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Writing on business and finance: Anneli Knight

07 March 2011

Anneli Knight

Position: Author, journalist, writer.

Question: Surveys about financial literacy and management show women trail in most of these areas - why?

\"I think it's the 'switch-off' factor,\" says journalist and writer, Anneli Knight, using a term coined by Anneli and co-author Virginia Graham in their book: Flirting With Finance - Fairfax Books.

Anneli Knight is in her mid-thirties. A few years ago, working as a journalist with Fairfax , writing on finance and other topics, she read the Australian Government Financial Literacy Foundation's report, Financial literacy - Women understanding money detailing what women think about money.

\"The report looks at women's attitudes to and behaviours with money, from budgeting and saving to getting ready for retirement,\" explains Anneli.

\"Women are more conservative when it comes to making financial decisions and that can be a positive attribute, although over a longer time it can be negative [because they miss out on the benefits of higher return investments]. The problem is women don't find finance interesting and they trail in just about everything but risk management.

\"When we [Anneli and her co-author Virginia Graham] thought about this, it prompted us to write Flirting With Finance, because of the damaging impact this 'switch-off' factor can have on our financial futures and independence.\"

The premise of Flirting was to find metaphors in everyday life that allow women to relate to money matters, management, financial literacy terms and meanings, and to stop them glazing over or getting uncomfortable when the topic of money management arises.

Being brave

A commerce law graduate, Anneli worked in intellectual property at Blake Dawson in Melbourne , then experienced finance and investment with Goldman Sachs JBWere, has always loved travelling and is now a freelance journalist doing a PhD in Creative Writing.

She says she's more philosophical in her thirties than ever before and believes this has something to do with the age she's reached.

Deeply in love and awe of the Kimberley region in Western Australia , which she first visited some years ago, Anneli has found it to be the catalyst for admitting she wanted to write novels.

\"I didn't know what commerce law was. I'd finished school, enrolled in dentistry and gave it away 6 weeks later. I thought commerce would be a strong general base and a solid career choice. People had convinced me that writing was something you did on the side. It wasn't a job - a livelihood. You couldn't make a career out of it,\" says Anneli.

\"Now, when I meet younger people and find they are pursuing a creative career straight out of school, I think they're so brave. I wasn't brave. It took me nine years to be brave enough to actually pursue what it was I wanted to do all along.

No regrets

\"I don't regret the education or experience I've had. I think it's quite handy for a journalist to have background and for me to have those things in my background, but so much conditioning - socially and through school - really put obstacles up for me.\"

Growing up in a family where setting goals and sticking to them is important, Anneli, who admits she was \"embedded in her logical brain\", found in her late twenties that such rigid goal orientation imposed its own limits.

\"I'm more open to following opportunity and that's about trusting and listening to how you feel and following intuition more. I follow things that feel right and trust that opportunities will present themselves in the right way and that I will take them on.

\"Sometimes the most exhausting things happen - they feel like mistakes - but bring with them the most amazing outcomes, and if I had my time again I wouldn't change a thing.\"

The Kimberley and working in a remote community project has had a lasting impact. Anneli came back to Melbourne shell-shocked, unable to articulate her experiences and feelings - knowing she would return to try and understand the contradictions.

\"Doing a PhD in Creative Writing involves writing a novel. Mine is about a fictional Aboriginal community in the Kimberley and it's my way of processing what I experienced,\" explains Anneli.

Under the stars

\"Writing the novel for me meant I went up there to live. For six months my bed was up on top of the caravan. Under the stars and a mozzie dome I slept. When I woke I'd see how the stars had moved across the sky. I learned the phases of the moon. I could tell the time by where the moon should be.

\"I was thinking recently about all the things I've done and how unrelated they seem... but I'm getting to the point now where everything's coming together - where the threads are joining and making more sense.

\"I'll finish the PhD in about four months and I've worked throughout as a freelance journalist to support myself, which I'll continue to do, as well as building passive income streams through property investment to support the thing I am passionate about, writing.

\"I'm off to Byron Bay to live because my second novel is based there. And through Flirting and my contact with the women of the Kimberley I have another project I want to get off the ground in 2012. It's working on financial literacy for indigenous women in the Kimberley .

Welfare and saving

\"As a freelancer managing my own career, projects tend to overlay one another. They take planning and that often means they don't get off the ground immediately. The indigenous financial literacy project is about collaborating and running workshops with the women so they can come up with the metaphors and images that work for them, explaining financial literacy in terms that indigenous women across a wide range of ages can understand and take on.\"

Anneli is concentrating on women because current research - based on microfinance style modelling - indicates women invest 80% of what they earn in their household and men invest about 15%. She also believes learning environments for women are more effective if attendance is limited to women.

Once the project is up and running in the Kimberley she's hoping it will get national interest.

\"I also want to look at saving and microfinance and see how that can work.

\"But, I've been told it doesn't work in the communities because of the welfare system. I don't accept that and there are many in the communities of the same view. Little things can change behaviour and change the way things have always been done or accepted. We need to find ways of reinvigorating and not blocking motivation or setting limits on people because of stagnant belief systems. It can be as simple as thinking of yourself as a job creator not a job seeker.\"

Things I've learned, so far

About starting out in life: It's about doing what you love and doing it well.

About my greatest challenge: which is to edit back and concentrate on what is most important.

About my optimism: I think optimism is a good quality because it means you will make decisions including ones about finance. One of the worst things you can do is procrastinate: it's the easiest thing to do and the easiest thing to do in tiny little pieces so that you don't even realise you're doing it. Optimism gives you confidence to make things happen, but there's a down side. I am so optimistic I have learned most of my lessons twice.

Women are held back by the expectations put on them by themselves and others. Often, it is in the very fabric of our lives. We just accept the old rules, ways of doing things and don't even see the limits they put on us as women. For example, it is as simple as standing up for yourself. If you speak out or disagree you're often portrayed as not feminine and frowned on - now that would never be said about men. I really think it starts with pink and blue for girls and boys. I never give those colours to babies.

Passions

- Writing

- Connecting and communicating with people.

- Nature, stillness, peace and happiness. I have environmental leanings and one of the crazy things I do is to collect plastic bags... I rescue them from being thrown away so they can have second, third and fourth uses, rather thango to landfill.

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