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A headache-free plan to financial independence: Lauren's story

Published 1 June 2018

Lauren Jane shows how paying off debt, building a business, buying insurance and boosting your super can all be done without a headache, reports Sylvia Pennington.

Building a business

After spending her twenties working casually in hospitality to fund her travels to Bali, Argentina and dozens of destinations in between, 32-year-old marketer and entrepreneur Lauren Jane is now boosting her super balance with additional monthly contributions.

A late starter at university, Jane graduated from the University of the Sunshine Coast with a Bachelor of Business in 2014, and has spent the past four years working nine-to-five at Brisbane fintech start-up Tappr.

Her complementary ‘five-to-nine’ gig sees her spruiking her Inactive Wear range of parody singlets online and at sporting events.

After starting full-time work, Jane made the decision to get her finances in order and begin planning for the future.

“I thought, ‘I better sort this out, because time’s getting on and it’s important to take care of your money and be in control,’” she says.

“I had a pretty cruisy time in my twenties, but a very unstable income to go with it. After I left university it felt like it was time to get on board with things like budgeting and saving money and sorting out my super – and seeing if I could catch up by contributing a bit more, to give myself additional security.”

Getting sorted

Consolidating a number of inactive super accounts accumulated over a decade of waitressing and bartending gigs in her hometown of Noosa was the first item on Jane’s to-do list.

“I had something like 17 different accounts, with anywhere from $500 to $1500 in each,” she says. “It was all dribs and drabs, and I didn’t keep track of them. As a young person, I just didn’t care – often I didn’t know what I’d be doing the next month, or where in the world I’d be the next year – I certainly wasn’t thinking about retirement!”

With the help of her financially savvy mother, Jane set about transferring the stray sums into a single account, giving her a consolidated balance of approximately $20,000.

“I had a rough idea of what I had, because luckily I’d had all the statements sent to the family home,” she says. “We did our research on which account provided the best return and suited my circumstances, and rolled it all into that.”

Australians aged 30 to 34 had an average superannuation balance of $38,386 in 2015–16, according to The Association of Superannuation Funds of Australia.

Contributing extra

Shortly afterwards, Jane began augmenting her compulsory super contribution of 9.5 per cent with a voluntary contribution of 2.5 per cent. She plans to up this to 5 per cent as her income increases.

“I’m still trying to pay off my student debt and cover things like health insurance, as well as building my business, so I can’t put in that much at the moment,” she explains, “but I thought I’d start somewhere.

“I’m not in the position to invest in the property market right now, and so super was, for me, the path of least resistance – something that was already happening which I could add to without hassles."

“I just really wanted to begin focusing on growing my wealth long term. There are a lot of get-rich-quick schemes out there, but all the books I’ve read and podcasts I’ve listened to have pointed to superannuation or property as the best long-term investments."

“I’ve set up a direct debit so my contributions are transferred automatically each payday, and that way I don’t notice or miss the money at all.”

‘Let’s just start off small’

ANZ financial adviser and fellow Millennial Daniel Thompson says Jane’s home-grown strategy is a sound one that will stand her in good stead several decades hence. He advises other young Australians to take a leaf out of her book.

“That’s one of the things I try to champion with the under-35s,” he says, “committing to that small additional super contribution – 1 or 2 per cent of their income before tax, or a dollar amount like $20 a week.

“Let’s just start off small, build the savings habit with a few dollars you’re not going to miss – say, $13 or $14 a week out of your after-tax pay – and over time that can gradually be built on.

“Thanks to the miracle of compound interest, if that’s all people do for the rest of their lives they’re going to be a lot better off in 30 or 40 years’ time.”

Jane agrees. Don’t think about it; just do it, she counsels.

“You have to start from wherever you’re at,” she says. “Making those voluntary contributions to my super actually makes me feel quite empowered. As your financial literacy grows, you realise there’s lots more to learn but you’re able to start thinking, ‘OK, yep, I’ve got this.’”

Follow Lauren's steps to financial independence

  1. Starting full-time work is a good time to get finances in order. But you can do it anytime.

  2. Multiple accounts? Research which one is best for you and roll all your super into it.

  3. Start off small in adding extra contributions to super. You won’t miss $10 to $15 a week.

  4. Direct debits on pay day are an easy no-fuss way to make contributions.

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