With finances front and centre as the pandemic unfolded, people were desperate for independent, trustworthy information.
Personal finance expert and author of How to Get Mortgage-Free Like Me, Nicole Pedersen-McKinnon, gave it to them.
Setting herself a mission to help, her fast and funny social media explainers went viral, reaching nearly a million Aussies.
At the 2022 national conference, she shared her insights on money matters.
What is your current role?
I’m like the Switzerland of personal finance experts. I commentate and am a columnist for 7, 9, 10, the ABC and Yahoo Finance.
I love that my financial literacy message seems to transcend commercial sensitivities.
I’ll tell you a secret – so too does the financial literacy work I have been involved with federally. It doesn’t matter what the flavour of government; I’ve emceed moneysmart.gov.au parliamentary breakfasts for both.
How did you get involved in the industry?
I always say I didn’t choose personal finance journalism; it chose me. There were two jobs at a business publication fortuitously launching when I graduated journalism in Brisbane, and I was awarded one and rolled with it, subsequently studying every aspect of finance here and in the UK.
I’m still great friends with the talented journo who won the other job, even working with her again on the other side of the world.
It has to be said though that I grew up with a mother who made sure I was independent and super informed about money.
No kidding. She marched me to a stockbroker at age 18 and said, “do what this – albeit – guy says”. It probably helped!
What professional achievement are you most proud of?
Gee that’s tough, but when I was 26 and the deputy editor of a Financial Times magazine in London, I won Best Investment Journalist in the United Kingdom.
It was presented by the Pensions Minister at Westminster.
Awkwardly, my boss was in the category!
That takes some beating.
But winning circa $70,000 in compensation for a reader last year in my ‘Nicole Helps’ consumer-advocacy column, published in The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age, Brisbane Times, and WA Today, does exactly that.
What is one of the biggest challenges you’ve encountered?
To my total surprise, switching to the Financial Review in Australia from the Financial Times in London.
I’m Aussie. I studied and started my career in Australia. And, in full candour, I felt completely ostracised.
I became a magazine editor there at the same age David Koch did. In fact, I was hired to merge his and another – Personal Investor and Shares magazine – into a new one, but it was tricky.
They also didn’t understand the TV cameras that were suddenly in the newsroom.
But my goal has always been to make money intel interesting – and accessible – to everyone.
Who has influenced and mentored you?
A powerhouse of personal finance journalists who will correct me, as is her right and privilege.
But I believe she was 25 years at the helm of a Financial Times magazine, even before any other woman got a look in as a finance editor in the UK.
She won every award in our field there and is now an OBE.
One of her main messages to my newly-wed self was not to have kids.
Not related, but we waited 15 years.
What is something no one knows about you?
Move over, the amazing Ange Bishop… I’ve partied with U2’s Bono!
And people think finance journalism isn’t glamorous.
But tax deductions for investing in UK arts meant an exclusive invite to an intimate pre-red carpet function in London.
Yes, I was too intimidated to say ‘hi’, but I spent the whole night in a great chat with The Young Ones’ Nigel Planer.
How do you wind down after work?
I run. I turn the music up and I shake my troubles off. I adore it.
What does the immediate future hold?
I am beyond excited to get back to my first love and address a real, live audience again on Saturday at the Women in Media conference and about something so powerful and universally important as setting yourself up to succeed in any circumstances
For me, COVID was followed by cancer and, swiftly, separation.
It’s my first keynote in almost three years so Beyond. Excited.
Describe a perfect day in your role
TV interview, radio interview [freaking them all out by looking schmick], media training for a corporate, consulting with some select independent clients, writing…
Basically, anything that helps as many people as possible feel more financially empowered.