Search

The Fierce Girl's Guide to Finance

Get your shit together with money

Category

Get a money mindset

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!

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.

Want to get rich in 2020? Start here…

“How do I get rich?”

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.

Mike and I – just chilling in NYC

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:

  1. Spend less than you earn
  2. 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.

Why investing is just like wearing false eyelashes: the pep talk you’ve been waiting for

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.

Wedding Selfie no. 243

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?

Cup Day selfie no. 67 – please note my crown

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:

Nobody:

Absolutely nobody:

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.

 

Oh baby, baby, how was I s’posed to know that I should have been investing in 1999, instead of drinking cheap wine and flirting with boys?

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.

From Arts student to Finance nerd: if I can invest, then you can too

I’m the least likely finance blogger.

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.

Confidence.

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.

Curiosity.

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.

Clarity.

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. 

Fear, failure, shame: are there red flags in your relationship with money?

Money is never just money.

Money is feelings.

Money is fear or worry or failure or shame. It’s hope or excitement or success or freedom.

It’s a currency that we use to communicate things.

How much you spend on a gift reflects how much you love someone.

How much you spend on a wedding reflects your standing in the world.

How much you spend on a car reflects how successful you think you are.

It shouldn’t, but it can.

Money is never just money.

It’s wrapped up with how you feel about yourself and your worth and your future and your past.

I wonder if that’s why women have a complex relationship with it. We are often in our feelings.

It’s why opening our banking app is rarely a neutral experience. It’s not like checking the bus timetable. We open that app and we feel things.

We hope there’s enough money in there. Or we feel happy there’s more than expected. Or we feel satisfied with our savings. Or we feel disappointed with our spending habits. Or we feel ashamed that we aren’t where we think we should be.

How did you feel last time you thought about money?

Was it this morning, when your inbox had a bunch of emails about the new season collections from a bunch of stores? Did you feel desire? FOMO? Annoyance?

Was it last night, when you had to pay some bills for super boring stuff? Did you feel annoyed about the pain of adulting?

Was it yesterday, when your kid’s school told you about the next thing you have to pay for (excursions, costumes, sports, devices)? Did you feel exhausted?

I think it’s useful for all of us to identify and unpack some of the emotions behind our finances. My hunch is that many of them are negative. And is there any better way to turn your emotions around than to feel them, speak about them, hold them up to the light?

How about I tell you some of my feelings, and you can think about yours. 

If I had to pick two words that I associate with money it would be: fear and safety.

The fear is about not having enough to do the things I want, to live the way I want. I don’t really know where it comes from. Maybe my family. My dad was a successful lawyer with a tendency towards impostor syndrome. He was always looking at the downside and planning for it. (What if he lost his job etc.)

Maybe I picked up some of this; maybe I was just born with it. Either way, I’m scared of not having money, but on the other side of fear is safety, and that’s what I aim for.

I would much prefer to have money in the bank and a good income, so I can plan against the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. My ex used to accuse me of being obsessed with insurance; I’d argue there are worse thing to be obsessed with. But he’s not wrong.

I’m not saying this is the only feeling I have about money, but it’s kind of the bedrock to everything else. I prefer not to buy expensive things for the sake of it, because that money could be better used to shore up my safety barrier. It also means I experience guilt when I do spend, because I feel like I’m chipping away at that barrier.  Guilt is a default setting with me though, so it’s not that big of a deal, and I do still spend money on shit (hello new Mecca palette!).

Overall, this emotional relationship to money has worked well for me. I was able to leave a marriage and land on my feet, financially, because of the decisions I’d made. I have a manageable mortgage and an old car, because I have distaste for debt. It means I can take some career and income risks at this stage, because I’m not a slave to a giant black hole of home loan and car debt.

Sit down and check in

I encourage you to think about how you feel towards money. I see a lot of people, especially women, feel shame about it.

They’re ashamed because they don’t feel in control, think they spend too much, or don’t know enough about it. They think it’s somehow their fault – when in fact society has done literally everything possible to make them feel like this – from not socialising us to discuss money, through to telling us we are ugly and fat if we don’t buy products to fix ourselves.

So please, sit down in a quiet moment and list your emotions about money.

See if you can unpack them a little. Do they stand up to scrutiny? Are they serving you well? Or are they holding you back?

The good thing about feelings is we aren’t just stuck with them. We can always change them, with some work. Time to have a long chat with money … and show it who’s boss.

 

Ever feel like finance isn’t your thing? It’s not you, it’s them

Sometimes I just can’t keep my mouth shut.

Working in finance, I’m constantly surrounded by a majority of men. It’s not my ideal but it’s a fact of life.

But last week I couldn’t hold myself back. I opened a financial advice industry magazine and was confronted by what I can only describe as a sausage-fest.

It’s an ‘industry roundtable’ organised by a major life insurance company. Don’t be fooled by the two women in the photo; only one was actually allowed to be part of the roundtable. I assume the other was rounded up to give some gender balance to the pic. FFS.

So I got fired up and emailed the editor to complain about this. Something of a risky move, given I have to pitch stories to him occasionally. But hey, when the feminist fire is burning within you…

He was actually great and accepted that it’s not a good look, and as I suspected, it was the paying client who made the call. He said they normally have a minimum 30% females at their events. I’ll take him at his word.

Anyway, it got me thinking about my Fierce Girls. No wonder so many of us feel like finance isn’t our thing. No wonder we don’t feel inspired to work with investment professionals, when they are largely white guys in suits.

In case you (or the men’s rights activists, who take a strange interest in this blog) think I exaggerate, check this out.

I went to two of the ‘go-to’ finance industry sites to get a feel for the visuals. Here’s a panel of ‘investment experts’.

Oh hey there white guys in suits. But wait, maybe I’m just picking one example. Here’s another.

I mean, sure there are more white guys in suits, but maybe I am just being selective. Here’s one more.

Don’t be fooled by the glasses or the bald heads; these are all different people. The only diversity is the depth of their tan and the choice of whether to wear a tie.

I’m not blaming the publication completely for this. These are the spokespeople that the investment managers put forward.

Anyway, just to round out the example and test my hypothesis a little more, I jumped onto another industry website. Here’s a list of the ‘industry expert’ articles.

You guessed, more white guys! Surprising, I know.

But I’m not just here to throw shade at the ingrained gender imbalance of the finance sector. Although that is fun.

And I have nothing against white guys in suits personally. (Let’s be honest, they form a significant part of my dating portfolio).

What I want to say is this.

If you feel excluded from the financial world, IT’S ABSOLUTELY NOT YOUR FAULT.

If you feel like money, investments and finance are complicated concepts, remote from your life, IT’S TOTALLY UNDERSTANDABLE.

If you don’t identify with the blue-suited, white-shirted men of the finance industry, IT’S COMPLETELY REASONABLE.

There are definitely smart and talented women in finance. I know a bunch of them.

There are wonderful female advisers and money coaches like Vivian Goh.

There are boss-lady investment managers like Catherine Allfrey (ok I don’t know her personally but she works in my building and I secretly fangirl her from afar).

There are great female executives running super funds like Deanne Stewart (I fangirled her at an event once, in person).

There is even an amazing woman on the Reserve Bank of Australia Board! I’d go so far as to say I know Carol Schwartz, but I don’t think she knows me.

There just aren’t as many of these women as there are men. And it’s taking aaaaages to address the imbalance.

In the meantime, what can you do in the service of smashing the financial patriarchy?

  1. Search out like-minded women and their businesses. Women supporting women is obviously the best way to start. There are so many great women, so ask around or get Googling.
  2. Be conscious of the bias, then ignore it. Feel totally free to reject the notion that finance is a white guy’s game. It’s totally open and accessible to women who want to get acquainted. Resources like the one you are reading are evidence of that.
  3. Call out gender imbalance when you see it. Like I did to the poor editor mentioned above, if you see events or articles or even companies that are far too male, comment on it. We accept the behaviour we walk past. Also, feel free to take your business elsewhere.

And if all fails, just create your own squad, Taylor Swift, Bad Blood-style. That’s my master plan. Are you in?

Just a conversation with a (very) sassy friend who has mastered the art of life

So that title is a quote about me. I love it, but feel a little fraudulent because I have definitely not mastered anything.

Anyway, it’s by the awesome Erika Jonsson, and we are having a bromance, but the girl version. (Why isn’t there a female version of that concept? Oh that’s right, because it’s socially acceptable for women to admire and be supportive of each other. Yasss gurrrrl!)

She interviewed me for over an hour and somehow made sense of my feminist ramblings, publishing it on the Six Park blog. So, here I am, spilling the tea. Enjoy.

WHAT WAS THE FIRST THING YOU REMEMBER SAVING FOR? HOW LONG DID IT TAKE?

I didn’t really get proper pocket money as a kid, but when I was 13 I started working at a printing shop for $5 an hour and I saved up for a boom box – it was a double-cassette plus CD player, so I could use it to make mix tapes. I reckon it took me about six months and I had it until well after I moved out of home, so it was a pretty good purchase!

WHAT PROMPTED YOU TO START THE FIERCE GIRL’S GUIDE TO FINANCE?

I was doing work on what was then called Money Smart Week, and one of the things they asked everyone to do was have workplace events. So I got a bunch of PR girls together and ran these lunchtime seminars preaching the gospel of superannuation and it went from there.

In terms of launching the blog, I started out treating myself as though I was a client and considering my objectives and channels. But perfect is the enemy of done, so I just ended up starting and building the site myself (which is why it’s not very fancy).

Not that long ago I was listening to Gloria Steinem in conversation with Oprah, and her advice was: “Do the thing that only you can do.” There are so many strands to unpick before we can get close to gender equality, but the thing that I can unpick is helping women realise it’s not unfeminine to be good with money. I want to change that thinking that says we’re all about spending. Money is at the core of how much power we have.

WHY DO YOU THINK EXPENSIVE SHOES (THINK LOUBOUTINS AND MANOLOS) HAVE BECOME SUCH AN IMPORTANT REFERENCE POINT IN TALKING TO WOMEN ABOUT MONEY?

My theory is that it’s women signalling success to other women. I think women are particularly socialised to talk about how we spend money but not about how we make it or invest it. But money itself doesn’t signify power; it creates power by giving you choices and opportunities. If you’re spending that money on shoes that aren’t even very comfortable, you’re not taking control of that power fully.

One of the things that troubles me a lot at the moment is the obsession with cosmetics and injectables and really expensive beauty treatments. I’m not judging women who use these services, by the way, but every time you’ve got a 26-year-old woman getting Botox, it’s a way to disempower her, because she’s now embraced a spending pattern that will last through her 20s and beyond. We’re talking about hundreds and hundreds of dollars being spent, mostly by women, who think this is what they need as a minimum to show up in the world. It’s fine if you have all the money – great, go get a facial – but don’t do that before you’ve paid your bills and set yourself up for a life that will give you power and opportunities.

FIERCE GIRL IS FULL OF GREAT POP CULTURE REFERENCES, INCLUDING ICONIC FILMS AND SERIES SUCH AS LEGALLY BLONDE AND SEX AND THE CITY. WHO ARE YOUR FAVOURITE CHARACTERS AND INFLUENCES WHEN IT COMES TO MONEY?

One of the biggest singers in the world at the moment is Billie Eilish, who’s quite androgynous, and I find that really exciting – she’s giving a different version of femininity that’s not all about crop tops or high heels. When it comes to money, though, the women I admire the most are probably Beyonce and Rihanna. They’ve kept control of their business decisions and their empires and they’ve flipped the narrative. I know that’s a very capitalist way to look at things but if women can take away even a small amount of the thinking that says money isn’t about what you can spend but about the choices and opportunities it gives you, we’d all be better off – we’d all be a bit more Beyonce, right?

YOU WROTE A POST ON SPENDING LESS AND SAVING MORE THAT WENT “LOW-KEY VIRAL” – WHAT ARE THE MOST POPULAR POSTS ON THE BLOG, AND WHY DO YOU THINK THEY’VE RESONATED THE WAY THEY HAVE?

The one I wrote about how to structure your bank accounts was wildly popular – it’s not rocket science, but it was a great simplification of how to think about things. By far the most popular ones, though, are the ones that are the most personal, including a recent post about the single biggest risk to your money. As someone who’s come out of a divorce, I’m fortunate to have an income and a career, but I didn’t come out of that situation in what I thought was a very fair way. If I could go back in time I would have protected myself a bit more. I think people really resonate with the authenticity of those kind of blogs. People connect with people, not instructions or tables – they want to hear stories.

(Erika’s note: one of my personal favourites, and the one that introduced me to Fierce Girl, is the Mindful Spending Manifesto, which doesn’t decree that you shouldn’t buy anything, but that you shouldn’t buy everything.)

WHAT WAS THE FIRST INVESTMENT YOU MADE OUTSIDE YOUR SUPER?

I’ve been putting extra into my super since I was 21 – though I lost a decent chunk of that in my divorce – and everything else has gone into my house. Other than a little Raiz account, I’m probably overweight in property! A lot of my wealth has gone into my home, but I’ve done that quite consciously because I do have a decent amount of super so I just really want to smash my mortgage while I can. When I feel like I’ve done that a bit more, I’ll probably go outside and invest in ETFs.

HAVE YOU EVER WRITTEN ABOUT BUYING FEWER COFFEES?

No! I’m not going to tell you how to write your Mindful Spending Manifesto! You need to decide what’s your splurge and enjoy it – then be clear about what you’re having and not having. You should see my premium spirits sideboard – there’s nothing on there that’s less than $70 or $80 a bottle, but I won’t buy cocktails at a bar. Everyone has their own thing that they have to work out. You shouldn’t have to feel bad about the things that make you feel good about your life, but you should put time and effort into thinking about them. Ask yourself whether the behaviours you’re engaging in bring you closer to your goals or push you away from them.

WHAT’S THE ONE THING YOU WANT EVERYONE TO KNOW ABOUT MONEY?

The thing I really want women to believe is that perfect is the enemy of done. There’s no perfect investment, there’s no perfect way of doing things – just do something. Don’t wait to be a perfectly informed investor – you don’t have to be Warren Buffett; there are so many small things to do like reviewing the dull insurance and consolidating your super. Get in there and have a go. You can always do a little bit better without having to be perfect.

Final note from Chief Fierce Girl: this isn’t a sponsored post or anything, but if you are wondering how to get started with investing, Six Park is totally worth checking out.

3 useful things to help you win the war on adulting

I’ve been adulting hard in 2019. I  finished a bathroom renovation and I got my car registered. Ok, maybe my dad took the car for a service and inspection, but I most definitely did the paperwork.

Anyway it got me thinking about what it means to be a fully functioning adult. Because even though I’m now 40 (wtf), I sometimes feel like a 21 year old, just trying to keep all that adulting, life-admin shit together. (Hence why my dad steps in now and then).

I don’t even have kids and I find it hard – so let me salute all the ladies out there who can deal with car rego and school permission slips (do they even have them anymore or is there some sort of app?). Anyway, I don’t know how you do it all.

But when it comes to money, I am doing ok. So I want to share with you a few things that every girl should have as a serious, responsible adult. This is not an exhaustive list, obviously, but it’s not a bad place to start.

1. A stash of emergency cash – An emergency is not a new outfit for a wedding that you forgot about. It’s your car breaking down and needing expensive repairs; it’s your hot water system exploding and needing immediate replacement; it’s getting out of a bad relationship that’s affecting your mental health.

The spectrum of reasons is wide, but the solution is the same: put at least a few thousand dollars aside with a different bank  –  so that you can’t see or easily access it in your everyday banking. Ideally, you want to have three months of living expenses in there. But if you can only manage a hundred or a thousand, do that and keep building a little at a time.

Some is better than none, so don’t let the ‘three month emergency fund’ rule keep you from getting on top of it.

2. A good banking or budgeting app – One thing I’ve learnt about money is that it’s a needy friend. Your bank account is totally NOT OK with sporadic texts and comments on her Insta posts.

She wants you to check in with her all the time, see how she’s feeling, has she been too busy, is she feeling sick, did someone absolutely flog her on the weekend at a bar around midnight. Ya know, the usual.

We really need to be frequently reviewing our spending, looking for cost overruns and also checking there are no suspicious transactions (cybercrime is real, y’all). Otherwise it becomes an avoidance thing of ‘God I don’t even want to look’. And a spiral of stress.

The next level of adulting to consider is a budgeting app that helps you set up buckets of money and lets you know if you’ve hit them. This is for the advanced level saver, and I know it’s not everyone’s gig. But something to consider.

When I feel like I’m getting a bit outta control, I track every dollar I spend (as per my new year resolution). I enter it into the TrackMySpend app, and it shows me where all my money goes. I like to enter it in manually  (as opposed to just reviewing my bank transactions), because it makes me think about each purchase.

In a cashless world, it’s easy to ignore exactly how much cash you’re dropping. So this is one way to create an additional mental barrier. (And yes, ‘Personal & Medical’ category, I see you and your outsize contribution. So what if I spent $400 at the naturopath? I haven’t even been to Priceline, so there).

3. A decent income protection policy

I know this is boring, but seriously, what happens if you can’t work because you’re really, seriously sick. Cancer, depression, an accident.

For a while there I was paying for this through my superannuation. Which is totally fine and if you do this, then great. I ended up getting a professional insurance review (for free, when I worked in a financial planning company). The outcome is a Rolls Royce policy that even pays my super if I can’t work. It’s very expensive, and I wince when I pay it every month.

HOWEVER, I am a single gal with no safety net other than my family, so I want the best. And then I hear about people like Kim, who beat breast cancer at 30 and had a double mastectomy; and is now battling cancer a decade later. Or the guy I met on the weekend (who is super cute and sweet, but that’s not relevant). He was in a car accident at 22 and spent four months in a coma before having to relearn pretty much everything in subsequent years, due to traumatic brain injury.

And I think damn, I guess I can afford it.

So, if you have an income, you should probably insure it. Talk to your super fund if you aren’t sure how to get started. (Also, note this is not the same as Life and TPD insurance that comes as a default; you need to add it yourself with most super funds).

Read more about the exciting topic of insurance here! We’re all going to die – so let’s just talk about it here, then move on

And that, my friends, is a completely randomly chosen list of things to help you win the war on adulting.

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑