After spending her twenties working casually in hospitality to fund her travels to Bali, Argentina and dozens of destinations in between, 32-year-old marketer and entrepreneur Lauren Jane is now boosting her super balance with additional monthly contributions.
A late starter at university, Jane graduated from the University of the Sunshine Coast with a Bachelor of Business in 2014 and has spent the past three years working nine-to-five at Brisbane fintech start-up Tappr. Her ‘five-to-nine’ gig sees her spruiking her Inactive Wear range of parody singlets online and at sporting events.
After starting full-time work she made the decision to get her finances in order and begin planning for the future.
“I thought, I better sort this out because time’s getting on and it’s important to take care of your money and be in control,” Jane says. “I had a pretty cruisy time in my twenties but a very unstable income to go with it and after I left university it felt like it was time to get on board with things like budgeting and saving money and sorting out my super – and seeing if I could catch up by contributing a bit more, to give myself additional security.”
Australians aged 30 to 34 had an average superannuation balance of $30,937 in 2013-14, according to The Association of Superannuation Funds of Australia.
Consolidating a number of inactive super accounts accumulated over a decade of waitressing and bartending gigs in her home town of Noosa was the first item on Jane’s to-do list.
“I had something like 17 different accounts, with anywhere from $500 to $1500 in each,” she says. “It was all dribs and drabs and I didn’t keep track of them. As a young person, I just didn’t care – often I didn’t know what I’d be doing the next month or where in the world I’d be the next year and I certainly wasn’t thinking about retirement!”
With the help of her financially-savvy mother, she set about transferring the stray sums into a single account; giving herself a consolidated balance of approximately $20,000.
“I had a rough idea of what I had because luckily I’d had all the statements sent to the family home,” Jane says. “We did our research on which account provided the best return and suited my circumstances and rolled it all into that.”
Shortly afterwards, she began augmenting her compulsory super contribution of 9.5 per cent with a voluntary contribution of 2.5 per cent. Jane plans to up this to 5 per cent, as her income increases.
“I’m still trying to pay off my student debt and cover things like health insurance, as well as building my business, so I can’t put in that much at the moment but I thought I’d start somewhere,” Jane says. “I’m not in the position to invest in the property market right now and so super was, for me, the path of least resistance; something that was already happening which I could add to without hassles.
“I just really wanted to begin focusing on growing my wealth long-term. There are a lot of get rich quick schemes out there but all the books I’ve read and podcasts I’ve listened to have pointed to superannuation or property as the best long-term investments.
“I’ve set up a direct debit so my contributions are transferred automatically each payday and that way I don’t notice or miss the money at all.”
‘Let’s just start off small’
ANZ financial adviser and fellow Millennial Daniel Thompson says that Jane’s home-grown strategy is a sound one which will stand her and other young Australians who take a leaf out of her book in good stead, several decades hence.
“That’s one of the things I try to champion with the under-35s, committing to that small additional super contribution – 1 per cent or 2 per cent of their income before tax, or a dollar amount like $20 a week,” he says.
“Let’s just start off small, build the savings habit with a few dollars you’re not going to miss – say, $13 or $14 a week out of your after-tax pay – and over time that can gradually be built on.
“Thanks to the miracle of compound interest, if that’s all people do for the rest of their lives they’re going to be a lot better off in 30 or 40 years’ time.”
Don’t think about it, just do it, Jane counsels.
“You have to start from wherever you’re at,” she says. “Making those voluntary contributions to my super actually makes me feel quite empowered. As your financial literacy grows, you realise there’s lots more to learn but you’re able to start thinking, ‘OK, yep, I’ve got this’.”
My financial journey is a series from ANZ Women on how Australian women have overcome major obstacles and taken charge of their finances.