High Spirits, Higher Stocks: A Tipsy Turn Toward Financial Freedom.
The Big Share - by Genevieve Le Gall
We've all been to those work functions that fuel office gossip—perhaps a scandalous romance unfolds or the open bar gets the better of a colleague. But this story? Well, let me tell you about a different kind of soirée. I work with a fantastic group of wāhine, and on this particular occasion, with a rare child free night ahead, a cocktail (or a few) were consumed in celebration. Details get hazy from there, blame it on the cocktails or my lingering baby brain, but somehow, I awkwardly steered the convo toward finance. Besides a salary chat between workmates,
it turned out to be the bravest money talk I've ever had.
We talked about investing, we talked about the importance of having your own money (especially as a woman), and we talked about how funny it was that we’d never talked about this before. We opened the floodgates to a conversation I knew we’d feel more comfortable having again and again. It culminated in one of my fabulous colleagues offering to lend me her copy of "Tales from a financial hot mess" by Kiwi financial journalist Frances Cook.
The day she gave it to me I dove into the first chapter, and it’s fair to say I was hooked.
I devoured the book in about a week, and let's just say that’s not easiest feat with a job and two kids under 5 who seem to think sleeping through the night is an optional extra.
I couldn’t believe I didn’t know this stuff before. It all seemed so much easier than I could’ve imagined, and at 34 I felt like I was soooo late jumping on the bandwagon. That being said, I was determined to stay on the proverbial this time and thankfully, unlike most of the habits I attempt to pick up (which inevitably fall by the wayside), upping my financial game has stuck. And true to the digital world we’re living in, that initial face-to-face conversation turned to a digital one. In the interest of finding out how much more I didn’t know about when it came to all things finance, I took to LinkedIn and shared a public post. I don't usually get a lot of interaction on any of my posts, but this post hit different.
I shared a little bit about how my eyes had recently been opened to the world of investing, and the frustration that came along with not learning about it sooner. Friends, acquaintances and complete strangers weighed in. They shared their thoughts, insights and money tips.
I’d opened the digital floodgates.
I was being sent all sorts of messages about investments, Kiwisaver, favourite financial podcasts and so much more. Three guesses as to what one of the top podcast suggestions was? ** wink wink **. I scrolled back to the start of The Curve Podcast and it’s fair to say that Vic and Soph have been keeping me company while folding many loads of washing, and washing many a dish, ever since.
I've since hashtag diversified my podcast library, and my Instagram feed. I’m digesting a little more finance chat, and a little less pop-culture these days. I love taking part in these conversations because now that I can understand the basics, I’m genuinely interested in learning even more. I've also acted on lots of what I’ve learned. I’ve changed my KiwiSaver fund which is going to make a HUGE difference to when I can stop working, I’ve started regularly investing through Sharesies, and have even used an online calculator to suss out how much I'll need to retire! For someone who had no clue about investing until recently - these are big steps in the right direction.
You may have picked up that I'm a ‘working Mum’. Anyone who has tiny humans running around, while simultaneously trying to keep their career alive outside of the family dynamic, will know how difficult it can be to feel like you’re achieving anything. Getting kids fed, dressed and out of the house while also starting work on time is a miracle in itself #realtalk It’s not easy, but I’ve been prioritising my own learning, stealing pockets of time here and there. I want to be able to enjoy my precious time with my kids, and I want to work my way towards financial freedom too. For me, for my husband and for my children.
When I think about what financial freedom means for me and my family, it’s less about keeping up with the mum influencers and more about having options. For me it’s having the freedom to work less than full time because it means I can take my daughter to a dance class during the week, but knowing there’s enough in the bank to pay our bills. It’s about learning how to make our money work for us so I can lead by example and teach my kids to do the same. It’s opening Sharesies accounts for my kids and popping $5 in once a month, because I now know that in 60+ years time, that’s going to be a great little nest egg for them. It’s about building a financial safety net so we can have the flexibility to make the right decisions for us. I’ve definitely got a lot more to learn to make that happen, but when I think about the future I want my kids to have, I’ve got all the motivation I need to keep my head in the financial game.
The more I’ve been learning, the more I’ve been opening up the conversation with my friends and the number one question they all ask is
“why does nobody talk about this?” And why has nobody spoken to me about this before?”
And that's exactly what I said as soon as I started reading that book. It kind of annoys me to think I’m in my 30’s and this is the first time I’ve been able to learn anything about investing outside of the Kiwi classic of buying a house. Heck, my oldest brother even worked for a stock exchange! Not only did it not occur to me to ask him about his work, or to learn more about the Exchange, but he never mentioned it either. So, I broached another awkward conversation and asked why he never thought to teach me about investing.
Interestingly, he mentioned that when he worked at the Stock Exchange, he didn’t get into investing in stocks himself. He said investing can be hard to understand, so even though you might understand it yourself, it’s not necessarily the easiest thing to try and teach somebody else, which is totally fair. When I delved a bit deeper, what it ultimately came down to was in our family (like most it seems), we never really talk about money – not about what we earn, how we spend it, and certainly not how we’re trying to grow our wealth. He’s also based overseas, with young kids, so it’s unsurprising really that the opportunity to chat about things like this doesn’t come up when there’s four kids talking over each other on FaceTime. We've since talked more about the stock market, and it's quite cool to get his perspective on investing now that I have a (very) basic understanding of it!
It's exciting to be a part of this continued conversation. A friend of mine recently told me she was inspired by my LinkedIn post to take stock (#financepun) of her own finances. She even enrolled in an investing course to really hone her skills. I was genuinely delighted! So, while it can be awkward as hell to talk about money, to have those vulnerable and courageous conversations, I'm so glad I did.
When women share their stories, it can be so powerful, and have a genuinely positive ripple effect.
I'm excited about what else I can learn. I’m excited to see what money I can make through investing. I’m proud of myself for stepping into the uncomfortable, and I’ll keep encouraging others too as well. And I’m really looking forward to a time when the cocktails are flowing, and me, my friends and all our families can enjoy them without worrying about who's paying for the next round.