Let’s get on F.I.R.E. | Financially fuelling your life and business
Today we are here with Batya Shulman, and Batya is a chartered Accountant and licensed Financial Advisor, with over 23 years International Banking and Financial Services experience. Batya was previously a CFO at an Australian bank prior to moving into wealth management. As a full-time working mother to three young kids that he understands that women often have the best of intentions in managing their finances, but often put themselves last. Batya is passionate about empowering, educating on financial wellbeing and to be a trusted advisor that works with individuals, families and business owners to reach their long term financial goals. So welcome Batya to our podcast.
Thank you. Thanks for having me.
Welcome. It's so good to have you here. This sounds all so interesting, but in your own words, sort of, can you tell us a little bit about your personal journey and where it's taken you and how it got you to where you are today?
Thank you. And thank you Iva for having me. So I was, I was born in South Africa. When I finished school, and I moved to university in Australia. And that was the beginning of the journey of really understanding finances. I led a very normal childhood, you know, very sheltered. And when I moved to Australia my grandmother gave me a 30 US dollar traveller’s cheque. Now, this tells you how long ago it is! But I was so proud and I remember I went on campus with a bank and I went and opened up my first bank account. And as a deposited my $30, then suddenly I realized, this $30 is not going to last very long. And that was the beginning of my financial independence journey. I realized very quickly that I needed to earn money and make money so that I could live. And you know, I just turned 18, and it was the perfect time to learn. I learned that yes, I had to go to study at university,, but I needed to work, so very early I had three jobs: I was a waitress, I worked in a muffin shop, and I worked in an optometrist on Sundays doing data entry and I managed to saved up to buy my own first car.
That is such a huge milestone for anyone you know, it's such an accomplishment,
It was. I mean, if I look back, it was a really old Toyota Corolla matted yellow, probably very ugly in today's terms but I was so proud!
But it was yours!
It shows you, it showed me that if I set a goal, and that I work towards it, that we can move up and you can reach it. And from that day, my whole life is about setting goals and working hard towards them. I graduated from university, I became a tax accountant, I worked for Ernst & Young, I moved to New York. Then I moved back to Australia. And then I found myself in Tokyo, Hong Kong and now Singapore. And throughout my journey, you know, living in different countries, experiencing different cultures. I definitely very much to, again, understand what my values and goals were and what I was trying to achieve, and making sure that along my life journey. I was on track to achieve that
And Batya, why do you think that is that so many women don't manage their finances or have investments you know like it's usually something that we don't really have front and center for the most part. Have you found that there's a reason for this? Is it a pattern that we fall into? Is it upbringing, or is it something else that you feel might be at the core issue of why that is usually the trend?
Okay, do you know Iva, that 61% of women would rather talk about death than money? Really. Recent research has shown that women's number one regret is not investing more money? And you want to know that women are actually faced with so many challenges. On average, women earn 22% less than men.
So that is still a big gender gap.
Yeah, it is a big gender gap. And you want to know something else? On average, women live five years longer than men. So, we actually have to be working harder to make our money work for us. But, then back to your question is, What do you think is the root cause of why women don't invest? And it comes down to I think confidence, you know 72% of women show that they don't feel confident about selecting investments on their own. 67% of woman share that they don’t feel misderstood by their financial advisor, and 63% of women show that don't have enough knowledge to plan for retirement. So
Those are very sobering statistics.
Yes, these stats really concern me. So it comes down to, what I would say is lack of confidence, lack of having someone to talk to. Look finance and investing can be complicated. You know the technical jargons the acronyms. But I think that the industry is partly to blame because they haven't been inclusive of inviting women to join this conversation of breaking it down into simple concepts.
It still seems like it's a boys’ club and I’m thinking on your end, because you've been part of that, right? of that culture, I'm sure that you have lived through your share of, you know this, boys’ club culture and how on the exterior or on the fringe, women tend to be. Just from that perspective right, so that there's not that connection between anyone that can advise you in terms of finances because they're all men and tend to think or tick a certain way. Do you feel that that might be also, at the core?
Yes, it definitely is. Did you know that 57% of women ffind financial terminology confusing and difficult to make decisions? And if someone is talking to you in that jargon or acronyms is not so easy to understand. Of course, it will be confusing. So, because it's a very male dominated industry, woman may have felt, you know, insecure or, you know, not comfortable to go and speak to someone. So, things have to change. When I decided to become a financial advisor, it was the number one_my number one goal, was to start changing the conversation. Start empowering and educating women on financial wellbeing and that_ this is something that we have to put into our business. We have to start doing something.
Yeah, and it's true and especially, like, I mean, women, and then putting the business owner perspective into play right? If you are a small business owner I mean, your money the finances, they're like, pretty much the gas in your car that keeps the machine running so you need to have a certain level of understanding where that money is going to get you from especially not only as a woman but as now, a business owner. So you work with a really interesting acronym which is the F.I.R.E. acronym, and it stands for Financial Independence & Retire Early. So can you tell us a little bit more about that?
So F.I.R.E._I love it I love to associate that with women, so can we actually all have that little bit of F.I.R.E
Yeah, all fired up, that's for sure!
So what financial independence is, is the ability to have money that you live off. Okay, and it means not depending on working. Not depending on a salary, not depending on a husband, or man. “A man is not a plan.”
Okay, love that
Financial independence is being able to stand on your own two feet, and support yourself. Retire early, is, you know, we work so hard that one day when you want to stop working, you don't want to have to again rely on someone else. You want to be able to live the life that you want to live. So in order to get there, you have to start investing. You have to start making your money work for you. We are living in a very very low interest rate environment. And the cost of inflation, the value of money is actually going backwards. And if you leave your money in the bank, you're actually losing value, every single day. So, we have to make the money work for you and a lot of people think, oh I have to have millions of dollars to invest. That's how the rich get richer.
Yeah, that's right, it's true,
Did you know you can put just a thousand dollars away a month, or a hundred dollars away. Whatever you can afford. And the wonders of compound interest. Albert Einstein called compound interest, the eighth wonder of the world.
Yeah, if you understand that then invest it.
Yes. Yeah, that is true, I'm a huge fan of compound interest and of passive income in a way as well that's how I've structured my side of the business as well. And knowing that you know with the power of community and the work you put in as well if you put in a little bit so much more can come out of it at the end so yes, I'm a huge believer in that.
And Batya, for someone that has never invested before or gone that route, where is the good starting point for that?
Okay so how, anything to do for investing should be, what you are trying to achieve. So the number one thing that I always advise is: understand what your personal financial goals and objectives are, because, Iva, what you may want is something different from what Des might want, and it may be different to what I want. And what’s very important that I say to people when they come and see me: the first thing I ask them is if they have a FB account or an Instagram account. And in today's world, everyone said ‘yes, of course.’ And the next thing I say to them is ‘well please, forget about your Facebook account and your Instagram account and forget about all those fake photos, you know, that people may be posting, because that's their lies, not yours. Ladies, have you ever seen someone post a bad photo of themselves on Instagram? Just stop trying to want to live someone else's life- it's not real. So, what I say is ‘look within yourself and look what's important to you.’
Do you want to be investing, buy a property? Do you want to be investing to start a business? Do you want to be investing for your retirement or for your children's education? Understanding that it's very important. Because that’s going to tell you the timeline for investing.
Okay. All right,
Understanding your risk profile. Now some people may say, ‘oh what’s a risk profile?’ but do you know how much risk do you want to take? Are you very conservative? Are your medium conservative or are you happy to take a little bit more risk? You have to take a little bit more risk to make the money work for you.
Once you understand, you know, what are you trying to achieve? What is your timeline for investing? What is your risk appetite? Then you can start to kind of formulate a plan. Okay then what can I invest in? What are the different options? Anything that comes with investing, has a risk involved. Okay, so it's very important to understand, how much risk you want to take, what is the timeline, and make sure that you're well diversified. So, a lot of people, in fact today, I just came from a meeting where I met a lady and actually she started investing, and she put all her money in China tech, okay? Last month, China dropped significantly. And the poor lady has lost a lot of money.
It's that proverbial, don't put all your eggs in one basket,
Exactly right. Don't put all your eggs in one basket. The main things that favors investing is to diversify. Diversify as widely as you can. And you can diversify across the classes, across geographies, across different fund managers. Don't put all your eggs in one basket, is too much of a risk. So if you don't know where to start investing – do I buy shares, do I buy bonds, do I buy property? Seek professional advice. Don’t you ever Invest in something that you don't understand. I say to women, you know, generally if you want a new hairdresser, you ask all your friends where can you go to? There's no way to just going to go to any hairdresser right.
No, it has to be vetted, it has to be vetted by someone
Exactly! The same goes with investments- speak to a friend, who has she spoken to? Do research, speak to multiple people. Make sure you find someone you can trust and get the advice that is going to work in your best interest.
A lot of us as well are now overseas, we're away from home. We are moving every couple of years in our case, probably every two or three years, we move countries. What advice would you give when we want to start investing then, like, how to start just because we are like citizens of the world, totally global, we don't have any set roots at the moment. What do we do?
Okay. Investing if you are moving homes or you change jobs or you may have another baby, doesn't mean you have to stop investing. Your investment can stay with you on your journey. So, for generally for global citizens of the world as they invest in, you know, invest with a company that you can continue to invest with them as you move. Because investment should take medium, to long term view. And just because you move country doesn't mean you should start on a new investment, your investment can stay there. And most, you know, most shares or funds you can hold a global citizen. Yes, there will be tax implications. Okay, depending on what country you go to there may be tax implications.
Also, a lot of investments may have exit clauses or, you know withdrawal charges. So, what I encourage people to do, is to understand what you're investing in and understand, okay if I invest now, and I move country can I continue to invest? Okay, what would the implications be? What are the tax impact If I change country? But generally your investments, you know, I've been investing most of my life, and I've moved all over the world, and most of my investments have stayed in place, okay, as long as it still works for me and as long as it still works towards my goals. There was no need to liquidate it. Really understanding your personal circumstances.
Yeah, because I think that's a lot of the fear that women have-maybe not only women in this case, but what does that imply? Because we are moving, we are expatriates, most of us here and within this community, to do something like that, when we're talking mid to long term where we don't even know where we're going to be in two years’ time. So yeah, that's definitely good to know just to find definitely seek advice and seek professionals that know what they're doing and how to guide you because you're also not expected to know everything, right, it's leave it to the experts.
And within that line Batya, of starting a conversation with a financial advisor, what are some things that female entrepreneurs should look for in a financial advisor? I know that you mentioned, you know, good referrals, of course, you know people that come highly recommended. But when starting the conversation, whether to continue the relationship where you’re really stepping into something and you say yes I want to formally work with you. What are some of good signs to look out for that you would give us advice on?
Very good, Iva. And you know they let the financial advisors out there decide where to park your money. But what can you do is find someone that you can form a relationship with. And when I take on a client. I only take on a client that I can get along with. Someone that I can help, because otherwise I'm going to fail. If I don't, if I have a personality clash with someone, then that's not the right fit for me. I am going to take them on as a client, so it should work, both ways. We should make sure that the person who's going to be managing your money, who's giving you advice is someone that you can trust, someone who talks to you and speaks the same language as you. Don't speak to someone who's going to be using all these fancy acronyms and you don't understand what they're talking about. Someone who's transparent about the fees and charges. Always ask, what are your fees, how much do you get paid?
That is, that is such an awkward question for a lot of people to ask isn't it? To someone else right? What is your cut or how is this structured for you in terms of commission and all of that, because there's very negative connotations that somehow it's not polite, or is rude to ask those questions?
Oh forget about being rude. This is your money. You need to know how the person is giving you advice, how they are remunerated. Because, they should have your best
Interest at heart.
Interest. That's right. And again, that's one thing that stops a lot of people it's like the, I need to pay now someone else to take care of my money. Let me try to do it myself. But then in the long run, in that process, it's actually, that's dangerous because you don't really know what you're doing so you better seek help and exactly like you said you have to have someone that you can trust that that works in your favor to get you where you want to be because at the end, that's where they will go as well.
What I say to a lot of people is, there's real value in advice, but something that you should look for is what I call net performance. Okay, so I'll give you an example: would you rather pay a 1% fee and get a 3 or 4% return, or would you rather pay a 2% fee, and get a 10% return? What is the net return? Okay, so that's the first thing to think about what is your net return?
Second thing is: If I don't get someone to help me, can I do it myself? Will I do it myself? Will I continuously monitor it? Do I have the right level of expertise? Okay. And what I say is ‘Yes, I'll get paid- no one, no one does anything for free.’ Okay, I have to earn a living, but I think there's value in what I do. I know that I do an outstanding job servicing my clients. That I do an outstanding job making money for my clients, and they are very happy to pay me for it. Because it's way better than doing nothing or sitting in the bank,
Where you're losing money as you very shockingly said at the beginning of the podcast. The way, the way the financial panorama is at the moment, putting money in the bank is not really the best of ideas.
Gosh no, and inflation is sky high at the moment. So, do you know that people say to me, it’s interesting, they say ‘I’m super conservative’ and I say, ‘If you’re super conservative, why would you leave your money in the bank?’ You’re losing money every day. If you conservative, then put it into a well-diversified portfolio that’s gotten probably more funds and you know, equity, far better than leaving it in the bank, that's being conservative, in fact you’re losing money every day
That's such an incredible mindset shift, because he has been ingrained for so long, I think, for our generation, you equate money in the bank, it's safe, somehow like that's where money should go, somehow, some way, it tends to be a little bit of the of the old paradigm. But as you're saying, Batya, if you really want to be on F.I.R.E., according to your acronym, you do have to start thinking about okay how do I go about achieving this early retirement and investing is the way to gain that freedom.
And you know it’s so empowering, Iva, when I see people and they just put a little money away, just a little bit and to see it grow, and your confidence starts to increase. And then you start to ask questions and gain knowledge and you feel so empowered by knowing wow look, I actually am doing something. I'm making my money work for me and I'm one step closer to reaching my goals. So
So many small business owners, entrepreneurs, mompreneurs they're talking about, I'm doing this to gain financial freedom. But then they say that it sounds wonderful, but then what does that entail? Financial freedom means it's a very, very, very long term vision, so you can be like okay once I've hit like the x x x dollar mark, that is when I have financial freedom but what return does that give you in the future where how is that sustainable? And how can that keep growing with you in the future? So but, what advice do you give to these moms or these business owners that come to you like I'm striving for financial freedom, and that they just don't know how to make that a sustainable part of their financial lives.
Okay, very good question Des. So I am one of those financial advisors that say don't invest all your money. You've got to, you've got to live life, you know, and you know if you want to go for a massage, if you want a beautiful handbag, that's what's important to you, go for it. Okay, you still need to live. So, the month that you should be investing, is the amount that is not impacting your life, that’s the amount you’re saving every month. So, a very good example say, I manage to save $10,000 a month. Okay, I'm a very good saver -I save $10,000 a month. I wouldn't invest $10,000 I would keep the money, the money for me maybe to go to the gym or whatever it is and. And then I say, well just put about 2,000 or 3000 or 1000 or whatever it is that you can afford to put away. The money that you investing in should not impact your life right now. And you will thank yourself one day. Now, I did when I was young, when I was in my early 30s, I started putting money away, $1,000, a month away. That's all I could afford. In my early 30s. And you know that if I continue to put $1,000 away for the next 30 years it'll grow to $1.8 million? Yeah, and you think that I'm getting a very conservative, average rate of return of 7%. So, you know, I'm thanking myself back to 15 years ago when I started investing. I'm already halfway to my journey.
That's amazing. Yeah,
My $1.8 million, and that does not impact my lifestyle at all. It's fun to run in the background. I still have a bank account, I still do what I want to do. Just know every month that I go look at my statement I go: ‘Wow, my money is really growing’ so that is financial freedom,
That is true and it's so empowering. It's so empowering. Definitely.
And I guess there's also that message to anyone that is thinking well that's great Batya that you were able to have that foresight, but what about me? I haven't done anything and now it seems like it might be too late. Too late, but it's never too late.
Never too late in the day, you know, depends on, the advice I gave would depend on personal circumstances but if you are say 60, and you want to retire in one year, probably I would say, yes a bit. But even if it’s 5-10 years, no, it's not too late to start doing something now, I hear it every day, don't do nothing. That's the worst possible thing you can do.
Don’t procrastinate, you can start doing something that's something better than nothing. So, what you would do is, you would understand your timeline for investing, and therefore you would invest in something that's appropriate for your timeframe, and your risk profile. And for some people, you know a lot of people say, you know I need to get this amount in 10 years’ time. I'm not a magician, I can't make magic, but we would have to understand what makes you have look at something what we can do, maybe pay kind of slightly a little bit more risk in the first two, three years. Just to give you that little bit of an uplift and the closer you get to your end goal, or as you get there, then you shift to something a little bit more conservative and more about then capital preservation. You need to have a strategy based on your age and your timeline, but doing nothing. Oh gosh, that’s the worst possible thing you can ever do.
Right. Yes, that's right.
And this is the part where having that find that that expertise guidance comes into play, because somebody can really point out all these markers to you and say, Have you thought about this, have you thought about that, things that you wouldn't have in your radar necessarily because you don't have the knowledge right you're not you don't know what you don't know, at the end of the day.
Right and I always say, there’s no such thing as a dumb question. Find someone you can talk to, someone who can help you, someone who can make you feel empowered. You know, it’s funny, every year, when it comes to New Year’s resolutions_ the number one year resolution by a woman is to lose weight. The second and I always tell people, I can't really help you with that I wish I could but I can’t.
That’s not my area of expertise.
And the number two New Year’s resolution is actually to get on top of their finances. I guess deep down everyone wants but lack of confidence is holding them back. Yeah, overcome that fear woman. Let's get on F.I.R.E, let's get on top of things and
let's do that.
And you will thank yourself one day, Wow, I feel so amazing for doing something.
Yeah, I think I'm in a quite probably common situation out there with women that I'm in, like, my family, my husband takes care of our finances. He's pretty much in charge, and does that, but I've a couple of years ago and I've started my own business with the goal of just being financially independent, standing on my own two feet because that's something what I want, what I need for my own identity. So, I want to do something for myself. So where do I start? What's like the first step that I take, separate from what we're doing as a family but me from my business and for me, I guess, yeah?
Well like I said, every day I speak to couples and individuals, and I speak to wives and husbands separately. But the advice would be the same. Start doing something for yourself, why not? You can make choices in life: you can do something, or you can do nothing. So, if you’re working harder and you’re making some money, buy a little investment fund. Some people in relationships, they'd like to share that with their husbands, and some people love to keep them privately. I respect both you know.
Yeah, that's really good.
Is your hard earned money- make it work for you,
That's right. And I know you do offer as well personalized one to one consultations right Batya to discuss these personal financial goals and objectives. So, I think I'm definitely going to give you a call. And, we'll definitely also put your details your email address in the show notes if there is a mom out there listening that says, That's it, I need to get started this is my day one, I need to start doing this for myself to get on top of it, so we'll put that all in the show notes,
And I love Batya that you also do workshops as well. I believe you have an upcoming workshop about financial empowerment and wellbeing, as well as other type of networking events, so we are also going to share the link in our show notes, but can you tell us a little bit about these workshops and are they open to anyone who would like to attend, or what are the further details so that people can know about them?
Yes. The financial empowerment wellbeing workshops pre COVID they were in person. I'm hoping that things will open up soon, I can hopefully do them more in person but I have done them on Zoom as well. Anyone can attend. And in this workshops, I'll give a range of different workshops but the financial power was one it's a very personalized one. And what I do is I help to think things through to take four critical steps to create a financial plan. And it's about thinking about your goals and your objectives. Run through very high level what a balance sheet is so you can understand your finances. We then, I go through the four steps that you should take into consideration. And then I provide what you need to do on an ongoing basis. So that workshop is really about an hour of your time but walking away like, wow, I have a plan. I can start doing something. So yeah, so more than more than welcome for anyone to attend. If I haven't got dates yet, for the next one, but I'm more than happy to put on a special one for your community if you would like.
That would be wonderful! Yes for sure we would love to look into that and share it with the community for a very, very special type of financial empowerment workshop just for the mom bosses abroad community we would love that.
Thanks so much for chatting with us today, it was definitely a very empowering conversation and it's definitely making me think a lot about things
Very sobering statistics for sure.
I know. So if you want to connect with Batya, you can find her on Instagram @Batyaj, and Facebook and LinkedIn. We'll put all of those links in the show notes so you can find her easily.
Thank you so much for being here with us today.
Thank you so much for hosting me today
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Batya is a chartered accountant and licensed financial adviser with over 23 years international banking and financial services experience. Batya was previously a CFO at an Australian Bank prior to moving into Wealth Management. As a full- time working mother to 3 young kids, Batya understands that women often have the best of intentions in managing their finances, but often put themselves last. She is passionate about empowering and educating on financial wellbeing and to be a trusted adviser that works with individuals, families and business owners to reach their long term financial goals.
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