Recently SMP Magazine caught up with Wedzi Garwe. Wedzi is a financial planner and mortgage broker. He has worked in financial services since 2007, with some of Australia’s leading financial institutions in various roles. His goal, through A Better Way Financial Partners, is to make a difference to everyone he encounters financially. He hopes to provide a positive impact on people through the peace of mind of knowing their financial affairs are in order.
When I first considered leaving Zimbabwe, I intended to join my dad in England. Instead, when the visa didn’t work out, a friend who had already migrated to Australia suggested I move here instead. I didn’t know much about Australia. However, I wasn’t disappointed.
Initially intending to study, then work for a year or two I was influenced by my uncle to consider making Australia my new home. He emphasised the importance of seizing the opportunity to get my permanent residency and Australian citizenship the moment I became eligible for it. I took his advice, and at the time if you had an Australian accounting degree you only needed to show the immigration office your qualification to get your permanent residency.
Now people face tougher criteria, including mandatory work experience, which is difficult for a lot of people to get.
My uncle taught me many practical survival skills. From discouraging frivolous spending at stores that the average Australian would normally be able to afford, to introducing me to thrift shops and emphasising the value of supermarket home brands, he imparted lessons crucial for navigating the lifestyle of an international student.
Most people would make the mistake of spending all their money at the nice stores. They would have all the nice things, but my uncle called it a fake lifestyle for someone who was in university. The word of the day was “survival”.
Because of my awareness of my personal circumstances, I didn’t behave like a typical student. I rarely went to parties. I focussed on getting through my studies and getting out into the workforce.
A stint in a call centre, dealing with challenges due to my accent and name, provided valuable training in resilience. I remember my dad emphasising to me the importance of keeping my own name. So, unlike some of my fellow immigrants, I never changed it. That type of training made it easier for me to find jobs after that.
Next, I got a job as a debt collector. This gave me a strong sense of how you could quickly end up in a very bad place.
Take credit cards, for example. At the time once you started earning a consistent pay cheque, the bank would send you a pre-approved credit card application. If your pay increased, you’d get offered more. Naturally, if you’re someone who wants to keep up with what your friends are doing, it’s easy to borrow more and spend more. This is why it’s so easy for people to get stuck in a vicious cycle where they live from pay to pay.
Saying yes to credit cards and personal loans can seem like the way to get what you want – cars, clothes, shoes, or other fancy things. Aesthetically everything looks amazing but you’ll experience significant stress from the financial burden. I believe it’s always best to live within your means and embrace where you are in your journey.
For new migrants, it’s important to remember why you’re here and really focus on your goals. You’ll get to where you want to go eventually. As my uncle told me – you don’t have to manufacture a lifestyle. And personally, I’ve grown to appreciate that you don’t have to send money home that you don’t have. Don’t strain yourself purely because the people back home believe you’re doing better than you are. That just puts unnecessary pressure on yourself.
So, as we Aussies say, take it easy – one day at a time.
To hear the full interview with Wedzi, Em and Sandra – check out our podcast on our website.
Wedzi’s top 5 financial tips for international students
- Live within your means – spend less than you make.
- Remember where you came from – your family is different from your friend’s family. Don’t spend your time trying to keep up with the Joneses.
- Focus on the step you’re on. After you complete your studies you will be able to create the life you want for yourself.
- If you’re going to help your family – set a budget for it and give within that budget.
- Keep it simple – focus on why you’re here and what’s needed for you to get there.