It’s a rich man’s world.

“Money, money, money. It’s so funny, it’s a rich man’s world,”sang Abba.

Indeed, it even made someone president. However, at this stage of my career (i.e. poor and limited resources), what’s more relevant to me is to be able to maintain my finances well so that I can one day become rich. Having found that this is a common problem among entry level professionals, I thought that it might be useful to share with you how I manage my money.

Before we proceed though, there are definitely competing views about saving. Choosing whether to save and how much to save is very personal to each individual. Some people want to save for a better life in the future whilst some people don’t save at all because they want to live better in the present. I know some of my colleagues who don’t save because they believe that there’s no point saving now. It’s better and easier to save once you rise to a certain grade. My personal view is that while I recognise the importance of living in the present, I believe that when I do the little things well when I have little, I will be able to do more when I have more. It’s a similar work ethic I have when it comes to me being given small mundane tasks as a junior (see here for more). Hence, without further ado, let me open my bag of tips and tricks…

1a. Using Excel to track your expenditure

Generally, a good target to start with is to save 5% then 10% and eventually 20% of your net monthly salary. I save around 15%-20% each month and I think that’s an appropriate amount given that post tax, I have almost nothing left with rent and expenses 😦

Excel is actually easy to use if you know how to do the basic “=SUM()” and that’s pretty much all you need. All you need to know is how much you’re spending and how much you’re saving. You don’t need to manually key in all the items you’ve spent your money on if you use card, because most UK banks can give your bank statement in .csv format, which is essentially Excel and thus, you can just copy and paste into your own spreadsheet.

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i. A simple table to note down all my expenditures
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ii. Summarised table to understand how much you’re spending each month

However, because I have quite a few bank accounts, I have to reconcile them. I also do a “Snapshot” spent to see what I have in the bank vs what I have supposedly saved. This is very useful especially in cases where you are setting aside money for something. For example, I send money back home every few months because it just makes sense to do so for exchange rate purposes, instead of once every month.

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iii. A simple real time Snapshot table that show how much I actually have in my banks

I have been tracking my expenses for the past 4 years but the level of commitment to do this every week has increased because now it’s my money that I have to manage.

Sorry mum!

1b. Making use of existing market tools to help you

Apps such as Wally can help you track and plan your budget. It has a colourful and user-friendly interface and breaks down your expenditure into different categories so you can identify what you are spending most on. However, I think the common problem is that you have to manually key in all your costs immediately or possibly forgetting to add some items at the end of the day.

If you use credit card to pay for most of your purchases, some cards like American Express will automatically track your expenditure and even produce a pie chart which analyses your spend. If you’re even more advanced and you want on the spot analysis, there’s Monzo bank. Once you use it to pay, it’ll automatically appear on the app. It also has a feature that predicts your next spend. Amazing what technology can do.

2. Regular Monthly Saver

How do you start saving? In my opinion, the easiest method is to open a Regular Monthly Saver because it forces you to put aside money every month. Fortunately, UK banks have really good current account interest rates. I have three bank accounts, Halifax (£5 monthly reward), Lloyds (£7 monthly) and TSB (£14 monthly). It’s a little bit of a hassle though because you need to make sure each account has sufficient funds to do the direct debits and transfers. If you’re generally not a person who is very diligent with checking your bank accounts, I would suggest that you should have a maximum of 2 bank accounts. Three is bit too much.

For Singaporean readers, don’t let low interest rates deter you though, hunt around for good bank accounts where you can put your money in. I heard that OCBC 360 account and Bank of China have pretty good deals.

3. Other useful apps

For every awkward conversation you avoid with those same few friends who owe you money, fear no more!

Introducing…
Spilttable!

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It’s an app that keeps track and calculates how much you owe each other. I currently use this with my housemates. The only catch I have with this app is that it doesn’t separate month by month, which makes it challenging for me to do my expenses – it merely squares out how much you owe each other when someone has paid for the rest. Splittable can even do payments in-app to your housemates now, and also has a built in Bizzby (app that allows you to hire cleaners, plumbers etc) tab!

4. Other investment products

Invest in Blue chip company stocks if you’re risk averse. Personally, I don’t have enough money to think about those. But honestly, when Brexit happened, I know of a few people who hedged the pound using USD and didn’t suffer as much a loss as I did. Opening a trading account is not difficult – you just need to take the first step to do so.

“All the things I can do if I have a little money. It’s a rich man’s world.”

I don’t agree that one must be rich in order to start doing things but unfortunately, there are more things that you can do if money is not constantly at the back of your mind. Living in London has completely convinced me of that – there’s only so much I can do without spending too much money. But I guess the point is to first start looking to do things in order to gain a little money. There’s a lot of inertia to start doing something about your financials. However, if you don’t start doing things to improve your financials, I’m pretty sure you won’t be able to handle it when you get a lot of money… because it’ll just disappear anyway.

Unless you get to the point to pay people to manage the money for you. Then I guess why not!

Hope you enjoyed the post! I would also like to hear your thoughts so please leave a comment. You’ll never know who else is reading your comments and might benefit from them!

If you would like to stay tune to the next post, please click the “Follow” button on the bottom right of the page and just provide your email. You don’t need to have a registered wordpress account. 

You can also connect by following my instagram @twentyandfabulous and liking my facebook page https://www.facebook.com/twentyandfabulous/

Stay fabulous & financially savvy everyone! 

Athena

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N is for Networking

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How many of you have felt like this before?

“I don’t enjoy networking because I don’t like to speak to strangers with an ulterior motive of getting something from them.”

“I hate networking. I always feel so pressured to sound ‘intelligent’ so that I can leave a good impression.” 

“In my mind, the whole time I was there, I was thinking what’s the point of me being there? What difference does it make anyway?”

“Let’s leave after this session, I don’t want to network and socialise over drinks.” 

I can identify with all four statements. While people argue that it’s much easier for me to network with people because of my extroverted personality, I’m deep inside, a really lazy person. Therefore, choosing to make the effort to network is a choice that I have to actively convince my inner lazy self to make. Initially, I also found it quite insincere to approach someone with a specific purpose (i.e. get a job/project).

However, as a management consultant working on a different project every 3 months, I will suffer if I don’t network around the firm to find out about upcoming or interesting projects. If there are projects that I really want to get on, there’s a whole process of approaching and meeting with the team lead and members to understand more about the project, then selling my strengths to try to get a role. Unless I want to be allocated to a project that I know nothing of and could potentially be something that nobody wants, I meet as many people on exciting projects as possible.

Networking does not happen in a specific way. It can be over drinks, over coffee during work, over meals. I would interpret it as expanding you network. There’s a fine line between socialising and networking, but I would think that if this conversation you’re having affects your professional life, it would be deemed as networking.

Over the last year of working, I’ve picked up some basic tips and tricks to do effective networking (i.e. you achieve what you set out to do via networking). To some, it may be a “no-brainer”, but I guess a quick refresher never hurts.

And you’ll never know what opportunities may arise when you network, so you need to be always prepared.

1. Check LinkedIn

If you’re meeting a person that you really want to impress, you should look at their LinkedIn profile. This may sound slightly stalker-ish or even creepy, but it is always good to have an understanding of who you’re talking to and their profile. Of course, you should be careful not to be blatant that you’re checking their LinkedIn. Instead, weave it slowly into the context or you could ask questions that may direct him/her to start speaking about what you’re interested in.

This helps for interview preparation as well. For my final interview with my firm, I managed to obtain the name of my interviewer from the receptionist and I immediately checked him on LinkedIn. Of course, my heart sank when I found out he had a strong background in Financial Services (see my previous post on my experience interviewing for a Japanese bank, Nomura). However, I was much more prepared when he asked me questions about what I thought how Scottish independence will affect the UK economy and what I thought of the financial crisis.

Fine, I just quickly went to the Financial Times website and scanned through the key news. I was as prepared as I could possibly be in 10 minutes, but that still helps!

2. Learn to be comfortable talking about yourself, your experience and strengths

You’ll never know when the networking session may turn into an impromptu interview. The person you’re speaking with may want to know more about you after talking a lot about themselves.

“So how about you? What’s your background?” “Tell me about yourself.” are some of common questions that are often asked. I’m not sure whether it’s because of my culture or how I was brought up, but at the start I found it awkward to talk about my strengths. I can always say my experience in the most objective manner, but talking about my good points felt like self praise.

Now, I’ve come to realise that it’s necessary to know how to sell yourself, and it’s important not to sell yourself short, especially if it’s regarding something you really want. You don’t have to twist the story line and make yourself sound like a hero, but you can always state what feedback you’ve received and results you’ve achieved previously in a factual manner.

Everyone has unique experiences so you should think ahead of time about the experiences that will differentiate you and make you more memorable. It also helps if you have prior knowledge about the person (cue point 1), because you can cater a little bit of your experience to their background or interest.

3. Prepare questions

To avoid wasting people’s time, it is wise to prepare questions around topics you want to understand. Say that you’re interested in the role that the person you’re networking has, start by doing basic research about the job. Then broaden and start thinking more widely about questions that you want to ask. As I’ve mentioned in my previous post, you need to try your best to adhere to the guidelines around asking questions. Think about things that you won’t usually be able to Google and that someone working in the industry may be able to answer because they have firsthand experience.

You can definitely ask for advice related to softer side of work. Since I’ve started working, I’ve managed to make some work mentors whom I am able to speak openly and frankly with. Before meeting them, I would have a mental list of observations I made during work (i.e. about how I felt about different ways of working, how I felt my career was going etc). Then during our monthly coffee catch ups, I would share them and ask for their thoughts. Thus, there are hardly any awkward silences or times when there was nothing more to say.

Don’t forget, the other party who you’re speaking to has a schedule as well, so if there’s nothing to say, it’s better to take a rain check.

4. Take note of the little things

I always bring my notebook, just in case I need to note any points or insightful comments. In addition, when you are referred to someone else, a notebook will come in handy to record the names.

Be punctual and check your appearance, regardless of whether it’s one-to-one meetings or large scale recruitment events. You’ll never know who has a pet peeve about being late.

Or imagine how awkward it will be if you realised you were speaking with leftover spinach from that quiche you had during lunch in between your teeth the whole time.

5. Listen and be open to new ideas and thoughts

Many people know that the key to effective networking is to leave a good impression, but what does it really mean to leave a good impression? Well, basically, you should properly engage with the person you’re networking with by listening actively and asking intelligent questions based on what you’ve heard. By being able to ask good questions that demonstrate that you can think widely and quickly, this will set you apart from the rest.

It’s crucial to have the flexibility to deviate from your list of prepared questions. You should focus on what they are saying and ask follow up questions from there, as sticking to a mental list of prepared questions may make the other party think that you’re just asking for the sake of asking and not actually engaging.

To be honest, I’m still trying to master this step, but I know that I really don’t do this well in groups (i.e. large-scale recruitment events with a lot of other people trying to ask the same person questions). I am often left behind trying to understand what they meant and before I can even clarify, the group has already moved on. I guess that’s why I prefer having one-to-one conversations with people. It’s easier to absorb what has been said and go on your own pace.

6. Follow up post networking

This is essentially one of the most important steps but also one that people always forget/neglect.

You attend a recruitment event, network well with the employees over drinks and manage to leave a really good impression on this really senior guy, Joe Bloggs. You submit your CV and your cover letter, stating that you have met Joe Bloggs over the networking session, who promised you that he would vouch for you.

And then you get rejected.

Why?

Why did Joe Bloggs not vouch for you like he said he would?

It could be that other aspects of your application fell short and even Joe Bloggs vouching for you didn’t help. But most likely, the reason is that Joe Bloggs didn’t even remember your name.

Lesson to learn? You need to remember to ask for their name cards or contact details (usually, their email) during the session. Drop them a simple email to thank them for the session and ask any left over questions that you didn’t manage to cover.

A friend of mine working in a top investment bank mentioned that they do get asked by HR after networking sessions for names of outstanding candidates. While this may not guarantee you the job, giving your name to HR via the person you spoke to will allow you to speed past the CV round, which is where most candidates are eliminated.

Concluding Thoughts

Overtime, I’ve come to terms with networking and learnt to appreciate how my perspective has been broadened because of the different people I’ve spoken with. I’ve been able to gain a lot of insight into the minds of successful women working in a male-dominated business, entrepreneurs I’ve also managed to understand the driving motivation behind both senior and junior people, which has been really inspiring. Behind the serious facade of some, networking has also opened up another relaxed and humorous side of them.

All of that I would never have known if I just stayed home and watched dramas all day.

Hope you enjoyed the post! I would also like to hear your thoughts so please leave a comment. You’ll never know who else is reading your comments and might benefit from them!

If you would like to stay tune to the next post, please click the “Follow” button on the bottom right of the page and just provide your email. You don’t need to have a registered wordpress account. 

You can also connect by following my instagram @twentyandfabulous and liking my facebook page https://www.facebook.com/twentyandfabulous/

Stay fabulous & well-connected everyone! 

Athena

 

I have so many ideas in my head.

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I’ve been wanting to start this blog for ages, especially after reading this article about this girl who turned 23 and how it was a complete change for her. (I keep trying to google the article now to show you guys, but I get such strange results.)

I completely agreed with her!!!

It was such a large transition from being so competent in school for the past 15 years, knowing exactly what to do and what to expect… to becoming an inexperienced, clumsy amateur at work who didn’t know what to say or do at all. In fact, I spent the last year of university trying so hard to get a job in the UK that I ignored all other questions about whether what I wanted to do was my “ideal” job. Then I spent the whole of last year struggling with understanding my work, my identity at work, drawing lines between professional and personal life.

And then I thought, I wished that someone could tell me how it was going to be like. I know it wouldn’t be exactly the same, but it’ll be good or at least comforting that other people also share the same thoughts as I do.

I wished that someone told me that the job hunting will end and that there were actually tips and tricks that I could use to try to get the job.

Just to qualify myself, I’m not exactly an expert at working one year on, but I have had many conversations with people who have so much more years of experience than me and I have at least worked. So this is merely a forum for me to share my ideas and thoughts… oh yes I will give advice about love as well. Basically, anything that runs through my mind.

We all have to start somewhere, so my next proper entry… it’ll be about job hunting tips.

Oh yes, I forgot to say before I go on… I’m not 20!