“I am financially illiterate and it’s a little scary.”

“I am financially illiterate and it’s a little scary.”

“I am financially illiterate and it’s a little scary.”

How many of us can honestly say we are in control of our finances? I know I fall into  that “52% of women who find dealing with finances stressful.”  Unless I  am spending money on shoes, which isn’t stressful. In my life, I juggle kids, a job, marriage and multi-million dollar budgets at work, but when it comes to my personal finances, I am lost. I know I need to go on a financial diet and reign in my financial waistline, so why can’t I do this?

After this interview with Susan Jackson, founder of Ms Money, I realised it is because the terminology is not one I understand.

I am financially illiterate and it’s a little scary.

Why fear? Well, because like going on a diet, it means depriving myself of things. One of my resolutions this year is to become financially healthy. Are you ready for the challenge?

What was the motivating force behind you starting the Women’s Financial Network?

Twenty years ago I was enticed into the financial services industry to get involved in a project aimed at providing financial advice to women.  It didn’t take me very long to figure out the industry really didn’t have any idea about how to communicate financial information for women and even less idea about how to encourage more women to work in the financial planning industry.  For someone who had grown up in a household where there was no gender bias and no previous encounters with workplace discrimination, it was a bit of a shock to suddenly find myself in such a male-centric environment.

At that point, it would have been pretty easy to walk away and go back to what I was previously doing but I realised two things.  The first was that I had a gift for being able to communicate financial information in a way that people understood. Secondly, I really felt I could make adifference.  I was smart enough and gutsy enough to do things a bit differently.

WFN has also always worn two hats – the first being to provide traditional financial planning advice (with a feminine twist of course) and the other being the financial literacy work we are involved in.  When I talk about financial literacy, I am talking about learning the basics.  You see, I believe that learning about money is like learning a language – you need to firstly learn the basic words. Once you have these, you can start making sentences and over time you actually become quite fluent.   You also become far more likely and able to navigate your way around the traditional financial advice world.

But what happens when you don’t understand the language of money?  You are vulnerable. You are probably one of the 52% of women who say that dealing with money is stressful and overwhelming – the ones who say that thinking about their long-term financial future makes them uncomfortable or those who believe that nothing they do will make a difference to their financial situation.  By breaking down these barriers, we have been able to help many women start the journey to financial independence.

Reigning in spending and helping people maximise their money can be a daunting task, what has been your best success to date?

Rather than focusing on an individual success story I think our greatest success has been the launch of our Ms Money website and the financial accessory products.  The combination of simple everyday advice and tips via products that give women tangible (and stylish) tools for organising and staying on track with their money certainly resonated with women.  It also helped with starting to get women talking to each other about money, which is one of the key ways in which we learn new things.

The mentoring program is quite innovative; can you explain it a bit more and tell us the advantages of having a business mentor?

A mentor is just really a coach – someone who is there to help you keep on track – so the role tends to be a bit different depending on what the mentee needs.  They might need some encouragement or help in exploring a new business idea or maybe they have too many ideas and too much going on that they need help with focusing on key tasks. They might need help with employing new staff or learning how to manage them.  So the role tends to vary depending on who you are working with but the keys are around helping them to learn and grow and achieve what they want to achieve.

What would be your top 3 tips to get control of your finances?

  1. Keep your spending under control by using a spending card.
  2. Ensure you save a percentage of what you earn.
  3. Seek appropriate advice and guidance if you are not on track to being where you want to be.

How has your own business helped you achieve work life balance?

I think it takes time to get a work/life balance.  Starting a business is a bit like having a child – initially all-consuming and demanding, but as it grows and evolves, it becomes less dependent on you and so you start to regain some me time.  Plus, when you love what you do, it’s easy to be in work mode all the time.  In my early years, I was a bit of workaholic but nowadays I work far less hours but am still always thinking about new opportunities and projects.

What do you do for fun?

Cooking is my other passion so I love going to farmers markets, cooking classes and entertaining.  I also love to travel and try to schedule in regular holidays.

About Susan Jackson

A licensed financial planner, Susan has been assisting individuals with their financial planning needs since the late 80’s and is a regular speaker, facilitator of money education program, magazine article contributor, radio and TV guest. She is the founder of www.msmoney.com.au and also the author of three books: The Investment Club Start Up Guide; The Women’s Guide to Property; and most recently, Why Saving is Like Dieting and Budgets Don’t Work. Susan can also be heard on radio and is asked for comment by the media on a regular basis. Her aim is to assist individuals to become informed, confident, participating financial decision-makers and to help them create whatever financial future they aspire to.

Kari Villamil

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