THE 4 LESSONS I LEARNT TO BECOME FINANCIALLY SAVVY.
I’ve saved a few hundred thousand dollars by the age of 24. Let me share how.
I’m 11 years old and sneaking out to the bathroom at 11:00pm. I don’t really need to pee but the adults are watching TV and I want to get my fix of the digital box one last time. I’m performing my nightly “delay-tactics” routine — a word that seemingly tipped the top of my childhood vocab list. I slink past the sofas in stealth mode whilst trying to conceal my adolescent shadow and… *switch*. The lights are on and I’m caught by my mum.
Her tired expression tells me I’ve done this one too many times. “Right”, she says, “That’ll be a 50c toilet tax you’ll be adding to your money book”. Now, if there was one thing I loved more than watching TV when I shouldn’t be, it was my money. She knew just how to get me, right where it hurt the most.
The following morning, I wake up and add it to my A5 red book — the pages of which are filled with every single incoming and outgoing transaction, right down to the $1 dairy purchases I was making. At the time, I thought she just wanted to power trip and make my life as difficult as she possibly could. Once my intellect developed a little more, I figured my mum just wanted to make sure I didn’t make the same financial mistakes she had made when she was younger. She was protecting me, making sure I had a consciousness of exactly what was going in and what was going out.
Whilst I loathed this practice, and silently cursed at her each time she made me write in it, it set me up with a financial savviness that’s helped me beyond my wildest dreams. Mum, if you’re reading this, thank-you.
I didn’t grow up in a family that had a lot of money. For the first quarter of my life, it was just me and my mum. There was a lot of love. And a lot of budgeting to get by. I needed to make my own money from an early age, starting with paper rounds. I found a loop hole to start before the legal age of 14. Whilst I ran and hid in bushes, each time I thought a cute boy from school was driving by, the shame of pushing my trolley was negated each time pay day rolled around.
I will openly share that my work ethic is partly fear-driven — I never want to be without financial stability again. Fast forward to today and I still love money. I earn a lot. I save a lot. I play a lot. I’m financially confident, and have a desire to make sure every other female on this planet has the tools to stay financially savvy too.
Remember the episode when Carrie Bradshaw, the ‘it’ woman of our generation, couldn’t buy her apartment because she had bought too many shoes? She couldn’t even calculate how much she had spent on shoes. A lot of the messages we get as women is that we’re frivolous with money and that we don’t have a clue.
I’m calling bull shit. Here’s the 4 biggest lessons I’ve learnt on the ever-winding road to financial savviness.
LESSON 1: TALK ABOUT MONEY.
Heck. Yes. Women. Talking. About. Money.
The more we normalise the convos (because money talk taboos are VERY real) the faster our financial literacy will grow, the easier it is to figure out if we are getting paid fairly and the quicker we can shatter those salary glass ceilings.
I have had many a conversation with working women who come to me to talk about money, and often these female powerhouses pre-frame the dialogue with “I feel awkward talking about this”. But why? Think back to who told you it was wrong to talk about money. Question it all.
The more we talk about it, the less awkward it will become and the more we can learn from each other. Years ago, when I learnt what a good friend of mine (who had a similar role to me) was earning, you can bet my new income benchmark/goal was raised a few bars. I saw what was possible.
Knowledge + confidence = bad ass women ready to negotiate what we’re worth, make sound financial decisions, and take control of our money. Grab a glass of wine and start that chat with your girlfriends.
LESSON 2: CONSISTENTLY DO AUDITS OF YOUR FINANCIAL SITUATION.
This is necessary, no matter what financial stage you’re at. I got lazy last year. I was earning 6-figures and becoming complacent with my money. I didn’t adjust my savings to match the funds coming in and my saving opportunities got burnt because of it.
Are audits confronting? Yes! A vital starting point for financial health? Hell, yes! We can’t move from A to B without first knowing our starting point.
Regardless of your situation make a promise to yourself that, throughout your audit, there’s going to be no judgement, just observation. When my spending fingers have got a little carried away, I often hold off opening my internet banking in fear of having to be confronted. I’ve learnt to rip it off like a band aid. Getting back on track with a 30 minute audit is more important than digging my head in the sand.
I made my very first purchase on finance last year — a laptop. I had the money to buy it up front, however a lot of people told me to buy it on interest free finance. I listened. It was for Her Career and whilst my personal bank account is sitting pretty, Her Career was a start-up and being bottle fed by my personal savings. When I pushed ‘buy’, I even got suckered into purchasing an $160 mouse — you know the bendy one that can lay flat or curved? I’ve used that ridiculous mouse once. I bought it because it didn’t feel like my money. That’s the trap. Whilst I’m diligent in paying my monthly re-payments, it was my first taste of how buying on finance can condition your mind to buy frivolously. It will get easier and easier to put that purchase on credit, but the item never feels as special as it would if you had purchased it with your own money.
My advice? Don’t spend more money than you have. Disregard the glitzy show of social media and what it looks like people can afford. Often these aren’t a sign of what people could afford, but only of what they can borrow. Audit your money and know exactly what is coming in, and what is going out.
LESSON 3: FIGURE OUT YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH MONEY.
Ever heard of Effie Zahos? She’s the writer of Money Magazine and known for her words,
“I’m earning $150,000 and I’m broke”.
Relatable? Uh, yes. Regardless of what you earn, looking at the psychology of money and why we do the things we do is the key to overcoming core financial issues.
When I first learnt about having relationships with money, I remember thinking “Hmmm, nope. I’m out. That’s too ‘Woo woo’ for me.”
Now before you think I’m about to sell you on a money mindset-pyramid-scheme-course thing, get this, certain things from your past — your upbringing and the messages you’ve been conditioned with — will absolutely shape the way you feel about your money.
Here are some of the most common disempowering beliefs we have about money:
1) “I’ve had no money growing up”, and so I am going to hold on to it in fear of losing it.
2) “I don’t believe I deserve money”, so I’ll spend all of it before it has time to make its bed in my bank account.
3) “I’m just no good with money”, so I will consistently sabotage my money savings, make impulse purchases and justify my spending habits because it’s easier than confronting myself with the truth.
4) “Money is bad and it’s selfish to want a lot of money”, therefore I will use it before it uses me. For those that have this last belief, read this — “Money will only make you more of what you already are. If you’re mean, money will afford you the opportunity to be meaner. If you’re kind, money will afford you the opportunity to be kinder.” — T. Ecker
Our financial reality is entirely up to us. Regardless of our upbringing, we can create financial independence by shifting our beliefs, creating news ones and acting on them.
LESSON 4: PUT THE 2ND BLOCK OF CHOCOLATE AWAY WHEN YOU’RE FEELING EMOTIONAL.
The other day, we missed out on a house at auction. We were emotional and a little heart-broken. To make us feel temporarily better we wanted to SPEND, SPEND, SPEND. We drove home and decided we needed to eat through our emotions — with expensive food at a beautiful restaurant, one of those spots with the $28 cocktails (which, no matter how much money I earn I will never be able to wrap my head around). After we had racked up our dinner bill of hundreds of dollars I sat there, button undone, thinking “Shit. That was silly.”
It’s so easy to sabotage your savings when you’re bored, emotional or feeling impulsive.
95% of the time I don’t buy on impulse, and every time I do I reflect and realise it never feels as good. I was brought up with the mentality that you should not purchase anything unless you own that money. Credit is not my money. It’s the banks’.
Build your money in a way that’s visual. Make it work for you. With one bank I have 7 different accounts. It’s like an electronic network of ants, busily running around, jumping from one account to the other, constantly working away to make sure my naughty, impulsive fingers can’t do too much damage… of course I’m a big believer in work hard, play hard hence my favourite account: Treat Yourself. If I am saving for a holiday or a designer piece, I will name that account with the actual destination or brand. It helps my mentality and to push forward for the savings goal.
And finally, the more we can have these conversations, break down money taboos and share our lessons, the greater the pool of financially savvy women we will have walking this earth. Money is certainty not the most important thing in the world, however it can offer us flexibility, the opportunity to say ‘yes’ and the freedom to take charge of our own future. Take whatever lessons you’ve learnt and teach your daughters, your sons, your girlfriends and your partners. It starts with just talking.
If you have any lessons you would like to share with your fellow gal, please do. I’m still on this journey as much as the next woman.
P.S come hang out on Instagram! Follow @hercareer or @mikaylahopkinsbaker