Here are some examples of what we can learn from these true leaders if we want to have a greater positive impact in our own lives.
Understand your investments
Dr Bronwyn King was getting her financial affairs in order to buy a house, when, as an afterthought, she asked a representative from her super fund what her benefits were invested in. His answer changed the shape of Bronwyn’s career and the entire superannuation landscape. As an oncologist, she was shocked that by default her superannuation was being invested in a portfolio which included tobacco stocks. “That was this extraordinary moment when I realised that I was an owner of several tobacco companies, the very companies responsible for the extraordinary suffering of my very own patients,” recalls King.
Through the not for profit organisation she subsequently founded, Tobacco Free Portfolios, King has successfully campaigned for the removal of tobacco holding from retirement funds in Australian and around the world. She is a passionate advocate for knowing what you are invested in and harnessing the power of collective investment to effect change. Many busy professionals, particularly medical practitioners, are not financially healthy, struggling to find time to manage their money. While King readily admits that she is not a good advertisement for balance, with her clinical load, 2 children and advocacy work, she is a shining example of the power of prioritising your personal finances can have a brilliant multiplier effect.
Align your spending with your values
Romilly Madew is the CEO of the Green Building Council of Australia and in addition to her significant commitment to making Australia a world leader in sustainable development, she is incredibly active in the community. This will be the 6th year of her presidency of the Bilgola Surf Life Saving Club, and she has actively campaigned for marriage equality, indigenous reconciliation and female participation in sport. The busier you are, the more you can lose track of your personal finances, spending more to solve the problem of trying to fit ever more into the finite hours of each day.
However, Madew keeps it simple, being ruthlessly efficient with her time with an old-fashioned paper diary and prioritising her spending in alignment with her personal values. A highly engaged parent, Romilly is comfortable to spend generously to spend more time with her children, particularly if it means creating shared experiences. She laughs that there are not many politicians, including Malcolm and Lucy Turnbull, who have not met her kids. However, she avoids frittering money away unnecessarily, preferring the simple pleasures of active patrols on Sydney’s Bilgola Beach with her husband and children, all of whom are in her life saving surfboat crew.
Provision while you can
Tracey Spicer is a well-known Australian journalist who has become the face of the #MeToo movement in Australia. This is not a new fad for Spicer, who has had the courage to stand up to unfair treatment in her industry for more than 10 years. She was unceremoniously sacked by Channel 10 upon return from maternity leave and had the guts, but also the financial wherewithal, to successfully challenge her treatment. She had built up sufficient resources over the course of her 16 years with the network to not only get the right advice and representation, but also stare down the fear of being branded a trouble maker and becoming unemployable.
Rather than spending all she earned and deferring saving to the future, which is a common trap for all of us, but particularly pervasive in high profile roles like the media, Spicer had been steadily accumulating a nest egg since the early days of her career. Not only did this see her through a difficult time but allowed her the freedom to become her own boss, which has been rewarding and profitable over the subsequent decade.
Following our passions to have a profoundly positive impact on the world like these true leaders is an aspiration for many of us. If we are passionate about making a difference, building a robust personal financial foundation is a great place to start.