Talking money – Interview with Christina Hobbs (Co-founder and CEO of Verve Super)

I was lucky enough to meet Christina recently, hear her story and also motivations behind Verve Super. Learn about her background, motivations for starting Verve – tips on how to best prepare for retirement from the expert herself and more!

Tell me a bit about yourself…

Over the past 10 years, I’ve had the opportunity to live in some of the world’s hot spots working for the United Nations supporting women and children in countries like Syria, Iraq, Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon, Somalia and Kenya. Today I’m passionate about how we can grow the capital of women and use our wealth to change the world! A wealthy life for me is one with lots of time exploring the outdoors, swimming in waterfalls and climbing or ski touring big mountains.

What motivated you to start Verve, Australia’s first super fund for women?

The Co-founders of Verve are women who have spent much of their careers working to build the financial power of women. Given the significant retirement savings gap -women are retiring with 47% less savings than men- we felt it was time for a women’s focused super fund focused purely on building the wealth and financial power of women.

We ultimate want to ensure that within our lifetimes, we achieve an economic system that is fair for women and ensures that no woman (or man) retires in poverty. So our vision is a fund that supports women in every way to close the retirement savings gap.

Through: free financial education, fee breaks for members on parental leave, investment in ethical companies building the world women want, and through political and corporate advocacy.

What funds does Verve Super invest in – and why?

Verve invests ethically, of course everyones idea of what is and isn’t ethical varies, so we divest from the industries and companies that aren’t building a positive future for women and the world the average Australian woman wants.

As an example, we don’t invest in: gambling, tobacco, animal cruelty, pornography, companies that primarily produce junk food, weapons, and fossil fuel companies.

We proactively seek investment in health care, education, and sustainable energy production. We are Australia’s first superfund to divest from companies that won’t put a woman on their board.

I am a big advocate for preparing for your future self, today – what are some ways women can prepare for retirement?

So many women hate to think about retirement planning – retirement can often seem a long way away and immediate urgent cash needs take precedent over future needs.

But every woman needs a retirement plan, even small and regular additional contributions to Super now can lead to big gains down the track – so it’s worth investing a Sunday afternoon to getting your super sorted.

Take some time to find the right superfund for you, and consider consolidating all your balances into one account – don’t get caught paying multiple fees unless you have a good reason. Check the fees, services and ethics of varying super funds and make an informed decision about the best fund for you.

Shifting gears slightly, what are some of the money lessons you have learnt through your experience in starting a business?

My top tips include:

  1. Be honest about your budget and assume everything will cost 1.5 times more than you expect – because it will!
  2. Hope for the best and prepare for the worst. Be strict about how much of your own money you want to contribute, when you will invest more and when you will move on if the business isn’t working. Tell your plan to someone and stay accountable so that you don’t end up in financial stress. Have a plan if the business doesn’t work or takes longer to work than you thought.
  3. Check on your income and disability insurance and ensure they will work for your new situation. As a self employed person, your business largely rests on you. If you’re injured or unable to work you could get into real problems, make certain you have the right cover for a self employed person.
  4. Factor in your retirement plan from day one. In the first years of a business it might not be possible to pay yourself super, but in the longer term if you aren’t contributing to your super or saving and investing for retirement in another way, then you could end up in trouble when you retire.
  5. Surround yourself with a community of self-employed women and small business owners. You are not alone! I can promise you that almost every single small business owner, no matter how successful, has financial stresses at some point in their business, often for years. Find your supportive community.