This post is based on an interview we conducted with Fiona in March 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: Lewisham, Sydney
Please tell us a bit about yourself.
I work in marketing, and I do cartooning on the side as well as study part-time. I like video games, hiking, and drawing. I love cooking.
What is your current net worth?
Super: About $20,000
Credit card debt: $1,500
HELP Debt: $25,000
Tell us a bit about your career:
I worked in retail from age 14, up until this year actually. A bit of casual, then part-time, then full- time for the past four or so years.
Do you have income sources outside of your job? If so, how much do you earn from each and how did you develop them?
I do cartooning and comics on the side, and I’ve made some money from it, but not regularly. Mostly selling pins and stickers at events.
What advice do you have for people who want to earn more money?
Don’t do it through art! Think outside the box.
What is your savings rate? And how has it changed over time?
Well, I’m on about $750 a week now, and I probably save about $100 a week. If it weren’t for debt, I’d be saving about $200.
Do you have a budget?
I try to. After rent, I try to keep groceries to $75 a week and spending to $100-$150, and transport to about $30. But it depends on what I’m doing that week.
Do you make purchase decisions carefully, or are you loose with your money?
The truth is, I almost never buy anything for myself. So, I guess I’m quite considered.
How is your work-life balance?
I don’t really have enough time for myself. I work five days a week and I’m studying part-time at uni as well (in the evenings). That doesn’t leave too much extra time.
What is your favourite thing to spend money on?
Take out! Or experiences, more than things. Theatre, movies, etc.
How do you invest?
*laughs in despair*
How are you building wealth?
I contribute $25 a week to my super. I do it because I’m not on a very high income and I thought the amount going into my super wouldn't allow me to retire, so I thought I should focus on spending less. I’m doing it myself, so it’s post-tax.
What are your main roadblocks? And how are you addressing them?
There’s a few! It’s really hard to get a job in a field you want without a degree, but studying is expensive and slow, and you need to support yourself in the meantime as well. And working without a degree means you’re probably not earning much. I’ve found it extremely hard to get a job out of retail. I looked for almost six months before I found something.
Do you have a target net worth you want?
Ideally, by the time I’m 50, I’d like to have a $100,000-$150,000 salary. I’d like to own my own apartment or house, maybe have an investment property, and enough savings to live comfortably and travel. All the things I don’t feel like I’ve been able to do now.
If you could start again, what would you do differently? (Advice for younger self)
I would do my degree in less time. I would have gotten out of retail about five years earlier and looked for something in a different field. I was senior in retail and now at 27, I’m at the bottom again and working up. I feel like that five-year period was a bit of a waste. I’d also save MUCH more. I’d save most of my income. My spending was a bit ridiculous in my youth.
Do you have any worries about retirement? If so, how are you planning to address them?
I’m pretty concerned. Unless I have a significant salary increase in the next five years or so, I think I’ll be working into my late 70s. I don’t know what more I could be doing honestly. I’m trying to get a job with a better salary, and I’ve moved into an industry where moving up is quite quick, you just have to work a lot to get to it.
How are you learning about building wealth? Is it from family, books, forced to learn as wealth grew, etc.?
My family went from having a lot of money to nothing; we even had to move in with my grandparents. I learned about the importance of having a backup and saving as much as possible, because things always go wrong. My dad especially always tried to ingrain in us not to spend frivolously, contribute to your super, and own a house. My mum, on the other hand, is a compulsive spender, so I learned what not to do from her. She’s in huge debt, and I don’t think she’ll ever be able to retire.
Do you give to charity? If you do, what percent of time/money do you give?
I give about $15 a week. I know the value of it from experience. Having had a lot and having had nothing, and now having a little, I understand how important a little bit is when you have nothing. And everything is relative. My wage isn’t the best but there are people who literally have nothing, so it keeps it in perspective.
Anything else interesting?
I think being on a small wage has led me to try to make side money. I started cartooning, collecting things that could appreciate in value. I’m trying to think of more ways that I could make money. I don't know much about investing.