Once upon a time life was far more predictable. There was a well-trod path laid out in front of us and everyone understood what was expected. We would finish school, find a job, marry, buy a house and have children, at which time the wife would of course stop working. Meanwhile the husband would work for the one company and retire at an appropriate age, accept a gold watch and receive the old age pension.
It was like a roadmap, with each event rolling out in a predictable order.
Today, this 1950’s fairy tale has been exposed as just that: a fantasy. The concept of ‘a job for life’ is extinct and most of us will actively seek out not just different jobs but different career paths at least once in our working life. It’s not just in the world of work that things have changed. We now anticipate there will be more than one partner for each of us and the term family includes couples with single children, single parents, child-free couples, childless couples, gay couples, friendship groups and more.
There is also a growing awareness you don’t have to own your home and a growing suspicion there may not be an old age pension to rely on when many of us finally reach retirement age. An age that is moving further away as governments scramble to find the funds to support an ageing population. We’re also witnessing a growing movement of people who are keen to seize the day, live for the moment and seek out experiences above all else. The primary focus for many of us is becoming how to enjoy the here and now and to let the future take care of itself, because we can’t predict what three years’ time will look like, never mind 30.
Sure, today’s stories allow for more freedom and opportunities than the stories of yesteryear, but the reality is, if you’re not making conscious decisions particularly when it comes to your finances, modern society can also be an extremely perilous time.
That’s because with easy credit, the ability to spend 24/7, an unwillingness to be tied down, more uncertainty, more choices and less regard for future security, there is a strong possibility many of us will wake up one day and realise the ugly truth: we had a fabulous time for a period in our lives, but the rest of our time isn’t going to be particularly desirable. In short, we’ll find ourselves fabulous but broke.
I don’t know about you, but I’m not interested in being fabulous for a year or even a decade. I want my finances to give me enough options and choices so I can live in a way that brings happiness and fulfilment for the entirety of my life. The challenge therefore is to ensure we are making the most of whatever situation we choose or find ourselves in, for however long we may be there. To not simply press pause until we get to the next stage – because there is no longer a traditional next stage. Instead to be truly present and make great financial decisions for wherever we happen to find ourselves – not only for today but for the future. To become mindful with our lives and with our money.
That’s why we I believe, no matter where we are at in life, we need to seek out financial resilience. Now, financial resilience might not sound sexy or exciting, but it means wherever you end up in life you are able to land there without stress, worry and more importantly, with a whole host of options available to you.
Financial resilience is about creating a lifestyle that is about more than simply being fabulous in the moment, but broke next week. It encourages you to have the means to adapt and thrive, no matter what chapter you are at in life and no matter where your life takes you.
Of course, to develop financial resilience you need to understand what you have to work with, to acknowledge where you are at and perhaps what you are unconsciously waiting for. It is more than believing your pay packet is large enough to pull you out of whatever hole you might find yourself in but instead it’s about working out what you want out of life and making a financial plan to get you there. And most importantly, to act on it.
Two of the things I most enjoy about living in the age in history we do are the choices we’re able to make and the freedoms we enjoy. What is important is to ensure we don’t enjoy those choices and freedoms, only to discover further down the track our options are diminished because of the unconsciously bad financial moves we made along the way.
Whatever your story, the most important thing you can do is to become the author of one of the details you can control within it: your finances. That way, no matter what type of story you find yourself in, you may not be financially buffeted, but you can at least be financially ready for every page-turning moment of it.
Melissa Browne is an author and serial entrepreneur. She is CEO of the award-winning accounting and advisory firm A&TA (Accounting & Taxation Advantage), CEO of the financial planning business for 28-48 year olds who want to financially grow up The Money Barre and Director of Business at the long-day Preschool, Thinkers,inq. She has written three books, More Money for Shoes, Fabulous but Broke and her most recent, Unf*ck your Finances. Melissa also writes a fortnightly Money column for the Sydney Morning Herald & Melbourne’s The Age and is a regular media commentator, writing and speaking for everyone from Cosmopolitan to CEO Magazine to Weekend Sunrise to Triple J. In 2016 she was named one of the Financial Review’s 100 Women of Influence.