Real money talk: Elizabeth

By Bryna Howes 02 July 2019 3 min read

This post is based on an interview we conducted with Elizabeth in February 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.


Name: Elizabeth

Age: 60

Where do you live: Sydney (Eastern Suburbs)

Please tell us a bit about yourself.

I have always worked part-time while raising children and sometimes studying. I never involved myself in financial issues during a 20-year marriage. I’ve been fortunate to have parents who are fairly well-off and have been a security net when my financial status got a bit wobbly.

What is your current net worth?

About $5 million.

How does it break down?

I owned my house but recently signed to sell it to a developer, and I have one investment apartment. Plus, about $165,000 in super, $100,000 of which is from the deposit for the house.

Any debts? (including HELP from Uni)

Not anymore!

How did you accumulate your net worth?

Mostly from my parents who built and gave me the house, and then the increase of the value of house prices in the Eastern Suburbs.


Tell us a bit about your career:

I qualified as a primary teacher several decades ago, but then I went overseas and got into teaching English as a foreign language. Full-time positions were rare as hen’s teeth, so I always worked part-time.

Then I moved [to a new] country again when I met my husband-to-be. Had three kids overseas, not working outside the home.

Then when I moved back to Australia, I started teaching [languages] part-time, studied part-time, and raised the kids.

My last eight years were teaching at university, which I “retired” from at age 58, as I was disenchanted with academic life and was in need of some post-divorce R&R.

I tell people that I’m retired, but I didn’t officially retire. I’m enrolled to study Legal Studies this year.

Do you have income sources outside of your job? If so, how much do you earn from each and how did you develop them?

Post-divorce, I used [the] money I had received from my late father to buy an investment apartment. With some help from my mother, I was able to borrow an amount that I could repay with the rental income.

What advice do you have for people who want to earn more money?

Read “Rich Dad Poor Dad.” Work out how to earn more per hour, and work harder, not more hours.


What is your savings rate?

Zero. Maybe. I don’t know as the numbers are too hard for me to manage, especially as I’m very undisciplined in my spending.

Do you have a budget?


Do you make purchase decisions carefully, or are you loose with your money?

My natural tendency is to spend, but I keep an eye on my funds. I tighten or loosen the purse strings accordingly.

How is your work-life balance?

Always been good because of part-time work.

What is your favourite thing to spend money on?

My garden.


How do you invest?

I hunted around for the best term deposit interest rates and got to Citibank. I relied on the banker to guide me.

How are you building wealth?

I’m not really. We always had enough for the family and I always knew I’d inherit. Now my kids are adults and I don’t need much to live on for myself. I’m waiting for the inheritance, so I’ll have more income than I need to live on.

Do you have a target net worth you want?

No, but I would like to be able to acquire three investment apartments before I kick the bucket.

When did you make your first significant behavioural shift towards wealth building?

I wouldn’t say I’m exactly wealth-building, but my divorce definitely taught me to be proactive with my finances. It’s important to understand everything so you know where you stand if somebody tries to screw you over.

If you could start again, what would you do differently? (Advice for younger self)

Keep your own records for everything. Get it all in writing and don’t take anybody’s word for anything. And especially for those in the "helping" industries: don’t sell yourself short, don’t be embarrassed to be paid well for what you enjoy doing. Make sure you're able to do a higher-level job when you're older.

How are you learning about building wealth?

Reading and employing a good accountant.

Do you give to charity? If you do, what per cent of time/money do you give?


Words by
Bryna Howes Right Chevron

Bryna Howes is the Head of Content at Spaceship. She's equally obsessive about cinnamon donuts and scouring the web for great reads.

Real money talk: Elizabeth