Friday, 24 April 2015

Little by Little

My mother died when I was sixteen. She was thirty-seven. Far too young to die, most people said, which seemed odd to me at the time, because it's not like there's an age restriction on death.

One of the many effects on my life of Mum's death was, weirdly enough, on financial planning.

When I graduated and got my first 'proper' job - not the house-cleaning, baby-sitting jobs I'd been doing up until then - the salary came with optional pension contributions. I turned it down. Why would I need a pension? I was unlikely to live past forty. I mean, look at Mum. Better to have the money in my hand, and spend it while I could.

Mum's type of cancer wasn't genetic. I still have no idea how she got it; she never smoked, never drank, had five healthy kids, breast-fed all of them. Her food was from our massive vegetable garden - no pesticides or herbicides, because Dad couldn't be bothered with that, if the plants didn't grow that was their fault. There was no reason, really, for her early death. And there was no reason that I would die in my thirties too. But that's how people think when a parent has died young. There's an implicit (sometimes explicit) thought: "I'll die at the same age as my parent."

Upshot of this was, that by the time I reached thirty I had no retirement savings. Not that that's a big problem, plenty of time to save and all that. But the pension contribution options had long since disappeared from government salaries. I would have to fully fund my own retirement. Gulp. That's a heck of a lot of money to save when you have little children and you only work part-time.

So I started small. A couple of hundred dollars in a unit trust fund. Added to it every week, or month, or when I could. 9-11 happened, and the world's share markets dived. I bought. The market recovered, and my units were worth more. I kept saving. Little by little.

We sold our house, put some of the proceeds aside. I did a business degree, found out about the sharemarket.  Kiwi-Saver began, and I entered that scheme. I kept saving. Eventually we had around $20K built up. I approached three share broking firms to see what they could do with this. Two weren't really interested, and said to make it worth their while I'd need to have considerably more! One, Craigs, was really helpful. I had an interview with a share-broker and we talked for a couple of hours about different options for us and our kids, and the best use of our money.

Fast-forward seven or eight years. We've been buying shares slowly and steadily while the market rose and fell and rose again. We only buy on the recommendation of our share-broker. He emails us or calls us if there's a good deal coming up. Perhaps once a year, there's a good deal. Little by little, says our broker. That's the best way of making and saving money. And thanks to compounding interest, money breeds money

From Mr Money Moustache

Anyway, long story short, I'm now ten years older than my mother was when she passed away. I've been saving for the last seventeen years and I have more money saved now than I had ever dreamed I could manage. I don't have a highly paid job, I don't have a great deal of non-cash assets but I don't have any worries about retirement (still many years away). And, best of all, I can afford to work part-time and write.

The point of this long post? (this is a blog about writing, after all) is to remind me and to remind you, dear reader, that nothing worth doing happens quickly. Writing is a very slow process. One word after another after another, until you have a book.

Making money from writing is very much like that too. Large book advances and Harry-Potter profits are the exception, not the rule.

But get the basics right - write a good book, have a good cover, make it discoverable. Gain more readers. Write another word, another book. Another reader finds you, and another. These are little by little things that gradually add up.

From Will Write for Chocolate

At least, I hope they do. That's what I'm banking on, anyway. It's challenging to look at the sales data and realise it's a good day if I sell one book. It's very difficult when a publisher closes, or says I can no longer sell your books, do you want them back or shall I just pulp them. But I used to have those moments when I started saving, seventeen years ago. Those why do I even bother. This is So Hard moments. I'll never make it.

The thing with writing, and with anything else that's hard and takes time, is to while you may have a goal, sometimes it's a big stretch goal. Sometimes there's little moments that you need to celebrate. For me it was having the first $1000, then the first $10,000. And with writing, its the 4 star review, the comment 'I can't wait for the next one!', and the 2000 people entering a Goodreads giveaway. That's what I'm trying to focus on at the moment anyway.

If I'm still writing this blog in seventeen years, I'll let you know if this approach was right.

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