Search

The Fierce Girl's Guide to Finance

Get your shit together with money

Category

Get a money mindset

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.

How much is enough? And other deep questions raised by Netflix

It seems like everyone is talking about Marie Kondo, the Japanese tidying-up queen. Her book even spawned a new verb: to KonMari.

Marie Kondo is now on Netflix, where she helps people who have become smothered by their own ‘stuff’, exhorting them to ponder each item and ask ‘Does this spark joy?’. (If it doesn’t, it’s out.)

I’m a fan of the concept.

When I left my marriage, I basically just took my clothes and shoes. Well, ok.  I also took the  Tupperware, the Le Creuset and my Mundial knife. A girl’s gotta cook.

I started again, and it was strangely liberating.

Yet how quickly we acquire more things. I’ve told myself no more kitchenware, but it’s hard. I recently gushed with envy over a friend’s omelette pan.

Which brings me to the a question I’ve been pondering for a while now: how do we know when we have enough?

Enough what, you ask?

Anything, really.

The big challenge of our modern lives and disposable incomes is simply saying no.

When you have money, there’s always more you can buy.

Maybe it’s one more cheap T-shirt. Maybe it’s another pair of designer heels. Maybe it’s one more eyeshadow palette, to get one particular colour.

Whatever your thing, you have the ability and opportunity to continuing indulging in it.

But there comes a point, hopefully before Marie Kondo has to step in, when it’s time to ask the question: is this enough?

It might be that you’re running out of space (or money).

Maybe you have so many Lorna Jane crop tops you struggle to rotate them efficiently (I hear that’s a thing, wouldn’t know myself).

Maybe your wife gets cranky at all the space your bikes are taking up in the garage (sorry dad).

Or maybe you just start feeling guilty about the impact you’re having on the earth.

I’ve been talking to people about this to get their view on this thorny topic.

I asked a girlfriend at work how many work outfits are enough. ‘Ten’, she replied. Two weeks of new outfits, then rotate again. ‘After all, a man normally has a couple of suits and ten shirts’.

The girls in the team nodded thoughtfully, then all agreed that was a preposterous notion. We could quite literally wear a new outfit for a month without duplicating it.

Which really gives you pause for thought. (And hopefully I have that pause, next time I’m in a changeroom.)

Pick your vices

My dad’s advice is to try and limit your number of vices to one. He has chosen bikes, and associated bike gear, as his vice. He claims to have culled to the very reasonable number of three. His wife remains unconvinced, but this is a woman with a chandelier in every room, so I’m not sure she’s blameless.

And if we all have our different vices, we also need to have things we’re happy to be a tight-arse about.

I have an obscene amount of fancy activewear, but use a Kmart handbag. My friend has an obscenely large collection of designer bags,  but buys cheap gymwear. We revel in judging each other about it.

It all comes back to mindful spending (more about that here). This is a concept that I have been spruiking for a while now. Amazingly, this week I spoke to someone who has adopted it!

She said it helps her when she’s having that moment in a store, for example, wondering whether she ‘needs’ a new top, or is just buying it for the sake of it.

But what I like about this approach is that it can actually give you freedom, not just constraints. Mindful spending helps you pinpoint those things that ‘spark joy’ and allocate resources that way. Guilt-free, by the way.

So there is no easy answer to ‘how much is enough?’, but there are definitely some road signs to help us on the journey to find out.

 

What if you’re actually smarter with money than you think?

Do you ever read about finance and feel dumb?

Me too.

I know, I know. “If Chief Fierce Girl feels challenged by the murky world of money, what hope do I have?”. But stay with me.

It’s all about gatekeeping: if people make money sound complicated, then you will definitely need their expertise to help you, right? And pay for it, of course.

And look, investment can be complicated. I studied it, and it was haaaard. I might have cried a little while trying to calculate franking credits.

However, that’s the pointy end of finance. There’s also a soft, welcoming end that is actually not that complicated at all.

I summed it up when I introduced you to the Four Friends Who Will Make You Rich. (Read it here, it’s low-key one of my best).

And so it annoys me to see the tone of ‘talking down’ that seems to pervade the finance world.

It makes financial success seem harder than it is.

I came across this finance industry research recently, that claimed to be ‘alarmed’ by the poor financial literacy of Australians.

But when I read the questions it was based on, they were really tricky. They were phrased like those multiple choice questions in an exam where you question yourself,  freak out, and start worrying. Like maybe it’s A but what if it’s B and I don’t know if C sounds ok and maybe I’m just stupid and I should probably go home *. (*Actual internal monologue from my last finance exam).

Look, I agree we could do better on the financial literacy front. But it would also be good if the professionals would stop telling us how dumb we are.

What if they gave us a message of empowerment and encouragement?

What if they said ‘Focus on what you do know, boo, and go from there!’.

Well, they don’t have to, because I am telling you all of that. Don’t assume that you don’t have the smarts to nail your finances, because you totally do.  

In fact, here are some totally easy things you can do today (or tomorrow, if you’re tired. No pressure, take a nap if you like).

Save in your sleep. The easiest/only way to save properly is to do it before you get your sticky fingers on it. Set up an auto-transfer  into a savings account for the day you get paid.

Or see if your bank does round-ups, where it takes little amounts and stashes them away for you.

I know ING does, because those annoying Isla Fisher ads told me. I guess they work huh.

Invest while you spend. One step further to the round-ups mentioned above, apps like Raiz take little bits of your money and invest them for you.

I used to be in love with it, but it won’t sync to my Macquarie bank accounts so it’s kind of dead to me now. But if you want to dip your toe in the water of investing, check it out.

Some super funds do it now too, so check your fund’s website

Own your super savings.  Ok, it’s not a sexy topic, but a tiny bit of effort makes a big difference. With just one or two calls, you can cross that shit off your to-do list for years.

Step 1: roll your multiple accounts into one. If you’re paying multiple fees and insurance STOP THAT NOW. It’s literally throwing money away. And guess what, your primary fund will do the hard work for you. Call them up and ask! A friend of mine did it recently and was stoked with how easy it was.

How do you choose your primary fund? Fees and returns. But if you can’t be bothered reading a bunch of websites, the big industry funds like Australian Super, HESTA, REST, First State, Hostplus and CBUS are pretty competitive. You are possibly in one already from your days in retail or hospitality. Within those big players there isn’t a lot of difference, so don’t overthink if it means not making any decision.

When you speak to your chosen fund, you should also ask them about your investment option. If you don’t choose one proactively, you get shoved into the default.

Now I don’t know about you, but I am not a default kinda girl. I don’t want to be in the same option as 60 year old Susan.

Given my age (young and cool), I can tolerate more risk for the chance of more return. So I’m in the high-growth option. Your fund should be able to provide what’s called ‘simple advice’ to help you decide (for no cost).

I swear, just doing these things, and making sure they have your correct contact details), can make thousands of dollars difference to you when you retire. (I have a whole post about super if you’re really interested: click here).

So anyway, did you see what I did there – started off with a motivational post and snuck in a whole section on super!

I know, I’m tricksy. Sorry not sorry. But let me get back to the original point – making good choices with your money doesn’t need a degree. It is a series of small decisions, made over time. And every good one helps.

You got this, so go forth and be fierce!

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.

 

‘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.

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)

Three truths about money to make you feel better

We could always be doing better than we are today.

I could be a little leaner, could lift heavier weights, could be more flexible.

But hey, I’m trying. I’m lifting four days a week, tracking my food, making it to yoga when I can. I’m putting in the work.

And while I’m not perfect, I’m in the gym four days more than the person who stays in bed. And I’m making choices my future self will be grateful for.

The same goes for money. None of us are perfect. We often feel like we should have saved more, invested more, been further along, have learnt more about this finance stuff.

But I’m here to tell you: you’re doing fine.

If you’re reading this blog, you have taken one small step. And you’re doing better than the person who’s currently reading about a Kardashian on their phone.

So I wanted to share a few thoughts to inspire you on your money journey.

Truth #1 – Success flows where attention goes. 

I met comedian Claire Hooper at an event last week. If you haven’t listened to her podcast, The Pineapple Project, you should get on that quick smart. She tackles money as someone who has no idea about it, and asks a bunch of experts for their help.

Not only is it entertaining and educational, she also showcases some amazing talent. Like, oh, I dunno – me. Yep, check out this episode for my two cents’ worth.

Anyway, I asked her about her life since she made the series, and whether she’d got her finances in order. “Yes, I’m fabulously rich now!” she said – jokingly of course. In all seriousness though, she said since focusing on money, she had really improved her situation.

I quoted Truth #1 to her and she agreed. So many times in life, we let things languish on a to-do list at the back of our brains. We don’t know how to start, or we think it will be too hard, or we are too dumb, or whatever.

But once we actually pay attention, it comes together. We have useful conversations that move us along. We start reading things that make sense. We take small actions – whether it’s setting up bank accounts, reading our insurance documents or calling our super fund. And then, all of a sudden, we’ve got our shit together with money!

Truth #2 – There is more than one right answer

I sometimes toss around the idea of buying an investment property. Other times I think about whether to buy more shares. But the property market is in flux, and now is not the time to move. Sharemarkets have been doing so well that it’s possible there will be a correction soon.

So, I’m just chucking a bunch of money at my mortgage, paying extra into super, and sitting this one out. I’m totally fine with that.

You see, there is no one right answer when it comes to investing. There are people in the industry who would fight to the death in a cage to prove their investment style is the best. Not just their asset class (shares! property! bonds!), but their style within it (value! passive! unconstrained!).

I’m here to tell you, the successful investor is the one who invests. Of course, follow the basic rules of investing. Like balancing risk and reward (read more here). Not putting all your eggs in one basket (hello diversification!). Reading the fine print. All that grown-up stuff.

But the key thing is to do something (other than piss your money away on shopping and dinners and drinks and manicures and whatever).

Ultimately, the way to build wealth is to spend less than you earn and do something productive with the leftover money. That’s kind of it. As simple and as hard as that.

If you’re wondering how to get started, check out this post.

Truth #3 – You have time on your side 

This could also be expressed as ‘it’s never too late’. Of course it’s better to start early when it comes to investing. There’s a wonderful concept called compound interest, which means the longer you let your gains pile up on each other, the more you make.

But there isn’t a magical number where it’s too late to get started. Ideally, you’d  kick off your great saving and investing habits in your early 20s. But really, who does that? (Well, I did make extra superannuation contributions).

By your thirties or forties you still have a LOT of decades left to live, based on average life expectancy. In fact, at around age 42 you’re still only halfway along the journey. So don’t tell me you can’t do some solid saving and investing for the remaining four decades.

In your 50s, there are still plenty of things you can do for your 80-year-old self. By your 60s, sure there are more challenges, but there are still positive steps to be taken.

You can get started with better habits on any day and at any age. Don’t waste time – even small steps now can make a difference to your bad-arse 80-year-old party-girl self.

Instafamous nanna, Baddie Winkle – Source: Instagram @baddiewinkle

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑