Helen Baker is the founder of On Your Own Two Feet, a service dedicated to empowering women gain and retain their financial freedom.
1) To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your career background and current role?
I’m very blessed to work with women everyday who want to be on and stay on their own two feet. They may be going through a divorce, being widowed, a serious health issue, or women who are looking to secure their financial future.
Technically this is my third career, but I can see how they all blend in together. I had a background in accounting, then project management/a “fixing” consultant, and now my business On Your Own Two Feet.
I’ve been very fortunate to have worked for fantastic organisations such as Reckitt and Colman in Europe, Robbie Williams and Sia’s management team and over a decade ago created my own business. I never thought I would have my own business, I had always enjoyed supporting others, but when I returned to Australia I was employed as General Manager of a financial planning firm and one of the advisers suggested I should be one.
At first, I thought no way, but then I thought, hang on, it’s finance, it’s getting people to achieve their dreams/or fixing their situations to put them in a better position, and it’s relationships/people. So 1+1+1 equals 3 and I thought I’d have a go. It has certainly been a journey!
At On Your Own Two Feet we help women who already have money but need to be with someone they can trust to feel financially secure, understand their investments, get advice re quality strategic decisions, get support for what they may not know and stay on their own two feet whilst keeping their sleep at night factor.
For those who may not be ready, or want to DIY, I have created the books – On Your Own Two Feet – the Essential Guide to financial independence for Women and On Your Own Two Feet – Divorce so that all women can understand why everyone needs financial advice – it’s not about selling an investment, it’s about strategy, about protecting what you have; not losing it; being assertive not reactive.
2) What does a day in your life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?
Busy haha! In a perfect world I have been for a run/gym/ridden my board, a quick chat over breakfast with my Mum, had time with a very special boy in my life who is 9 and then off to work.
My day is always full which makes the day interesting – appointments with clients are the best part of the workday. Spending time with clients is like having a coffee with your friends. We talk about their situations, their lives, their hopes, where to next, then work through the finances that support that – do we keep what we have, make changes etc?
It can also involve the media, will involve chatting with the team who are fantastic and having a laugh. The worst part of any day is when we have compliance demands.
There will be planning for the next day, trying to complete any personal tasks and then off to football training (my training or the team I coach), catching up with friends for a wine and a whine (haha), or exploring a new venue, or just chilling at home and spending time with my Mum.
3) Does your current role allow for flexible or remote working? If so, how does that fit into your life and routine?
Clients usually book up to a month ahead, so those appointments are generally in the office, fixed and I try never to change those. I do however get to manage my diary for availability and that has, and continues to evolve.
For example, I used to like a gym class on a Wednesday afternoon, and if there were no clients booked at that time I would go. Most times it was booked out. On the odd occasion it wasn’t booked out, I went, I loved it. So, after a while I blocked that part of my diary out and I made that my thing on a Wednesday afternoon. It sounds silly I know, I should have done it ages ago, but sometimes you just put everyone else first.
Over the years I have continued to block out time. Wednesdays I now have the day off to spend with my Mum and enjoy that time with her. You never know how long you have some of those opportunities, and you don’t want to regret time, so rather than fill that time with more clients to build the business, I chose time not money.
I found it hard to switch off initially, but everyone now knows I don’t work Wednesdays and I don’t look at emails. It’s one of the best decisions I ever made. Simple but perfect. I may work a little longer on Tuesday and Thursday but it is worth it for one clear day.
On that note, I like to work according to the demands i.e. some days I might do 10 hours straight, but the next day, leave at 3 or 4 because everything else can wait. I think flexibility and working to demands rather than a clock is better.
Re working remotely – In theory I absolutely could but I would probably get distracted. I actually love being in the office with everyone else around. You hear about their lives, pick up ideas, have a laugh, get energised from others and help me to focus whilst I’m in there. My saying is “get in, get it done, and get out”. Get in and focus – do everything you have to do, so that when you leave, you switch off and enjoy your personal life.
4) What does work-life balance mean to you and how do you work to achieve that goal?
If I’m honest, I never switch off completely because there are always ideas swimming in my head. But when it is your own business, that isn’t necessarily bad, it’s actually fun – thinking about how you can improve something, or thinking of a strategy for a client.
What news articles I should develop to help someone take action, or how I might approach politicians/institutions to change policy for women re homelessness for women, gender pay gap, retirement gap, how do we get the book out to as many women as possible so that they can know what they don’t know? Those things are exciting because you can change someone’s life and destiny.
I do however try to enforce strong boundaries, such as spending time with clients/friends/family/business contacts, I don’t have my phone near me so they have my full attention, and I am in the moment too. I try to exercise in my day as I love it and it helps me feel better rather than just get up, go to work, go home, or sit back down. I find that doesn’t make me happy.
I’m not sure what “balance” is, but I certainly know when I’m getting agitated because I haven’t managed my boundaries appropriately.
5) In the past 12 months, have you started or stopped any routines or habits to change your life?
I have always played football, but this year I started coaching an under 9 football team this year as well, and it has been so rewarding – to be able to instill values, encouragement and skills into children and see their faces light up is so rewarding. I started doing it for them, but realised how blessed I had been.
I didn’t think I could find the time to do it, but it just meant leaving work at 3 one day a week and getting up early on a Saturday morning (so not too much partying on a Friday night – move that to Saturday night haha).
I’m very proud to say that we won “team of the year”, not because we won the league, far from it, it was about them learning to never give up, not lowering their standards to some of the behaviour of their winning opposition and playing as a team.
Now that football season is over, I have switched to running/gymming with some friends most mornings. I love having a chat with them, having a laugh, and getting the exercise in before focusing on work. I’ve also started doing Zumba which is like going dancing but without having to be in a nightclub until the young ones start dancing at 11pm – I can go at a reasonable time and get some sleep in haha.
I have kept my Wednesdays off.
I listen to a message/podcast for 10-20 minutes rather than the news in the morning, so I have peace and the right attitude for the day.
6) Do you have any favourite books, podcasts or newsletters that you’d like to recommend?
I think I’m more of a watcher/listener than a reader. As advisers, we spend so much of our time reading legislation, emails, articles, viewpoints, that I find I absorb better by watching or listening and I actually just don’t want to sit and read unless I’m on a plane travelling overseas.
I like documentaries, biographies. I find people and their stories fascinating. I also like to listen to someone like Joel Osteen so I know that even if people do me wrong, God will see me right, so I shouldn’t stress.
7) Are there any products, gadgets or apps that you can’t live without?
I’m not much of a gadget girl. I’m what you call a late adopter when it comes to those things and for some reason IT/electronics and I are often not friends. I like a fairly simple regime. I love music.
I like Facebook advertising for events and ideas. And I’m trying to stay away from the Facebook Marketplace because there are so many cute things on there. And I can’t live without my mum because I don’t think any gadget can do home cooking like my mum. Made with love!
8) If you could read an interview about work-life balance by anyone, who would that be?
No specific person comes to mind, but I am surrounded by some great friends like Naomi, Melissa, Laura, Sam whose brains we all pick on this subject and we all encourage each other with ideas.
I also have some lovely mentors (Ann and Sonja) who help to keep me on track if I start to wander off course. There’s Heather Campbell with her Laughter Yoga and ideas. Having those around you who know your strengths and weaknesses and can speak kindly into your life is priceless.
9) Do you have any last thoughts on work, life or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?
At the risk of offending someone, which I don’t want to do and is not my intention. I am a massive advocate for women – not just financially, but seeing women achieve their destiny and enjoy the journey is vital.
So, my thought is, you will hear people say, “women can achieve anything”. I disagree. “Anything” often implies “everything”. I think that adds pressure to women to have to do everything, all at once, and I don’t think that is right.
It is unrealistic to expect a woman to work full time and even part-time, and be a fantastic employee/business owner, be an amazing mum, a caring daughter, be an amazing wife, be an amazing lover, be super fit, be a great friend, have the perfect body, have a clean house, and the list goes on. I think you have to be cautious.
Perhaps someone can do all of that all at once, but almost everyone can’t. So cut yourself some slack, don’t create an unrealistic expectation. Ensure that your life is not all work – make sure your work, which is a lot of your time, is something that you love doing.
As they say, “if you love what you do, you never work a day in your life” and as I say “it’s a long day at the “office” if you don’t like what you do or who you are working with”. Find things that make your heart sing and do them every day.
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