For Lauren McCurry, money is not just a dirty word. It’s a scary, anxiety-inducing one, too. Here’s how she started to take back the reins on her financial wellness, one arduous Xero reconciliation at a time.
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Some people can perform a flawless cut crease ombre eyeliner look without a dusting of fallback.
Some people have such a glorious equity-fuelled grip on their finances that they can (probably!) sleep easy at night.
Of these laudable three talents: I possess none. The third one affects my mental health and happiness most significantly.
I find money, numbers, and finances really, really hard.
This financial illiteracy can't be pegged down simply to nature or nurture; it’s both.
I’m not confident with math and had special permission from my high school to replace these classes with additional English study from year nine.
My dad, a strong advocate for the nobility of financial control, would grimace with frustration at my lack of care – for learning more about money, for spending mindfully, and for confidently comprehending what ‘tax,’ ‘GST,’ and ‘overdraw fees’ actually mean.
The wisdom of my early thirties has allowed me to realise that when I see money – I know the stuff it can buy.
And, because I cherish my worldly possessions and the process of acquiring them more than anything else in my world – my pocket money and paychecks have always appeared as something not to be spent, but exchanged for something I liked much more.
I don’t really like money, but I like what I can buy with it. Being a scholar of instant gratification means I feel strongly that more tactile joy exists in a world full of beautiful stuff, not future security in my bank account.
This means my attitude on money is a hazy yet heady combination of nihilism, irresponsibility, and stubbornness. Definitely, also, fear.
This mentality meant I often had very little, even today. When I started my own business during the pandemic, I was essentially running blind.
Now I am living in NYC – both a luxury and a self-inflicted economic heist – it’s almost comical to me how hard and long I work and how little I have to show for it.
I know millions of people worldwide work and save extremely hard. Still, systemic biases prevent them from achieving their aspired level of prosperity, where the main thing stopping me is my mindset.
I spoke to a few friends from near and far about some simple steps that helped them feel more in control of their finances:
“Do a little bit of financial admin every day… maybe after lunch when a wave of post-focaccia endorphins hits you. Taking little steps often means you never have to run up the hill in one go and lose your breath.”
“I take a few hours every month to run through all the subscriptions I am mindlessly paying for, not using; and hit unsubscribe. Often these fees can add up to over $100 a month, aka the money I would much rather spend on a deep-tissue massage. Or rent.”
“Like everyone, especially freelance creatives, putting aside the money you owe in taxes is painful at best and soul-destroying at worst. Try to rejig your relationship with this reality, and don’t account for that percentage of your cheque as viable income. Instead, bury it as far under your mattress as possible and pat yourself on the back come tax season.”
“I invest in a friendly and clever accountant to help me do things that I can’t. Money is complicated, and it’s genuinely relieving to find a person or organisation that respects my level of understanding and speaks to me on eye level. This year, I didn’t feel anxious about my tax return for the first time. That’s worth the investment for me.”
“If you start a business, try and get your financial systems in place as soon as possible. Not only will it make your admin easier, but you will also benefit from the confidence of taking yourself and your services seriously. It means so much.
Also, talk about money with your peers when the time is right. It’s complex; we’re about to enter another recession, and the pandemic made cash extremely tight globally. Opening up a dialogue to this reality has made me feel less isolated and allowed me to learn from those in a similar tax bracket and creative industry. It’s tough to detract viable advice from a The Age economic expert with three investment properties, right?
And finally, archive your receipts. The mindful act of accounting for everything I’ve spent – on my business or my wardrobe – starkly reminds me that I have much to be grateful for and much more equity than I believe.”