Why I’m so passionate about being Underspent and Ready for the Future

Don’t wait. The future is now.

Sooner or later you and I are going to be replaced by technology.

Right now, research says that over 45 per cent of jobs, including high-skilled roles, are able to be fully automated in the next five to seven years, and technology is disrupting every industry from hotels to public transport. Currently 19 per cent of the workforce in Australia are either unemployed or underemployed, in the USA almost 15 per cent of the workforce are underemployed and only 13 per cent of the global workforce are said to be engaged at work.

Add to that economic slowdown, soft financial conditions and the rising cost of living and it’s easy to see why all industries and workplaces are looking for cheaper alternatives – namely, technology and automation.

Millions of people could, in the coming years, lose their jobs and be made redundant.

I first observed redundancies (or retrenchments) in late 2008. I remember that Monday as though it were yesterday. I watched men and women pack their things into cardboard boxes and saw adult professional men sit and cry.

Since then I’d been disturbed and at times absolutely terrified by the veil of silence over redundancies—before, during and after they take place. I’d seen the good, the bad and the downright ugly. I’d seen people pivot, change and transform their lives; I’d heard stories about colleagues who’d lost their life savings, their marriages and their homes; and I’d witnessed leaders in my community admit to suicidal feelings. Redundancy is tough, confronting stuff—stuff that it’s easier to ignore rather than tackle and discuss. 

Being made redundant (or retrenched) can be one of life’s most traumatic events—causing a level of stress similar to a marriage breakdown. It leaves many people asking themselves, ‘Why me?’

I knew my industry was changing. Technology was replacing people, computer systems had become more efficient than traditional processes, design tasks were being undertaken offshore in 24/7 design centres, companies were merging, consultancies were restructuring and disrupters like Uber were changing everything faster than anyone could have expected.

So, I spent over two years and more than $20,000 of my hard-earned personal savings consciously and subconsciously getting prepared for the future—mentally, financially and professionally.

On Monday the 7th of December 2015, I was given ‘an advice of potential redundancy’. Despite my preparations, it was a huge shock.

I’ll be honest: the first 48 hours are a bit of a blur. I remember trying to hold it together, crying and receiving text messages from people saying, ‘You’ll be right’. I remember feeling empty, lost and confused. I’d just agreed to buy a house, and that afternoon I had to call the real estate agent to terminate my offer.

I got the house!

I didn’t buy anything new or second-hand during 2014 and saved a staggering 38 per cent of my take-home salary.

And when I took my redundancy in December 2015, I had more than two years’ worth of salary in a long-term savings account.

It had been hard work saving so much money, but I was financially well prepared.

My friends and family remind me now that I’d said spur-of-the-moment things like, ‘I’ll be homeless’, ‘No one appreciates me’, ‘How will I cope?’ and ‘What will I do?’

Amongst the tears, anxiety, panic and self-doubt, I reached out to my thousands-strong professional and social media network and posted asking for help, with a very short message stating that I was seeking employment and freelance opportunities.

I was lucky. Within hours of receiving the retrenchment advice letter I was offered multiple jobs and was receiving endless contracting and freelance opportunities. I chose retrenchment even though relocation to another office was offered. It was then that I saw the value of investing my time and money into being ready.

‘The wound is the place where the light enters you.’ Rumi

For me, getting prepared for the future was time consuming and expensive. It doesn’t have to be for you, because in this book I share the fourteen-step process that worked for me:

  1. I had dealt with what was holding me back
  2. I knew my story and could answer the question ‘What’s interesting about you?’
  3. I had identified my passions and priorities
  4. I was underspent, not overspent
  5. I’d made a rule to save at least 20 per cent of everything I earned
  6. I’d created a portfolio of assets, because money follows assets
  7. I’d perfected my LinkedIn profile
  8. I’d asked for help
  9. I had an accountability group
  10. I’d focused on who I knew, as much as what I knew
  11. I’d sent myself on learning expeditions
  12. I had my own ‘gig economy’
  13. I went out and had fun
  14. I was positive—no-one likes a whinger!

I can’t guarantee the fourteen steps will be as successful for you as they were for me, but I hope that they help you mentally, financially and professionally.

‘No matter how many mistakes you make or how slow you progress, you’re still way ahead of everyone else who isn’t trying.’ Tony Robbins

Reflecting back, I’m very grateful for the opportunities that have arisen, the people I’ve met and the way my life has been transformed as a result of my fear.

If I hadn’t been so scared about the future, I would never have embarked on my year of buying nothing new or second-hand (Underspent), nor would I have enrolled in an entrepreneur course—two things that have changed my life.

I’ve always been Underspent.

Growing up, I never saw anyone with a traditional income. I never saw someone in a traditional job, getting paid the same amount every week. I think that changes your attitude to money, because you see the financial results of hard work. My parents and grandparents were all self-employed – all small business owners. My parents and grandparents were all financially organised and conservative.

My sister Louise always laughs—I’ve always been a bit frugal.

As a 13 year old teenager, with a Saturday and summer holiday job, I would write down what I wanted to buy on a ‘three-month waiting list’. If I still wanted and needed said item when the three months had passed, I bought it. Nine times out of ten, however, I no longer wanted or needed it.

My ‘no buying’ experiment really reinforced that we need very little to be happy. In 2014 I learnt that if I waited one whole year for something I would really want it!

If this book (Be Ready. The future is NOW!)helps you, your family and your colleagues to feel positive about the future, and confident that you are ready for our new world of technology and automation, then I’ve done what I set out to achieve by writing it!

‘… you can either feel sorry for yourself or treat what has happened as a gift. Everything is an opportunity to grow or an obstacle to keep you from growing. You get to choose.’ Wayne Dyer

This is a Book excerpt from Be Ready. The future is NOW! 14 steps to prepare yourself mentally, financially & professionally for our new world of technology and automation by Rachel Smith. First published in 2016 by Rachel Smith ISBN: 9780995357259

The book is divided into four parts:

  1. Part 1: Global trends. Our world is changing. No-one likes change—it’s uncomfortable! Part 1 explains the changes that are making job losses, redeployments, relocations and retrenchments more likely.
  2. Part 2: Personal impacts. The problem is not the problem—the problem is our attitude to the problem.
  3. Part 3: Why don’t we get ready for the future? The section of the book explains some of the mistakes and the ‘sticking points’ that can prevent us from getting ready for the future.
  4. Part 4: Fourteen steps to prepare yourself mentally, financially and professionally. In this part, I describe the fourteen steps to getting prepared mentally, financially and professionally, and provide you with a list of activities to help you take these steps.

Buy Be Ready. The future is NOW! inpaperback, e-book and Kindle formats in all online bookshops or here www.cyclingrachelsmith.com

Buy Underspent in paperback, e-book and Kindle formats in all online bookshops or herewww.cyclingrachelsmith.com