From family to friends and even in school, there are plenty of people who will hand out money advice. Some of it is useful, some not so much, which is probably why 1.2 million Aussies have never learned to save.
But sometimes, the most important money lessons are picked up along the way, without us even realising how a little titbit of information can change our lives.
I spoke to three Australians about the best money advice they’d received and how it changed their finances forever.
Ingrid, NSW: 'There’s no prince charming coming to save you'
Ingrid Thompson from New South Wales took a money workshop when she started working in the early 1980s. The instructor warned: “There is no Prince Charming coming on a white horse. He's more likely to be driving a clapped-out Holden on hire purchase”.
This instilled in Ingrid early on that she needed to be financially independent. She said she was “already quite good at savings” but that the advice was an eye-opener.
“This told me, ‘you’re on your own’,” she said.
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After the workshop, Ingrid was fully committed to being financially self-sufficient and not relying on a partner. She saved money in a separate bank account that she couldn’t access, and bought a block of land that she later sold to buy her first home. She also made personal contributions to her superannuation, which at the time wasn’t compulsory nor guaranteed by your employer.
“[In] the workshop, she explained the concept of compound interest. I knew [super] was important and this is what I believe has helped set me up for my current financial situation,” she said.
Today, the gender superannuation gap in Australia sees women retiring with significantly less than their male counterparts. For women aged over 55, superannuation balances are as much as 46 per cent lower.
Ingrid now teaches other women how to understand money in business and in life through her business Healthy Numbers.
Maddie, QLD: 'You don’t have to be wealthy to access professional support'
Maddie Walton, from Queensland, said accessing expert advice accelerated her financial progress.
“I thought I couldn’t get good financial information unless I was paying tens of thousands of dollars,” she said.
The medical researcher turned mortgage broker explained that she’d found ways to access industry professionals without having to fork out big fees.
“Mortgage brokers are free and can provide tailored property advice and assistance with budgeting, saving and structuring loans. [But] financial planners can help with insurances, and their fees might even be able to be paid through your superannuation.”
Maddie also suggested courses from buyer’s agents to learn about property buying, and accountants for support with taxes, income and deductions. She believes that leveraging industry experts can “get you further ahead, faster”, and wants other young people to know that you don’t need to spend thousands to get professional support.
“This support is what inspired me to become a mortgage broker so that I can provide that same insight to help others on their financial journey.”
Adrien, TAS: “You can have everything you want – just NOT all at once”
Adrien, 34, from Tasmania, shared the most valuable piece of advice she had ever received - that you can have the things you want, just not all at the same time - which helped her grasp the importance of prioritisation and mindful money management.
“I started making a list of things I wanted - it would sometimes be 30 items long - and each week I’d look at the list and decide if I wanted to put any fun money towards it," she said.
She said it still helped her prioritise which purchases were worth her money and which could wait.
“For two years I’ve wanted a running watch,” she said. “So far, I’ve prioritised other things I wanted for my running, like a new running vest and new running shoes, but this week I bought the watch. The old me would’ve purchased everything in one go on a credit card.”
She also learned the importance of finding ways to hack her brain to optimise her financial behaviour.
“I’m not great at saving but really good at paying off debt. I always struggled to save for ‘future me’,” she said.
Brainhacking her way to savvy savings habits, she “put a negative sign in front of my goal” and started treating it like a debt that needed paying down.
“It worked and I’ve never had this much cash saved in my life,” she said.
If that’s not a sign to think about what motivates you and how you can game yourself into saving, I don’t know what is.