Real money talk: Helen

By Bryna Howes 09 October 2019 5 min read

This post is based on an interview we conducted with Helen in August 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: Helen

Age: 43

Where do you live? Melbourne.

Please tell us a bit about yourself.

I’m an entrepreneur with a penchant for French food and wine. I live part-time in Australia and part-time in Europe, and I’ve had a lot of business ideas. I think this one’s the big one though!

What is your current net worth?

Savings: $6,000

Super: $55,000

Debt: $1,000 on my credit card

Mortgages: $800,000

Investments: I own a house probably worth about $3 million in Sydney, and an apartment worth $1.5 million.


Tell us a bit about your career:

I’ve always wanted to do things my own way. I had a few jobs when I was younger — one at a cinema, one in publishing, but I always was experimenting with my own stuff on the side. I also loved travelling too much to stay in one place long enough to develop a traditional career. I used to have my own dessert business. Now, I rent out my house and apartment, and I am trying to grow my startup business. I’ve set things up so I can do most of it remotely, which allows me to travel a lot and live a few months in Australia and a few months in Europe every year. I like chasing summer!

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

Not at the moment. When I had ‘job’ jobs, I had my dessert business as my side hustle, which I eventually made into my main hustle. I started out by doing as many markets as possible every weekend, and lots and lots of networking. Eventually, a big supermarket chain wanted to carry some of my products, which was great. By that time, though, I was already looking to move on from baking.

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

No matter what you’re doing, networking is crucial. It really is more about who you know.


What is your savings rate? And how has it changed over time?

When I was saving up to buy my first investment property (the apartment), I put aside every cent I could scrape together. Now, most of my money goes back into my startup, which I’m trying to grow. It’s going pretty well but it’s very demanding.

Do you have a budget?

Not really. I know more or less what I spend. I also don’t live too frugally. I like a glass (or bottle) of wine with friends and good food. Life’s too short and should be enjoyed.

How much do you spend per year?

No idea.

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

A bit of both. I’m always willing to spend the money when it comes to my business as I see it as an investment, but I’m also careful to make sure it’s the best deal and a necessary expense.

How is your work-life balance?

Balance? What’s that! I’ve got a startup. Even if I’m not working, part of my mind is on my business. I even dream about it sometimes. Luckily, I go to a lot of conferences and social events to network and promote it, so at least I can combine work and play fairly often.

What is your favourite thing to spend money on?

Food, wine, and lipstick.


How do you invest?

I put money into my business and I bought the apartment as an investment property. The house I was given as early access to my inheritance from my parents, but it’s too big for just me, so I rented it out. The rent from that I put towards the mortgage on the apartment too, so it’s more or less taking care of itself.

What has been your best investment?

The apartment.

What has been your worst investment?

I don’t know if you’d call them investments, but I’ve definitely had a few bad business ideas in my time!

What's been your overall return?

Not sure. Ask me in two years!

How are you building wealth?

Well, the house and apartment are pretty much my safety net. They allow me to pursue passion projects like my business. My business does make me money and it’s growing, but I feel much better off having the properties as backup.

What are your main roadblocks? And how are you addressing them?

Marketing. God, marketing is hard, and it’s so constant. I just want to work on my business, but half the battle, more than half the battle actually, is making it so people know about what you’re doing.

Do you have a target net worth you want?

I definitely want to be a millionaire. By the time I’m 50 might be pushing it. Maybe by the time I’m 60?

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

I’ve always been entrepreneurial, but when I was younger I didn’t really know what I was doing, so I’m not sure if that counts as a behavioural shift towards wealth building.

If you could start again, what would you do differently?

I’d travel more. It’s so valuable. I’d also learn about marketing earlier. Aside from that, all my not-so-great ideas were learning experiences and the connections I made doing them often came in useful later on.

Do you have any worries about retirement? If so, how are you planning to address them?

Not really. I have my properties as my safety net. I can live pretty frugally if I need to, but I’ll never be homeless! I also don’t have kids, so I can get by on way less money than many other people my age.

How are you learning about building wealth?

I grew up with a lot of uncertainty about money. The money always came, but sporadically. My father was very free with it, while my mother was very anxious about it. I was taught the value of property over intangible things like stocks and bonds. I also learned that whether you stress about money or not, as long as you keep on keeping on, things will usually be okay. I know that’s not strictly true for everybody, but for me it is. I know I’m extremely lucky to have been ‘advanced’ my inheritance earlier on. Extremely lucky.

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

Yes, depending on what my tax bill is looking at every EOFY.

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: Helen