The Fierce Girl's Guide to Finance

Get your shit together with money



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.

That awkward payrise conversation: how to slay it (and not piss off your boss)

Now that we are all super BFFs with the four ladies who will make us rich, I want to spend a little bit of quality time with one of them. Think of it as a Single Date on The Bachelor, but no awkward kissing at the end. (Unless that’s your thing, which is fine, no judgement here).

The tricky thing about Earning is that she can be hard to control. There are many factors in play, including the job you choose, your level of experience and the fundamentally patriarchal workforce that embeds a 17% gender gap.

But there are things you can control (unless you’re on an Award or Enterprise Agreement – in which case, stop reading and go watch some Real Housewives, cos I got nothin’ for you. Soz). One of them is growing your salary.

Women are great negotiators

Of the many arguments put forward about why women earn less than men, one is our unwillingness or inabilty to negotiate.

I don’t know about you, but I long ago honed my deal-making skills – with myself. All those complex arguments about whether to eat that cake, but only if we go to the gym and if we just cut a small bit off and there are no calories if it’s off someone else’s plate and look it’s Sunday and I really worked hard this week and it’s gluten-free … etc etc etc.

A brain that spends that much time making trade-offs about the size of your butt can totally nail a pay deal.

And yet I was amazed to find out that my very grown-up, professional, confident friend who has worked in corporate for many years, HAS NEVER ASKED FOR A PAYRISE.

Wait, what?

Now to be honest I am not the best at it myself – I’m lucky to have had bosses who offer them up without asking. But if you don’t have a fair and generous manager who knows you’re pretty effin’ hard to replace, then you need to step up and ASK.

However, having sat on the other side of these conversations many times (as a #girlboss), let me make a few points.

You do not get a payrise for simply showing up. You get rewarded when you do a great job, not an ordinary job. If your performance review is a little iffy, or if you’re as committed to the job as that time Britney performed at the AMAs, then be realistic.

Your salary is linked to the business. A company’s profit has to grow in order for your paypacket to grow, otherwise it just eats into the profits (and no CEO is okay with that). So be conscious of your employer’s financial position, and temper your request accordingly.  

You should take an interest in the performance of your employer anyway (because you are a Fierce Girl), so if you don’t know, ask! Most leaders are pleased to see their team members take an interest in the business.

On a related note, don’t feel bad for asking your manager. It’s not coming out of their own pocket; it’s coming out of the business’s, which is essentially a bunch of numbers on a balance sheet.

Go in high, but don’t take the piss. Arriving at a number to ask for is tricky. You don’t want to go too low and miss out, but go too high and it doesn’t reflect well. In all the salary surveys I have worked on over the years (doing the PR for them), average payrises across the workforce end up between 3-5%.

I’ve sometimes received payrises around 10% though. My friend recently went in for 5% and got it no questions asked – suggesting she could have started higher. So, I don’t have a magic number, but I reckon 5-10% is safe.

You don’t get a payrise because you’re shit with money. ‘As if anyone would think that!’ you say. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve heard people ask for more money because they need it. ‘Oh this city is so expensive!’ or some version of that.

As a boss, I give absolutely zero fucks about your lifestyle needs, because I am running a business. If your need for wine money is the basis of your request, don’t bother. Please see the first point above.

You only get to go nuclear once. Here’s a scenario: you speak to some recruiters, friends in similar roles and your best friend, and reach a conclusion: you are grossly underpaid.

Now, this may be true or not – it’s hard to know for sure. Also, your market rate can fluctuate depending on whether you’re in a niche sector, have in-demand skills or very specific experience, that make you ‘hot right now’.

So you come to your boss with a figure that you’re sure you’re worth. It’s pretty high. But you feel it’s fair, you state your case and are duly rejected.

So now, do you go nuclear? Threaten to leave – or even get another job and wait for a counteroffer?

In my experience, you maybe get to do this once. And the chances of it working are 50/50, so be sure it’s worth it – and you’re really ok with leaving if they call your bluff. It can also take a toll on your reputation (you look demanding) … but then it could also show you are not to be messed with. So, it’s one option, but use it with care. 

Tips from some bad-arse bossladies

That’s my take on the issue (with input from one of my mates). But because I love you Fierce Girls, I actually went an asked some experts. Jane Neale co-owns an executive search firm called Hattonneale, hiring the people who run corporate Australia. Before that, she slayed it in the male-dominated world of advertising, as managing director of the largest ad agency, George Patterson. (Take that, Mad Men!). She is also an awesome human being, and kindly gave me these do’s and don’ts of nailing a payrise. (Btw – she is far less keen on the nuclear option).

Don’t demand a payrise or give your manager an ultimatum.
Do put forward your case for an increase in a businesslike way: why do you deserve a payrise? – list your achievements in your role in a clear and measured way.

Don’t focus on hours spent on the job.
Do focus on outcomes and achievements.

Don’t compare yourself to other colleagues as a way of leveraging support for an increase.
Do focus on your own merits.

Don’t threaten to leave if you are not successful.
Do ask for feedback and seek clarity on what you need to focus on to ensure you are in line for a review next time.

Don’t have unrealistic expectations.
Do your homework and be clear about the broader market and business performance as well as your own performance. Is this an environment when increases should be expected?

Don’t blindside your manager at an inappropriate time or place.
Do schedule a meeting when you both have time for a proper conversation.

Then I asked my own boss, whom I actually called Bosslady (she calls me Bey, obvs). Philippa Honner has run her own PR agency for 20 years, so she knows a thing or two about, well, everything. She says:

“Put yourself in the Bosslady’s shoes and think about what you are contributing to the place you work. This can be a commercial contribution, but also softer stuff like being a good team player, being positive and helping make the company a better place to work.

“If the Bosslady divided the staff in to stars and less shiny people… are you making the stars list? Make sure you really understand the value of what you are contributing so when you ask for a pay rise, you can explain why you think you deserve it on the basis of your contribution now, and in the future.

“Because even if the Bosslady likes you, it’s her job to run the business and make a profit so she can pay everyone, and have a bit left over.”

So there you go ladies. Earning and you are now much closer: you’ve invited her to your birthday drinks and friended her on Facebook. Now, make sure you keep up the friendship if you want to get rich.

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