Good morning, and happy Working Women Wednesday! Today I have an awesome interview with yet another amazing breadwinning mum (not mom today!) Cath from Get Money Wise. Cath reached out to me on Twitter in response to my call for breadwinning, six figure, or millionaire moms to share their stories – and I’m glad she did. This is my first interview with someone from Australia – maybe she knows my friend Enough Time To?
Just kidding! I know Australia is a huge place. My American geography isn’t quite THAT bad.
One note before we get started – my fellow American readers might not be familiar with the concept of “maternity leave cover”. You see, in the rest of the world where there’s more substantial maternity leave than the six weeks we get here, companies open up temporary positions to cover for women on leave. Since maternity leave can be six months or a year (possibly more?) companies have a need to temporarily fill the position. Hence “maternity leave cover”.
So without further ado, let’s meet Cath and hear more about her story.
Tell us about yourself!
I’m Cath and I am married, mid-thirties and a mum (Not a typo, we spell mom that way where I am from). I live with my husband and two young daughters in the suburbs of Sydney, Australia. When I am not at work, I spend a lot of time pretending to be a fairy, playing duck duck goose or cooking in the cubby house kitchen – all of my daughter’s current fave things to do. My husband as of this year is a stay at home dad.
During the week I work as a Senior Manager in Marketing and Sales, and I have mostly worked in financial services and travel. As I’ve progressed in my career I have moved into managing partnerships which is something I really enjoy doing. I have also just started my own personal finance blog, Get Money Wise, which I am having a lot of fun with. I’ve been really pleasantly surprised with how welcoming everyone is when you join the personal finance community, but it really makes sense to band together. Just like in my day job, two brands working together for a common cause is much more powerful than when done in isolation.
2. Let’s get some details – how much money do you make, and how long did it take you to get there? And are you a millionaire or are you on the way?
My salary is currently around $115,000 a year. I started my first marketing role 13 years ago, and have worked in five companies (which these days I don’t think is a lot). I chose after having my second daughter to find a new role which is nice and close to home so that I can spend more time with my family in the evenings instead of being stuck in traffic. So this put a little bit of a cap on my earning capacity for the moment, as the big salaries are offered in the heart of the City.
The answer to if I am a millionaire can get complicated depending which way you look at it. If you go with the simplest net worth calculation – that is assets minus liabilities – then yes we would be classed as millionaires. Our net worth at the end of March 2017 stands at $1,088,557. Some people prefer to calculate their net worth not taking into account the asset value of their primary residence. If we were to do that then our net worth would drop down by a fair amount. The reason we include it in our calculation is that for us it is not just where we live, it is also a rental property. We have set up so it is a dual income property so we rent out the self contained downstairs to help cover our mortgage costs.
It’s nice including the main residence in the calculation to get to the $1 million mark, but the reality is we are still holding a considerable amount of debt with our loan to value ratio being over 60%. So basically I call us the brokest millionaires as we are asset rich but cash flow poor.
3. How did you get started in the workforce?
When I first left school I was not 100% sure on what direction I wanted to go in, so I started an Economics degree. During my second year I discovered marketing and I just seemed to ‘get it,’ so I knew I had found my niche. Throughout my degree I worked casually in a call centre making bookings for a large car rental company. When I was about to finish up my studies a maternity leave cover position for a marketing coordinator role in the same company came up which I interviewed for and got the role.
4. How did you get from where you started to where you are now?
My first marketing job was very much a starting role and I stayed there 15 months before heading off on a holiday to Europe. I came back and found another role at a similar level, but in marketing for a financial services company. Whilst I was here I most definitely did progress in terms of responsibilities, but my salary barely moved. I worked there for over four years and this was when I learnt my first real career lesson – know your worth. A colleague kindly guides me to realise I was seriously undervaluing myself. We do this as women a lot, and I am forever grateful that I stood up and asked for more. This company chose not to come to the party with what I believed was a fair compromise to increase my salary in line with the market so I made the brave decision to leave.
The next role I landed was a 25% jump in my salary and the funny thing was the responsibilities of the job were no different, in fact almost less than what I had been doing before. This was another financial services job which I stayed in for 18 months and during that time was promoted to a more senior role with about 10% more money and good bonuses.
I move for a role in the travel industry that paid a similar wage to what I was already on. As I was keen to get a foot back into the industry the sideways move made the most sense for me. It is interesting that my career has gone through ebbs and flows of chasing the dollars compared to chasing what interested me.
I was in this job for over five years but this included two stints of maternity leave over around nine months off work each time. During this time my roles changed and I ended up moving out of just strictly marketing into more of a sales and relationship management role. This was where I cracked the elusive six figure salary that I had so craved earlier in my career. But it turns out the role I took on was not all it was cracked up to be. It was insanely demanding with clients based all over the world and because I was working ridiculous hours and had a one year old at home who didn’t know what sleep was, I turned into a pretty miserable person to be married to. I made the decision to leave and had another role offers to me for a travel management company, so I put in my resignation. Unexpectedly (but not unwelcomed) I found myself pregnant before starting the new role. I didn’t feel comfortable taking the new position knowing I would only be with them for another seven or so months so I had to be brave once again and ask for my job back and tell them I would be going on maternity leave again.
They were actually really supportive and happily allowed me to rescind my resignation and work up until a month before my second daughter was born. I left the door open to potentially return but I knew deep down my marriage would suffer too much if I returned.
And all that has led me to my current role, which I talk about a bit more in the next answer.
5. Where do you want to go in your career – and your financial life?
If you had asked me this about five years ago I would have said that I want to be a Sales and Marketing Director earning at least $200K a year working for a large multinational company. But since our daughter came along three years ago I realised that finding a balance between work and home life needed to become a priority.
I have always been career orientated and returning to work after kids was never a question, I wanted to do it. But when I made the decision not to return to the high stress job after my second daughter, I landed what is on paper the dream job. Close to home, six figure salary and a small team with lots of autonomy. But you know what? I still don’t love it. I want to love it, I should love it, but I just can’t for some reason.
So that has led my to my current career goal which I have finally discovered, I wanted to start my own marketing company and help small businesses. My husband has been saying I should do it for years but I guess I have been a bit apprehensive to take the leap.
In terms of my financial life, I have just started a blog that details our plan to retire by 2025. That will make me in my early forties. As we have four property in our portfolio if we are able to pay off all our mortgage debt in full we will earn enough rental income to cover our living expenses. It’s a big lofty goal and our debt is in the vicinity of over 7 figures so it’s a little bit of a daunting task, hence the blog to keep me motivated. The main way we are looking to get our mortgage debt reduced is to put any money I make from my side hustles of marketing consulting or my blog straight to the debt. For now, my corporate steady income is still very much needed to keep our cash flow going with not really anything left over to pay extra to our loans.
6. A. What’s the biggest challenge in being a breadwinning mom? What’s the best part?
The biggest challenge being a breadwinner mom is to find the right balance between how much time you commit to day job. When your salary gets to a certain level it tends to come attached with an unwritten expectation that you are on and available 24/7, particularly in my field of relationship management. I often find myself checking my phone and emails when I am at home or on the weekends instead of being present with my young family, so it is something I am trying to be more conscious of.
The best part is that I get to feel like Cath for eight hours a day. Once you have kids you end up becoming known as so and so’s mum in most social circles and you can lose a bit of your identity. It is nice to be a able to keep myself engaged in stimulating discussions and also to feel like I am always evolving and learning new skills.
6. B. What do you see as the key to earning such a high salary?
To reach a six figure salary I credit it to having the right mindset. You need to know your worth and have confidence in your abilities. Don’t undersell yourself and don’t get too comfortable. I read an article once that said when men look at a job ad if they meet 60% of the requirements they will apply, but women only apply when we meet 100% of the requirements. How many jobs are we passing over because of this way of thinking?
7.. Have you ever experienced issues in the workforce because you’re a woman? What did you do in response?
Marketing itself is quite a female dominated industry so most people are pretty understanding I have found. What I did notice was that once everyone found out I was pregnant the first time, some of my colleagues started asking me why I still cared about major projects I was working in. It was never my immediate manager that did this – more other stakeholders I worked with from other departments. It was like I was suddenly supposed to switch my passion off now because I was going to be going on maternity leave in six months time.
In response, I actually called them out on their assumption and said ‘is there a reason that you feel I would be less committed to delivering this project?’. When they said ‘Well, you won’t care once you have the baby’, my response was, ‘It’s more important than ever then isn’t it to get the project launched in the next six months’.
8. Chief Mom Officer is primarily a personal finance blog – tell us about your saving and investment strategy
I have always been relatively good with my money, and doing an Economics degree helped get a head start in terms of understanding finances. In my early 20’s our savings strategy was all about living frugally and saving around half of our income so we could pay for our wedding and honeymoon with cash, as well as have a deposit saved for our first home. To keep me motivated during this time, I borrowed a lot of books from the library that were on finance and investing. The more I read the more investing in real estate appealed to me.
As a result, property investing has been the way we have built up our net worth. With our goal of retiring in 2025, whilst it might not make us the maximum return, our current strategy is to remove our debt to live off the rental income. We know we could potentially use that money to invest in the stock market or other options with higher returns but this is the approach we feel most comfortable with. The retirement goal is mainly one around removing the need to rely on my corporate income. I am not the personality type to switch off from work entirely and the plan would be to continue working on my marketing consulting and blogging but having the flexibility to know I have the choice of being able to stop doing those if I wanted too.
9. What’s the top three pieces of advice you’d have for someone just starting out in the workforce, struggling with their career, or just looking to improve how they handle their money?
For anyone just starting out in the workforce, my best tip is to take the time to build relationships with people in other departments and at all levels of the organisation. Chat to them in the lunchroom, say hello in the elevator these types of things. You never know what kind of opportunity it could open up for you in the future by building connections now.
If struggling with your career take the time to try and work out what it is that is challenging you. Is it a particular colleague, have you lost your passion, or is it simply that you are burnt out and a few days holiday could be all you need to recharge your batteries. A lot of people also feel they cannot change careers later in life, but this just isn’t true. My husband went from on trade to another completed unrelated one after he turned thirty.
Because you’re reading this post, I think you have made a great start already to improving how you handle your money. The more open you are with reading and learning from others how they have built wealth the better. What worked for me early on was reading a lot of money related books like The Millionaire Next Door and The Richest Man in Babylon and then finding what interested me the most, which just happened to be property investing.
10. Where can people connect with you?
CMO Here Again
Thanks again to Cath for sharing her story! She’s done an amazing job at work and motherhood. I can so empathize with her story about her co-workers questioning her dedication to work while pregnant. I’ve noticed something similar-if you’re pregnant people make lots of assumptions about your dedication to work, and whether or not you’re going to come back as a full member of the workforce. Curiously, they don’t make these same assumptions about men. Ugh!
If you know anyone who would be a good candidate for this series (or if that might be you!), drop me a note at email@example.com – I’m looking for moms that are breadwinners, earn six figures, and/or are millionaires. I’d love to connect and share more amazing stories like this!
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