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Financial First Aid: Discovering Financial Wellness w Shan Alyce


Financial First Aid: Discovering Financial Wellness w Shan Alyce

[00:00:00] Felicity Cohen: Hello, I’m Felicity Cohen. I’m so excited to introduce you to my Wellness Warriors podcast. For over 20 years, I’ve been a passionate advocate for helping thousands of Australians. Find solutions to treating obesity and health-related complications through surgical intervention and holistic managed care.


My podcast is dedicated to all the people past, present, and future who have helped shape my journey and continue to inspire me to work consistently to achieve a healthier Australia for both adults and future generations. I hope you enjoy it. 


Welcome to the Wellness Warriors podcast. Today it’s my absolute pleasure to introduce you to Shan Alyce. Welcome Shan, thank you so much for taking the time to join me today. 


[00:00:51] Shan Alyce: Thank you so much for having me. 


[00:00:53] Felicity Cohen: So the subject, and we are talking about financial health and wellbeing and such a great subject to talk about because, for so many people, I think that side of life is something we prefer to bury under the carpet. I know for me as an entrepreneur, you know, I’m the visionary, so anything to do with finances, that’s someone else’s job. And I think it’s really important that we do address our financial health and wellbeing and, and have a deep dive into, you know, how can we become more, I guess, in tune with the things that are important to us.


And I love your socials, they’re so great! You know, there was a post that you had up about teaching children at Easter how to actually understand tax, and your Insta post was, you know, about eating 30% of their chocolate. That was a really cool message that is communicated to people of all ages. Is that something that you feel is important, and when do we start talking to kids about financial health and wellbeing and literacy?


[00:01:57] Shan Alyce: I think it’s so important to help the younger generation prepare and have a little bit more financial literacy than I think our generation has. There’s always been, I know I personally didn’t learn a lot about finance at school and then it’s sort of, it’s like you get thrown into the real world and it’s like, you get a job, you don’t really know how to do like your tax file number application, how to pick a super fund, so many young people get into, After Pay debt or like credit cards or things like that, they don’t understand their credit rating and what damage they could do by doing those things and not actually, it’s more like the keeping up with the Jones theory, sort of like you just put something on After Pay because you want the latest clothes or everything is just so easy to consume because you’re not actually having to hand over that money, it’s kind of a later problem. And I’ve seen, I’ve probably like, especially a lot of my girlfriends and my circle, like everyone I know they’re always talking about how they’re just like maxed out their After Pay. So I think it’s really important to educate those people before they go out into the real world about those, just the basics of what a bad credit rating can do to them for the rest of their life or for their later years when they want to buy a house or, you know, do other things. 


And yeah, even for myself, I know that you know, I made those mistakes when I was younger as well and I’ve had to learn from them, so I think, yeah, definitely there’s a huge need for it. And I don’t think it has to be anything big, it’s just like having those little conversations. So for my kids we recycle cans and they like, take the money each week and they go and get their $10 or whatever for recycling the cans and then that’s there like pocket money, and I teach them if they want something, then they have to use that money or save up for something or do other little jobs. And just explaining to them the value of money that it doesn’t just fall off trees, like mommy’s got to go to work or daddy’s got to go to work and things cost money and helping them grasp that concept from an as early age as possible I think. 


[00:04:12] Felicity Cohen: Really great advice. So you’re a tax accountant, you’re a financial advisor, but you’ve moved into the space of becoming an influencer to guide, educate, and support many females, mostly I think is your particular following and mostly young in that sort of 25 to 34 bracket where they’re business owners and maybe just starting out. How did you actually decide that it was going to be of, you know, value for you to use your skillset and move into that space?


[00:04:43] Shan Alyce: I think it’s probably even just from conversations with my friends and my girlfriends about seeing their lack of understanding of money and just the questions that they ask me. I don’t really know how I got into Instagram, I think it was just that I started posting some tips and I found particularly that a lot of women resonated with it. I think there’s definitely a bit of a gap between women and men as to financial literacy, I’m not sure what it is, but I’ve definitely got such good feedback and reaction from those sorts of posts. And I was a little bit worried about, you know, just niching towards women or focusing on one thing because I didn’t want to, you know, exclude men, but I just found that if I really spoke to women in particular, in a way that was relatable, down to earth, didn’t make them feel like silly or there was no jargon or judgement, it made it a little bit less scary and a bit more fun, I think, to learn about finances and yeah, in a way that’s not like, a scary accountant, you know, using big words and, an old man in a suit with dusty books in his office that looks down on you with his glasses. It’s more just, I’m a friend, but I’m also an accountant, and I find, yeah, I’ve, it’s just grown and grown. So I’ve just kept doing what I’m doing, and yeah, I really enjoyed it. 


[00:06:20] Felicity Cohen: I love the concept of removing jargon from the whole conversation because that is so often where people do get lost and feel uncomfortable because it’s not the world that they live in and help make them understand more and attack it in a totally different way. I think that’s so helpful.


I just wanted to have a chat with you about financial distress in Australia. How prevalent do you think financial distress is in Australia right now? 


[00:06:49] Shan Alyce: I think it’s the worst it’s ever been, or I’m not sure if that it’s ever been, that I’ve ever seen it at least, particularly since the start of COVID, that we’ve had Bushfires and floods, businesses that have been forced to stop trading, then people have lost jobs or their hours have been cut back and it’s just been a flow and effect and I think. It works kind of two ways as well, like I find mental health, if you are feeling depressed or you’re anxious, then your business may not run as well, or you may not do as well at your job, you may have days off, or not feel as motivated, and then that affects you financially. And then on the other side as well, if you’re affected financially and you’ve lost a job all of a sudden and you’re struggling to make ends meet, or you find you’re really in debt, or you’re struggling, then that makes you feel anxious and stressed. So it can work both ways, and that’s why I think it’s important to have these conversations because they are so linked. It’s  just, I think financial wellness is just as important as spiritual wellness, and physical wellness, if you don’t, if you’re not in a good place financially, then everything else in your life won’t be going as well.


[00:08:08] Felicity Cohen: So what are the avenues for people to actually address and deal with financial distress? We look at so many different other areas of our lives, where we do have those moments of challenge, and we know where to go to, and seek out help support and guidance. What do people do in those really serious moments of financial distress and who do they reach out to?


[00:08:29] Shan Alyce: There’s a few different hotlines and websites that you can go to at the moment, one really good one is the National Debt Hotline, I know I’ve actually had some clients that have used them before, when, particularly when they’re in a lot of debt and they’re not able to meet those repayments and they’ve got people calling them and they’re really worried because they can negotiate on your behalf and help lighten the load a little bit and give you a bit of direction. So I have like a number of links that I will send through to you, you can either like put them in the show notes or send them through to anyone else that’s interested, but I think there are more resources available nowadays, but a lot of people don’t know about them so it’s just trying to get the word out of it. 


[00:09:09] Felicity Cohen: Yeah, absolutely. I think it’s a really great topic to raise and to provide those opportunities where people can reach out and, you know, look for support there. 


[00:09:18] So for my business, our priority is to help patients live healthier, longer life. There’s a lot of alignment between that philosophy and what you are doing with your clients as well I think, so one of the key points for us is the initial consultation process, and so when you are advising people, what does that initial discussion look like, and how are you measuring someone’s financial wellness, and when do you know that it’s time to apply financial mental health first aid?


[00:09:51] Shan Alyce: Just recently with our newer clients, we’ve started doing questionnaires, which I wish I started doing a long time ago and just asking like a lot of key questions that I think particularly if you work in finance, you forget that other people don’t have the same level of knowledge as you with some really basic things, just because they’ve never been taught that before.


[00:10:13] So for business owners we’ll ask them questions, like, “Do you understand cash flow? Do you know how to improve your cash flow? Do you regularly set aside money to meet your regular financial commitments and prepare for your tax bill? Do you have a business budget? Do you understand you’re different reports, like, do you know how to run a profit and loss report and understand it?” and 99% of the time people say “no, no, no, please help me” and it brings, I think you can kind of like flying blind a little bit and outta sight, outta mind, and if you’re doing okay day to day you don’t really think there’s a need to address those things and look at them. But when someone brings it to your attention, then it gives them an opportunity to sort of reflecting on how they’re going financially, and if someone’s asking you that question and in that questionnaire, they say, “no, I’m actually really struggling, I need your help” there’s like an opportunity that they’re being encouraged to speak about it when it’s not everyday someone comes up to you and goes, “how are you going financially? Are you okay? Do you need someone to talk to or any help?” It’s  a little bit taboo talking about finances and it can be really embarrassing, people feel shame or guilt if they get themselves into a lot of debt. And I think people don’t realise how common it is that there’s a perception that it’s only me, everyone else is doing really well financially, they understand what they’re doing, and how they’re going. Whether, I can tell you from an accountant, like the number of people I speak to, everyone’s almost, not everyone, but a lot of people are in the same boat and for businesses as well. A lot of them don’t really, they’re sort of just winging it a little bit, they may have a really good business idea, they hit the ground running, money’s coming in, but they’re not actually sure if their business is growing, if they’re profitable, they’re not putting money aside for tax, they don’t know how much money to put aside for tax, they’re not budgeting for their business, they’re kind of just winging it and coasting along which can lead to unexpected tax bills or, cash flow issues. So I think just having those conversations and being trusted, that’s why I like to be a little bit more like a friend, I’m not so much a scary accountant, I get to know them, build rapport so they feel comfortable coming to me if they have an issue. And then also when I’m looking at their figures or having chatted to them and I identify something, so we’ve had different issues in the past, like we may see that a client may have like a gambling debt or something because you are looking really closely at these people’s finances and it’s just, approaching it in a delicate way, just starting the conversation, even if they don’t want to speak to you that day there and then it may be a week or two later where they’ve hit rock bottom and they remember that you are someone that reached out to them and that you’re approachable. And yeah, giving them a safe space to open up, asking open-ended questions rather than just yes or no, trying to get them to talk about their situation, validating their feelings and letting them know it’s okay and it’s common, and then trying to give them some resources of what they can do and different people that they can talk to and get professional. 


[00:13:27] Felicity Cohen: Yes, awesome. A lot of your clients or your customer base are really in that space where they’re in that startup mode. What are your top five tips for someone who’s just in that startup mode to really make sure that they’re setting themselves up for financial success?


[00:13:46] Shan Alyce: I think a really good business plan is so important, to actually take the time and do your research, look up what your startup costs are, often there are so many unexpected costs of just starting a business, making sure that you’ve got enough money saved to help with your cash flow, forecasting, and really doing your research, estimating how much money’s going to be coming in, and looking at what expenses are going to be going out, and having a budget and trying to stick to it.


I think business or personally, so many people spend more than what they bring in and that’s ultimately the biggest issue is that that’s where they get into debt and yeah, it’s a bit of outta sight outta mind, not actually checking their bank account every day. I know personally that it’s good for people to do a bit of a bank account order and just actually have a look at their finances and understand what the situation is, actually look at what they’re spending. It can be a little bit confronting sometimes if they’ve never done it before, but the only place that you could start is by actually understanding the position that you’re in and yeah, having that foundation of knowing where you’re at and what you need to do to improve.


I think for businesses too, it’s not, try not to grow too big, too fast. I think, it’s very exciting having a business and you want, often it’s, you know, something you wanted to like do for a while and you want to have all the bells and whistles and grow really quickly, but I think just starting small, and having a good budget, and understanding your numbers first before you grow too big because that’s when I see the problems multiply, is that they haven’t, they’ve just kept going along, but haven’t actually taken the time to really understand their numbers and forecast and make sure that they have a good plan in place that, getting more staff and growing bigger, it just multiplies the problem that they still have a really big business, but they’re not profitable because they still don’t really understand those financial basics. 


[00:16:07] Felicity Cohen: So for a more mature business, for example, what are some of your tips when it comes to applying financial, mental health first aid? 


[00:16:18] Shan Alyce: For like a financial advisor or for, I think it’s re like probably putting, if I can see something that’s wrong, it’s actually putting it in front of them and showing them what I’m looking at and showing them the issue so then they can kind of face the music a little bit because a lot of the time it’s like, you just don’t want to think about it and a lot of people that I speak to that are struggling, it’s those 3:00 AM thoughts where they go to sleep and they’ll wake up in the middle of the night and they’ll think about the ATO calling them because they haven’t done their last couple of tax returns, or worrying about how they’re going to bring enough money to make ends meet or, and you sort of, then they struggle because they just lay there at night and it’s paralysing and they’re just worried about it and it just doesn’t solve anything.


It’s really hard to speak out and ask for help and say that you’re struggling, but it’s the most important thing that people can do. I had a lady recently, she hadn’t done her taxes for almost 10 years, she’d just been kind of like running blind and she’s had a lot of like health issues and different things that have happened to her over the years, and she hadn’t even told her husband or any of her friends, and she’d been holding this in for 10 years, like this stress every night, just worrying about it and yeah, I don’t know what was the shifting factor for her to come in, but just, it was like one day she just said the lights came on and she just thought, I just can’t keep going like this, it’s going to, I’m going to have a mental breakdown. So she finally had a phone call and within half an hour, I could put her at ease and map out a bit of a plan to look at what her current position is and make the plan of how we’re going to get her out of that situation that she’s in, and you could just see the lightness come over and the weight off her shoulders. And it’s just a half an hour, like a free phone call that we do to sort of understand your current situation and help you map out a plan to get you to where you want to be and to get everything all sorted and it’s just life-changing, and that’s, I’m so passionate about that because it’s such a half an hour of my time can actually change someone’s whole life and give them the confidence to yeah, get out of the situation that they’re in. 


[00:18:37] Felicity Cohen: Absolutely, and you know, I think that is incredible. I wonder how she would’ve felt if she was reflecting on it, imagine if she’d made that phone call 10 years earlier, it would’ve been completely life-changing for her. 


[00:18:48] Shan Alyce: Yeah. 


[00:18:50] Felicity Cohen: You know, it’s so interesting to also note how that has a domino effect on other aspects of life. And I think that’s something that we can’t underestimate from that whole financial, mental health picture, whether it’s distress or something else that’s part of your kind of concerns on a daily basis that, you know, if you don’t address, it, it’s going to manifest and get worse. So you know, it’s really great that people can actually reach out to you and have those conversations.


[00:19:19] What is one wellness tip or practice that you wished you’d known about 10 years ago? 


[00:19:26] Shan Alyce: I think being more spiritual is probably not even until like a year ago that some of my staff they’re quite spiritual, they’ve we come into our office in the morning and you can smell incense, they have their, affirmations, they set their intentions, they’ve got crystals in their office and I kind of got curious a little bit. But it wasn’t until I’d seen a psychologist for the first time last year, that I was kind of expecting it to be quite clinical, I wasn’t really sure what to expect because I’d never been to one before, but I was surprised how it was quite spiritual! It was about breathing, grounding, taking your shoes off, being with nature, seeing positive thoughts, journaling, and it kind of shocked me a little bit because I just didn’t connect that with like, mental health and how important it was. And so I probably took it a little bit more seriously after I’d heard it from a psychologist and it’s just been life-changing. And it’s only small things like taking the time to take deep breaths or like going for a walk outside, that side of wellness has just made a massive impact in my life, and it’s given me tools to, when I’m quite stressed or overwhelmed, to be able to use them as like strategies to manage stress levels. So I wish, yeah, I wish I knew that a long time ago and people probably told me, but it just, yeah, I had to get to that point where I really started to believe it and practice it and see the benefit. 


[00:21:06] Felicity Cohen: Oh, I love all of those things and I guarantee you’ve changed your whole workplace culture and environment for so many others as well.


[00:21:13] Shan Alyce: Yeah, well they’ve changed me I think but yeah, it’s good and everyone is on the same level in our workplace too, that we’re all practising those things and it creates a happier workplace, our energies, like from each other are better and the energies for clients, then it passes on and it just creates such a positive flow and effect.


[00:21:36] Felicity Cohen: Awesome. You’re juggling a lot in life and so, you know, managing that whole big work-life balance for you, how do you manage that, and what do you do to make sure that your own personal wellness is looked after, not just from your workplace situation, but overall health and wellbeing? 


[00:21:54] Shan Alyce: It’s just a constant juggle of trying to achieve it, but it’s just been like trying to create those habits and be consistent with it. And if I have a week where you know, I’m not feeling too well or is quite stressful and overwhelming, making sure that I go back to it and start the week again on a Monday not being like, “oh, I’ve had a really bad week and I’ve stopped doing all these positive practices” it’s been like, it’s okay to slip up, not everyone’s perfect all the time and be like, let’s start again Monday, let’s go for a walk, take some deep breaths, do some meditation and try and like bring myself back and start over again. And just having quality time as well, so not always the mom guilt with kids, and I don’t know if I know a single mom that doesn’t feel guilty about working, but then I’ve learnt having quality over quantity is better, and the time that I do have the kids is really trying to be mindful and present, and spend time with them rather than maybe having more time with them, but trying to juggle and do housework and not actually giving them my full attention. And, again with my partner, he’s FIFO, so trying to spend quality time with him when he is home, and then the week that he is away, I’ll try and do a little bit more work like stay up at night and get things done so then when he is home I can actually spend more time with him. Yeah just learning, learning from my experiences, and learning and growing every single day, and it’s just a never-ending journey, I think that the key is not realising it’s going to be perfect or you have to know it all, but day by day just trying to get better at it. 


[00:23:40] Felicity Cohen: Amazing, and I think it’s so valuable to have this conversation, and I really appreciate the opportunity to give our listeners that chance to really think more about their financial health and wellbeing, and the concept of financial mental health first aid, I think is so valuable to get out there and encourage people to have those conversations well before it gets too late and life gets on top of you.


[00:24:05] Shan Alyce: Yeah.


[00:24:05] Felicity Cohen: So Shan finally, our listeners are all wellness warriors, and we know that wellness is worth fighting for. Once you lose your health, you spend the rest of your life fighting to get it back, whether that’s physical or mental or spiritual health. And something that’s always inspiring to learn about is how others are going on their wellness journey. So my last question for you today is can you share with us a time when you were struggling with your wellness and what did you do to fight for it or to reclaim it? 


[00:24:37] Shan Alyce: So I sort of launched and took over the business I used to work for in July last year and it was kind of a last-minute decision, something that had been sort of on the plate for a while, but I only sort of committed to not that long before. So I had a small period of preparing and getting all the qualifications and setting up the business, and I just went really hard trying to hit all those milestones by this deadline when I had to do the handover process. And once I got to that handover process it was, now I didn’t recognise it at the time, but now I look back, it was total burnout and it would just, it surprised me because I thought I was someone that didn’t get burnt out, I’ve always been a really hard worker, a high achiever, liked to keep busy and do a lot of things, and I almost didn’t believe that yeah, it was a real thing or it would happen to me. But looking back, it was just that I wasn’t looking after myself and prioritising my health. And after speaking to so many, particularly business owners, but other people and just hearing how common burnout is, I didn’t want to talk about it for a long time because I was probably quite embarrassed about it, but it was just going to the point where I almost stopped caring a little bit for a period, just because I just had nothing left to give, and I, yeah, I went to see the psychologist and then it was conversations with her and her also giving me those tools to actually like to slow down, stop trying to achieve so much, have such high standards, and have all these things on my list that I need to tick off straight away, and actually stop being and prioritising what’s the most important. And making more time for self-care, spending time with family, going for walks, breathing, doing yoga, things that a year ago I would’ve never, if someone told me that, I used to refer to it as a hippie, I used to think it was quite hippy, but now I realise just how important it is for mental health and those things made a massive, they’re only small things, but they made it a massive difference in my life and helped me get back to the point where I could give my full attention and energy to my business, my kids, my family, my friends. And it’s still an ongoing process, but yeah, I think it’s so important to chat, like, to hear other people’s stories and experiences, otherwise you just think you are the only one that’s going through it.


I did a business wellness retreat in March and just heard all these other really successful business women that I admire, like, just crying and talking about how hard business is and talking about burnout and juggling everything. And that was probably the most helpful and empowering thing for me, just realising that you’re not alone and that everyone has the same struggles. 


[00:27:49] Felicity Cohen: Thank you so much, it’s been a great chat today. I’ve really enjoyed having the opportunity to share your story with our listeners today, and thanks so much for your time. Look forward to having another chat with you again soon, Shan.


[00:28:01] Shan Alyce: Thank you so much for having me.

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