All Xero Gravity episodes
Hosted by Elizabeth Ü
From the streets of Melbourne, Australia, to the slopes of Boulder, Colorado, Sarah Riegelhuth is leading the way in an entrepreneurial streak.
Sarah’s a firm believer that the old school dreams of owning a house or investing in stock won’t financially make or break us – but starting early and taking control is what makes all the difference.
“Money is just a tool. The only relationship you need to have with it is that you’re roughly in control of it,” she told Elizabeth.
Sarah’s ‘no bull’ attitude has seen her win awards, not just as a financial advisor but also as a best selling author. Sarah’s book - Get Rich Slow – paints financial education as something Gen Y desperately needs to talk more about, striking a chord with readers from the very first page.
Tune in to discover what it takes to get rich slow. Hear Sarah share her blunt wisdom around how honesty will help you to build stronger relationships with employees and clients, and why acquiring personal wealth is actually pretty simple.
The new and improved Xero Gravity – check it out!
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Host: Elizabeth Ü [EÜ]
Guest: Sarah Riegelhuth [SR]
EÜ: Hello. I'm super excited because this is the first episode of the all new Xero Gravity. I'm Elizabeth Ü, and I've been working with our new creative director, Alice Brine. We are taking this podcast to a whole new era. From now on, we're all about sharing real human stories from people who took their idea and launched it into space. We're pulling the curtain back. We're here for the highs and the lows, the big wins, and everyone's favorite, the massive fails. Here's the straight talk: it's one thing to have a game-changing idea, but pulling it off can feel like trying to defy gravity. Have your heads in the clouds, sure, but your feet had better be firmly planted on the ground. We've been on a mission and found some people who have actually made friends with gravity and lived to tell the tale.
I got to chat with Sarah Riegelhuth, who is so awesome. She's the author of this award-winning book called, "Get Rich Slow." Alice was fizzing about this book so much that we just had to get her on the show. As you'll notice though, after about three minutes of talking to her, I was also on that fan girl level. She got super blunt and told us the truth. All of a sudden, personal finance is the most interesting and simple thing in the world. Also, if you're one of those people like me, who doesn't own a house, turns out it's not the end of the world. Amazing. Anyway, I won't spoil it any more for you. Just listen and learn.
I wanted to recount a bit of a story from this weekend. My brother was in town, and so my parents and my brother were driving through the neighborhood where my brother and I grew up. We saw these little kids, these two little sisters, with their lemonade stand. I think that's something that's fascinating about kids is at some point we all get the idea in our heads that money is this important thing, and then
we come up with these far-fetched business ideas to raise money for ourselves.
I'm imagining you at like age 10 organizing all the neighborhood kids into some elaborate business venture. Was it even earlier in your case, or what was your
first memory of the power of money?
SR: Growing up, we used to steal mum's vegetables out of the fridge and sell them on the street. We had guinea pigs that were breeding and we used to go and try to sell them. That wasn't very successful. Then we used to make wooden bracelets and gumnut babies, and I don't know, all sorts of different little weird things. And we used to sell them out the front of our house. And yeah, I was the one organizing it actually, but I don't know really why I did it. It's not like I wanted the money to buy something. I think I just wanted to be able to create something and get people to buy it. I mean, the money would have been good. I don't know. I remember arguing with an old lady who came down the street and told us that the vegetables were cheaper at the actual grocery store. She was really nasty, and we were just like, "Aww, she should just go away."
Then I do remember being at a friend's house and we had a little stall, and I remember a lady actually stopped in her car and came out and bought stuff. That was really, really cool because all the rest of the time we were just waiting on walk-by traffic. But this time this lady actually got out of the car and stopped.
I remember she made some comment like, "I used to do this when I was little,
and I couldn't help but stop." That always stuck with me. That was pretty cool.
EÜ: At what point did you know, I mean maybe you were older, you said you weren't necessarily focused on the money as a kid, but at what point were you thinking, "Okay, I want to take control of my financial future?”
SR: Yeah, I think it's funny that you've kind of connected that because I don't think I ever did the business for the money. To be honest, I still don't do business for the money. It's weird just coming to me all right now as we're having this conversation, but obviously when I look at creating a business I think, "It's got to be commercially viable, and I hope it's going to be successful for me financially," but it's actually not really why I do it. The reason why I start a business is because I care and I'm passionate about what it is. On the other side, I am like a personal finance expert, and I'm a financial advisor, and all this kind of stuff. So to answer that question, I think probably just my experience has been like 18, 19, 20 years old when I kind of moved out of home and I was studying. I was living by myself, paying my own rent, and I had credit card debts, and all these sorts of things.
I think having the credit card debt, and then working hard to pay it off, is what really kind of triggered me to go: "You know what? I am an adult. I need to try and get in control of this stuff." I learnt a big lesson by having the debt and then having to pay it off. I mean, a lot of people don't even pay it off. They just keep going, and I'm not exactly sure what ... it stressed me out having any kind of credit card debt. For me, it was like I had gone overseas and I had moved from Brisbane to Melbourne, and I ended up with this credit card debt. It happened quite quickly, and I felt uncomfortable with it, and so then I worked really hard to pay it off. That was the start of me just going, "You know what? I want to be in control of this, and I want to not be in debt, and I want to actually have savings and investments and yeah." Interestingly, yeah, business and my personal finance hasn't necessarily been so connected in that way.
EÜ: Wait, so you said you moved from Brisbane to Melbourne and that was when you took on the debt. Was that something that all your friends were doing? It was just like, "Well, we're this age. We're going to move, and to do that, you've got to take out the credit card debt"? Was that something that was normal, or how did you even know that you could get a credit card and rack debt up in the first place?
SR: Well, I mean, credit card debt, yes, was normal, and I think how does any 18 year old know about credit cards? Because they're the hottest target market for all the banks, and I think it's that sense of independence, and you probably grow up seeing your parents using them and you think that it's something that you need when you become an adult, so you just go and do it without really realizing what it is.
EÜ: Did your parents tell you anything about credit cards, or did they warn you, or were they just like, "Yep?”
SR: No, not really. I do remember my mum taught me to save when I was younger, so I remember she gave me my pocket money and I used to take like 50 cents or a dollar, I think it was 50 cents, once a week to school. The Dollarmites thing we used to have in Australia with one of the banks, and I would deposit this 50 cents every single week. I wanted to save up for a bike, and Mum told me that, probably Mum and Dad, they told me, "If you save up half, we'll pay the other half for the bike."
I saved all my money and eventually I got the bike. They did teach me about saving, but that's really the only significant financial lesson I remember from my parents growing up. I look at now, even my dad passed away a few years ago, but he was a really successful entrepreneur, but he still kind of lived more that week-to-week type lifestyle. He had property and few things, but he was very much just about the cash flow, whereas I don't want to live like that. I don't want to be older and still just relying on my income that's coming in and not having an asset base that's producing a, what do you call it, a passive income.
Yeah, I don't think they really did teach me that much about money. They didn't teach me about credit cards. I didn't even know. I was very independent. I just went and got it. I don't even know if I spoke to my mum. My parents were separated at that point. I don't even know if I spoke to my mum about it. I just got this credit card. None of my friends were traveling. None of my friends were moving. I just had the impetus to go do it myself, and I had to use credit card to make some of it happen, along with savings. Yeah, as I said, then I had to pay it all back.
EÜ: Right. That's what inspired you to help other women get control of their personal finances after having this personal experience that you had to dig yourself out of that hole of debt?
SR: Yeah, absolutely. My dad was a financial planner as well, so I was working with him, and I just started working with people and I realized that most people do struggle with credit card debt. Most people do struggle managing their cash flow. A lot of people are earning really good incomes and we assume they're very smart. They're doctors or lawyers, and they're very smart in their careers, and we assume from the outside that they must have it all together. Being a financial advisor you get to see behind the curtain and you realize that literally 80% of people don't really know what they're doing. We don't talk about it because we're never even given a forum to talk about it. We don't really get taught about it at school. Yeah.
EÜ: No, it's amazing. I've heard people refer to money as the last taboo. We talk about sex all day long now, but you can't talk about money. You can't talk about your concerns. You can't talk about your debt. I remember when I was younger, my dad, so my parents grew up in very different economic situations. My dad grew up with money and my mom didn't. For her suddenly to be in this marriage, she was in a different economic circle than she'd ever been before. I know my parents fought over whether I would go to private schools or public schools. In the end, I think Dad won that battle, and so my brother and I went to what my dad would call "very private schools," the super expensive.
We just thought that everyone grew up driving Dad's Beamer or driving Dad's Mercedes to school. We just thought that was normal. I remember for me, my first understanding of really taking control of my own finances or really being responsible for myself, my rebellion was dropping out of college, moving to Tasmania, and working, actually working for a living for the first time. It was a completely different thing, but if you start asking people about their money stories, it's amazing how many of these ingrained messages we get, and we don't even really know where they're from. But we start internalizing that. What do you think are some of the most insidious messages that people are internalizing that lead to this rampant, whether it's racking up debt, or just irresponsible financial behavior?
SR: Yeah, I think we spend so much time at Wealth Enhancers, and we work with Gen Y, so that's my generation, sort of 25 to 35 year olds now. It's really that coming of age where you start going, "I've been earning income for a while. I'm now kind of an adult. I can't really pretend that I'm just a kid, a teen, early 20s anymore. I've got to start getting on top of it." I think we just spend so much time working on the psychology and the limiting beliefs that people have, because basically how we've grown up with money is what we then bring into the world. However our parents treated money, and however they shared that with us. Some parents have conversations about it, but most don't because it is taboo, and they're just growing up with whatever came from their parents as well.
I heard something the other day, and I can't remember now where I heard it, but it was like, "Every social class doesn't understand the other social classes." Like you were talking about your parents coming from really different economic backgrounds. Then your mom would have had this insight, but your dad never got the insight necessarily into her upbringing. I think no one can ever really understand.
We grow up at whatever we perceive as normal, whether we're poorer, or a little bit poor, or middle, or upper middle, or rich, or super loaded, whatever that lifestyle that we've grown up with, we just think that's normal. If no one's talking to us about it, then we don't really understand where the money comes from or where it goes. Often I just think if you grow up with very little, you often just have a limiting belief that that's how it is, that you will also never really have money. If you grow up where there's never money for anything, then that can become a fixed mindset of yours and you'll find that you're living week to week, and you're struggling with credit card debts and personal loans, and just trying to make ends meet. There's just so many things.
EÜ: Yeah, even if you grew up without money, I mean, I have friends who are just amazing artists. I'm thinking of my friend Charlie, and he does these amazing paintings of sea urchins. Now is the time in the universe when everyone wants paintings of marine invertebrates in their house. It's like the thing for home decorating right now, and he could be making a mint, but he's always saying, "I never grew up with money. I never knew how to manage it." He is in the most opportune positions right now to be making a ton of money, and he knows that even when the money comes in, he doesn't manage it well. He's just saying, "I didn't grow up with that." In some ways I want to shake him. I'm like he's got this really defeatist view about how he's never going to be able to manage it properly, he's never going to get the business side down, but what has your experience been? Can you shift that mindset, or what does it take to shift that mindset?
SR: Oh, you totally can, and I think you tapped into another really common limiting belief, which is about your own value. Obviously it can be prevalent when you're an employee, but more so when you're going out into your own business, and how you price your services and price what you do because we often feel like, "Well, this is what I do. I'm really good at it. It's really easy to me. I shouldn't charge a lot of money for this." We forget that to get to the point that we've gotten to, we've potentially studied or learned or practiced or whatever it has been for us, and other people can't do it, and they're coming to us because we can do it. We need to place appropriate value on that. That's something, and it can come down to the salary you're receiving and not sort of fighting hard enough for pay raises and things like that. Particularly with the male/female thing in the workplace, we all know that women are paid less than men for the same roles basically across the board. Those are real issues in relation to value for money, but yes, definitely you can change.
It all comes down to actually wanting to and actually starting with that initial belief that you can change. It's like anything in life. If you're still stuck with your limiting beliefs and you can't actually see the forest for the trees, like you don't have that self awareness that there's an issue, then it's going to be really hard, but once you start realizing, "You know what? My situation with money isn't great, but it is possible for it to be better," then you can start working at, "Well, what are my limiting beliefs? What are the things that are holding me back? Where do I need help? What are the areas that I need to educate myself on or get more knowledge?" Fear holds a lot of people back. A lot of people just are afraid to do anything so they do nothing. They might actually go some way to saving money, because we all feel pretty comfortable generally having cash in a bank account, so a lot of people will go some way to saving, but then they get paralyzed by fear of what to do next.
The reality is you can't just have money in a cash bank account. You need to eventually invest in property or shares or ideally a combination of all of those things, plus having some cash, but you can't just keep going with cash because interest rates on cash don't actually keep up with inflation. I'm getting complicated, but you're actually, we call it going broke slowly. You're going broke slowly and safely because you're too afraid to do something.
EÜ: Is that what you were going through when you were looking at all your debt sitting in Melbourne being like, "Oh, this is just going to keep growing"? What was your fear at that moment?
SR: Oh, the fear I had at that moment was I felt out of control. I just felt like it's not meant to be like this. My net position, like what I'm worth, is not meant to be zero. Sorry, not zero, is not meant to be below zero.
EÜ: Less than zero.
SR: I want it to be above zero. I want it to be something, not less than something. I knew having debt means I've got this commitment to repay it, which meant that ties you into a whole lot of things to do with how you need to earn income. I was studying at the time, and I had all these expenses, and it was just stressful. I did think, "What if it gets bigger?"
EÜ: There's stress and there's fear, but was there also some shame and embarrassment in there, because it doesn't really sound like you're talking about actually being scared that at any point you weren't going to be able to put food on the table. I don't know, what was that?
SR: Oh, I was super stressed out. I was doing my budget like every month. I'd redo my budget just to hope that it would magically get better. I remember ringing my mum one time and going, "I've just done my budget and I'm literally like $5 a week short on what I need," which doesn't sound like a big deal, but when you are that tight that you're actually $5 short, nothing can go wrong. Otherwise you're $100 short, or $1000 short. If your car breaks down, what are you going to do? If you're already $5 short just to cover your costs and something happens ... My mum was like, "Oh, darling, I'll send you the $5." I was like, "No, I can survive." I didn't obviously get her to send me $5 a week, but I really hated being that close to the wire, like I had no surplus. There was no savings happening, and it was just enough to cover my expenses.
EÜ: What even possessed you to do a budget in the first place? I can totally relate to this. I am a spreadsheet obsessive person, so I totally do the personal budget thing, but most people don't. How did you even know that you could do one?
SR: To be honest, my question is more the other way where I go, "How do people not?"
EÜ: How do people not do it? No, I mean, I feel that way.
SR: For me it was a natural reaction. I just literally was so stressed out and I couldn't handle it. I knew I think at that time as well, I guess I had a bit of an idea like, "Okay, I'm like 19 years old. I'm full-time studying. I'm working part-time jobs. I've got credit card debt." I kind of had this idea that it's not the end of the world, like I have my whole life ahead of me to get on top of this stuff, but I think I had some kind of sense that if I didn't do something about it now, it could just get worse and get out of hand.
I guess honestly I don't know exactly why I did, but my question is always, "How do people live with it and not care?" That's what I don't understand.
It's so constant. Let's say 80 to 85% of new Wealth Enhancers members who are all high achievers, all high income earners, super amazing people, have some kind of credit card debt that they've had for years because they just get used to it and they just have it there. I guess when you have a big income you have that, "Okay, I've got $10,000 credit card debt, but I'm earning two hundred grand a year, so who cares. I could pay it off in a second if I wanted to." I just go, "Well, why don't you?" Obviously for me I was probably earning like, I don't know, $15,000 a year, so it was much harder to have thousands of dollars of debt when I didn't have a lot of income, but I still just think this kind of personal debt, get rid of it.
EÜ: Well, it's funny, because I think for some of us, we feel the monthly cash flow differences, or that sense of debt is like this really tangible thing that we're sensing very viscerally, but for a lot of people, it doesn't have a terrible smell, it's not staring you in the face unless you're checking your bank balances every five seconds. When people finally come to you and they're like, "Hey, I want to live differently. I want to take control of the situation. I want money to be a source of power or flexibility or whatever, and not this source of fear," what is it that has prompted them to come to you at that point?
SR: I think we try and do a lot of education and put a lot of content out there to help people. There's part of me that believes that both us and other companies educating the market and getting people to think about it is part of it. I think sometimes it can be a life event, like turning a certain age, or getting married, or getting pregnant, or deciding you want to have a kid, or deciding you want to change your career. I think when you want to make a big decision or do something different and you haven't got your finances in control, oftentimes you won't do it because you can't afford to do it for some reason or another, and that's when you realize: "Aww, my finances are actually holding me back from living life the way that I want to live it."
EÜ: One of the questions, I have so many questions I want to ask you, but at what point did you decide that you were going to write a book to help people with all these things? Had you already been working with people through their challenges and you had developed enough of a formula that you were like, "I need to share this with people," or was this something that you just needed to get it out, or were you writing it to yourself, because this was the advice that you needed?
SR: Well, I think I'm a big believer that sometimes the universe just comes along and gives you a bit of a helping hand, so to speak. I had been working pretty hard for years as a financial advisor, on my own personal financial situation as well, and everything was going well. I guess like almost everyone I had something in the back of my head that one day I'd like to write a book, but I really wasn't doing anything about it. It was 2011, I got listed in the Age Melbourne Magazine Top 100 List. I don't know if they do it anymore. They used to put out this list of the top 100 citizens for that year that were kind of doing influential or inspirational or something like that. I got listed in there, and much to my amazement, I don't even know how I got in there. Then I received a call from Wiley, my now publisher, to say, "Oh, well, nice to meet you, and we've never seen a young female listed in this list for finance. Would you be interested in writing a book?" I was just like, "Yep." An opportunity like that comes and you just go, "Yes. 100%."
EÜ: That's amazing.
SR: Yeah. It was amazing. I still had to put my proposal together and pitch them and put some sample chapters together so that they knew that I actually had the ability to communicate and write what I was saying. It was kind of weird because I didn't really have that much of a framework for what I wanted to write, but I guess once I started writing I did a little market research about what people really wanted. I drew on all of my own experience. Then I pulled in together all of my philosophies that have worked for me personally and worked for all of our Wealth Enhancers members, and put it all down, and now we call it our Get Rich Slow philosophy, and the rest is history.
EÜ: I think it's funny because I wrote a book for small businesses that are trying to raise capital, and I think I'd been doing speaking engagements around the country because it just seemed like everyone had the exact same questions and there was no one-stop-shop where people could go and get those first 10 questions answered. What is the first question that people always ask you? I'm sure it shows up in the book, and I'm sure it's on your website somewhere the answer to that, because you're like, "Okay, let's just get this one out of the way and then we'll talk about the juicy stuff."
SR: See, the funny thing I'll say about personal finance and wealth creation is people think it's way more complicated than it is. Often people are trying to do all this complicated stuff and invest in some really random, weird things, and so they ask you, "Well, what do you think about about this?" I'm just like, "No. Don't do that. I don't even understand it and I'm a financial advisor, so you definitely shouldn't do it.” Funnily enough, a lot of it is bringing people back to the basics and really getting them to understand that there are a lot of complexities around finance and investing in financial markets, of course. But at the end of the day, it's not that complicated. It comes down to spend less than what you earn, and do something with the surplus. Save some cash, get involved in the share market, not one stock that your friend told you is going to be amazing though. Do something that's diversified. Use professional fund managers or portfolio managers or advisors to actually help you navigate that. Potentially invest in property, but don't rush into that either. That's a really big investment and I think people don't always see it as a big investment because we feel safe and secure with it. It's quite simple.
EÜ: Can we pause there for a second because, especially in the United States where the interest rates are so low, I would say about every eight to 10 months I have a big freak out and I'm like, "I should be investing in real estate.” Then I look at real estate prices in the Bay Area and I'm like, "Okay, there's no way I can ever actually afford that unless I go in on it with someone," and then that sounds complicated. What do you think it is about real estate that is so compelling to people?
SR: Two things, main one being you can see it and you can touch it. Along with that comes generally a lot of emotions. We see things that we like or don't like, and then we place value on that and we start to dream and imagine that that's ours, and there's so much more compared to investing in shares where it's just a number on a screen really. It doesn't really matter. You might feel proud that you're in that company because it's a good company, but to be honest, most people don't really,
I don't think go into that much detail. I think the other thing is Australia, US, probably New Zealand, I don't know, we all grew up for the most part living in houses that our parents owned. It's another one of those passions that we see as something that you're meant to do as an adult. For me, I don't own property, and I don't really plan on it, but I'm a nomad. I like to live all around the world. I like to move. I'm 35. I've lived in like, 17 houses since I was 19 years old. I've not even barely lived in a house for more than a year, or apartment or whatever. I like it like that.
EÜ: This is all over the world?
EÜ: Because you're in Boulder, Colorado, right now.
SR: I'm in Beaver Creek.
EÜ: Where else have you lived? We know about Brisbane and Melbourne.
SR: Yeah, I'm in Beaver Creek in Colorado. In Australia I've lived in Melbourne, Brisbane, and Sydney. I've lived in Dublin, I've lived in London, and I've lived in Vancouver, and now here in Colorado. I don't really plan on stopping, so for me, owning a property is just, I get bored. When I was a little kid I used to change my bedroom around like every few months because I would get bored, and then I'd be swapping bedrooms with my sister. I'd do it all myself. I was like seven years old pushing furniture from one room to the other and stuff. I just I get bored. That's me, and that's not everybody. Some people love the idea of having like their roots and their nest and all of that. I hate it. I don't really have any possessions. The last thing I want to do is buy a house and fill it up with stuff because that stresses me out more than not.
EÜ: Right. Well, it's funny too because one of the real benefits of not owning property like you're saying is flexibility, but it's also a big pain in the behind to deal with home maintenance. My brother bought a house, I think it was the same year that I turned 35, my little brother bought a house and I was like, "Awww." I was thinking, "I'm supposed to ... I'm comparing myself." He would call and he's like, "Oh, this thing has gone wrong." At one point he even had to go out and shoot a woodpecker that was pecking at the top of his house. It wasn't going to stop and it was causing damage and he had to borrow an air gun, a BB gun kind of thing and shoot this bird. People don't really talk about the benefits of not owning a home. There really is this general obsession. I thought of it as the American Dream. My co-producer, Alice, is saying people in New Zealand are obsessed with buying houses, and it sounds like Australia too.
SR: It's definitely the Australian Dream. Yep.
EÜ: Maybe it's the Western Dream. I don't know. We ask people in other cultures as well, but how do you help people reframe that dream, or how do you help people really, with your clients, is help them really identify well what is important?
SR: Exactly. We have a process that we developed to take people through, which we call it our Goals and Values session. It takes a while. It can take up to two hours, but it's a real deep dive into who you are, and what you really want. A lot of it is coaching and guidance from us to let go of things that are what you think society told you you should be doing next in life and really tap into is that what you really want? If it is, that's totally fine, but are you just doing it because either you're at that age, or you're at that stage, or as you said, comparing yourself to other people around you that, well everyone else is doing it, so it must be what I need to do? I think it's really, really hard for us, and even someone like myself, I think I'm pretty liberated in terms of society. I don't really follow convention that much, however, I still have to push myself all the time because the people who are around us, the situations that we're in, they rub off on us really quite quickly and quite easily.
Even for myself, I'm moving around the planet, and living in different places, and doing different things, but I'll get into a group, and I'll be hanging out with people, and then whatever becomes norm within that group starts to come off on me. I need to just constantly be looking at that and going, "Well, hang on a second. What do I really want?" and keep that bigger picture of my life in mind to try not to get lost in what's happening right now. What's happening right now in my sphere is not ... When I'm 80, or 90, or 150, or however long we're going to live these days, and I'm looking back on my life, what are the things I want to look back on? That's a really good question I think to ask yourself because that helps you detach from what's happening right now because I think we all know that in the future, this moment isn't going to matter as much as what we think it is right now. I mean, some moments do matter. Some moments are very life-defining, but generally speaking. I think that can be a really good question to ask yourself when you're trying to think about, "What life am I trying to create?" Imagine yourself sitting out on the porch talking to your friend or something and describing what your life was like. Well, that's what you want to be creating.
EÜ: Ah. I just want to revel in that for a minute. That's a two-hour process? It seems like that could be a two-year process.
SR: Oh, it's a constant work in progress, and we always revisit it and go back to it with our members like every single quarter when we meet up with them. We go back over it, and things become clearer to people over time. I think once you start becoming a little more comfortable living life on your own terms then you can make some bolder decisions. You can be more comfortable in what you're doing, and I think when you have a plan, and you know what you're working toward, then the pressures of what other people are doing around you don't affect you so much because you're like, "Yeah, that's fine, but that's not my plan.” You might have felt pressured to buy a house when your brother did, but then at the same time you go, "Yeah, but I don't want to be shooting woodpeckers. I don't want to be fixing windows and doors. I'm really happy that I'm working toward this dream, this different dream."
EÜ: If you're not going to own a home, and you're not ultimately paying yourself back in the form of your mortgage payments every month ... I mean, I can imagine people saying, "Yeah, but if I don't own a home I'm not going to save, and then I'm screwed when I'm older."
SR: Yeah, and that's definitely something that I think about because for some people, some people are so hopeless at saving and investing that at least if they get a property, they're forced to pay it off some way or another and eventually they'll have an asset. Sometimes it can be a good thing. I think realistically my preference for everyone is cash first, get your cash sorted out. Make sure you actually know how to save and not just spend all of your money. Then start looking at shares. There's so many different ways you can invest in shares, like mutual funds, managed funds we call them in Australia. You've got SMAs, you've got stock brokers and share portfolios, you've got all these robo-advice type things now like Acorns and Betterment. I don't know. I'm not recommending any of that stuff, I'm just thinking off the top of my head of these brands that I've seen around. It's quite easy now to access compared to what it used to be. Build up that share position, and then property as a sort of more later step just because it costs a lot more to get into.
I'm not saying that I'll never invest in property, and maybe I will. I don't know if I'll ever buy a house that I live in because I said how much I like the flexibility of moving around, but as an investment class, there can be good opportunities that I may at some stage take advantage of. I think if you're not going to, as an alternative, which is what you asked me, is just get that cash savings and get into those shares. You can build it up. That's basically all of my wealth is in that stuff at the moment and I'm perfectly comfortable and happy with that and don't feel the need that I have a property. I also don't have to worry about yeah, maintenance and things breaking down and all that. I mean, property is a really valid investment class as well, and I'm certainly not against it.
EÜ: Well, and the first point of any of this, like the first step in any of this, is still don't live beyond your means. To change gears a little bit, I want to talk about you and your business. Again, we already heard the story about how you as a young girl were already highly entrepreneurial, and you weren't necessarily motivated by money, but what motivated you to start this financial support system, this whole network that you're serving now? How many clients do you have?
SR: We have 161. 164. 164 today.
EÜ: You have this entire network... maybe more after this conversation. Again, you made that shift from building your own system to helping other people do that. How has that translated now into your own financial health? Is this something that you're doing what you love and it's bringing you lots of financial success yourself, or how does that all fit in?
SR: Personally, my goal financially is to always have enough money that if there's an opportunity, experience, maybe something I want to buy, something that comes my way, that all I have to think about is, "Do I want to pay for it? Do I value it the same as the price tag and am I happy to pay that?" I never, ever want to think, "How am I going to pay for that?" or, "Can I afford it?" or, "Can't do that. Can't afford it this year.” That's all I want.
EÜ: It's a choice.
EÜ: Right, so you're standing in choice at that moment. It's not like, "This thing is happening to me.” It's like, "I get to decide do I want to pay for that or not."
SR: Yeah. That's all I want. I don't want to be filthy rich or anything like that. I want enough money that if someone says to me, "Hey, I'm thinking of going on this amazing hiking adventure in South America in a couple of months. It's going to be $5000. Do you want to come?" Ultimately my decision is do I want to do the trip or not? That's it. I don't have to think, "Uhh, where am I going to get $5000? No, I can't do it because I don't have the money," or "Oh, I want to do this other things so..." That's all I want personally. That's my goal when it comes to finances is just to always have enough money that I never have to think about where is it coming from. That actually, the way that I live my life, I don't need to be a billionaire to do that. I know what roughly I need, and that's it.
EÜ: I'd love to hear more about your actual business, and some of the things that have happened to you as far as big success stories, or somewhat disastrous experiences in being a small business owner.
SR: The main reason why I started the business was because I had previously worked with retirees and pre-retirees, and I was kind of like 25 years old or something and my friends started asking me, "Well, how do you do this with your finances?" and they started saying I was building up a bit more, and I had a bit more freedom and flexibility than some of them. I realized there's no financial advisors out there talking to our generation. At the same time I was asking my clients who were retiring, "How did you get to this position?" They would be like, "Oh, well we started really young, and so and so my friend was a financial advisor, and so we went with him.” They just had this story basically of having advice for most of their working lives, from starting early, starting small in most cases. They didn't start big, but they chipped away, and that just made me. I felt sad. I was was like, "Oh my gosh, there's no one talking to us."
I think Gen Y, millennials, we have the worst combination because we're so amazing in that we just go out and get whatever we want, and we believe we can have anything, and we can have it now. We also have really easy access to credit, way easier access to credit than any other generation has ever had. Those two combinations don't go well together, because it basically means I can get access to the money to do whatever I want now, and I'll have to deal with it later. I just was seeing so many people with so much personal debt, even though they had great incomes, so that's why we created the business.
EÜ: Then clearly you value flexibility. For you, there was no way you were going to start a business that was going to require you to be in one place.
SR: Yeah. When I first started I was more like that. We had an office in Melbourne. I think we had at one point 14 staff in that office, and then I had got one person in Sydney, and then that started making me think, "You know what? We don't have to be in the same office. Let's get with the times.” It was like 2014 or 2013 and suddenly I thought, "We don't need to be all here in the same place," and so we just started slowly making it a more global business flexible, and now it's 100%. We only have like two staff who are in the same office. The rest of them are all over the place.
EÜ: Wow. What does that afford you in addition to being able to serve clients in different places?
SR: Yeah, it's amazing. The whole team is fully flexible and outcome driven. For me, for all of us, it's not about when exactly during the day or the week you're working, it's about getting the job done. I think that's a pretty amazing culture within an organization. It's not about just turning up and being there from nine to five. It's about actually delivering. I think that's very rewarding for you as an employee to actually know that you're contributing and you're delivering stuff rather than just trudging into work every day and grinning and bearing it for eight hours. It allows us all the flexibility and freedom to have our lives. I think in that regard, it makes it feel like it's not work and life, it's just life. I think everyone who works with us is pretty damn passionate about what we do, so I think everyone feels the same way. I could go for a ski in the morning and come back at midday and I'm at work til late that night. That's fine. It doesn't really matter. I'm here, I'm going to ski every day. That's why I'm here.
EÜ: Yeah. Well, and our producer was talking to us earlier about the importance of really hiring great people, and I know that's something that's been really important to you. What is the difference when you get really great people?
SR: Oh my god. I have a theory. Other than the obvious, like just good people that you like to be around and stuff, my theory is that A players do three times the amount of work than the average person. Hiring a good person is three times better than hiring your average. My team are amazing, and it's taken me a little while. It's definitely something I had to learn and wasn't super easy for me in the beginning when I was first becoming a leader and an entrepreneur to understand all that, but I have come to see it. I just think it's unfair on a team as well when you've got this few people who are doing so much work and keeping everything going, for all the other people who are not working that hard. For my team, I'm always looking for well ... if I've got someone who's not performing, they got to go. They're probably going to perform like that somewhere else where it's a better fit for them anyway, but it's not fair on everyone else, because they're probably getting paid similar, but then one person's doing the work of three, and you always find it. I've got an incredible team at the moment, and they're all A players.
EÜ: Are they all motivated by being part of this culture where they can go ski in the middle of the day and then work late into the night, or are they also really passionate about helping people sort out their own personal financial situation? What is it about them that keeps them super motivated?
SR: I think first and foremost they're motivated by our vision and what we're trying to do as an organization, so helping people with their finances. Our goal is really to make a significant impact on our generation, primarily in Australia, but potentially even worldwide, and have our generation become the most financially free generation that's ever been. We're not going to do that by having every single person as a member of our, like a client, we call them members. We're going to do it through that, but also through that flow-on influence. All of the members who we have are all leaders. They're all high achievers. They're entrepreneurs, sports and entertainment, and professionals. They're usually at the top of their game, so anything that we're teaching them, they're going to be flowing out into their circles. We do things like this podcast, we do things like put content out there, we speak, and so we're influencing other financial advisors to even look at this market. That's really starting to change. There's now a bunch of companies that are starting to look at this market, and that's excellent. That's our big vision, and I think that's the main reason why everyone's with the company, and I think that’s the culture we have.
EÜ: Right, they're helping shift the industry. They're not just coming to work to do a job, or helping one person. They're helping shift the entire space.
SR: Totally. Yeah, and it's really, really rewarding, even that one-on-one. Seeing some of our clients that we've had for four years, it's just like wow. They've come so far and they've achieved so much, and that is so cool to see people really living their life and achieving their dreams. I do think the culture and the flexibility, I'd say that's what keeps them. You can have a great vision, but if the culture of the company sucks, people eventually are going to go, "You know what? This is just too hard," whereas we've got a great vision and then we've got an excellent team and a great culture, and I think that makes it pretty awesome place to be.
EÜ: Yeah. All of the small business leaders and small business owners, entrepreneurs, everyone that we've talked to, they all have some story where something just went terribly wrong. What sort of experiences have you had where it's just like, "Oh my god, I can't believe we did this," or "How are we going to get ourselves out of this mess?”
SR: I just feel like it's a series, that's constant. There's always challenges. I think probably the biggest thing, so last year we had quite high staff turnover probably two years ago. That was one thing that wasn't great and had to to do a lot of work on, but the flow-on impact from that was pretty serious financial impact. Because we had a turnover of staff because we didn't have our culture right, we also were losing customers, we were losing our members sometimes because they'd form a relationship with a financial coach, and then that coach would leave, and they would be like, "Ehh," and get disgruntled, and you know. We were still making all these sales, but we weren't able to keep our customers as long as we wanted to. The growth that we had didn't match, the ramp strategy that we had didn't match because we didn't anticipate the staff turnover which then led to the retention rate.
What happened last year was, I sat down and looked at the finances at the very end of last year and I realized that if I didn't do something about it, we would be out of business within six months. Yeah, it was awful. We'd been losing a lot of money for three months in a row, and the trajectory we were on, we were just burning way too much money, and I knew we'd be out of business. It was sickening, and it was sickening to see how much we had already lost, and it was sickening to see the position we were in. It was sickening to think of the good work we were doing, but how, because of me not looking at things enough, like I'd potentially put the business into a situation where we might not even be able to exist if I didn't sort it out.
EÜ: Oh boy. That must have felt particularly strange, especially since you're in the business of helping people sort this out in their personal lives. It's like, "Oh no."
SR: Totally. I felt like a total failure, and it was just, you know, I think one of the things with entrepreneurs is we have blind faith and extreme optimism. The first two years of the company we'd more than doubled our revenue, and the trajectory had gone like that, and you just have this belief that you're going to keep doing that. You have this kind of strategy that you're playing out, but when some of the wheels fall off here and there, sometimes you don't alter the strategy as quickly as you should. When you're a small company, it's not that big a deal, but as the company gets bigger, everything gets bigger. The losses get bigger. Everything. The numbers are just bigger. Yeah, it was sickening.
EÜ: You've farther to fall?
SR: Yeah, you have further to fall. Exactly. It was sickening, and it was sad because I thought, "Oh my god, what if this is it?"
EÜ: How'd you get out of that situation?
SR: Yeah, it was really tough, and I had that moment of just looking at it all, and then you got to go into solution mode. I just started thinking, "Okay, what are we going to do?" Basically what it came down to was that we had to half our costs, which is big deal. We got rid of some staff who weren't performing, some of those not A players, which the team were grateful for. Ironically the performance of the team actually went up because we had just a smaller, tighter team that we're all working together better, which meant the service standards went up. We got sales trainers in so that we could improve our sales, and I had my operations manager focus on delivery. I also actually opened up to our entire community. I wrote an email out to our entire community explaining what was going on and where we had made some mistakes, and some of the things we were putting into place. I think my lesson from that was being vulnerable was really good because people actually wanted to see us succeed, and they communicated that back to us. They were kind of like, "Whatever we can do to help". Anyway, we turned it all around within about three months, and now it's been going really, really well. It worked, thankfully.
EÜ: There must have been so much fear around sending that email.
SR: Oh, you don't even know. It was like, I can't even explain it. I usually just write stuff and chuck it out there. I'm not the biggest one for going over and over things. I kind of trust myself to just yeah, I'll give it a quite proofread and off it goes, but that email, I wrote it, I rewrote it, I had a number of people who are very close to me read it and give me feedback and help me kind of make sure that I got the balance right in what I was trying to say. I was just incredibly stressed out about it, but that email got more response than anything else I've ever sent out and all positive.
EÜ: That's amazing. It's also this amazing filter, right? If some of your clients can't deal with it, screw them. They're probably not a good fit for your business.
SR: Totally, which in our case we were lucky not a single person was deterred by that email. Basically they all just came back and said, "Well, what can we do to help you?" and "You guys are amazing at what you do and we want you to keep doing it.” We were really lucky.
EÜ: Well, and I think it sounds like they are really lucky to have you. We would all be so lucky to have a financial coach in our life, or somebody who’s holding us accountable to whatever it is that we're dreaming about, and not just getting dragged around by the latest fads and fancies, or trying to keep up with the neighbors, or whatever it is that is distracting us from what's truly at core what we really want in our lives. I wanted to close by asking you what is that vision that you have for, whether it's millennials, or any of us in any generation as far as how we're taking control of our lives and using our finances to serve our personal goals, and we're not just trying to add coins to the piggy bank?
SR: I think that's what it really comes down to is just having everyone connect with what they really want in their life and living life on those terms. There are so many studies that show that money doesn't make you happy, yet the same studies show that most of us believe that it does. It's sort of like really actually getting that disconnect and saying, "Money is just a tool. The only relationship you need to have with it is that you're roughly in control of it, not that we can control anything in the world, but that we are taking control of it, and that we're using it toward the life that we as unique individuals really, really want.”
EÜ: You feel like you've done that for yourself at this point?
SR: 100%. Yeah. I mean, I'm still on my journey, but my life is amazing. It really is. It's everything that I've ever wanted, and continues to be. It doesn't mean that I'm perfectly happy 100% of the time, doesn't mean I don't have struggles and hard times, but I'm so grateful every day for the life that I have. I think gratitude and practicing gratitude every day will get you a long way to actually feeling more fulfilled in your life. I think there's something in comparing yourself to people who are more successful than you in that it pushes you to strive, but there's also potentially something more in reminding yourself that there are many, many more people out there who are worse off than you, that have it worse off, that have bigger problems and challenges, and being grateful for where you are now, rather than always thinking about where you're lacking.
EÜ: Mmm, that's so beautiful. Our producer here is like behind the scenes. She's literally crying. You're totally her hero. She's like beside herself right now. She's so psyched.
SR: Aww, that's sweet.
EÜ: Well, this has been so great. Thank you so much for joining us on the show, and I cannot wait to share this with my friends, my family, anyone who will listen. This has really been an amazing conversation.
SR: Oh, I hope so. I'm glad. I've enjoyed it as well, so I do think it was a good conversation. I feel it was good energy.
EÜ: That was Sarah Riegelhuth, award-winning financial advisor and founder and director of Wealth Enhancers. I'm Elizabeth Ü, producer and host of the show, and Alice Brine is creative director. Thanks for listening to Xero Gravity. Thanks also to Megan Wright, our technical producer, and Daniel Marr and Jonny McNee, our recording technicians and master editors for today's episode. See you next time.