Get some practical insights on what it takes to conquer your fears and finances with Cheryl Duffy. (4:50 min read) 

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We all go through testing, traumatic periods of our life – whether it’s a big career change, divorce or the classic quarter/mid-life crisis – and they can often derail our financial goals.

While it’s the last thing you want to think about when times are tough, having your financial health in check means one less thing to worry about.

To put the life-money equation into perspective, we sat down with someone who is well-versed in overcoming personal challenges to emerge stronger than ever – Cheryl Duffy, certified divorce coach and author of best-seller The Divorce Tango.

She shares some practical insights from her personal experience of what it takes to conquer your fears and finances.


Q: Knowing what you know now, what would you tell your younger self about career/finances/life?

Leverage your natural strengths when you choose a career as you will excel in it.

Always fulfil your highest potential and follow your passion. For me, finding my passion to help others led me to leave the corporate world and become a divorce recovery coach, which has been far more fulfilling.

I would say make wise financial investment choices rather than buying a “dream” that costs you money instead of building wealth.

Always be financially independent in life so you can sustain yourself when setbacks arise. My corporate career enabled me to avoid major financial impact when I went through divorce. My daughter said, “I’m so glad you had a good job when dad left, or else we wouldn’t have been able to have the same lifestyle”. This has motivated her to be financially independent.


Q: Tell us why you think cash flow budgeting can help women (and men) avoid financial stress?

I believe knowing your income, expenses, debts and the times these occur is paramount to having a visual on forecasting what monies you have available. But perhaps even more important is the forecasting of future expenses – enabling you to put aside funds so you don’t get “bill shock”.

It also provides you with the opportunity to identify how much can be moved into savings each month, as well as looking at your expenses to assess where focus can be applied to reduce them.

For example, if you happened to be struggling to save, you could see on your budget forecast that buying lunch at work every day is costing you $10 per day. This equates to $50 per week or $2,600 per year, which might encourage you to make your lunch at home for $20 per week saving you $1,560 per year.

Personally, having a consolidated picture of my current finances has empowered me to make good decisions for my financial future.


Q: Have you come up against the “glass ceiling” on your path to leadership roles, and how did you manage to break through?

I have always been confident with a “can-do” attitude – identifying where improvements can be made or cost savings for a company – which certainly helped me climb the corporate ladder.

If I didn’t feel I was well-positioned to advance my career, I would look at which area of the business I wanted to move into, and then ask the manager of that area if they could be my mentor.

This way they gained visibility of my work ethic and performance whilst providing me invaluable knowledge for developing my knowledge and skills for the next position I was pursuing.


Q: The world of investing is full of stereotypes and misconceptions. Which one has stood out most to you, and what does the more accurate picture look like?

There is a misconception that you can’t go wrong with buying real estate.

There are exceptions.

There are ways to reduce the likelihood of things going wrong, including being fully informed.  This may include researching property values and market trends of an area over time, understanding which infrastructure projects are going ahead in the future in that area, talking to council about rezoning, looking at environmental factors such as flooding and bush fires, having the property assessed for potential future costs, such as cladding and termites. It may also help to choose a low maintenance property to minimise expenses.

Personally, I choose to diversify investments with a combination of real estate and shares.


Q: What do you think needs to be done in order to narrow/close the gender investing gap?

I believe women need to become financially independent and know their current financial situation in detail, seek advice to invest appropriately, and have a financial plan to build their wealth even when they are married and not leave the money management to their husbands.


Q: Best/worst investing decision you’ve made + lessons learned?

With retirement in mind, my ex-husband and I wanted to buy a holiday house near the beach that we could renovate and retire into later in life.

We thought we could use the holiday house for ourselves sometimes and lease it to holiday makers to fund it as an investment property. We watched the price drop over 12 months and thought: “great, we’ll snap it up for a bargain.”

We bought it, renovated it and rented it out. We got some holidays and weekends away using it but 10 years later, the house sat on the market for over 12 months and it sold for the same price we bought it for!

Lesson learned: if a property is on the market for a long time, research the area.

We also learned it would have been far cheaper to have just rented a holiday house whenever we liked throughout the year or invest in a growth area instead.


Q: If you could give women one piece of advice about thriving amidst chaos, what would it be?

Take back your power, know your worth and be confident to control what happens in your life.

Make informed decisions instead of letting life happen and control you.


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