It’s Money Week, and we’re talking to well-known New Zealanders about about their financial lives and the lessons they’ve learned over the years.
We start the conversation with founder of My Food Bag, Cecilia Robinson, who opens up about what money means to her, her best investments, and some of the missteps along the way.
What were your parents like with money and what effect do you think it’s had on your financial habits?
While coming from a middle-income family in Sweden, money was often a cause of stress and conflict in our family. This caused me to grow up thinking that I wanted to live a life where money wasn’t a source of conflict and that I needed to manage my money well (when I’d earned it)! My dad often used the phrase ‘when I win lotto’ and I was determined that I didn’t want luck to dictate my success (or financial well-being). I’ve never used that phrase but it certainly caused me to stay motivated (thanks dad!).
What was your first job and how much did it pay?
I sold product for WWF (going door to door selling product/merchandise). As I was passionate about animals growing up (and wanted to earn some money) this was the perfect first job for me. I also rallied my friends to make friendship bracelets and sold them outside our local supermarket when I was about 10.
What was your best financial decision or purchase?
James and my best financial decision was to invest in ourselves and our businesses first. Our parents often fretted that we hadn’t bought a house, and while the property would have gained significantly between when we started looking in 2008 to 2015 (when we finally bought our first home), having a mortgage would have significantly impaired our decisions and it’s unlikely we would have taken the same amount of risk had we had a mortgage at that time.
What was your worst financial decision or purchase?
It’s hard to pick out a worst decision as often they come with priceless lessons.
Has there been a time in your life when you didn’t know how you were going to pay the bills?
Absolutely, there were times in Au Pair Link (our first business) where we’d drain our savings accounts and chequing account to pay staff wages. I always felt that as soon as we’d accumulated a little bit of money, something unexpected happened and we had to use it for something we hadn’t planned.
What does financial freedom look like to you?
Waking up each day and having the choice to do what we want, when we want to. Knowing that my children and grandchildren will have the ability to make choices about their lives without having the same stress we had growing up. That we can provide support to our family and friends and be generous with not just our time but with financial support if needed.
What’s been the most difficult lesson you have learned about money?
That there is no such thing as ‘overnight success’. Many people think that My Food Bag was an ‘overnight success story’ but in reality, it was the culmination of many years of risk taking, hard work and pure grit from James and I on our entrepreneurial journey (which really started many years earlier with Au Pair Link)!
What financial advice would you give to your younger self?
To work hard and stay hungry for more. And also, to always remember that happiness isn’t getting what you want, it is wanting what you have. I am very blessed to get up each day now and know that there is nothing missing from my life.