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The Fierce Girl's Guide to Finance

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Get a money mindset

Want to be wealthy? Put that calculator down! (It’s not about numbers)

I had a conversation with myself on the way home today. It was a bit of a Smeagol – Gollum moment (for the Tolkien fans out there).

Gollum: You should get a Shellac mani-pedi for the Christmas party and holidays.

Smeagol: That’s a solid 70 bucks. You don’t need that. You have a mortgage. And an extensive collection of nail polish.

Gollum: But you have the money. Treat yo’ self!

Smeagol: Yeah but if you keep saying that, you won’t pay off your mortgage early and live a sweet life of early retirement.

I’m pleased to say that the thrifty Smeagol won the day. Almost – I did pick up a new nail gold nail polish from Priceline, but it was half price! And behold:

Home manicures for the win!

I tell this story because it happened after two interesting conversations this week, with two seriously wealthy guys. The first one was an ex-investment banker telling me why he can’t retire at 58: he can’t afford it. I was bamboozled. I imagined he was sitting on a pile of stock options, had millions in the bank and was set for life.

But he reckons he has set up his life in a certain way, and it’s costly. And when he listed some of his expenses, all I could think was ‘That sounds like a prison’. Imagine being locked into all those costs, so that you had to keep slogging away in corporate purgatory.

(I’m sure for some people, the grind itself is the point. I work for a self-made millionaire, and I have no doubt he loves doing deals more than the money itself.)

Then today, I was talking to another successful CEO. I ribbed him a bit about having money, and he got quite philosphical about it. He invests money on behalf of other, seriously rich people, so he knows a lot of them.

He said that wealth is a mindset. I’ll paraphrase: “You can have someone worth $5 million, who thinks they’re doing really well, and who is satisfied with their money. But then you can have someone with $100 million, but it never feels like enough, and they’re always searching for more, and never feel secure”.

Now I know what you’re thinking: “I’d be pretty fucking over the moon about having even one of those millions”. But that’s beside the point.

The point is this: it’s not about how much money you have; it’s about how you see it. Do you have an abundance mindset, or a scarcity mindset?

What does money really mean?

When I think of money, I tend to think of it as a tool for creating the life I want. I don’t want to slog my guts out for a finance company one minute longer than I need to.

I want to build my wealth to a point where I can work part-time, write a novel, work for a charity … or whatever. But I still want a comfortable lifestyle that involves travel and cool stuff.

Now, I know not everyone thinks like that. Maybe you think of money as a means to physical self-actualisation – to have the clothes, hair, nails, body or whatever else you want to look and feel your best.

Maybe you see money as a way to reward your hard work and flag your success – a brand name bag or car tells you (and the world) that you’ve worked hard and achieved success. (While I am over here enjoying my new $15 K-Mart bag).

The fact is, money is never just money. It’s part of a deep and complex set of beliefs. It’s bound up in the way you see yourself and relate to the world.

Nor is that relationship static. It changes over time and in line with your life experiences.

I found myself earnestly lecturing a 24-year-old friend at the pub the other night: “Nobody cares what brand your handbag is, and if they do, you shouldn’t be friends with them anyway”.

God, when did I get so old and parental? It’s a long way from when I had my first job and coveted a Fendi baguette bag (hey, it was 2001).

One lesson that my investment banker friend highlighted is the danger of unconsciously ratcheting up your cost base as years go by. It’s easy to end up as a prisoner of your own lifestyle.

When you get stuck in the merry-go-round of things like salon nails, it’s one more thing that you have to fund (which I have written about here).

Sure, the K-Mart lifestyle isn’t for everyone. I’m not saying give up everything nice and be a boring tight-arse. But focusing on keeping your tastes and expectations modest can be very powerful – especially when it lets you do other, more interesting or meaningful things with money.

The secret to being wealthy is wanting less. If you can consistently create a surplus – so you have a little left over each month to save and invest – then you’re on your way to wealth creation.

As you set your goals for next year, and maybe have some good intentions around money, I would ask you to consider this idea.

More than just making a budget, how can you shift your thinking about what -and how much – you need to be happy?

I know, that is some serious inner work, and harder than downloading a budgeting app*. However,  it may be the most effective way to build your wealth over time.

*Please download a budgeting app as well.

 

Four things I learnt in my 38th year on Earth

It’s my birthday, but YOU get the presents!

Ok that was super cheesy but I just wanted to say it. The good thing about a December birthday is that you get to do a ‘reflections on the year’ post and combine it with a birthday post.

I am totally not one of those people who’s all like ‘oh I don’t like to make a fuss about my birthday’. I am like ‘bow down bitches’.

Me on my birthday

So, during my 38th trip around the sun, here are some things I learnt:

1. Success flows where attention goes – I know this sounds like a lame motivational motto, but go with me here. In the time I have been writing this blog, I have been thinking about money a lot. And in that time, I have upped my salary, boosted my savings, bought a property and generally got ahead. (It also helped that I settled a long-drawn-out divorce, but more on that below.)

Now I am not saying you need to start a finance blog (don’t steal my idea, bitches). But by making a conscious decision to focus on money,  and checking in regularly, you have a much better chance of succeeding.

You also need to plan like a boss, but don’t worry, I gotcha. Check out my worksheet!

2. The best investments you make are in yourself – This isn’t code for ‘treat yoself’; I’m not saying to drop your cash on botox or hair extensions. I mean educating or improving yourself.

I was falling into some patterns, mainly with men, that weren’t serving me well. So, I decided to see a counsellor and clean out all the mental detritus from the marriage and divorce.

Turns out I had a fair bit to unpack from my younger years, my own family breakdown and just the general trauma we pick up from playing this contact sport called life. It has been so worthwhile – there is enormous power in someone else looking at your life experiences and helping you make sense of them.

But it doesn’t have to be doing the inner work. I also graduated from my Applied Finance course, and it means that when The Daily Mail calls me a ‘finance expert’, I feel legit.

So, don’t be afraid to spend on important stuff that makes you a better person. (But always get the best deal, of course!)

3. Valuing yourself is hard but important work – I already wrote about my failures to demand what I’m worth in my last jobs (check it out here). I still struggle with this, but this year I have done better. For example, I set a freelance rate and was shocked and delighted when people agreed to it.

I still struggle with all of this stuff, but I feel like I am more aware and more committed to asking for money, as I get older and tougher and more woke.

4. Divorce is expensive – Well duh, you say. And maybe if I had a different kind of relationship, it would have been a swift and amicable split. But it wasn’t. Now, I’m not throwing a pity party – I just want to alert you to some facts that you don’t generally learn until it’s too late:

  • Your super is part of your marital estate.  I have been a superannuation-nerd since my 20s, making lots of extra contributions. It all went into the pot to get split up, so I had to give a big chunk of it away. Most women have less super than their husbands, but if you are in the minority who doesn’t – be warned. I don’t know exactly what you can do to avoid it – you can’t even spend it because it’s stuck in super. My dad told me to stop paying extra contributions when things were on the rocks (because he is smarter than me). I was slow to do that, which I regret. I could have just spent it on champagne and oysters instead of giving it away.
  • It doesn’t matter who earned what – it all gets split. In some  twist of law, the person who earns more, gets less. Something to do with future earnings – which I translate as ‘the tax for ruining your ex’s future’. So, yeah, even though I earned more, and we had no kids, I walked away with less than half. Again, not a lot I can recommend here other than Swiss bank accounts.

Getting to those outcomes was a hard, costly and emotional war of attrition. But it’s done, I’m in my new place and the future lies ahead.

All up…

It’s been awesome, ladies. To be honest, creating and building this community is the best thing I have done in a long time. To everyone who reads, shares, comments and puts it into practice – I love you all. Thanks for being my Fierce Girls.

Is the patriarchy making us poor?

Did you know that 2 in 5 Australian women don’t feel in control of their financial situation?

That’s according to an MLC survey of women, which also found that of the 43 per cent who do not feel in control, 61 per cent said low savings is the main factor.

While concerning, it’s not really surprising. But I’m not here to give you a lecture and say ‘girlfriends, think positively!’.

[NB: Feminist rant alert!]

You see, it’s not as simple as changing our attitude or outlook. We are not just struggling with our money; we are struggling with the patriarchy.

We are conditioned from a young age to think of money as something that buys us stuff. The kind of stuff that helps us win in the world of constructed femininity – first dolls, then clothes, then make-up, then diets, then surgery and then all of that shit that we convince ourselves we need. (Or society tells us we need).

I am guilty of this  – I got suckered into the Priceline 50% off sale last week too.

But before I beat myself up about it, I think about the forces at work. I’m nearly 40, single and work in a male-dominated industry. My appearance is part of my currency, for good or bad. I need that make-up, I need to cover that grey hair, or so my internalised misogyny tells me.

(OK, so, my boss hasn’t told me I need 10 shades of glitter eyeshadow – that is some creative licence from me).

The weight of it all

I am not suggesting we stop shaving or go bare-faced (unless we want to, of course). But when we look at how the beauty-industrial-complex sucks our money and attention away from us, we should have pause for thought.

Have you ever added up how much you spend on this stuff every year? I haven’t. On purpose – far too scary.

But even a vague mental checklist of hairdresser, make-up, fake tan and hair products is alarming. Add in all the clothes and accessories I buy, and it gets scarier.

And that’s me being a tight-arse, not buying anything full-price, having a low-maintenance hairdo, and refusing to get my nails done (oh how I miss thee, Shellac).

If I think of the women in my life, we all have those kinds of expenses. And it seems to be getting harder, with Instagram beauty demanding all sorts of high-maintenance appearances, including botox, fillers and surgery.

Now I’m not saying these things alone account for any money troubles we have. But there are two things to note:

  1. Men don’t have these costs.
  2. We are highly distracted by them.

Being chained to the costs and worries of our personal appearance, our body fat levels or our emerging wrinkles – this chips away at our sense of confidence, not to mention our bank balances.

What’s the solution? 

Being ‘woke’, as the young folk say these days.

In other words, being conscious of the impact the patriarchy has on us and our confidence.

Being alive to the impact of our socialisation as young girls, where money was rarely on the agenda but being pretty was.

We don’t have to burn our bras (that would be both toxic and wasteful). But we can rebel in our own ways.

  • We can take on the knowledge that has traditionally been the domain of men – finances, investment, capital.
  • We can create boundaries for our spending, so that we do the sensible stuff – like saving and paying off debt – before we rock up to David Jones.
  • We can make a plan, set goals, educate ourselves and take on financial planning with the same enthusiasm as we take on a Kayla Itsines bikini body challenge.

Knowledge, attention, action. Pretty much the key ingredients to any great social change. And remember:

6 of the best: Fierce Girl’s top posts to help you makeover your money

I’m gonna call it. The Fierce Girl’s Guide to Finance is going places.

Last week we had our first original content posted on Mamamia: a Money Makeover, helping Theresa make a plan to save $25,000. Check it out here.

Then The Daily Mail got wind of the story and got in touch. Let me tell you, after 17 years in PR, the idea of a journalist calling me (about something good) is absolute bliss! Usually we have to shop our stories around and beg journalists to write them.

The outcome was a story where I seemed to scold everyone a lot, but hopefully also provide some useful tips (read it here). And just in case anyone was wondering my age, they helpfully plastered it everywhere. I hope the undertone was ‘wow, doesn’t she look great for her age‘.

I think the reason for this momentum comes down to a few things. Firstly, there isn’t much competition. Not many others are talking to women about money in a no-bullshit way.

Secondly, it’s an idea whose time has come. Ridiculous house prices, rising energy costs, stupidly high uni fees, and a stubborn gender pay gap are just some of the reasons women are realising why we need to look after our own interests.

Turns out, middle-aged white guys in suits aren’t racing to share their power or wealth with us. Huh, who knew? (As a group that is – individually, my dad is actually pretty good at giving me money).

The third reason is obviously the awesome content being pumped out by these fierce fingers. But let’s not dwell on that.

The blog has been around for just over a year, but there are lots of new readers. Hi ladies! Thanks for coming by!

So, let me point you to some of the most popular or useful posts. (NB: this is not like a TV show where they run out of budget for a whole new episode so they just have a storyline full of flashbacks. It’s because there is good content that could be useful to you).

1. How to think about your money as though you’re in an episode of Sex and the City. 

The 4 best friends who will make you rich

 

 

 

 

 

2. Hacks to help you  overhaul your approach to money (even if it’s not January)

7 money resolutions you can keep in 2017

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3. How to set up your banking to make your life easier and your spending more enjoyable

The secret to guilt-free spending

 

 

 

 

 

 

4. How mindful spending can help you have a better relationship with money

Mindful spending: what it is and why it matters

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5. What to read if you’re thinking about buying a home or are freaking out about not doing it

Can I afford my own home? Part I and Can I afford my own home? Part II

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

6. How to get started with investing 

Buying shares is pretty much like choosing a husband

Maybe your grandma was right (about money, as well as that boy you were dating)

My late step-grandma* had a saying about choosing a partner: ‘Never stoop to pick up nothing’.

This post is not about that – I just wanted to share it because it’s great, and to prove that Grandmas know their shit.

My Grandma used to have five empty Vegemite jars, which she’d put her stray pennies into. There were different jars for different purposes.

“And if you keep doing that, soon you have a shilling, and then you have 21 shillings, which means you have a guinea to spend”.

(OK, I had to Google how  many shillings in a pound, but I did know that guineas are more exciting than a boring old pound).

This old-fashioned idea actually underpins a fancy new concept: microsaving apps like Acorns. I’m a huge fan of this app, which scrapes small amounts off your bank account – called ’round-ups’ – and invests them for you.

Say you spend $3.50 on a coffee, it garnishes the 50 cents (to round up to $4), and pops it into a portfolio of Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs) – click here if you want to know more about them.

I like this because it’s painless saving. Of course I have other savings. But my Acorns is a bonus stash that I actually forget about most of the time.

Words from the wise

My friend Cara has an Irish Granny who tells her to ‘save your pennies and the pounds look after themselves’. So true! Even if we don’t actually have pennies or pounds.

On one hand, little bits of good work all add up, in those real or virtual Vegemite jars.

On the other hand, it’s all the small purchases here and there that drain your finances.

In fact, I just went through an exercise proving this. My work is about to launch a budgeting tool which links to your bank accounts and categorises all the transactions (from the last 6 months!) into ‘essentials’ and ‘discretionary’.

But it can only do about 70% of them automatically, meaning I had to go through and label a bunch of transactions myself. Soooo many transactions in the ‘Bars, Cafes and Restaurants’. Soooo many in ‘Clothes and Accessories’.

Sobering but not too surprising. After all, my mindful spending manifesto says I can spend money on going out to brunch, dinner or drinks with friends. It says very little about buying clothes though, so I am going a bit too far with that.

Even though I’m still within my ‘spend and splurge’ limit, the process showed me that I should probably shave that allocation down a little.

Considering I just bought an apartment this week, after three years of post-divorce renting, I think that’s a useful and timely lesson.

So my hot tip is this: track what you spend. Even if it’s just for a month, you’ll quickly see where your money goes, and whether it’s in line with your goals or priorities.

I like the trackmyspend app from MoneySmart, but there are others in the app store. Or go old school with a notebook.

Other great tips from my Grandma and her generation:

A stitch in time saves nine – Looking after things properly means they last much longer. I notice this the most with shoes. If you spend the time and effort wearing in a  great pair of shoes, get them resoled and reheeled before they fall apart. I have some beautiful boots cracking the ten year mark now, thanks to some love and care from Mr Minit in Martin Place.

A penny saved is a penny earned – This is really, really important. Earning money is hard and annoying most of the time.

Every time you don’t spend money on something, you can not only keep it, but put it to good use.

My Acorns account is a good demonstration this. I’ve received an 8% return on my funds in the last year.  That means every dollar I put in is now worth $1.08 – for doing nothing!

Sure, I’m not going to spend that 8 cents all at once. But when you add this up over time, it’s powerful. Over the next year, I’ll be earning 8% (or whatever it turns out to be) on $1.08 – not just the original dollar.

And this, my friends, is the magic of compound interest. 

The graph below is from the MoneySmart compound interest calculator (which I freaking love). The pink columns show what happens if I keep my $1000, continue earning 8% every year, but do nothing else for 10 years.

It’s nice. You get $1220 of free money, and come out with $2220. Good outcome, but no reason to crack out the champagne.

However, if you add just $100 a month, look what happens. That is literally the cost of buying a takeaway coffee every day. If you allocate that to an investment fund for 10 years, you could walk away with over $20,000!

Those light blue columns are the ‘free’ money – the interest earned over that time.

Source: moneysmart.gov.au

There are lots of assumptions in this example, including getting 8% returns (not guaranteed with shares). But you get the general picture.

Every dollar you don’t spend is good. Every dollar you don’t spend, and invest in something more productive, is even better. 

That ‘productive’ thing may just be paying down your mortgage. Don’t get me started on how much you can save by doing that – I have a whole post in the works about it.

But you get it, right?

And finally, here is a tip from Grandma White, which has served me well over time:

If something has green mould, cut it off and it’s fine to eat the rest. If it’s pink mould, throw it out. 

I take no responsibility for public health outcomes on that one.

*Side note about my step-grandma Gwen: in her later years she told her daughters “If I die, don’t throw out my wardrobe without getting the $17,000 out of the back.” Over the years, she’d saved whatever was left over from the housekeeping money and stashed it there. Perfect.

Assumptions in calculator:
Scenario 1: $1000 deposit,  no additional payments, 8% interest each year.

Scenario 2: $1000 deposit, $1000 monthly payment, 8% interest each year.
Past performance of an investment isn’t a reliable indicator of future performance.

photo credit: Nicholas Erwin Change via photopin (license)

How to feel wealthier, happier and more in control of money

What do you get when you cross a yoga teacher with a financial adviser?

No, that’s not the opening line to a joke.

Lea Schodel is both of those things, and as a result, is the driving force behind a more mindful approach to money. Lea and I came across each other on the interwebs and were like “Yasss, you totally get it!”… “It” being the way money and emotions and wealth and being a woman all intersect.

Lea’s approach to the topic has seen her sprout a social enterprise, The Mindful Wealth Movement, focused on helping women connect their hearts and minds with their money. And then make better decisions about it.

One of the things she provides – for free – is a 30 Day Mindful Wealth Challenge, where you receive a daily email with a little task. Some of them are very practical, like renaming a bank account to fit with a goal – “Adventure Bucket” or “Freedom Fund” for example. Others are more reflective, such as, “Make a list of all the things that wealth means to you”.

What I enjoy is that each day has an affirmation linked to the challenge, like “I am creating a wealthy life”.  It’s a simple but powerful process to reassess your relationship to money.

Lea recently wrapped up a crowdfunding campaign, raising money to provide mindful wealth and financial literacy workshops to disadvantaged women. And she still found time to share some of her thoughts with you, the Fierce Girl community, in answer to my questions. So please read on for some tips from this inspirational woman. 

What prompted you to marry mindfulness with wealth?

As a financial planner, I completely understand the need for the technical knowledge and skills (left-brain) required to manage money well. But to me, this is only half of the skillset required to have a healthy relationship with money. As a yoga teacher and wellbeing coach, I also recognise that our mindset – our thoughts and feelings (right brain) – affect our ability to manage money well.

I often say, “in order to manage money well, we need to manage ourselves well”.

Our thoughts and feelings will either support or sabotage the actions we take with our money – and often we’re not even aware of it.

A lot of what we do with our money is sub-consciously driven: done out of habit or influenced by our emotions. We all have a complex money story and a whole range of beliefs and attitudes towards money. This can either support us or limit us when it comes to earning, keeping and growing our wealth.

After studying mindfulness, I saw it as an ideal philosophy and practice to apply to not only our finances, but our lives and relationships too. Mindfulness is all about creating attention and becoming present and fully aware of our current situation.

Why did you decide to build it into a social enterprise?   

I have this motto in business: Be guided by purpose and be driven by passion. I believe you can work in a space where you generate profit but also generate impact.

Money has such an impact on all areas of our lives. Having a good relationship with money and knowing how to manage your finances is fundamental to wellbeing as well as the ability to live healthy, balanced and stress free lives.

In my experience in Financial Services over the last 16 years, I’ve come to realise that many women (and men) are missing even the most fundamental personal finance concepts and it’s not really their fault – basic financial management wasn’t taught in schools or even households for most people growing up.

I’m on a mission – to help women create a conscious and purposeful relationship with wealth, help them take control of their finances and allow them live happier, healthier and wealthier lives.

I also feel that if as a society we are more conscious and purposeful with money, then it will address social issues such as depression, suicide, homelessness, domestic violence and poverty.

It will also help close the gender pay gap and retirement shortfalls that many women face. I’d also like to see more women become conscious consumers, practice gratitude and maybe even embrace the minimalist movement.  

The final reason I created a social enterprise is because I wanted to make financial literacy and education inclusive to all women, not just those who can afford to pay for financial advice.

It doesn’t matter how much or how little money women have, we all need to know how to manage it properly if we want to use it in a way that supports our dreams, goals and wellbeing.

What stories do you see women often sabotaging their finances with?

Money is so fraught with emotion. Fear, guilt, shame or embarrassment often prevent women from seeking help or even taking the next step to gain control of their money situation.

I see a lot of women who hand over the responsibility to someone else to manage their money, and those who secretly wish and hope someone else will save them – or sweep in and fix their finances for them!

I have a lot of women tell me that they find money boring, or that they’re too creative, or just don’t care about money. It’s almost as though they feel that it’s not really a feminine thing to be money savvy or an investor.  

I see lots of women mixing up their self-worth with their net worth – thinking that they can spend their way to higher self esteem, or trying to value themselves and their success based on the clothes they wear and the things they own.

Finally, I see many women completely disconnected from their future selves, too busy living in the now to consider the impact that their money decisions today may be limiting their opportunities for tomorrow.

If you want to start practicing mindful wealth, where do you start?

Mindful wealth is all about creating connection with and bringing awareness to your wealth, accepting your current money situation and then taking intentional action to create wealth. 

The simplest way to begin is by starting to notice how money is flowing in and out of your life. Whether it is quick to earn and easy to spend, whether you are hanging onto it too tightly, whether you are oblivious to how much you earn, spend, own and owe.

From this place of awareness, you can begin to notice how your emotions and habits may be driving your relationship with money.

Any time you spend or receive money, check in to see how you are feeling, or take a moment to explore the “why” behind your actions with money.

This helps us to create more connection to our money habits (which are often driven from our sub-conscious).

There is a saying that the way to “buy happiness” is not to buy things, but to spend the money you do have, on the things that you value most in life. If you know what you truly value, then you can begin to use the money you do have to bring more of that into your life.

See if you can define what wealth means to you personally. Have a go at thinking about what is present in your life already, or that you’d like to have more of in order to feel happy and abundant.

Whilst money may certainly be one of these things, see if you can list all of the other things that you need or like to have in life and that bring you the most satisfaction and happiness.

This can be an interesting exercise, as often we have this idea that to be wealthy, we need to have lots of money. Then, in the pursuit of more money, we can sometimes lose sight of the things that make us feel truly wealthy.

What if you’re partnered, and your partner isn’t on board? How do you manage that?

I so often see “opposite” money personalities in partnerships, whether romantic or business. Given money is a leading cause of relationship breakdown and divorce, we can certainly do ourselves and our relationships a favour if we can get on the same page as our partners.

In any partnership, it’s important to recognise that we all have a unique money personality, experiences, values and habits. If we can create awareness around what these are for our partner, and they can understand what they are for us, then we can understand what drives our behaviours.

I use a great tool with my clients, which helps couples to discuss their dominant habits and attitudes with money. Then they can begin to work out a plan to support each other’s strengths and challenges when it comes to managing money.

If you’re not on the same page as your partner when it comes to your finances, the first place to start is with communication.

If you can’t communicate with each other without arguing, then it could pay to see a financial counsellor or money coach to begin the conversation in a neutral environment.  

I’m a big fan of transparency between partners, but I also insist that partners maintain some financial independence.

 Joint accounts are great to manage joint and household expenses and debt, but I think it’s also necessary to have individual accounts for personal spending money, so that each partner can spend freely on the things that they value most.

So, these are just some of Lea’s wise words. There is a lot to process there! And because I know you guys like practical tips, I have crunched it down for you into 3 Top Tips for Mindful Wealth.

 

 

photo credit: MrJamesBaker http://bestreviewsbase.com/

What I’ve learnt from a year of running a finance blog

Today is the first anniversary of The Fierce Girl’s Guide to Finance. Yay! I feel happy and proud about that.

It’s been fun, hasn’t it? If you’re new to Fierce Girl, thanks for coming here. If you’e a long-time follower, thanks for being on the ride.

This whole thing was born out of lunchtime session at work called ‘Get your shit together with money’, part of the now-defunct National MoneySmart Week (long story about why it was canned). Anyway, it was a bunch of passionate advocates for financial literacy trying to put it on the national agenda. I was the PR chick, working on it pro bono.

During MoneySmart Week, I ran a session telling people to roll over their super funds and explaining the wonders of compound interest. And guess what, they got really into it! Weird, I know.

Then my friend Mindy Gold dared me to start this site. She was originally my partner in crime, but selfishly went to live overseas. (With a decent pool of savings btw, because she’s a Fierce Girl.)

The Divorce Thing

The other element of this story is that I was going through a divorce. I’m amazed by how short that phrase is when you say it.

‘I got divorced’. It’s like ‘I got my hair done’.

In reality, it was a slow, painful unwinding and rebuilding.

From the day I decided to leave, until the day the financial settlement was agreed, three years went by. And that doesn’t include the time spent watching my marriage fall apart. I’d say the last five years of my life have been spent in the strange, murky land of relationship failure.

I don’t say this to elicit sympathy, but to provide context. I’ve learnt many things from the process, some of which I’ve written about here and here. But the mistakes I made about money during my relationship, and the important role it played in allowing me to leave, have fueled my passion for this issue.

Put simply:

If you don’t control your money, you don’t control your life.

This is why it breaks my heart to see women hand over control to a partner, or to the universe. The attitude of ‘oh, I’m so bad with money but, haha, aren’t I adorably helpless‘ is still far too common.

Nobody is perfect with money. We all make bad decisions from time to time. But we need to remember who’s in the driver’s seat.

Not your credit card, not The Iconic, not the hipster-bearded bartender, and most certainly not your significant other. You, and you alone. (And maybe me, a little bit, haha).

Getting the basics right is hard – and important

When you hang out in the finance industry, you think everyone cares about whether your fund has beat the benchmark. And if you don’t know what that means, don’t worry – you’re not alone.

Finance people live in a bubble of complexity, products and jargon. Most regular people don’t care about alpha (which is how much an investment outperforms the benchmark, if you’re wondering).

They want to know how to pay off their credit card debt. Or to spend less on groceries. Or to have more money left before payday.

While I love explaining economics and investments, the readership stats for those posts are relatively low. My most-viewed post of all time is … wait for it … about bank accounts.

Turns out, how to structure your banking is far more interesting than the ingredients of Gross Domestic Product.  But the people running the banks and investment companies of the world don’t understand this. It’s taken me a year to fully appreciate it.

And that’s why so many people switch off and fall asleep when it comes to finance companies selling them stuff.

Success flows where attention goes

That sounds a little Tony Robbins, I know. But what I mean is that, since I’ve been thinking about money and finances and budgets A LOT in the last year, I’ve become way better at all those things. When you focus on something, you get better at it. Who knew!

My budgets are less liable to blow-outs, I feel confident about meeting my financial goals, and I feel comfortable about spending money on something if I’ve mindfully allocated funds to it.

I feel more in control, more confident and more optimistic. And that’s the goal, right?

Plus, I guess I have to really practice what I preach. Don’t want the paparazzi snapping me in the Jimmy Choo store.

At some point, you just have to back yourself

For someone in PR, I have a weird aversion to promoting myself.

But I have to remember I’m on a mission: to help you all take control of your money, give yourself choices and live your best lives. And a mission needs an appropriate level of bad-arse bravery and hustle.

So , as I enter Year Two of the blog, I’m getting serious. Site redesign, e-book launch, PR blitz – the lot!

If you love what I do, please be an advocate. Share things you find useful. Send me your feedback. Sign up for emails. And tell me when you’ve had Fierce Girl wins!

We are all in this together, fighting, dollar by dollar, to own the world and everything it has to offer.

So, go forth and be Fierce! And remember…

You have 300 paydays left. Seriously. So, what’s your plan?

Last week, I ruined everyone’s Friday by dropping this truthbomb.

Seriously, if you’re in your 30s and plan to retire in your 60s, you don’t actually have many paydays left.

It’s easy to work out (if you get paid monthly). Pick your imagined retirement age, minus your age now, and multiply by 12. Because I have aggressive early retirement plans (and am kinda old), it’s an even lower number.

Yep, just over 200 times to wake up and feel rich for three days. 200 times to scour my payslip working out how much leave I have accrued. 200 times to go down Pitt St Mall feeling like a baller.

That’s not really many times at all, in the scheme of things.

And if you’re planning to take time off to raise kids, then you can minus out at least 6 of those paydays,  and maybe a lot more.

So, now that we have all had a moment to face reality, let’s talk about what we do with this information.

Running the numbers

Our time in paid employment is a gift. Not just to our smashed-avocado-loving selves of today, but also to our future, chilled-AF party selves. We are all Baddie Winkle, somewhere in the future, drinking with Miley Cyrus.

Instafamous nanna, Baddie Winkle

How do we do we achieve this? We take charge, that’s how. We do a mutha-effing BUDGET! Woot!

Ok I said that in an excited way because I know you’re about to hit snooze. But go with me here.

How to do a Budget that doesn’t hurt your head or induce anxiety

A budget is all about giving you data that makes you better at decision-making. And information is power! So, I recommend a combination of:

  1. MoneySmart’s great online budget planner (click here), which sets out all the costs you have right now. You can choose weekly, monthly or annual for each item, and it averages it all out for you.Then you can run it as a monthly, quarterly or annual budget. It even gives you a pie graph – awesome!
  2. MoneySmart’s TrackMySpend app (in the App store or Google Play) – record everything you spend, and I promise you shit gets real very quickly. You can just do it for a month if you like – but it gives you powerful data.

Once you have this data – a combination of ‘forecast’ and ‘actual’ numbers – you can make informed decisions. In particular:

  • What does it cost to be me?
    These are your fixed costs. A useful way to think about this is to have different versions – the ideal you, the average you and the bad you. Kinda like Kylie Minogue in the awesome video for Did it Again.

    My ideal budget is when I don’t buy three pairs of boots at the Wittner sale (they were super cheap) and don’t have Priceline accidents (when you go in for Panadol and come out with three new lipsticks). My average budget is when I actually do those things.

    And my bad budget is when I buy stuff I don’t need due to premenstrual angst or emotional turmoil. To be honest that version of me has been tamed  these days, so I usually fall into the first two. And my latest budget has Priceline accidents built into it.

  • What’s a reasonable savings goal? 
    There is no magic number for this. At least 10% is good, but if you have done your real budget (the average you) and there’s genuinely not enough left over, then do 5% or whatever. If you can do more, then happy days! The key is to do something.
    Also, it may not even be real savings at this point – it could be paying down bad debt like a credit card. Or, at the other end of the scale, it may be going straight into an investment like a managed fund or ETF (more on that here). In any case, it’s the money you allocate to being a responsible adult who does sensible things with your future self in mind.

And once you’ve answered these questions, you can feel more in control and less like ‘it’s all too hard’. Simples!

Bad at saving money? Here’s why – and what to do about it

I got asked today ‘how do you have the discipline to diet?’.

Since I was eating a Bounty at that moment, I’m not sure why. (To be fair, it was a piece of someone else’s Bounty, so there are obviously no calories.)

My response was that it’s easier if you have a reason. In my case, it’s so I can compete in powerlifting in a lower weight class.

It’s the same with money. Another friend asked me, ‘What if you just can’t save?’. To which I answered the same thing: you need a reason.

AKA: a goal.

Goals, I know! So lame and hard and too much like adulting.

I’m not a massive goal-setter myself, but I have forced myself to create some clarity about where I’m going. So then I know how to get there.

Just before you get bored and switch off, let me offer you a gift. We’ll come back to it shortly.

Click here to download your printable A4 worksheet

Why do you need a worksheet?

So we can put the ‘plan’ into financial planning.

I know, a lot of people don’t trust financial planners. There are good and bad ones, just like any other profession. We’ve all had a hairdresser who takes ‘just a trim‘ and turns it into ‘radical hair makeover so you look like a lesbian biker‘. (Don’t get me wrong, I love lesbian bikers – I just don’t necessarily want their haircuts).

However, I’ve been having a conversation with a mate who’s a financial planner, and he messes with my head because he’s all about ‘plans’.

I would ask him ‘should I buy a property to live in or invest in’ and he was all like ‘well, what’s your plan?’.

I don’t know! I’m in my late 30s, divorced, childless. So far, all the ‘plans’ I made 10 years ago haven’t really turned out.

But that doesn’t mean I can get away without one. Without some goals, I don’t know where to put my money or how much to save.

And if you don’t know the destination, how will you know the how to get there?

Sometimes, choosing the destination is the hard bit

People often ask me about what to with their money. I can’t  tell them specifically (partly because I’m not licensed so it’s illegal). But I do ask them ‘what’s the goal’?.

Is it  saving enough for a property? Is it having enough to travel? Maybe it’s just being a bad-arse with a backpack and a round-the-world ticket (oh hey Betsy, how’s Iceland?).

Tactics are useless without a strategy. And a strategy is nothing without a goal.

If you’re  like me though, you find big life planning stuff daunting at best, terrifying at worst. But don’t worry, Fierce Girls, I got ya.

I came up with questions to help you create some clarity. And then I made a fucking worksheet! I know, I am crafty AF.

Doing the worksheet

Now, you can do this and not necessarily come up with a special number. You know, a savings goal or something. That’s a topic for another day.

But you will think critically about the factors that shape your decisions. So the questions in the worksheet are (and you can totally pick the timeframe that applies to you):

  • Where do you want to be __ years from now?
  • What things do you want to experience?
  • How will you spend your time? Who with?
  • What will you own?
  • What is a must-do or must-have?
  • What can you give up or cut back?
  • What is the ‘why’?

When I did this exercise, I came up with a general plan that I don’t want to be a full-time, salaried employee much past my mid-fifties. I want to write books and hold workshops and coach people and be generally useful. I also want to travel as much as possible.

So that means I have about 15 years to build wealth, take holidays, smash a mortgage and sock away superannuation. Scary huh?

It also means I can give up expensive cars, too many clothes, and general unnecessary ‘stuff’. When I am considering a purchase, my decision tree is something like ‘Could I better spend this money on my trip next year?’ or ‘Wouldn’t I be better to chuck this into my mortgage?’.

Of course I won’t be perfect. But I have a plan and sense of direction. And then everything else is easier from there. Try it yourself!

Next week: The Track Your Spend challenge: finding where your money goes and working out how to save more of it. Yep. I’m gonna make another worksheet. It will be amazing.

 

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