I achieved financial independence on parental leave

Katherine is one amazing woman who is on a mission to help other mums take control of their own financial situation. And we could not be more inspired by how she used her parental leave to not only keep her mind active, but to put her savvy investor knowledge into practice and set up her family financially. You’ll love her practical tips and, most importantly, why it’s essential to keep some money aside for those ‘down days’ when you really need that new pair of shoes.

Can you tell us about your career journey so far?
I began working at an estate agency while I was still at school and it sparked a lifelong fascination with buyer behaviour. I loved learning about what makes people tick, and how we can leverage that to understand the customer journey and improve the user experience.

I’ve spent the majority of my career in financial services marketing, specifically the advice space—managing financial planning and private banking portfolios. I took a sidestep into media in 2010, working with Fox Mobile in Berlin. At that stage I’d been working in financial services for close to a decade and needed a new challenge. Around six months after relocating to Europe, the company shut down and I found myself back in Australia and back in financial services. For a while I felt like I’d failed, but a change in roles and a change in mindset helped me to really enjoy it again.

I’m currently launching a new superannuation product with Westpac subsidiary, BT Financial.

Congratulations on being the proud mama of two gorgeous daughters. Can you tell us about how becoming a parent has changed your perspective on life?
My perspective has changed in a couple of way. Firstly, we can’t control everything! I became a mum in my late 30s, and up to that point was very driven in my career and used to controlling where I focused my efforts. When my eldest was around two or three, she started developing quite a strong personality and I realised sometimes I just have to let go and be in the moment.

It also changed my perspective in a financial sense. After the girls were born, my husband and I realised the financial commitments we’d need to make to set them up for the best possible future, from putting them through school to helping them buy a home in a tightly held market.

We find that many women sadly opt out of being involved in managing their financial situation when they have children. Now while you were on maternity leave, we understand you became quite a savvy investor. Can you tell us a bit about this and what you did?
Firstly I consolidated my super, and then I opened a self-managed super fund (SMSF) and purchased a property inside that SMSF. Buying property wasn’t just an investment strategy for us, it was a way to future-proof for our girls.

I also consciously allocated funds inside the SMSF to start investing in the stock market. I researched company performance and invested in shares I felt would return good dividends. It was exciting to create an additional revenue stream for my family and, as a bonus, it enabled me to have meaningful conversations outside of changing nappies.

I think my biggest learning is that superannuation is a considerable asset and I needed to take charge of that pool of money.

Why do you think it’s incredibly important for women to maintain their financial independence?
The sad reality is that divorce rates are high and women have a longer life expectancy than men. The odds are that at some point in a woman’s life she will be forced to manage her own finances if she isn’t already, and that transition will be much easier if she has a good understanding of her financial position.

And what practical advice would you have for other women who are preparing to go on parental leave?

  1. Consolidate your super!
  2. Take over the household admin, especially if you aren’t involved already. Paying bills helps you better understand your family’s cash flow.
  3. Invest in a share portfolio, even if you don’t think the amount is significant.
  4. Make sure you have the right insurances in case anything happens.
  5. Try and save some money so you have funds for those down days when you really need that new pair of shoes.

From a career perspective, I found short-term daycare when my daughters were around eight months old helped me get some headspace to look at my next steps. Even a few hours of care once or twice a week made a huge difference. It’s also important to stay linked in to what’s happening in your industry. In an ideal world I would have gone back to work one day a week when my girls were around six months old.

Women are often told, ‘You can have it all, just not all at the same time.’ What are your thoughts on this sentiment as it pertains to women juggling work and family?
I’d have to agree with it! I think the idea of having it all, at the same time, is rubbish. It’s a constant compromise, and there’s a need to assess your priorities, understand what you’re willing to compromise on, and be OK with that.

Where do you see your career going next? What is one dream you have that you have yet to accomplish?
Digital disruption is rapidly changing the landscape of business which makes financial services an exciting space to work in. My next move will either be taking on more challenges in the industry or returning to my first love, property. Whether that’s a role with an architectural firm or an organisation like Lendlease or Mirvac I’m not sure.

My to-do list of dreams is long, but buying and renovating a boutique property block and travelling around Australia are close to the top.

How do you stay sane with the juggle? What is your way of coping when you find yourself frustrated, overwhelmed or burned out? How do you treat yourself?
I go to a guided meditation class once a week. If I don’t leave the house I know I’ll get distracted and find some reason to put it off. Exercise also plays a big part in keeping me sane. My husband and I are both keen cyclists, but getting out on the road is tricky these days so I’ve compromised by setting up my bike at home and I’ll jump on that a couple of times a week. I might get my nails done once in a while, but that’s about it for pampering. I might need to build something into my schedule!

Favourite time of the day is … around 5.30AM when the house is still quiet.

Instagram sites that inspire you … I’ve just joined Instagram so I’m still exploring!

I’m happiest when … we’re all together on a Sunday morning planning how we’ll spend our day.

I’m addicted to … chocolate!

Favourite wardrobe staple for work … a black dress.

Favourite wardrobe staple for weekend … active wear and runners.

Heels or flats? Flats.

Discover more Real Stories from our Circle In community HERE.

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