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How this McDonald's worker saved over $34k in 15 months

Headshot of Henry with long hair and a beanie next to a image of Australian $100 notes
Henry went from money-making novice to $34,000 in savings in just 15 months. (Source: Supplied/Getty) (Samantha Menzies)

He had no idea what he was doing, but he needed to figure it out fast.

Henry had just secured his first job as a manager at McDonald’s, after moving to Australia from South Africa with his father, step-mum and sisters.

This was the first time in his life Henry was earning an income. It was immediately clear to him he was out of his depth and needed some help learning how to properly manage his money.


“It was my first time earning money and no one had ever taught me what to do with it. I wanted to set myself up for the future from the start. So, I knew I had to educate myself,” he told Yahoo Finance.

For Henry, every dollar was precious. He has a big goal to accomplish. He wanted to bring his mum to Australia as soon as possible, but the visa can cost up to $50,000.

“I knew I couldn’t afford to waste money because I had this big goal. So I was determined to learn how to manage my money well from the start, I didn’t want to waste time or money on trial-and-error,” he said.

So, Henry enrolled in Mastering Money, an online financial education program run by SkilledSmart. Developed in collaboration with experienced financial professionals, the program teaches adults practical financial skills to save, invest and manage their money.

With the help of the program, Henry started hitting big milestones faster than he had thought possible.

Within three months of the program, Henry saved up enough to move out of home. Another 12 months later, while living independently and paying his own rent and living expenses, Henry had saved up $34,000 and also bought himself a car to drive to work.

Henry shares three money lessons that helped him fast-track his financial success:

1. Creating a streamlined cashflow system is key

“The best part is that the whole process feels really simple. The program taught me how to structure and streamline my money so it’s mostly automated. I know where all my money is going and how much I have left to spend, without needing to constantly be worrying about it. It’s really freeing,” Henry said.

Reflecting on his journey, Henry admits he was a bit nervous learning about finance at first because he thought he might need to be ‘maths’ or ‘numbers’ oriented to be good with finance.

“I’m not a big numbers person. So I didn’t want to be analysing complicated spreadsheets. I needed something that was simple and time-friendly so that I could manage my money quickly and easily, in a way that allowed me to get on with my life,” Henry said.

2. You don’t need to be stingy, but you do need to be clear on your priorities

While many assume that saving money requires deprivation or restriction, Henry doesn’t feel he’s had to sacrifice enjoying his life.

“I’m not stingy with money, I’m responsible. I still go out with friends, I have Netflix and a gym membership on top of my rent and living expenses, but I don’t go overboard. I know my priorities,” Henry said.

In fact, Henry believes that good financial habits have given him more freedom.

“I feel less restricted, because I’m not constantly worried about money. Having savings systems and practices in place has given me more freedom, because now I have money to put towards my goals," he said.

"There’s a music program I’d like to sign up for, which I can comfortably afford. I bought myself a new car so I could commute to work. These are big-ticket items that are important to me, but they don’t need to create financial stress because I know how to save for my goals."

3. The sooner you take control of your finances, the more freedom you have

While many shy away from their finances out of fear that it’s too hard or complicated, Henry realised it was something he would need to face sooner or later.

“I didn’t have a particular interest in finance as such, but I did realise pretty early on that it was something that could cause a lot of problems if I didn’t figure it out. So I understood that being financially secure was important for my quality of life, and my future,” he said.

He decided to take control of his finances younger than most, being only 19-years-old when he signed up for the financial education program. However, he said it was a good decision to invest in learning financial skills young.

“I feel really set up for my financial future. I have clarity on what I need to do to achieve my goals. So, I’m glad I took the initiative to learn these skills early on, because it’s set me up for a much smoother and more successful future,” he said.

Today, Henry feels a level of financial confidence that surpasses most peers his age, and is excited about the possibilities that his financial confidence has opened up for his future.

He’s looking forward to reaching his $50,000 goal for his mum’s visa soon. While the visa process can span many years, Henry is focused on what he can control, which is saving up for the cost of the visa and advocating for faster processing times.

Having seen the impact on his life, Henry hopes other young people will become financially educated too.

“It’s scary to think that we deal with money every day and yet so many people haven’t been taught what to do with it. My advice to other young people is to wake up and get educated. It will give you freedom.”

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.

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