Super, investing isn't so difficult

Embrace the areas of your own finances that may seem ‘complicated’, writes Sally Patten.

Carla* is a professional woman in her mid-30s. She has a good job and she and her husband earns decent money.

Even so, they are not flush with cash. With two young children, a fair whack of her salary goes towards childcare.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, many of Carla's friends are in a similar position, and the conversation over flat whites or a bottle of pinot grigio (bought on special) will often turn to ways to save money, the cost of childcare and how to access various government rebates.

It is a great start.

Sharing stories with friends about spending habits is a great way to learn more about managing household finances and to swap tips. Acknowledging that we may be struggling financially can be a giant step on the way to actually doing something about it.


And something can generally always be done. Interest payments can be reduced, spending habits changed and credit cards better managed.

What Carla does not discuss with her friends is savings and investments. Superannuation is a no-go zone. "I don't understand it and don't want to sound stupid and it's boring," she says.

It is a fairly typical response among women, financial advisers say.

"Women will talk about budgets, borrowing and spending, but they generally don't talk about investments. They generally don't understand investments," says Eleanor Dartnell of Dartnell Advisers.

"Women don't talk about the mechanics of saving and investing. Men get into the nitty gritty. They have a greater interest in how the mechanics of saving and investing work," says Kate McCallum, a director and adviser with Multiforte, an advice firm.

"Women are so scared of looking stupid," says another adviser.

It’s not so hard, take super for example

The thing about savings and investments is that they are not nearly as complicated as they sound and you don't have to devote hours upon hours to their pursuit. Even a basic understanding of financial concepts can help go a long way to becoming financially savvy. As one financial adviser notes: "Finance isn't rocket science."

So let's begin with one of the basics.

Superannuation is a way to save for retirement. Your employer must pay 9.5 per cent of your salary into your super fund. Importantly, that money is taxed at a reduced rate and you can get hold of it once you retire. Ideally, you will add to extra to your super.

Now we can start a conversation about super.

'We talk about any and everything'

Leah Halmagyi says it's "oddly taboo" to discuss anything to do with money with other school mums on Sydney's northern beaches but her very inner circle is open and honest about finances.

"We talk about any and everything," says the 42-year-old of her friends, who are largely business owners.

"School fees, taking care of parents, mortgages, real estate, what we're earning, what we're not earning."

And sharemarket investments?

"I wouldn't know the first thing about shares. Our money is very strictly divided into mortgages for different real estate investments."

"Our" means husband Ed Halmagyi, the TV chef and author, and their children, aged 12 and 10.

"I'm up to speed. I always make sure I have access, know where the money's going – know how to manage our finances. It bores me stupid but I've never just left it to Ed."

This is unsurprising as Halmagyi was raised in a household financially driven and managed by her mother, who bought and sold businesses.

And although she's worked since the age of 16, Halmagyi says she often feels a huge sense of ineptness as, with the demands of family and Ed's media career, she's not earning a wage.

"I contribute financially with my homewares and accessories business and assisting Ed's projects but I don't feel it's enough," says the graphic designer.

"It's the same with all my girlfriends of my generation: not liking that feeling of not bringing money into the house, even though we're raising functional, healthy kids."


May 2016