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How do you relate to your money

26 November 2018

One workday morning, recently, Ruby held a seminar with the financial wellness advocate, advisor, accountant and author Melissa Browne. The capacity room was there to hear her talk about how to get their finances, back on track.

An ex-State netballer, Melissa is tall even without the addition of a good shoe – something she loves to buy, regularly. She is an entrepreneur with a number of wealth creation business ventures on the go, including Thinkers,inq, a long-day preschool which, she hopes, will develop the disruptors of tomorrow. Melissa combines personal experience with the value and understanding of what good coaching tips look like to bring together an engaging presentation on money - a topic many of us ‘won’t talk about’, say we ‘don’t care about’ or think is ‘boring’.

We asked Melissa where she thought women were falling down when it comes to financial confidence and where they are doing well.

MB: “I believe part of the reason women are falling down when it comes to financial confidence is because money still has an almighty ick surrounding it. Too often we believe that nice girls don’t talk about money and they certainly don’t say they want more of it. And the research backs this up, suggesting that while women are confident in their ability to manage money, more than half find dealing with money stressful, just under half admitted simply thinking too much about their long term future makes them uncomfortable, and an honest one third of women say they simply find it boring.

“The problem I see in my line of work as both an accountant and financial adviser is that while women are supremely capable of having amazing conversations about finances, it’s often their uncomfortableness that leads them to avoid talking about money. The real problem is that this avoidance often leads to women dealing with money in a way that isn’t beneficial and often is downright detrimental. Because if we don’t want to think about something and we don’t want to talk about something – well the natural progression is that we’re probably going to avoid doing something as well.

“What I see women doing well is when they start to lean into financial conversations and choose to work on their own finances. That’s because women generally already understand and appreciate wellness and mindfulness so applying this to our finances is a very natural step for us. Women are also generally, less willing to take risks where they bet the house so they are often pragmatic and astute investors when they start.”

So, when women have acquired a degree of financial confidence, what are the positive impacts for them in your experience?

MB: “I think you see the difference in third world communities with micro-finance where if the women are loaned money for their business and developed financially, this increase in female finances almost always means not just the women thrive but the community thrives. Closer to home, I’ve seen women move from a position of having opted out financially to taking control of their debt, building assets and choosing to have courageous, regular conversations with their family which then is making a difference to how their kids are thinking and talking about money.”

Drawing on Melissa’s knowledge of ‘coaching’ we wondered what financial resilience looks like and how you might develop it?
MB: “I see resilience as a gritty thing. It’s a teeth clenched, steely-determined, finger-tip gripping, push through to the end kind of word. And it’s what many of us aspire to – it’s what we want for our lives, for our finances, for our children: the ability to bounce back, to be resilient.

Personally, I don’t ever want resilience to be my end game.

Sure, I’m incredibly happy to have the qualities of resilience but I don’t want to simply be recovering from aftershocks in life. Instead, I think resilience needs to be something we pass through or perhaps have in our toolkit on our way to the end game of wellness.

I’m going to cheat and add my top four tips for developing not simply financial resilience but moving to financial wellness are:

Understand your money mindset and how you respond financially to stressors and have a plan in place for what to do when these occur.

Set up great financial barriers and guardrails so that you are protected from yourself. This might include cutting up your credit cards, choosing not to use ‘afterpay’, setting up multiple bank accounts and automating them and more.

Work out what life you’re designing and have a 12 month, 90 day and 30 day action plan that you’re committed to following so that you can achieve it.

Have little to no ‘bad debt’ and a buffer of three months’ worth of living expenses saved (either as a redraw on your home loan or in a savings account).

Knowing many of Ruby’s members have their own businesses, we were interested to know what Melissa’s experiences had been of starting-up?

Initially it was finding the right people and not defaulting to what everyone else in my industry was doing. I learnt early on that I’m not a great manager, so it was important to upskill myself in that area and to hire people who were. I also learned that when I purposefully behaved differently to my industry then it gave me an enormous advantage. This included everything from advertising and our brand through to our processes, our systems, collection of monies, packages and services offered and so much more.

 

With my second business, Thinkers.inq, the biggest challenge when we started was cash flow as everything took longer than expected so I was grateful for the business experience I already had which meant I ran a plan A, B, C, D and I think we even got to a G or H to bring in revenue during a time where we had very little money coming in and enormous costs going out.

And finally, because the Silly Season is upon us and it has a tendency to leave many of us with a financial hangover by the time we get to February, we wondered if she had some tactics for avoiding the worst of the excess?

I have to confess to being a bit of a Christmas scrooge. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for drinking champagne and frocking up but the introvert in me doesn’t really cope with the many social engagements. Plus, there is something about the crippling amount of money often spent during this six-week period. This often creates a whole lot of unnecessary stress, anxiety and in some cases, acute financial pain for a season that is supposed to be about joy and happiness.

I believe the only way to avoid a financial hangover is to prepare, prepare, prepare and not to start shopping until you’ve decided on how much you can afford to spend. My steps:

Write your nice list. In the same way that Santa writes a naughty and nice list, work out who you’re buying gifts for, what events you’d like to attend, what events you’d like to host and any other extra spending you might incur in the lead up.

Decide how much you can safely spend. Your budget might be $1,000 – but it’s important not to factor any credit card limits into this amount but instead to plan to only use cash you’ve already saved.

Allocate it. Now it’s time to allocate your budget across the gifts and events. This might be specific amounts for specific people or it might be simply a pot for events and a pot for gifts. If you’ve under allocated, perhaps it’s time to either work out a plan for cheaper or less gifts, prioritising the events or talking to friends and families about ways to lower costs.

Set up a bank account. The easiest way to not go over your pre-determined silly season limit is to isolate the funds. Set up an account called Festive Season and transfer the funds both now and over the coming weeks to this account and then only spend from this account.

Stick to it. Good intentions are fine but don’t get caught up in the hype! Make sure you stick to your financial plan.

Of course, if you want to really avoid a silly season hangover my ultimate tip is to take the no cost Christmas challenge and don’t use any of your savings or money from your wages for Christmas. This means finding money from doing odd jobs, renting out your clothes, selling unwanted clutter, doing surveys online and so much more. You can read my article where I wrote about it here.”

You could also click here to see Ruby’s “Avoiding the ‘Silly Season’ financial hangover” webinar where we provide some great thoughts on getting ready to meet the upcoming expenses of the December and January period.

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Westpac Group. This article is general commentary and it is not intended as financial advice and should not be relied upon as such. For advice, please talk to an accountant, tax expert, lawyer, etc.

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