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Money makeover

Your stories
Mariam Mohammed by Gabriella Sukkar

Mariam Mohammed (pictured) arrived here from Pakistan as a 19-year-old with just $300 in her pocket. Since then, she co-founded a social enterprise that educates young women in Australia about money and finances. Here she talks about the important connection between money and health, and shares her top tips for financial fitness.

Being educated about money boosts your physical safety and your emotional wellbeing."

Mariam Mohammed

What Mariam lacked in money on her arrival to Australia, she more than made up for in determination. “I was a new migrant, and it was a challenge to land any kind of job”, she recalls. “I was determined to not go back [to Pakistan] or drop out of university in Sydney. I was extremely stubborn.”

It took a few years to get out of the trenches and land on her feet, but the juggle to survive and to study shaped her life. “It became so clear to me how much of a role money places in the choices we make”, says Mariam. “Being educated about money boosts your physical safety and your emotional wellbeing.

“When you feel more in control of your finances, you will take better care of your physical health because you have better mental capacity. You can afford your health check-ups because when you are not in survival mode, you have the capacity to do that.

“Good financial health results in better mental health, and the reverse is also true. Better mental health results in better financial health because when you are not in survival mode, you are able to make more sound long-term financial decisions.”

Empowering others to become financially independent was the rationale behind MoneyGirl, the social enterprise she co-founded in 2019 which educates young women and non-binary people on money basics. Mariam is passionate about providing women with choices around finances because of its impacts on their lives.

Sometimes that choice is simply between poverty and violence... I want all people to have a third choice."

Mariam Mohammed

“Sometimes that choice is simply between poverty and violence”, she says. “I had a friend who moved to Europe to study, and she was abused by a family member she stayed with. I chose poverty and she chose violence. I want all people to have a third choice – the freedom to safely make a decision that is good for them.

“This is a lifelong journey, and many may never truly have that third choice but it’s the choice I want to put my weight behind.”

Top tips

Mariam encourages young women and non-binary people to create a healthy and active relationship with their finances. Here are some of her top tips to get started:

  • Get active with your cashflow – This is the foundation of money management, and the golden equation is simple – spending less than you earn means savings, spending more than you earn means debt.
  • Understand where your money is going – Tracking how you spend from month to month identifies trends. Are you overspending in some areas?
  • Set goals – Create a vision about what your future will look like and set your money goals based on that. Don’t put all your savings and expenses money in one account. For example, I have an account for my travel fund and can see at a glance how much I’ve saved up.
  • Review – Review your cashflow monthly. Every three months, look at trends in your spending habits and adjust your goals or money system accordingly.

Photograph by Gabriella Sukkar