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Women in finance: Q and A with Bronwyn Bruce, aka Miss Money Box

Bronwyn Bruce, also known as Miss Money Box, describes herself as a financial advocate. She’s passionate about helping women learn more about money, specifically investing, saving and superannuation, and her blog shares her tips, experiences and wisdom in a really relatable and relevant way. Bronwyn caught up with Six Park head of communication Erika Jonsson to talk about money and more for Six Park's women's finance Q and A series.

Bronwyn Bruce Aka Miss Money Box

What was the first thing you remember saving for? How long did it take?

The first thing I remember saving for was a torch that opened up in the middle and became a lantern – I was about six. It took months to save for it. I loved reading so I bought the torch to able to read long past my parents determined ‘lights out’ time.

What’s the best advice you ever received about money, and who gave it to you?

I was lucky in that my parents were very savvy with money. Dad was the investor, Mum was the day-to-day budgeting and expenses person, so I got exposure from both sides.  While I helped my dad by reading out the closing stock prices printed in the newspaper each day, my sister would help Mum with balancing the cheque book.

What was your first investment?

I invested in Pumpkin Patch children’s clothing. About 10 years ago they were the darling of the NZ Stock Exchange, and my dad thought they were a good investment so I thought, if I’ve got the go-ahead from dad, I think I’m onto a winner. I was terrified – I was on this online brokerage platform, I knew what I wanted, I knew the price I was comfortable paying, but I had no idea what was actually going to happen when I hit the button to buy. I went for it – and, ultimately (many years later) I lost the money I invested when the company went into administration. What I’ve discovered is the only way to learn about investing is to do it and give it a go. It helped me learn that investing is a risky business – you win some, you lose some, so if you’re smart you diversify. I think I’ve ended up owning shares in about 10 different companies – some went well and continue to go well, and so while I lost my money with Pumpkin Patch I’ve doubled or tripled it with other investments.  

Your blog, Miss Money Box, recently turned two – congratulations! What motivated you to start the blog, and what have been your biggest challenges and successes?

I actually wanted to start the blog about eight years ago – I noticed that there was this gap; I’d been investing for a while but there was still so little information about how to invest. However, I didn’t do anything about it until two years ago. The biggest challenge is actually writing blog posts – trying to take all the information that’s out there and make it digestible and relatable and hopefully a bit entertaining. The best thing that’s come out of starting Miss Money Box is the people I’ve come into contact with – I’ve met so many great people through the website, through Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. The online personal finance community is so supportive and there are so many women and so many good men who want to help make it easier for women to get into investing and manage their money.

Your blog reveals that you were an entrepreneurial child, including being prepared to sell anything in your room and buying terracotta pots to paint and sell. Did you realise at the time that you were doing things pretty differently to other kids?

I had no idea! I just thought this is what people do. My dad would drive me about 30 minutes away to this big garden centre and I would buy about 20 pots for 99c each. I had standard designs like a sunrise, as well as some “bespoke” designs, and my dad gave me a big tin of varnish and I mass-varnished these pots. I sold each one for $5 – that was a pretty good profit. I was about 12 or 13 then and I really wanted to buy a TV (which I ended up doing) and I sold hundreds of these pots. I did the car wash thing too, I’d wash the neighbours’ cars once a week. I’d upsell regular products like notepad sets or pencils with erasers on the top and I’d buy them for 20c and sell them for 50c.

You’re currently undertaking a Masters in Research, Economics, Finance and Marketing at RMIT University, exploring the barriers women face in engaging with the investment services industry. What have you found so far?

Women have this reputation for being very risk-averse but what I’m finding is that they are actually much more risk-aware. It seems that risk isn’t as much of an issue for men – they seem to chase the thrill of it when it comes to the stock market. The investment industry is so masculine and so much of the communication and marketing is aimed at men, and women stay away from it because the concepts are not communicated to them in an inclusive way.

Every few months, we see a new piece of research about the financial disadvantage women face. What’s your message or advice for women who are looking for ways to bridge that gap?

Read – you have to read and educate yourself. As boring as it might be, it’s up to you to educate yourself on personal finance. From a young age, boys just seem to inherently receive these messages and girls don’t. It’s very hard to tell someone that they need to take an active interest in something they’ve never been interested in, but that’s what we have to do. I think it’s changing, but women haven’t always seen the need to take an active interest in how their money is working for them. Then, once you know about it, you need to help others understand it. That’s what I’m trying to do now.

You’ve recently moved to Melbourne from Sydney – what are the main differences you’ve noticed so far?

It’s colder! But it’s okay, I like the cold – I’m from New Zealand. People seem to want to chat, they’re friendlier compared to Sydney. Both cities are beautiful in very different ways. I love that there’s an information centre at Fed Square and there’s information officers wandering around the city– it kind of sums up Melbourne for me so far – friendly and helpful. And trams! Trams are so good!

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