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My life lesson: do not be afraid of money

A financially savvy mother gave Jo Burston the confidence to become a property investor and entrepreneur, writes Sylvia Pennington.

Her first financial lessons at her mother’s side around the kitchen table gave Jo Burston the money smarts and confidence to invest in property from a young age and to launch a string a businesses including Job Capital, Claim Your Tax and Inspiring Rare Birds. The latter aims to see one million female entrepreneurs globally by 2020.

“Although we were a working-class family, my mum worked in banking,” she says. “I remember sitting at the kitchen table at breakfast when I was about eight or nine and she was reading about equity markets in the paper. I asked her to explain to me what all that was and she did, in terms I could understand at that age.

“The lesson to me was, there’s never a time when you’re too young to learn about complex financial matters and that these things aren’t always going to be taught in school.

“Money was always a conversation I could have with mum and have openly. My father was a bit more traditional; he preferred not to talk about money. Mum was like the treasurer of the family who worked full time and also ran the house and finances and she did it very well.”

The pay-off for being money smart

From that beginning Burston kept upping her financial savvy through adulthood and acquired key business skills, such as the ability to read balance sheets and manage cash flow in her array of enterprises.

“Being open to improving my financial literacy was something I took with me when I left home and it’s resulted in me always saving money and becoming confident in my ability to monitor and manage all my money matters,” she says.

She made her first property investment not long after she left home at 20, when the opportunity came up to buy a block of land on the beach from a friend.

“I rang mum up and told her I’d done it and she told me to make an appointment with the bank manager,” she says. “No one came with me – I did it on my own. Mum’s method of teaching me, then letting go, empowering me to manage things like that for myself, is something that has taken me everywhere.”

Passing the baton

In 2006 Burston founded Job Capital, a company which offers payroll services, salary packaging, contract management and migration services. Claim Your Tax, launched in 2012, assists working holidaymakers in Australia and abroad with tax-refund claims. 

Now she’s hoping to pass on her knowledge of financial literacy and entrepreneurship to the next generation through her social enterprises Inspiring Rare Birds and Startup.Business, an online program which aims to teach entrepreneurial skills to high-school students.

Launched three years ago, Inspiring Rare Birds provides other women dreaming of running their own companies with access to expertise, mentoring and investment funding.

Realising she was often the only female entrepreneur in the room, Burston travelled around to Australian schools asking young girls what they thought an entrepreneur was. The majority had no idea and the few that did answered, “a man”. Determined to change this, she set the goal of seeing one million more women entrepreneurs globally by 2020.

“We want to allow them to tell their story and share it with our global community, so that a few years from now, when you ask a young girl what she wants to be when she grows up, it’s not so surprising when she says she wants to own her own company or maybe even change the world.”

This is a series from ANZ Women asking leading Australians to share important financial advice that has changed their life.