This post is based on an interview we conducted with Cassandra in June 2019.
Real Money Talk is our series where we interview Australians from all walks of life about their personal finances. The views expressed are those of the interviewees, based on their experiences with money, and as such are not necessarily representative of Spaceship's views.
We have changed the name of the interviewee for their privacy.
Where do you live? Newtown.
What is your current net worth?
Debt: $590,000 (home loan)
Assets: $1.5 million, mostly my house, car, and collectables (one art, one handbag — but that counts as art, right? [It’s an] untouched vintage Givenchy).
Tell us a bit about your career:
I can sum it all up in these two words. Luck and denial.
I’m currently a full-time program manager for a company in the finance sector. I’ve pretty much always worked full-time corporate. Early on I started my own business and I was about to leave corporate. But I got a job offer to go overseas and took that instead. Going overseas being paid for by a corporate giant sounded pretty good!
Do you have income sources outside of your job? If so, how much do you earn from each and how did you develop them?
Yes, I moonlight as a photographer. At the moment it’s not profitable. Everything I make is being reinvested into it as a small startup. I got into it the same way as I got into most things. Timing and luck. I happened to meet someone who had similar interests.
What advice do you have for people who want to earn more money?
Don’t be afraid of debt when you’re younger, and don’t think that you have to enjoy your 20s as much as you think you do. Your 20s is when you set yourself up for success, and massively enjoy yourself in your 30s and 40s.
What is your savings rate? And how has it changed over time?
When I was living overseas, I spent more because I was travelling, and it didn’t feel like reality. When I got back home, I freaked out and started saving much more to buy a house. I was lucky because back then I had fewer expenses. Now living in my own place I’m spending more but saving reasonably well because it’s my own place.
Do you have a budget?
From the rest, I spend about a third on necessities, a third on clothing, and a third on utilities.
Do you make purchase decisions carefully, or are you loose with your money?
I can be quite flippant. I can make some stupid decisions with my money.
What’s the stupidest decision you’ve made (that you’re happy to share)?
I want to say men but that’s unfair… to be honest, sometimes I think buying a house to live in was a stupid decision. I love my house and I’m proud of it, but for where I am and other investments I could have made, I could have grown my money much faster than it’s growing [by having a] mortgage. Buying a house was my parents’ dream that I bought into. I only realised afterwards that I didn’t fully explore my options.
How is your work-life balance?
Healthy. Finally! It took me years to get there. I had to realise there was more to life than work, and I had to spend more time focusing on myself. I also had to realise that the organisation doesn’t break down if I’m not there. Life tends to go on and nobody is indispensable.
What is your favourite thing to spend money on?
Travel and my friends.
What has been your best investment?
An investment of time in myself and my health. I lived a good but unhealthy life for a very long time. Changing my life and investing in activewear, a personal trainer, and a gym allowed me to revisit so many things in my life. Also, buying a house in Newtown seems to have been a positive decision. Newtown is still going up, even though so many other suburbs are going down.
What has been your worst investment?
When I was younger, I wasted time in poor relationships: romantic and platonic. We really are a result of the people we spend our time with. They influence our decisions and our outcomes. My worst investment was the time spent with people who didn’t challenge me.
How are you building wealth?
Investing in my family. It’s going to buy me a spot in the inheritance. Also paying off my home loan [and] building up my savings, so I can invest elsewhere with higher growth.
What are your main roadblocks?
I have a very conservative family that I don’t like upsetting. Some of my major financial decisions will upset them. It might sound weird for a 44-year-old, but it can be quite difficult in an ethnic context. It’s a challenge. I’m also quite conservative. I have a fear of loss, I procrastinate, and I’m not always confident in my decisions.
Do you have a target net worth or lifestyle that you want?
I want to have a lifestyle that contributes more to society, not just the profit of shareholders. I want to do that part-time while exploring my creativity and travelling.
If you could start again, what would you do differently?
Believe it or not, I would have listened to my mother. Once when I was 21 and moved in with someone no good for me. Then, when I could have bought a house when I was in my 20s. My advice would be to make investments and decisions in your 20s. If you do it earlier, life just gets easier later on. You can take more risks, take more time to change. Each decade you’re a different person, and the financial stability makes all the difference.
Do you have any worries about retirement? If so, how are you planning to address them?
Actually, no. I’ve never really pictured myself alive during retirement. My retirement age will have increased to way past 70 by the time I get there. I’m not planning that far ahead at this stage.
How are you learning about building wealth?
A combination of learning from my family when I was young, a lot of books and newspapers, and more recently, social media. Grant Cardone on social media has some interesting advice.
Do you give to charity? If you do, what per cent of time/money do you give?
Yes, I give $50 from each fortnightly pay slip. I also give on average $100/month depending on what’s going on.