Karen had done a good job of managing her finances and making ends meet, although between the mortgage and school fees there was never much left over for savings. But once she entered her 60s, with the house paid off and the kids out of school, she wanted to make sure she was making the most of her money.
“I’d always tried to be diligent with our finances. I tracked expenses on a spreadsheet. I did dabble in shares over the years, but on-and-off relationship, and in any case we never had much leftover to put into investments,” Karen said.
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“As I approached my senior years, I did start to become more aware of our finances. I was interested in seeing what else I could do to improve our position, especially when it came to investing. There’s always room to learn, and I didn’t want to just sit back and do nothing.”
Another motivator behind Karen’s desire to become a more confident investor was greater security for retirement. Although their house was paid off, Karen wasn’t sure that she or her husband would ever be able to afford to retire.
So, in the middle of the global pandemic, Karen, then in her mid-60s, decided to proactively improve her financial education. She enrolled in Mastering Money, an online financial education program run by SkilledSmart helping adults learn to save, invest, and manage their money.
The program gave Karen the clarity and confidence she needed to grow her investments. Just three years on, Karen now has a six figure investment portfolio, which is a four-fold increase from what she had prior to doing the course.
Karen shares three money lessons she now wishes she could share with others:
1. The sooner you learn to manage your money and invest, the better
Although Karen had sporadically purchased some shares earlier in her life, she had lacked a clear roadmap to building an investment portfolio that aligned with her goals.
Through the program, Karen learned to design an investment portfolio, and about different investment products like ETFs. Today, she’s excited about her newfound confidence in investing, and enjoys watching her investment portfolio and income grow.
However, she recognises how valuable this information would have been at a younger age, and is keen to see more people take an active interest in their finances earlier on.
“If I had understood, when I was 20, what I understand now about investing, I would have been able to make some smart choices which would have put me in a different position today. If I’d been a bit more proactive when I was younger, I probably would have more money now. Getting this information when you’re younger can make a big difference, even if you just pick up a few things. You just start thinking differently about things,” Karen said.
2. Take an active interest in your own financial life
While it can be tempting to close your eyes and let someone else take care of the finances, Karen was keen to take ownership and build her own confidence and financial capability.
“I did consider going to a financial professional, but I was wary of that option. I’ve heard good stories and bad stories, and it takes a lot of research to try and find a good one. I know some women leave it to their husbands to take care of. But it was important to me to feel financially competent within myself, to know what I’m doing, and that I can take care of things,” Karen said.
Despite being in a comfortable financial situation, Karen considers it important to continue to be mindful of her financial affairs. “Even if you’re comfortable now, you don’t know what tomorrow holds. We’ve had a few expensive, unexpected expenses crop up recently. So, you don’t know what might happen.”
3. Never stop learning
Karen considers her attitude to continual learning as key to her progress and success.
“You’re never too old to learn. Some of what I learned in the course validated what I’d already been doing, like tracking expenses. Other things were new to me. I didn’t know much about asset allocation, or investment opportunities like ETFs. Those are things I’ve now been able to pursue, but I wouldn’t have discovered them if I wasn’t willing to keep learning,” she said.
She also points out that, through learning, you can reduce your risk over time. “As you learn, over time you also reduce your risk because you’re getting better, more practiced, more skilled. So you get more and more comfortable and confident about taking risks.”
Now Karen hopes her story will inspire others to take a more active interest in their own financial journey, and invest in the learning process required to achieve their goals.
“Even if you’re a beginner, you can do it. You just have to be willing to commit to learning, and be okay with it taking time. It will take time, so you do have to be patient, but with persistence and discipline you can do it.”
SkilledSmart is a financial education platform helping adults learn to save, invest and manage their money. On their website, you can download a free e-book on “5 Money Mistakes Costing You Thousands”, and learn more about the Mastering Money program.