Arriving in Sydney from South Africa with only thirty dollars to her name (given to her by her grandmother), Batya Shulman put herself through uni, working three jobs on top of studying at Macquarie University to be a Chartered Accountant.
From that start, she went all the way to reach the role of CFO at the Commonwealth Bank of Australia, before holding global positions in Sydney, New York, Tokyo and Hong Kong, prior to moving to Singapore. She and her family – three boys and husband Terry – are all PRs here, and they don’t want to live anywhere else.
So, when the call came for another international transfer, she decided to focus on making Singapore home and finding a new and satisfying path. We chatted to Batya and asked her how she made her decision and what she’s learnt on her journey.
When I left banking, I presumed I’d take up another CFO role, but I took my time and looked for something with a sense of purpose. I really wanted to help people. I had been very good at making money for banks, so I thought, “How can I do this for other people?” I’d always been good at planning my own finances and could afford to take some time off because of the investments I’d made.
In my year off, I ended up helping friends – intelligent women in good careers who knew very little about finance. They were scared of managing their money. For me, it’s all about being safe and independent, and it’s just as important whether you’re married or single.
It took time to find a new role in a male-dominant industry. Things happen for a reason and my true calling emerged through this period of soul searching. It became clear that I wanted to focus on financial empowerment for women. And I made the decision to join St. James’s Place Wealth Management, who I had been a client of for a few years and liked how they work. I did all my exams in under four weeks and, although it’s a very male-focussed arena, I joined as the only female expat Partner.
I am loving what I do; it’s hard work, but it fits with my goals so perfectly and gives me the flexibility I need – I never have to miss another school concert! And I get to help people. I also get involved with charity work and support the St. James’s Place Charitable Foundation.
Reasons to invest
I also started doing a number of workshops for women, for companies including Google, Aviva and KPMG, and associations like Primetime Women. We go through all the basics and they can ask me anything, from questions about the inverted yield curve to where and how can they start managing their money. A lot of people feel a bit embarrassed asking these questions, so they pretend they know it all.
What I have found is that there are five reasons why people don’t invest or save:
They say they’re not ready – people don’t want to come out of their comfort zone.
People often think they need a lot of money to invest, but you can start with $1,000 a month.
There’s a tendency for people to admit they don’t understand things, so it’s easier to do nothing.
They take ages to plan a two-week holiday and yet don’t have time to plan their 25-year holiday called retirement. Instead of saying I don’t have time, try saying “It’s not a priority” and see how that feels…
They haven’t found the right person who is committed to helping them reach their financial goals and objectives.
When I sit down with a client, I ask: “What are your lifetime goals and objectives? How are you going to get there?” It’s difficult because most women don’t talk about money to their friends or partners. But, really, women are better savers and investors than men and are keen for more knowledge. You don’t need to have all the answers to start; you just have to be willing to take the first step.
6 ways to get started
Nine out of ten women will be the sole decision-makers at one point in their lives, so don’t leave it until something happens. I suggest:
#1 Have an emergency fund. Make sure you always have sufficient money on deposit to meet your short-term needs.
#2 Don’t just consider investments, look at protection. But it needs to be the right protection for your various life stages. Don’t wait until it is too late or think “It won’t happen to me”.
#3 Get a will, sort out temporary guardianship, determine who will look after the family if something happens to you.
#4 Diversify your investments as widely as you can. Don’t just invest in one asset class like property, bonds or shares.
#5 Don’t sit on too much cash. The effects of inflation can be just as severe a risk as a sharp fall in markets. However, market falls are almost always followed by recoveries, whereas inflation permanently reduces the value of your savings
#6 Invest for the longer term. In the words of Warren Buffett: “Only buy something that you’d be perfectly happy to hold if the market shut down for 10 years.”
Speaking of Warren Buffet, here’s another quote from the famous investor as some final words of advice: “If you don’t find a way to make money while you sleep, you will work until you die.”
I’ve lined up a number of workshops, events and networking opportunities over the upcoming months. These range from financial empowerment to mental health and wellness and they are fantastic opportunities to learn, connect and network.
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