Just a few years ago, Sandy felt completely lost and intimidated by her finances. Growing up in a working-class migrant household, Sandy watched her parents build their lives from scratch. They stressed the importance of saving and encouraged her to start working early, leading her to get her first job as a teenager earning just $7 per hour. But beyond this, she didn’t get much exposure to finance growing up.
“Money wasn’t something that was discussed openly at home, and I also didn’t take any finance subjects in school. So, by the time I was an adult, the world of finance felt foreign to me. I didn’t know anything about investing, or taxes, or retirement funds. All I knew was that you earn money, you spend it, and you should try to save some of it,” Sandy said.
Sandy is not alone in feeling ill-prepared for managing money. While research shows over 70 per cent of young people look to their parents for advice on how to manage money, one in five parents say they don’t know how to better educate their children about finances. This is a serious issue, with the recent HILDA survey finding that financial literacy amongst adults has gone backwards, especially amongst under 35 year-olds.
For Sandy, her lack of financial confidence and education came to a boiling point by her mid-20s.
“I’d just gotten married, and I felt really out of my depth when it came to finances,” she said.
Sandy decided to enrol in Mastering Money, a financial education program run by SkilledSmart to help adults learn the skills to save, invest and manage their money.
The program gave her the understanding she needed to finally feel confident with her finances and was able to quickly start making changes.
Within six months, Sandy found an extra $6,000 of savings, and even developed the confidence to invest her first $10,000.
Fast-forward five years, at just 32-years-old, Sandy is living a far more comfortable financial life than she imagined.
Today, she and her husband have paid off over half their mortgage, built an investment portfolio of over $100K, saved an extra $100K, and tripled the balance of her super fund.
The best part is that, even though neither of them were high-income earners, Sandy didn’t feel they deprived themselves to achieve these goals. They continued to enjoy nice holidays, bought a new car, and are now preparing for a baby on the way.
Today, she shares three money lessons that helped her fast-track her financial success, and achieve big money goals in a relatively short period of time.
1. Get clear on your spending goals and values
Previously, Sandy struggled with her relationship with spending. She wanted to be able to enjoy spending money without feeling guilty, but she also wanted to be responsible and save money for the future.
Through the program, she learned how to align her spending with her values and goals, which helped her find the right balance of spending and saving money.
“Once I got clear on my goals, that really changed things because then saving didn’t just feel like some chore, it was something I was motivated to do. Getting clear on my values also helped me be more mindful of my spending. It helped me make sure I was spending in alignment with my priorities and the things that were important to me,” she said.
2. Understand the importance of investing for your financial future
Previously, Sandy had no exposure to investing. It seemed complicated, risky, and intimidating. Through the program, she learned that there are ways to start investing that don’t take a lot of time, money, or financial expertise.
“I learned that without investing, my money would decline in value over time, but with investing I could reach my future financial goals much faster,” she said.
“I also learned that, once you understand what you’re doing, it’s not as risky as I used to think. It just takes some education and practice. I never thought I’d be an investor, so this was a big change for me, but I’m so glad I’ve learned how to invest and now it’s something I look forward to teaching my child once they’re a little older.”
3. Seek out financial information and people you can learn from
Sandy never thought she’d take an interest in finance. It used to be a topic she would avoid. However, once she understood how finance worked, she found herself developing an interest in the topic, which she says helped her progress faster.
“It was exciting to finally be able to understand things, and that sparked an interest in the topic. It was no longer something I dreaded, I started to enjoy learning more about finance,” she said.
“So, I found myself reading finance books and chatting to people about finance, which I never used to do. That helped me to continue growing my knowledge.You do have to take an interest in it, but it’s not as boring or complicated as I used to think.”
Today, Sandy hopes her story will inspire others who were in the position she was once in: confused, intimidated and overwhelmed by their finances.
“Understanding how my finances work has been life-changing. It can be daunting to take that first step, but if you just take one step at a time, you’ll start making progress, which motivates you to keep going.”
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.