In a nutshell:
- Marla’s* gone from living pay cheque to pay cheque with $90,000 worth of credit card debt to totally debt free.
- Tackling small debts rather than focusing on the bigger amount was ‘transformational’ on Marla’s journey.
- You can book a free 45 minute coffee catch up, to discuss your own financial situation with Marla’s team at Fox & Hare here: book now
“If I could have all that, I’d be successful”
“I grew up very, very poor. It was a very rural, very remote upbringing; we’re talking west of Wagga – in a small town called Narrandera. It was the kind of situation where you’d have your own electricity generator on the farm, that type of thing.
At the time I thought I was the only gay in the village but later found out I wasn’t. Although that’s probably a story for another time (laughs).
So, here I was, you know, in this tiny country town and I’d be looking at Women’s Weekly seeing all these people in the city. They’re wearing beautiful clothes, drinking expensive champagne and I remember thinking to myself ‘that’s what success is.’
If I could have all that, I’d be successful, and not have to be that person I grew up with anymore. And so, I think that’s where it all began – my weird relationship with money.
I moved to Sydney in 1995 and suddenly, it was all about keeping up with the Joneses. As I said, I grew up so poor, but here I am flying in circles where people don’t really understand what that was like.
On top of all that, it was 1995, I am trans, and I was working in corporate.
I didn’t realise that, at the time, a lot of trans people were showgirls or sex workers. I’d just kind of assumed that everyone would have a day job, but I quickly learned I was the odd one out – in all my worlds.
And so, I would spend to be accepted. I think that’s where the bulk of the behaviour came about. It was about being accepted.
“$70 bottle of wine? You want to order it? There’s the credit card. Excellent, not a problem. I’m the nice one, the generous friend.”
The way I was spending, it was a status symbol. Drop $1000 on a Carla Zampatti jacket? Not a problem at all.
And at the time of the purchase, I felt like I was in power, I was in control, and I was an extremely good friend. Generous, that sort of thing.
I didn’t care about the balance sheet, all I cared about was whether the minimum payment, plus a little extra, was covered.
In my head I was going “OK, if the minimum payment is 400 bucks a month, I’ll pay off 600. It’s not a problem, I’m not one of those naughty people who only pay the minimum balance. No, no, no, not me. I’m not that stupid.”
But the reality was, I was spending way more than the extra $200 on wine, dinner and all that other stuff.
I was trying to present this image to the world.
This image of control. But the control was just hiding stuff. Yes, I was in control of the information I was giving the world, I was in control of what you got to see. I was in control, you know, of how you perceive me.
But I was actually just the person who’s turning up in an expensive Carla Zampatti suit, with $90,000 bucks of debt, and living pay cheque to pay cheque with no savings in the bank.
Where’s the control in that?
I went on like this for many, many years.
Until one day I saw these two financial planners presenting at an event. And as I was walking out, they were outside waiting for a cab. I stopped to thank them. ‘Thank you it was very informative’ that type of thing.
They invited me to catch up for a drink and I said ‘Ok, cool. Here’s my business card.’ By this point I was 45, and 50 was careening down the path toward me.
I was not looking for a financial planner, I can tell you that now, although I really knew I should have started to sort it out – even if I wasn’t admitting it yet!
Deep down I was thinking ‘my money is not in a good position. Eventually I want to buy a house. I really should be talking to these people.’
It’s crazy when I think back. There I was with 90 grand on credit cards, loans and all that stuff, which was ridiculous enough, but I was thinking to myself ‘yeah if I just get it down to 50 I could probably buy a house’.
Anyway, the Fox & Hare team did end up giving me a call. They invited me out for some food and a drink at The Winery and from the very first meeting I was like ‘Oh, so you’re actually here to understand me?’.
At that stage, I hadn’t told anyone about the debt.
Not even my closest friends or family. So, Fox & Hare were the first ones to hear the real story and that was a big, big thing for me. I can’t remember the exact moment I signed up, but I knew that if I’d walked away from that meeting I wouldn’t have. It really was one of those now or never moments.
I thought to myself ‘I like them. I like how they operate, what’s the worst that can happen? I’ll give them a twelve-month trial and if it doesn’t work, I’ll cut it off. I’ll do it now, great. And in a few weeks’ time if it’s not so great, I’ll pivot.’
I guess that’s something I learned being trans. If you don’t like something, change. I didn’t like my body. I changed it. Congratulations! Not a problem, keep moving forward.
And so, I said ‘let’s give it a go!’
I signed up.
The first steps out of debt.
We went through this process that I was just not expecting. This process of learning about my relationship with money, my relationship with spending and my history, my goals, all this stuff. We didn’t even mention a financial plan until two meetings in!
They really wanted to know me, they wanted to know my relationship with money, and I absolutely loved that ethos. I mean, if you don’t understand who I am, how can you put a plan in place?
As I said, though. At that point, nobody knew about the debt. And so, for me, it was actually about building that trust, too.
I felt like I’d been treading water, like I hadn’t been moving forward and it was all a bit of a façade. Like my whole life was about hiding behind a mask. And it was terrifying to take the mask off.
At some points I was saying to myself ‘no, I can’t do this.’ I had to talk myself into it, I was saying to myself ‘you need to tell them everything because you need to have a plan and the only way they can plan is to know everything.’
It was very, very emotional. But we kept pushing forward and here we are, five years later – and 100% debt free!
Thinking back, I was not afraid of debt. I had a Myer card, a David Jones card, two, three credit cards, you know, and a personal loan. It was bad.
But they looked at my debts and started by saying “let’s tackle the little ones first. So, you have a few little successes and then we’ll tackle something big”
And it worked!
From $90,000 debt and living pay cheque to pay cheque to buying property in Sydney
When the Myer and the David Jones cards got paid off, I think it was then I was able to look back and say ‘OK, now I can get the others.’ So yeah, that probably was the pivotal moment for me. Before that I’d just been focusing on the big debt, as opposed to the little ones where I was more likely to succeed.
I was so impressed with the strategy. They went through everything with a fine-tooth comb. Right down to consolidating my super and finding the best coverage for a trans person.
It wasn’t just ‘Ohh yeah, we’ve done a deal with Macquarie Super, so therefore it all goes to Macquarie’ I know there’s financial advisers who do that, which is cool, but Fox & Hare tailor it to the individual, and they try their hardest to understand.
As I said, I didn’t fear debt. And when you don’t fear it, you’re not conscious about why you’re not fearing it. I realised I was in debt because I wanted to be kind, to please the people around me and to show off a little bit.
But because I was comfortable talking to the team about that, because we were able to get it out there in the open, there was suddenly this level of accountability that I’d never had before.
And, as a result, I’ve gone from 90k in debt, living pay cheque to pay cheque and robbing Peter to pay Paul to totally debt free, money in the bank and ready to buy a home in Sydney. As you can imagine, I’m feeling great! And very lucky to now be in a position where,
If I didn’t like my job I could just leave, have myself a hot girl summer and not have to stress about money!
Back then I didn’t see a future, but now, since working with Fox & Hare I am actually hopeful for it.
I am excited to see how I get there, excited to see how I get the property, the nice happy retirement and for having money in the bank.
Yes, it’s a challenge, but it’s doable. And really all about priorities. Since working with Fox & Hare I’ve been empowered to ask myself ‘what do I prioritise?’ ‘Do I prioritise my future or the bottle of wine?’ And that has turned my world around.
If, like Marla, you’re worried about your current financial position and ready to take steps toward financial security, reach out to Fox & Hare for a free virtual coffee catch up.
In this meeting we will discuss your financial frustrations and greatest aspirations, and start working out just how you can achieve financial freedom – whatever that looks like for you!
We have helped hundreds of 25-45 year olds – just like Marla – unlock their potential and find the freedom, security and stability they deserve.
We can assess your current financial world – and give you 100% clarity on how to:
- Pay down debts
- Save to buy a home
- Quit work for a career change / to start a business
- Achieve financial freedom
With clear, reliable and realistic time frames.
If you want to be bad debt free? We can tell you exactly how long that will take. If you want to own a home? We can tell you how long that’ll take too.
If you like what you hear, you can tee up a second, commitment free, “Goals and Values Session” and begin to unearth what’s been holding you back and why.
We only take on 10 new members every month, that’s a maximum of 120 spots every year! And right now there are less than 5 advisories in Australia servicing the more than 10 million 25-45 year olds currently eligible to work with us. So, if you want to put an end to that feeling of unease “when will I be able to buy a home?” “When will I be debt free?” “Will I ever feel financially secure?” Hit “Book now!” and claim your free virtual coffee with Will today.
About Fox & Hare: Founded in 2017 by two former Macquarie execs, Fox & Hare aims to empower and educate Australians in the wealth accumulation phase of their life journey. Through the provision of a safe, inclusive and accepting environment, they’ve built a diverse and devoted following of 30/40 somethings, from many backgrounds, abilities and genders. The organisation and its co-founders have featured in the AFR, IFA and Sydney Morning Herald, been included in Financial Standard’s Power 50 and voted IFA’s Thought Leader of the Year.
*Name changed and model used to protect privacy. Nobody wants their boss knowing they could running away for a ‘hot girl summer’ at any moment, right!?