As a journalist, whose salary depends on people paying for information, I am no great fan of the proliferation of material that is available for free.
However, as a consumer, the amount of free, intelligent, useful information floating about on that thing called the internet is nothing short of fantastic.
Fifteen or 20 years ago, regulators, industry groups, research houses and product providers had limited opportunity to educate consumers, but these days all they have to do is pay some young geek to set up a half-decent website and they can upload endless reports, data, calculators, videos and research findings for all to see (hence my ambivalence).
What’s more, on Google we can type in, from the privacy of our lounge or bedroom, any question that we might think is too stupid or embarrassing to ask an actual person.
Of course, it is a good idea to go to reputable sources, given that we are talking about saving and investing – and thus our financial independence – rather than tips for making an Octonauts ice-cream cake.
Luckily, there are a lot of reputable sources around.
One of the best places to start is the MoneySmart section on the Australian Securities and Investments Commission website. The site contains a plethora of information, from how to arrange a mortgage, to the best way to pay off your credit cards, tips for home insurance and for avoiding financial scams, and even life events that affect women’s finances (of which there are many).
When it comes to super, there are a couple of websites that offer independent information on how to go about choosing a super fund, determining the most suitable investments within a fund, what to do about super if you change jobs and how you should be thinking about super at various stages of your life.
Super Savvy is one of those sites that contains a useful glossary of super terms in its jargon buster. If you don’t understand what a voluntary contribution or a management fee is, it is a great place to start. Chant West provides details on the performance of more than 50 of Australia’s biggest super funds over the past one, three, five and 10 years.
The Department of Human Services offers a wide range of information about the age pension, aged care and retirement planning.
Readers can also visit ANZ Women for practical financial tips, to read stories of women who’ve achieved success in a variety of fields in life and for discussion on solutions to the inequality women face the world over.
And the ANZ women’s advice service offers free phone-based advice to people who have less than $50,000 in super.
Apps to live by: Maddy Barnewall
Turning 18 proved an overnight step into independence and the responsibilities that go with it for Maddy Barnewall (pictured). And, like most of her generation, Barnewall is navigating adulthood with the use of online tools.
Describing her phone as her ‘‘life’’, Barnewall is a first-year engineering student at Melbourne’s Monash University.
‘‘All the apps I use give peace of mind. They organise a lot of the stuff for you, like banking and budgeting, and make whatever it is, whatever function, easier to perform. I know what’s happening with my money. It’s just all there.’’
And there’s a surprising lot of financial stuff to organise, even though Barnewall lives at home. The money she earns from tutoring maths tops up her Centrelink payment but it has to go a long way.
There’s registration and insurance for her 2001 Toyota Echo ‘‘which I can’t even drive yet’’ but which she bought with only a little help from her parents – her first financial goal.
There’s also sports fees, clothes and textbooks to be budgeted for.
All the apps I use give peace of mind.
‘‘In fact, I research prices for everything on specialised websites. I used iSelect to compare health funds and now I’m beginning to look at super funds.’’
When she secures a part-time job, Barnewall will use money management tools to help reach her next goal.
‘‘I’d like to study in Japan for a semester in my third year at uni,’’ Barnewall says. “I’m learning Japanese and I’ve applied for a diploma in languages. It’s much easier to save if you have a goal – it means you keep at it.”
Case study by Natasha Hughes