This post is based on an interview we conducted with Zoe 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: Marrickville, Sydney.
Please tell us a bit about yourself. I run my own business in design and content. I live with my de facto partner/fiance, and we’re looking to buy a house together soon.
What is your current net worth?
Savings: $15,000 (joint with my partner)
HELP debt: $16,500
I live with my (de facto) partner who’s just sold his house in the United Kingdom for like $300,000, so I think our savings are a lot more now, but we’re hoping to put that money into a house here.
Tell us a bit about your career:
I went to uni straight from school and studied international studies and communications. I went to Italy for a year and when I came back I went into advertising. I started off in the accounts team and didn’t like it, I thought it’d be more creative. I worked there full time for three years then decided to go find myself. I started a blog, worked from home, had a few clients of my own, then decided to go back to agency land, but in a freelance capacity. I freelanced for different agencies around Sydney for three years.
Having the freedom and flexibility was great, but I had a bit of a crisis after a hard contract. I was very unfulfilled. I’d kept on going with my side business for about a year, and decided to just commit and go full time. I’ve been doing that for about two years now.
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 pay myself $5,000 a month. The business makes more than that. The rest usually goes back into the business. I don’t have a lot of overhead, other than rent and client lunches, software, and freelancers. That kind of stuff.
What advice do you have for people who want to earn more money?
Working smarter, rather than harder, works for me. It’s a cliche but a lot of my earlier career was burning myself out. Maybe because I was younger and needed to do it. Now I have more perspective on being able to say no to things that won’t serve me. I stopped doing favours for people all the time. Know your worth.
What is your savings rate? And how has it changed over time?
Of the $5,000, I put about $1,500 into savings per month. It really depends on what I’m making. I always try to put something aside. Some months it might be $500, some months it might be more. It depends on my cash flow.
Do you have a budget?
I try to. When I pay myself for the month, I put rent aside, savings aside (into the joint account), I put $400 a month into a separate account for food/household stuff (and my partner puts in the same, so it’s $800 for the month between us). From the rest, I spend about $200 a week for personal stuff, which includes phone and gym. By the end of the month, I usually have some extra which I put back into my savings.
Do you make purchase decisions carefully, or are you loose with your money?
Depends where I am in the month. If it’s the beginning, I’ll be a bit more carefree; towards the end I’m more considered. I’ll hold off. Depends on the purchase item too.
How is your work-life balance?
Pretty good! I’m very conscious of it. I have a health issue where I can’t get too stressed. So I’m careful not to push myself too hard, go to yoga every day, get in that me time.
What is your favourite thing to spend money on?
Probably wellness stuff. Courses, yoga, essential oils, tarot cards. You name it, I’ve got it.
How do you invest?
I don’t, unless you count in my business and my health.
How are you building wealth?
Growing my business. I also have plans to buy a house with my partner. I always joke about being a property mogul one day. I see that as something that can make you money without too much investment. It’s having that deposit that hinders people.
What are your main roadblocks? And how are you addressing them?
I have to wait until my business has been around for two years as a Pty Ltd to get a loan from a bank. That was probably a mistake in hindsight. That’s this July, so not long left, but that is a roadblock for us at the moment.
Do you have a target net worth you want?
I don’t really care honestly. I have enough for now. I used to care, but I just stopped playing the corporate game. It really stressed me out. I’m quite happy knowing I can sustain myself. I live in a nice house, I can go out for dinner, I can buy myself what I want and pay for my yoga classes without getting too caught up in the financial stressors of it all. It would be different if I were a parent or had someone depending on me.
If you could start again, what would you do differently? (Advice for younger self)
Career-wise, I wish I’d been a bit more confident in my abilities from early on, but I think that takes time. Also delegating. Do it. You can’t do it all!
What mistakes have you made along the way that others can learn from?
Last year we had a business partner. I went into it a little bit blindly in that I didn’t realise the kind of legal consequences of it all. I’ve learned my lesson in that sense. Hiring and partnering with someone can be quite difficult. Make sure you have a lawyer from the get go. Have a contract in place from the get go. I was very liberal with that at the beginning.
Do you have any worries about retirement? If so, how are you planning to address them?
Nah. I’m sure it’ll be fine.
How are you learning about building wealth? Is it from family, books, forced to learn as wealth grew, etc.?
My parents are quite good with savings, especially my mum. They own a business together so I’ve always seen that as an option in terms of a career. Owning your own business is possible. But I’d also say there was a fear attached to money, around not having enough.
Do you give to charity? If you do, what per cent of time/money do you give?
Nah. I should.
Anything else interesting?
My partner’s parents passed away and he and his sister inherited a house in the United Kingdom, which they’re now selling. Our understanding is down the line I’ll probably do something similar, and that’ll be an investment we make together again.
I struggled with it for a while, I felt like I wasn’t contributing enough to the house because he’s got this chunk of money for the deposit. We make it work though. He’s a graphic designer, and when he does work for my business, I pay him some extra. It’s a weird dynamic, but ultimately it’s going to the same place. We both would rather not pay rent and invest in something together. It’s lucky that we’re able to have the deposit in that way.
I guess I have the perspective that I know I’ll inherit at some point, as my parents own two houses and I have one brother. It’s not nice to think about, but my partner's situation has made me think about it. It does give you some peace of mind in a weird way.