Rediscovering the Joy of Money: Interview with Kate McCallum and Julia Newbould

Friday 19 Feb 21 3:56pm

Women - both here in New Zealand and around the world - face greater obstacles when it comes to achieving financial independence than men. They also have different approaches to money, something that joint authors of The Joy of Money: the Australian woman's guide to financial independence, Kate McCallum and Julia Newbould, have acknowledged.  

Between the two of them they have a wealth of experience in the Australian finance industry. Julia is a financial writer and commentator who's currently editor-at-large at Money Magazine. Kate is a financial adviser and director of award-winning firm Multiforte Financial Services.  

Kate and Julia recently sat down with the FSC’s Clarissa Hirst for our 2021 Get In Shape Advice Summits to chat about their book and the lessons financial advisers can learn from it. Watch or read the full interview below. 

Q: Could you tell us a bit about how you got into the industry?  

Kate: So I have to confess that my journey to financial advice was rather meandering - and  somewhat accidental - but I’m delighted that this is where I’ve landed fifteen years later.  

I started out working in major corporations and doing some consulting work, and I was looking for an industry that I felt that I could not only have a good career in, but also where I could make an impact and be able to do things that for me were sustainable over my lifespan of working. I ended up in financial services working with State Street.  

Then I was fortunate enough to move into the banks in Australia working in wealth management and did a whole range of different roles, from product management through to strategy to client relationship management, and then finally landed in the financial advice business in a strategy role. I kept looking at it from the outside in thinking “actually, I think this is a place I’d really like to be and I think it’s a place where I could use these skills that I’ve accumulated to make a real impact on people’s lives”, and so that was the prompt fifteen years ago to start Multiforte.  

Julia: I originally studied economics because I wanted to get into stockbroking, and I loved the money markets. But when I came out it wasn’t a great time, and also I wasn’t that keen on working in that industry anymore - I wanted to get into PR. Everybody said you need to have a writing background, so I went and did a cadetship and started writing for a local paper. After that, I edited a number of different titles and then I went travelling and when I came back I kind of married the two of finance and journalism.  

I wrote for Financial Planning Magazine and for Super Review. Then I worked in Morningstar for a while and for other local publications and decided I wanted to get onto the other side and be part of a product provider. I'd kind of found out where people really needed the help, and a lot of it was in financial education. So I worked at BT for a while and then found that wasn't what marketing was all about really - they just helped when the product was already designed, so that's when I came back into journalism and that's taken me to Money Magazine, which is a great publication here. It's very well read and there's a lot of interaction with our readers and ourselves, so we feel that we're always in the know of what they're interested in, and that's a great place to be right now. 

Q: What are some of the lessons you've learned in your careers?  

Kate: The first of them is do the work. I'm a big believer in get the evidence, do the research, don't guess. So really find out what's going on and be prepared to sometimes go outside your comfort zone in doing that.  

I think there's an important lesson in really extending yourself and that means being curious about things, trying things that are new, exploring areas that perhaps are uncomfortable, and growing your skillset. That's been an important part of my career. 

I think it's really important to nurture your network, so people are really important to me. That's really about building a good base of people who you have connections with, and some of them are product providers, many of them are advisers and other professionals in our community. And then being generous. Being generous with your time, helping other people along. Some of the young advisers in our community are really passionate about making sure that I have time for them. I refer clients to them, and just make sure that we have a thriving advice industry through that.  

Probably the last thing is be really discerning with your energy. This is about picking what you're going to spend your time doing, saying no to things that take you further away from your goals, and then saying “yes, absolutely!” to the things that bring you closer towards them and help you feel fulfilled and grow as an individual and as an adviser. 

Julia: One of the biggest lessons I've learnt in the finance world is a lot of it is dependent on jargon, and that really excludes a lot of people who feel that they can't keep up with the ideas and can't keep up with their finances just because they don't understand what professionals are speaking about. One of my passions is to cut the jargon and bring it to people in ways that they can understand, because we're all better off when people are better financially able. 

Joy of Money jargon Julia Newbould

One of the other lessons is it's not always the people who are not doing well who need help. There are often people who are doing very well but they don't quite know how well they're doing, and they're still very stressed about their finances. Meeting both of those needs of those who don't really understand and those who are doing well but aren't sure of it is important as well. 

Joy of Money Julia Newbould

Q: How did your collaboration on The Joy of Money come about? 

Julia: Well we often found that we were at the same events because we were drawn to the same sorts of subjects, like helping women with their finances, because women are - both here and in New Zealand - behind men in both the pay gap, which I believe is around 10% there at the moment. Also we retire with less generally, and we're just a little bit less confident than men to do things with our finances. So we both kind of decided that we wanted to do something about it and so we would meet for lunch and discuss ways that we thought we could help people. 

Kate: And at one of those lunches, I was sitting there in complete frustration because I'd just run a series of seminars. I just said to Julia “you know, I feel like all of this stuff that we're trying to do that's really innovative - we're just not getting the cut-through and I think we're gonna have to go old-fashioned and write a book.” And Julia just went "I'm in!" and that was it, that was the beginning.  

Coming back to what I said earlier about trying things that are new and being prepared to do things that are outside your comfort zone, neither of us had written a book before, even though we're both quite comfortable writing and quite comfortable with financial concepts. And so it was just like well, yeah actually let's give this a go. Let's take this project on. 

Q: How much further do you think we need to go to get women to achieve financial independence? And how do we go about doing that?  

Kate: I think it's one of those perennial questions. It's kind of a destination question and I think it's a journey we're always going to be on. Whether it's men or women, helping people achieve financial independence is just something that's a little bit like world peace - we just need to keep tackling it and the moment we take our eye off the ball, we're just going to go backwards. It's about being quite creative and innovative about that.  

Joy of Money Kate McCallum financial independence

In writing the book our intention was not to solve the financial independence problem, because we think that the joy of money is rather a brilliant book and we've certainly had plenty of positive feedback. But even if we could get a copy of The Joy of Money into every individual's hands, they’re still not going to be financially independent, because they've still got to engage and they've still got to find their pathway through.  

The purpose of the book and seminars and blogs and all of these other things that we as advisers typically can do, they're just part of the on-ramp. As Julia said before, a big part of it is let's strip the jargon, let's create a really comfortable place where people can take one small step that's going to have a big impact. And the more that we can just pull them along those small steps, the closer that we can get them to then seeking financial advice and making some really positive decisions.  

Julia: And it's not just the jargon but it's the way that women engage with their money that's also quite different. We feel that women don't talk about money as a discrete item, it's about the lifestyle that they want to achieve. It's about buying the house that they want to, sending their children to private schools or living with holidays or whatever it is, but it's not just about money. When you converse with a woman typically about money, it's a more holistic conversation. That helps connect with women, but it also helps advisers learn how to connect with women. When I was working with Stella Network, it was to try and get more women into the financial planning industry so that women seeking advice felt comfortable that someone else on the other side of the table understood what they were going through and how to communicate it with them. 

Q: What are some of the lessons that financial advisers can take from your book?  

Julia: Listen to the clients and understand what their values and goals are, because if you don't get in on that bottom rung, you won't get anywhere with the client, because they're not engaged, they're not interested in anything else that you can offer them. It's all about you've got to have that connection and you've got to have that understanding of what that person's really come to see you about. 

Kate: One of the key pieces of feedback or response that we've had to The Joy of Money is "wow, I opened the book and I was expecting that you were going to take me through a whole bunch of spreadsheets and numeric stuff, and instead what you've done is you've really connected with me as a person and made me think about my life.”  

To put that in different language, we deliberately designed the book to be human-centered, not money or investment-centered. And so again it's a way of making sure that people are engaging because if it's about them and their life and their life choices and money is just this support actor, then they're far more likely to actually continue to use the book and engage.  

The other thing that for advisers I would say has been a real lesson for me from the response to The Joy of Money has been how much people have valued the section on really identifying your core values and those of your partner if you're part of a couple. And then doing your goals and priorities exercise. The reminder for me is that I've often done that with clients in an in-depth way when we first start working together, but I might not revisit that for a few years. What it's prompted me to do is actually to raise that with clients more frequently.  

The other thing that's really important is not to be afraid to take clients through some of the areas that otherwise might make them feel a little bit uncomfortable. Julia and I in the book have worked very hard to come up with ways of talking about the things that people don't talk about. So whether it's death or disability or divorce - which we call the three Ds - but to make those things more accessible for clients and more palatable.  

Q: What advice would you have for advisers here in New Zealand who are wanting to bring more joy into the lives of their clients?  

Kate: For clients, I think one of the best things that we can do is help them discover the joy in their own lives. And we can do that again through going back and talking to them about what it is that they value the most and helping them to then understand how they might align their goals with the things that are of greatest value. And when they find that joy I think it's super rewarding because it's not about us imposing ideas on them or imposing strategies on them. If they've actually come up with those things themselves, our job then is to help them get the money to support them achieving those outcomes, and dealing with some of the challenges that come along the way.  

Joy of Money Kate McCallum

As I said before, I've been doing a lot more of these values and goals sessions with clients and I had one just last week. The back story is that the client is a couple and she's facing a particular challenge with a potential redundancy. I'd done some financial modelling - I'd provided that to them before Christmas, but what I said to them was instead of focusing on the numbers as the basis for the decision-making, let’s have a goals discussion. 

By the time we had finished the conversation, which took about two hours, we'd talked about this pivot in their lives and when they felt in flow and what bold moves they could make in the next ten years. Some of those things were just so exciting and they were things they hadn't thought about before. My role as the adviser was just to prompt them into thinking about some things that were really different but really fulfilling for them. I had an email that evening just saying how blow away amazing and unexpected it was and how it's opened up these amazing new possibilities for the next ten years for them.  

I can honestly say - and I'm sure that people listening will know exactly how I feel when I talk about this - but it gives me goosebumps, because I know that I've shifted that couple's life. They're going to have a better life over the next ten years just because of that conversation and being prepared to focus on helping them to discover the joy.  

Julia: A lot of advisers don't realise their value, and because they don't realise they're not communicating it well with clients and potential clients. Clients who already see the adviser know what they can offer, but it's those people outside who haven't sought advice that maybe have been squirreling away their money but working really hard and don't know when they can take their foot off the accelerator because they're doing okay. To have someone help them understand what their finances actually look like and how that will play out into the future can be such an incredible relief.  

Joy of Money Julia Newbould financial advisers

There's also so much information that advisers know that they assume other people know, but we don't. Anyone who's going through an insurance application for example - advisers do it all the time, you kind of know all the traps and tips and so on. The value that you can provide in helping us is incredible, and I think that always communicating that with clients is important and with those other people who could be clients, whether you talk to them through radio or through a podcast or through your own website or through articles that you have posted.  

Kate: I've got a number of clients that often relay to me that they tell their friend "my financial adviser's telling me to spend my money!" And they just laugh because the whole view of us as advisers is that we're about putting the brakes on, and we have to shake it up, because sometimes we're saying actually no, you guys are so well provided for, you've done such a good job of saving, my job is to help you make the most of it and to protect it and help you guide it towards achieving your goals. But hey you know what, you can actually put the accelerator on, you can go and take that overseas trip - well you can't at the moment - but at some point in the future hopefully you can! But you can buy the new car, you can afford to give your kids a kickstart, and that I think is a very joyful thing as well.  

So taking a lot of the concern away because quite often clients have really unfounded concerns, and so if we can again do the work, give them the evidence that things are going to be okay, and help them navigate through some of these complex decisions without getting stuck in a bind, I think there's an enormous amount of benefit that we as advisers and other related professionals, particularly when we work together, can all add.  

Julia: And on that point too, people often feel really guilty if they haven't necessarily taken all the advice they were taken the previous year and they might feel too guilty to come back or that they've done something wrong and that their adviser's going to rouse on them. We've tried to make people not feel guilty with the book. We said “this is where you are, don't worry about what's happened in the past, you're starting from today. Let's see what the best is that you can achieve from now.”  

Q: What would you suggest for advisers that are feeling inspired to get out there and spread the joy of money? 

Julia: You have to do what you're comfortable with. If you're comfortable writing a book then go ahead and do so. A book is a big challenge for some people, but it might be a smaller challenge to write articles for a local paper, or just to be in touch with the media who might use you as a contact on certain subjects that's your specialty. Or write a blog that comes from your website or use Twitter or whatever it is that you're comfortable in. If you're comfortable speaking do a podcast or do videos.  

Also make sure that the subjects you're writing about are ones that you're really passionate about. You've heard that Kate and I are very passionate about helping women, but if you're someone who's passionate about helping people who have gone through a redundancy or a divorce or whatever else it might be or helping single parents, that might be the way to go. Get into those areas where you know that you want to help and that you have got the ability to do so. 

Kate: You also need to understand that segment or niche that you're writing for. Where do they seek information? How are they best going to get on board on this on ramp that we've talked about? Because there’s no point in going and preparing a podcast for a bunch of people who don't listen to podcasts. So it's a bit of a marketing exercise.  

My advice to many of the advisers, particularly if you're sort of thinking oh gosh, how would I even start, just start with something small that you think will have an impact, and it might just be as Julia said, an article in the local paper or ring your local radio station and just get an interview. 

Joy of Money Kate McCallum start small

I think it's just about getting started and doing what suits your audience, and certainly back to that whole notion of nurturing your networks, the book wouldn't have ever made it into people's hands on its own. You have to have a network of people who'll help you with distribution, whether it's the media or other organisations who might be interested in telling people about it.  

If you're interested in purchasing The Joy of Money: the Australian woman's guide to financial independence, you can order it online at bookdepository.com

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