I love emojis. Detractors might say they’re killing prose, but I think they’re modern hieroglyphics and a valid form of communication.
Why am I talking about emojis? Well, these little characters express a lot with very little, and it’s clear that this little guy shows exactly how most Australians feel when they talk about finance:
“I’m afraid to look at my bank balance.”
“Can you cover me? I don’t get paid until next week.”
“We can’t invest. We’re not rich.”
“We’re not in debt…it’s just taking a while to pay off the credit card.”
“Let’s talk about this later? I just want to relax right now.”
If those emojis or any of these phrases resonate, you’re not alone. Research shows that people are more likely to seek out advice from each other on how to get fit, raise children, or where they should live, than they are about their finances.
Of course, talking about money can be awkward. It’s a sensitive topic. But there’s no way around it: solving your financial issues means learning how finance works – and learning how to speak about it. You don’t need to reveal your personal situation to everyone, but not talking regularly and openly about finance is a good way to make bad decisions. After all, one of the secrets of wealthy families is that they discuss finances with their children as early as possible.
For so many others, they never received money education. So they bury their head in the sand, and then have one random conversation about an ‘incredible investment’. Next thing you know, their savings account is drained, and they’re waiting for a return that never comes. It’s funny in theory and heartbreaking in practice.
Personal finance education in school
One of the problems in Australia is that basic personal finance isn’t taught in schools. Personal finance education is paramount for teaching young (and old) people the basics of credit, interest and spending less than you earn. It’s so easy to buy anything online these days, so surely education around managing finances is more essential than ever? However, some people argue that our school curriculum is overcrowded and it’s the parent’s job.
The issue is, how can we expect parents to teach their kids about debt and finance if they don’t understand it themselves?
The risk we face by keeping silent is perpetuating a cycle of miseducation around finance. This means people who are in debt will stay in debt, and many of us won’t be able to achieve financial security, no matter how hard we work.
So, if you’ve read this far – let’s get started with all of the things that you and your loved ones should be talking about.
Credit card debt
The amount of personal credit card debt owed by Australians is around $20 billion. That means there is around $1500 average credit card debt in Australia for every card that is issued.
It’s a huge chunk of money we’re handing over to the banks, not to mention the disempowering effects of credit card debt.
Talking more about credit cards will help people (particularly young people) better understand credit cards are a tool best used for convenience or to manage money you already have. They shouldn’t be seen as a way to finance the things you might want now but can’t afford.
The ability to send your children to private school is something many families aspire to. However, a high proportion of families don’t have the disposable income available to pay private school fees because they fail to plan for it sufficiently in advance.
That means relying on credit card debt to pay for school fees, which can start a long cycle of financial pain. With a little foresight, private school could be something more parents could afford easily if that’s what they choose -and this foresight can only be gained if parents talk about finance.
Our first super fund is something that seems to magically appear when you get your first job. Our employers dutifully pop us in a default super fund and many of us pay little attention to it for the next 40 years or so.
However, as our Fat Cat Funds report shows that if you’re one of the people stuck in a Fat Cat Fund you’re could be paying enormous fees of over $250,000 over your working life.
Fees compound, so over 40 odd years you could lose over a quarter million dollars. Think about it – and talk about it with the people around you. Superannuation might not be the most thrilling topic but a few conversations could save you and the people you love a lot of money.
Investing early in life and investing regularly is smart. Diversifying your investments across asset classes is even smarter.
A lot of Australians are already investing which is great, but too many think diversifying investments means buying a few different Australian bank shares or Telstra – safe bet right? No – wrong, wrong, wrong. If all your investments are focused on big Australian companies, you’re in a high risk strategy.
It’s far less risky to spread investments across different asset classes and countries such as global shares, and bonds. That’s what we do at Stockspot. We invest on behalf of our clients into a variety of ETFs that track different market indexes such as Australian shares, emerging market shares and bonds. It’s a tried and true investment strategy, but so many people don’t know about it – because we don’t talk about it.
Buying a home
Australians love property – but at some point we need to talk about whether these feelings are healthy or if it could be an unhealthy obsession. The latest ABS data shows the average deposit to secure a mortgage is a whopping $106,743 – 16 per cent more than what was needed two years ago. It’s simply not an achievable reality for many Australians.
So what we need to talk about, is if it’s worth putting ourselves into huge amounts of debt for 20 to 30 years.
Attitudes to renting vs buying need to change in Australia, and that will only happen if we take emotion out of the conversation and consider if buying a home you can’t afford is a positive life choice.
We’ve done the sums on renting vs buying a home over the long term. We’ve found there’s not a great difference between renting and buying. If renters are disciplined about saving and investing, both renters and homeowners come out about even.
Start the conversation today
It’s time we start talking more openly about finance. The more something is talked about openly the less scary it becomes – and the better the outcomes for all of us.
Talking more about finance will also improve our national financial literacy and help Australians avoid the billions of dollars in unnecessary fees we pay every year.
Be less like:
And be more like: