Here’s How I Learned To Care About Money

Here’s How I Learned To Care About Money

Money is something we use every day, but when it comes to managing it, it’s easy to put that part off. Kate shares how she learned to bite the bullet and get on top of it, a change which let her help others get to know their dough.

Do you remember your first job? Mine was at a prominent fast-food franchise on evenings and weekends. Fresh off the plane from Bahrain, my parents made me get a job as soon as we arrived in Australia.

Like most teenagers, I was initially just grateful to get a job in an environment where companies expected you to have work experience before they’ll hire you.

The job ultimately left a bad taste in my mouth 

I trusted the company to do the right thing because they were established. If someone says they’ll pay you superannuation and a salary, you generally trust that they’ll do that. 

Not only was my superannuation not paid properly but I also found out that a lot of us were being paid different hourly rates for the same role. While there are certain circumstances where you might be paid a different award wage, there are too many recent stories about wage theft for this issue to be swept under the rug. 

Part of the problem is that money is awkward to talk about

Try asking someone how much they earn and see their reaction if you want to test that theory. It can be hard to really get your head around financial systems like superannuation and taxation. If I offered you the choice between reading a product disclosure statement or another Netflix binge, you’d reach for the remote every time.

Being a teacher made me see the need for education about money

Money affects us all, but education around money simply isn’t consistently taught in schools. We’re just expected to know how to manage money as adults despite the fact that our education on the topic is down to who our parents or guardians are or where we live—the postcode lottery.

I studied financial literacy, which basically means the knowledge and skills to use money effectively and navigate the financial system. I worked on the national financial literacy program with the federal government and I was lucky enough to be recognised by Forbes 2018 30 under 30 list but despite this recognition, I wasn’t happy.

I wasn’t happy because I knew the majority of financial literacy resources being made weren’t by and for young people. I wasn’t happy because I knew national programs weren’t reaching all students. And I wasn’t happy because having aspects of financial literacy in our national curriculum, these curriculum documents are applied differently by each state and territory, by each school and by each teacher. 

Education about money was being left up to chance and that simply wasn’t good enough. According to our last OECD PISA results in 2017, the financial literacy of young Australians is falling, with 20% of our 15-year-olds not equipped with basic financial literacy skills, such as recognising that the use of a vehicle incurs costs.

I saw the gap and did something about it

I waited for someone else to do something about it. I pursued another project as an FYA Young Social Pioneer because I thought the problem would be addressed. But eventually, I got sick of waiting and addressed the problem myself.

I created Money Bites, a website that makes learning about money more easy to understand. There’s a blog post every week on something new, like how to sort your superannuation out in 15 minutes or your budget in 10 minutes. I focus on content that is relevant to our lives, including the costs of moving out of home for uni or work, and budget methods that work best for students.

Here are my three money management tips 

1. Start monitoring your spending with a budget so that you get a better idea of where your money is going. Get to understand your motivations and goals for saving, and remember that your income minus expenses (that’s your needs and wants), equals savings for long-term goals.

2. Set yourself at least three money goals about how you want to improve your relationship with money. That might be as simple as learning more about money, or something bigger like taking control of your debt or making good investments. Whatever you go just make sure they’re your goals, reflecting what you want and can achieve.

3. Take an interest in your superannuation, including knowing how much you have and how it’s being invested. Super is a compulsory system of placing a minimum percentage of your income into a fund to support your financial needs in retirement. Your super is invested in a range of assets to help grow your balance so you can have the best possible retirement outcome. Getting to understand super – how it’s paid, how much you’re entitled to, and where it goes – means you’ll have greater control over your nest egg.

The second aspect of financial literacy is navigating the financial system and what’s out there. And that’s why I created the Financial Literacy Hub. If you’ve been wanting to do your taxes online, talk about money in your relationship or get help with managing debt, we aim to point young people in the right direction by showing you the different services available for your current need.

Money affects the lives of every young person across Australia. We earn it, we spend it, we save it. Money will shape your life whether you care about it or not. And while there’s no single solution that works for everyone, the first step to learning about money is jumping in and getting started!