finance

Stop thinking heels are power. Money is power.

I’ve written two novels. I would classify myself as a creative person. I don’t like talking about money. I don’t like thinking about money (but I have to). I don’t like people who work with money as a rule. I’ve never been able to work out what “bankers” or “fund managers” or whatever they call themselves actually do and I think what they do doesn’t deserve the salaries they get. (Plus, I don’t like the loafers with no socks they wear on “casual” occasions.)

For a long time I thought money was someone else’s business in my life. My husbands. Yes, huge gasp. You should gasp. It’s so 1957 but I rearranged that division of labour in my head to be I’m-creative-and-therefore-don’t-do- money. I make jokes about how boring finances are and superannuation accounts. And tax. Roll my eyes. Let’s not talk about it ever.

When it comes to money I’ll do as little work as possible in terms of getting to know more about it and I’ll just sign where the yellow sticker says to. I earn a regular income and it goes into a bank account and I go to the ATM. Isn’t that enough money literacy? All those articles about tax changes or interest rates or superannuation? Scroll past. Nothing to see here but Yada Yada Yada compound interest, CPI, investment something or other. It’s another country with its own language.

And all of this lack of money literacy is the stupidest thing I’ve let happen to myself.

You see, I’ve finally worked it out. Money is true power. Money is freedom. We talk about women breaking the glass ceiling and rising to positions of power. We talk about the lack of representation of women on boards. We talk about affirmative action in Parliament. We need to start talking about how to get power much closer to home for all those women who aren’t going to be on boards, who aren’t going to be CEOS or senators or bankers.

The way to do that is through having money. That’s a big part of why men have held power for so long. It’s the golden rule: those with the gold make the rules.

We need to start talking about money with women so it’s a normal part of the conversation.

What is your best friend’s salary? Do you know it? How do you know what you’re earning is fair?

What about your super account. Are its annual fees ridiculously high?

How exactly has your cousin bought that portfolio of shares?

What percentage of your income should you save?

How exxy is too exxy for a leather jacket?

Why can’t we talk about money and learn about money and take all of that knowledge and make more money for ourselves. It’s not vulgar. It’s smart.

I’ve always grown up thinking there is something a little crass about talking about money (that’s probably suited all the people who are smart with their money). How else do you discover the intricacies and realities of finances if you don’t talk about it? If you don’t have discussions around dinner tables with your kids and family and friends about it? If you don’t talk to your daughters about how to query their boss at the chicken shop because they haven’t been paid all their hours for last week? If you don’t read about it and ask questions? If you don’t set yourself up to be its master, instead of its slave?

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Robin Wright as Claire Underwood in House of Cards. Money is power. Image via Netflix.

I'm not talking about greed here. And I'm not talking about overseas holidays and maxi-yachts and consumption of shoes and cars and plasma TVs. I'm talking about something much more vital to your sense of self - I'm talking about a good life where you get to make the choices because you understand money - how to get it, how to use it and how to maximise it.

You can't think someone else should do it for you, and you can't possibly believe that if you spend too much of your money on nice coats and brunches and handbags it will all magically work out in the end. It won't.

Carrie Bradshaw spending an apartment deposit - $40,000 - on shoes in Sex and the City is amusing TV. It also helped that writers could make Carrie end up with the very wealthy Mr Big rather than end up a single 50 something freelance newspaper columnist trying to live in New York city. It's called fiction for a reason.

You need to be accountable for what you do with your money.

Because power and freedom are the by-products of a life with finances under control.

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You can:

Support yourself and your family if something happens to your partner, you leave them or they leave your for the marketing manager of a digital fashion start up. I've seen it happen more times than you can imagine - even with the husbands/partners who you swore were devoted.

Play chicken with asking for a raise when you deserve it. You have a buffer of savings to allow you to walk away and find a better job.

You will not have to:

Live in poverty when you retire like one in three women do (this number is rising). Considering life expectancy for women in Australia is 84.4 years of age, that means around 25 years of severe daily stress. You will not be able to meet the basics in life. Forget life's little pleasures, even getting enough food and keeping shelter will be an issue - every single day.

Stay in a domestic situation that causes you emotional, psychological or physical damage.

In the end it's kind of funny being hopeless with money.

Until it's not.

Until you are the person who is stuck. You are the person who can't afford that medication for your illness. You are the person who can't simply ask about fair remuneration at work. You are the person who always has to say 'No' to things. You are the person who can't leave a job that is making you sick. You are the person whose life did not turn out at all like the dream. Not even close.

Because you thought money was, at best, a dirty word, at worst someone else's job to look after.

There is so much more you can do than earn a wage, wait for it to drop into your bank account and then spend it.

You can:

Start reading about money, the stockmarket, investments, superannuation and yes, tax issues.

See a reputable financial adviser.

Get rid of your credit card debt even if that means going "without".

Make a voluntary contribution of two per cent (that is on top of your employers) to your super.

Spend an hour a week getting on top of bills and finance. Making a plan. Thinking about what's next.

Your money is a key to something precious. Something women have been talking about for generations.

Power and freedom.

It's yours to take.

Or yours to lose.

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