Melissa’s motto is that she isn’t afraid to consume anything at least once. And as one of the cornerstones in the Australian food industry, you better believe it. There isn’t much that Melissa hasn’t touched when it comes to food in Australia. A freelance food and travel writer, media consultant, radio broadcaster, television presenter, stylist and cookbook author has just wrapped 52 episodes of The Chef’s Line on SBS alongside Dan Hong, Mark Olive and Maeve O’Meara. Find out more about Melissa here.
Along the way, Melissa has picked up a few sage pieces of advice when it comes to approaching business partnerships, financial health and dumb purchases.

Q: Where do you get your financial advice from? This could be a partner, friend, professional, podcast, blogs, no one, other.

I believe in doing your own research. Relying too much on one source of information can be dangerous in my opinion. Seeking professional financial advice is great, but I also trust my financially astute mother and a healthy dose of reliable web sources and podcasts like Planet Money and The Economist for a dose of infotainment and perspective.

Q: What’s the biggest money mistake you’ve ever made?

Going into partnership with an old friend I thought I trusted, who turned out to be untrustworthy and lazy, which put me in a less than desirable financial and social position.

Q: Do you have a strategy when it comes to finances? And if yes, how has this grown and evolved and how does it affect your day-to-day spending?

It’s an ongoing battle. I think there’s a stigma that if you aren’t on top of your finances 100% of the time, then the guilt creeps in and you bury your head in the sand and hope for the best. Facing things head on, even after a lapse in focus, is always going to be better than ignoring the looming issue. Financial health is hugely related to stress for most people, so I see it as an exercise in wellbeing.

Q: Do you ever speak to your friends about money, investments, purchases? If yes, what dominates your chats. And if no, why do you think this is?

With trusted friends, yes. Especially these days, when it comes to investments in business and the lessons people can share with each other as a function of experience, good or bad. I tend to find that as a food journalist, with many of my friends being business owners in hospitality, there’s a community of shared learning and support, which I think is wonderful.

Q: Looking back over your life, what are some of the most pivotal money moments (negative or positive) that you remember?

Definitely going into business for the first time with someone else (I’ve always been a lone ranger when it comes to work), was a huge eye opener. I learnt the hard way that you should never expect people to work as hard as you, or rely on them to have your back in such a way that you don’t keep an eye on your finances yourself. Ultimately, you are responsible for your own financial situation.

Q: Do you consider yourself clued up financially? What do you wish you knew more about?

I think we can all be better at dealing with finances. Growing up in that awkward generation between X and Millennials, I definitely have elements of financial responsibility fused with a ‘use it or lose it’ mentality. I have definitely made some financial choices I regret, but I also don’t believe in depriving yourself of the experiences and joys that hard earned money can afford.

Q: Do you remember any big financial lessons that you learnt at school / uni / in business?

I think CBA’s Dollarmite account program (I’m showing my age) was the smartest thing they ever did to encourage kids to save. I still bank with them now. Teaching kids at an early age the value and the joys of saving money and how it feels better to spend money you’ve worked hard to earn is fundamental to a healthy financial start.

Q: If you have a financial question – who or where do you go to get your information?

I ask people I trust. I am lucky enough to have a mother who is extremely financially astute and I usually start with seeking her advice, then looking broader to professionals and reliable information resources to fill in the gaps.

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Q: Superannuation is notoriously dull. Do you feel like you’re on top of your future financial situation, or do you not consider it at all?

As a freelance journalist and consultant, my super has largely been my responsibility. There are times where I wish I could contribute more, but it’s that entrepreneurial risk you take to invest in your future at crucial points and you have to take a leap of faith that investing rather than saving will put you back in the driver’s seat in the fullness of time.

Q: Financial literacy appears to be lacking amongst younger Australians. How do you think this can be improved and what do you see as the big issues?

I think it starts by talking about it! Normalising financial discussion rather than leading kids to thinking that ‘it’s just something adults do’ is crucial. I’m no education sector expert, but in my experience growing up in the Australian education system, aside from being a Dollarmite kid, I don’t recall much rhetoric surrounding money.

Q: Would you call yourself financially responsible or irresponsible?

A little Column A, a little Column B. There are definitely times where I lose focus of my financial goals and indulge a little, but I think that’s part of the learning process. Financial freedom is something I strive for, for sure.

Q: What’s the best piece of financial advice that you can impart on our readers?

Get to know your bank accounts. I travel a lot for work and was skimmed while on assignment in the US and if I hadn’t been checking my accounts, I would have missed the fraud. Even as it stands, they managed to get away with more than I’d like before my bank was able to deal with it.

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Q: Where are the gaps in your financial understanding?

Definitely investment for future security.

Q: What’s the dumbest purchase you’ve ever made?

I consider a dumb purchase anything that makes me feel less happy once I’ve handed over my hard earned cash. A sofa I bought online, clothing I’ve never worn and in my line of work, any excruciatingly disappointing meal.

Q: What’s the smartest financial decision you’ve ever made?

To give financial transparency to someone I trust (my mother). She doesn’t meddle, but she’s very helpful in observing when I’m veering off course in time for me to correct any spending habits before they impact me in a negative way. Whether that’s a financial advisor or family, I think it’s good to ask for a helping hand if you think you need one.

Q: If you run your own business, what are the toughest challenges you’ve come up against from a financial standpoint, and how do you work through them?

Knowing when to invest and when to sit tight and let things ride out. Because you are ultimately responsible for your own financial health, knowing when it’s right to ‘spend money to make money’, and when you need to tighten the belt, is your call. It’s a bit daunting sometimes!

Q: Anything further that you’d like to add?

In life as with anything, if you don’t know, ask someone who does.