss in front of Queer Eye.

On occasion, I’ll stump up and buy a poke bowl from Nudefish and holy moly the price hurts. If you want avocado on that baby you’re spending fifteen bucks.

But judging by the queues at the food court the good people of Sydney can’t get enough bowl action. It’s like they enjoy spending too much on takeaway!

Well Fierce Girls, I’m here to combine two of my favourite things: food prep and saving money!

The thing is, it’s annoying to make just one bowl because there are all these separate elements. But if you do a batch, you’re set for the week. And you’re in control of all your diet and money resolutions.

It’s not complicated. It comes down to:

A base: rice, quinoa, buckwheat – or if you’re feeling low-carb, try shredded cabbage, zoodles, or even the good ol’ salad mix.

It’s super easy and cheap to buy some red and black and brown rice, cook up a cup or two and have it ready in the fridge all week. It’s more exciting and nutty than boring old white or brown. And less plastic waste than the microwave packets.

Veggies: I like to roast them up for sweetness and general deliciousness, then add some microwaved or steamed greens like broccoli. You get a nice mix of flavours.

Protein: If you feel fancy, some hot-smoked salmon is fantastic, but you can also do some normal smoked salmon. You can marinate and grill up some chicken breast (or buy the pre-marinated one from Aldi – no judgement). And if you’re really desperate you can totally throw in a can of tuna or salmon.

For an extra tasty flourish, I fry an egg or two that morning and throw it on top. I also like to add some hot sauce, some avocado or some tahini – whatever condiments get you going.

The process is really simple. Pre-cook as much as possible and put it all in separate containers in the fridge.

Did I ever tell you about when I was a Tupperware lady?

Maybe your fridge doesn’t look quite like mine, but also, you probably don’t have a lifelong Tupperware obsession.

The key points I want to make are:

Food prep is not that hard to get right. It just takes some planning and an hour or two of time.

BYO Lunches are the absolute key to saving money and cleaning up your diet. I love bowls because it’s so easy to track your macros (if you weigh and measure like a nerd).

Once you have a few go-to meals, you can mix and match to avoid boredom. It also helps to buy seasonal veggies, so you can change the ingredients over time.

Simply put: bowls are a great way to rock your diet and wallet.

*Sorry about my lame food pics – need to really work on my skills. But you get the idea. I’ll also give you some more serious financial tips soon. In the meantime, get cooking!

How to hack your goals and nail everything in 2019

In 2018, I leaned out and toned up, losing about 5kg ahead of my 40th birthday.

People asked me how I did it, and I’d detect a hopeful tone. What wonderful secret had I found?

Sadly, there are none. I tracked and weighed all my food, stopped boozing and trained for fat loss (i.e. so many reps).

Probably the biggest thing was setting a goal. I’d been powerlifting for a few years, and building strength was always the main game – my goals were more like ‘squat 100kg’.

I was more focused on what my body could do, rather than what it looked like. This year, I switched to an aesthetic goal.

Neither of these goals are good or bad, in my opinion. There is something empowering about reaching a lifting goal, but also in feeling lean, fit and attractive.

The key point is, they provide something to work towards. They were specific, measurable and kept me focused. They kept me home on a Friday night, so my coach wouldn’t kill me on a Saturday morning. They encouraged me to spend time on a Sunday night preparing food for the week. They gave me a reason to say no to high-calorie foods.

New year, new you?

I’m telling you this because it’s a new year, and we all have good intentions. Often it’s about weight loss, but it’s a good time to take stock of finances too.

If I’m honest, my 2018 wasn’t great financially speaking. I was trying to get in the groove of being a homeowner, and quarterly strata fees, coupled with a kitchen renovation, really challenged me.

I had all the basics covered and I saved money, but I could have done a lot better, especially if I’m meant to be a good Fierce Girl example.

Know your weakness, then kick its butt

My biggest weakness isn’t a lack of knowledge or a tendency to spend money on stuff. It’s my lack of organisation. I try, I really do, but it’s a constant struggle against my nature.

You know those people who hate mornings, and you try to make them get up early? They’ll do it, but it takes fives snoozes and the threat of unemployment. And when they do wake, they are cranky arseholes.

That’s how I am with any type of life admin. And it’s why I have a shameful stack of papers in my cupboard, full of tasks that I need to file or action. I just add one more thing and shut the door again.

I know that I’m shit at this, and that I need a way to hack my bad habits. So I’m taking my approach to training and diet – which I’m good at – and applying it to money.

Boiled down, my weight loss success was based on:

  1. Set a goal – fit into the very skimpy outfit I purchased for my party
  2. Track everything – all food, every workout
  3. Rely on habit – regular food prep becomes a non-negotiable activity

Applying this to money, I’ve realised I need to:

  1. Set a goal – I’m going to pay an extra $20,000 off my mortgage in 2019
  2. Track everything – yep, I have to manually enter it into the TrackMySpend app
  3. Rely on habit – once a week I have to sort that pile of admin out and do at least one task

That third one really gives me anxiety, because I know I will struggle with it. But I need to start somewhere if I am going be a fully functioning adult.

The missing piece here is reward. At the gym, I get rewarded with endorphins, and I get validation when people compliment me. So it helps me to stick with it.

But this plan is boring and low on quick wins. So I’m adding in a bonus that if I stay on track with saving, I get to have a trip overseas. And if I do my weekly chore torture, I’m allowed to give myself a monthly treat, up to the value of $50.

There will be other behavioural modifications I need to achieve these goals – for example, the point of tracking is to ensure I spend less on crap (I’m looking at you Priceline and Sephora).

But I feel more prepared and confident knowing I have a plan and a framework.

Setting Goals

If you’re keen to nail your finances in 2019, have a think about what you want to achieve. I have a post about goal setting here, and it includes a simple worksheet you can download.

The goals don’t have to be big and hard. They could be as simple as ‘save $200 a month’. Or they can be specific – ‘Pay for my end of year holiday without a credit card’.

The point is to have them. Without something to work towards, we humans tend to drift into whatever’s easy and in front of us.

But with a goal, you can have a plan. And with a plan, you can have global domination (eventually).

So, here’s to an amazing 2019, and I hope you get all the good stuff you deserve!

I turned 40 and here’s what I’ve learnt about money

To be honest, I was freaking out about turning 40 at first. Thought I’d run away for my birthday and hide in shame.

Then I remembered who I am. Bad-arse bitch who loves attention! I have a great job, my own, sweet bachelorette pad, cash in the bank and a zippy 2005 Mazda in the garage (lol, it doesn’t even have power windows).

20181209_124253
I kept the celebrations totally low-key and subtle, of course

So now that the Festival of Belinda has successfully been celebrated, I give to you four gifts of wisdom – one for each decade.

Money isn’t about stuff, it’s about choices.

I know, I say this a lot. But the longer I live, the more I see it play out. I have watched friends stuck in marriages they can’t afford to leave, or stuck in jobs they hatett. When I left my marriage, the quality of life I had afterwards was a direct outcome of the money I could save and earn.

So, the more you spend on clothes, jewelry, homewares, cars and other ‘stuff’, the lower your buffer when you want to make a change. I controversially believe in having a ‘FU Fund‘, even if you’re married, because you honestly just never fucking know when you need to leave something or someone.

Money’s always hard, because temptation’s always there.

I’d like to think I have my shit together financially. But I still struggle.

Whether it’s the small temptations (I swear this is my last Shellac for a long time), or the big decisions (do I renovate the bathroom or sit on the cash?), it’s hard.

We are wired to like shiny new things and fun experiences. And they get advertised to us everywhere! The gym, the toilet, the elevator – nowhere is safe.

Plus modern life is complicated and relentless. I got a credit card for work and forgot to pay it off the second bloody month I owned it. (I’m smart but so, so vague).

So we need to create frameworks for ourselves. I diarised my credit card due date, for example.

We need to pay attention to what matters, by creating a mindful spending manifesto.

We need to practise saying no to things if they don’t align with our goals.

And we need to check in with our bank statements reguarly, not wish them into another dimension.

It’s a grind, but we just need to suck it up, buttercup. The alternative is to be broke AF and/or not meet our life goals. And who wants that?

Nobody cares about your money as much as you do.

Remember the post a while back where I got my friends a $6k refund from their bank? The short version is they were on the wrong interest rate, and nobody – neither their mortgage broker, financial adviser nor the bank – gave a shit.

It was only when they picked up The Barefoot Investor and started asking me stuff, that we realised they were getting screwed over.

I’m not against using advisers or brokers or accountants. But you still have a responsibility to keep an eye on things and to educate yourself. The more you know, the likelier you are to ask tough questions or spot bullshit.

Similarly, no energy company, telco or insurer is going to offer you a better deal for the hell of it. Do your research, call them up,  give them a hard time, or simply switch. It’s your money, so be a tight-arse with it.

Only you can decide what’s important to you.

Remember my friend Jen who loves designer bags and shoes? Girlfriend got two pairs of Valentino heels delivered to the office just a couple of weeks ago. About $1500 all up and that was ON SALE.

And yet she can’t fathom how I’d spend over a hundred bucks on LuluLemon leggings, when I could get them for $30 at Cotton On. I could give you chapter and verse about the superiority of the Align leggings, and how I train every day etc.

But at the end of the day, I care a lot about exercise and all the stuff that goes with it. Including sneakers that are technically just for walking around. (Hey, walking is exercise ok). So I spend money on it.

And I spend less on other stuff. I don’t spend much in bars; I buy cheap wine whenever I need it; and that aforementioned Mazda is worth so little I don’t even pay for comprehensive insurance for it.

It’s ok to have things you splurge on. The trouble comes when you splurge on everything. When you feel out of control so you end up saying ‘YOLO’ and whacking it on the credit card.

You can always stop and reset (read this post). You can always do better. And you can pick one or two things to treat yourself, while still achieving your goals.

If I had to sum up my financial life, from my first job at 13 until now, I’d say it was a work in progress.  I’ve been broke, learnt the hard way, had some good luck, made a shitload of mistakes, had some great help and advice, and muddled my way through. The best thing I’ve done is stay interested and curious.

After all, if you keep learning, you keep improving. Which is pretty great life advice right there. You’re welcome.

photo credit: donbuciak Another Hot Year via photopin (license)

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