20 Oct "Money does not grow on trees" – John Symond
Executive Chairman and Founder of Aussie Home Loans, John Symond, says kids need to appreciate that money doesn’t grow on trees. He talks about the advice he received from his father that no doubt shaped his thoughts.
Kevin: With some advice on the topic now, John Symond, executive chairman and founder of Aussie Home Loans.
John, thanks again for your time. What advice would you give your children on investing and money?
John: Well, first of all, kids have to appreciate that money doesn’t grow on trees. Dad used to tell me as a kid, he’d say, “Son, it’s so much easier spending money than earning money, so be very, very careful.” You have to make sure that the kids understand the real meaning of that, because nothing comes easy. To live and pay your bills and then hope to have a few bob over to save is very difficult.
I make sure my kids appreciate the value of money. If money’s there, it doesn’t mean it’s there to be spent. They have to be careful. And I suggest to them that when they can, a safe investment long-term is buying a property – if not to live in, to rent out – because it’s not as volatile as other forms of investment.
I always listened to my dad on that. I’ve always loved housing. I’ve been working in the housing industry – finance and property – now for the best part of 40 years.
Kevin: I understood you grew up… Your mom and dad, I think, owned a fruit shop. Is that right?
John: Well, a number of fruit shops, Kevin. I went to 11 schools. Every day after school, even as a 10-year-old, I’d come home with my older brother and sister. I’m one of seven. My older brother and sister in those days, we’d go straight to the back of the fruit shop, help bag potatoes and apples and polish fruit. We did all those types of things. And weekends we used to take turns minding the shop.
But, wow, I say to people, I went to two universities, 11 schools, but my best education was from my parents, who had very little formal education. But they made me appreciate how important it was to look after your customers, the importance of working very hard, and acting truthfully with integrity. I learned some terrific stuff from my mom and dad.
Kevin: It’s interesting listening to people like yourself, successful people, and the conversations around the kitchen table and the lessons you learn from your parents. What were the conversation like at your kitchen table? Were they about money?
John: Well, it was about life, really. Even though I had a very modest upbringing because we didn’t have money. We lived on the back or on top of the fruit shops. Mom and dad would build up the fruit shop and over about a 12-month period, sell it for a profit. We’d hop on the back of the fruit truck. We couldn’t afford a car. We’d go to the next suburb, open another shop, sold the other one, and it goes on and on.
I used to talk to them, “How long, mom, do you think we’re going to be here?” Because after the first two or three moves at a young age, I was expecting that in the next six months or so, we’ll move to another place, which meant another school.
But as a young kid, I never realized the value in me embracing change. Because as a kid I was going through it. We had a happy household. We used to joke a lot. Dad would make sure we always had food on the table. The family always came first.
We would talk about moving, where we were going to move to. They’d always make it sound interesting and fun. We laughed a lot as a family, and we worked hard, and all the kids were involved in working hard. Mom raising seven kids, she would be in the fruit shop serving customers with the apron on. Dad would be unloading the truck with his singlet on, sweating profusely.
At times, I used to think he was going to break his back with the big bags of potatoes in those days with the two pick that you’d stick in the bag and throw it on your back. I used to think his back’s going to break.
But anyway, we had a very good upbringing, I learned a lot, and as I said, the best things in life– the most important things, I learned in life was from my mom and dad.
Kevin: I know, unfortunately, your dad’s no longer with us. Did he have the opportunity to see how successful you had become, John? Was that a proud moment?
John: Mom passed before dad. They were really proud of me. They knew that I was wanting to help change the system to give Australians a better go and all the rest of it. I’m really grateful that they were around to see that we were making a difference. I know that they were very proud parents, and that made me feel good. I’m thankful that they were around when we did make a real difference.
It makes me very sensitive to having the background and the experience I had of not having money, moving around every year, going to 11 schools, watching my parents physically work hard. It made me always remember my background. It gave me the opportunity of understanding the average moms and dads and how tough they do it and how hard it is to put food on the table and educate your kids.
That was a big advantage that I felt I had over a lot of other senior executives because I’d been through it.
Kevin: Well, John, I appreciate you giving us your time. I know it’s a busy time for you. I think, as we speak to you now, you’re in Darwin. You continue your travels and a very active life and a very successful business. Thank you for giving us your time and a great insight.
John: No, great. I’m opening another Aussie store and I’m trying to do the right thing. But thank you, Kevin.