Cadance Bell on how to stand fast on what she's worth


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The ultimate "slashie", Cadance Bell is an accomplished director, producer, author and writer. She is openly transgender, and her work focuses on breaking down prejudice by sharing LGTBQIA+ stories.

The newly published memoir, The All of It: A Bogan Rhapsody, traces her life growing up in rural Australia, and her sometimes heartbreaking, sometimes hilarious, journey to self-acceptance.

Here, she shares some of the wisdom she gained around money along the way.  

cadance bell the all of it a bogan rhapsody

What was your first experience managing your finances?

I sold a Ninja Turtle toy at a family garage sale for about 25 cents and my dad said, "Look, you've done really well, go to the corner store and buy yourself some lollies."

He gave me a $20 note, and to a five- or six-year-old, $20 was infinity. I always remember that [feeling of] grasping endless possibilities and knowing I could have any lolly that I wanted in that shop.

I had no idea how much $20 was worth, so I went a little bit nuts and just bought everything that I could. It cost all of $3, but back then, in the '90s, that was a lot of loot.

Has growing up in regional Australia informed your relationship with money?

I live in Bathurst today and I grew up in Mudgee. I think that being in rural Australia makes you a lot more selective about how you spend money.

With the exception of online shopping, there is a lot less selection. I've just spent three weeks on the road and I spent an absolute fortune because there are just so many tempting shops in the city.

How do you decide what you will and won't take on? 

I'm in that zone right now. My memoir has just come out, my new documentary is locked, and I have 34 days to finish my next book.

So, I'm selecting new projects and, honestly, it's very tough. I tend to weigh it up between passion projects, the stories that I just have to tell that are burning inside me, and the ones that I have to take on to keep a roof above my head. I try to do a little bit of both.

How do you stand fast on what you're worth? 

Somebody once told me that if you do something for nothing, people assume that your time is worthless.

And that really struck me, that you have to be the person to value your time. You stand fast on what you're worth by being proud of what you've accomplished and recognising the value in that.

It's not up to somebody else to determine your value.

What's your hard-won lesson on successfully securing funding for a project?

Make the decision easy for the financier or the funding body.

Even if that means that you have to go outside the box and ignore the terms of an application and do something wild and different and visual. You have to be the person that's willing to go above and beyond in the pitch, because if you don't, the next person will.

How do you budget effectively?

I have this great trick where I prepay for everything: my insurances, my rent. I'll try to pay bills as many months in advance as I can so that I don't allow myself the temptation to spend the money otherwise.

That is the only thing that works with me.

When have you witnessed money making a big difference? 

In tiny community grants in the arts sector, because it often ropes in people who might not otherwise have that creative purpose.

I've seen so many projects where they've just gotten $2000 or $3000 grants and they have stretched that so far that soon you have a hundred people in a community that are working towards a play or something. This tends to happen in the bush, a lot.


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Have you identified any unique financial challenges facing the LGBTQIA+ community? 

For those in the trans community, it can be ridiculously expensive to transition.

I have spent personally maybe $65,000-$70,000 in the past four years, and that is just me doing the bare minimum. If I did everything that I wanted to do to reverse the effects of a male puberty, I'd be looking at about $200,000.

And my partner would be looking at the same.

It's because Medicare in Australia, and health insurances, don't cover most of the surgeries related to transitioning ... Many trans people have to make the choice between, will I get ahead financially in my life, or will I do the things that are necessary to feel whole within myself. I think in 2022 that's a bit shit.

What's the best investment you've ever made? 

I would actually say my transition. Honestly, I have never been more powerful, capable and happier. There is no price that you can put on that sort of happiness.

What's the worst investment decision you've made? 

A couple of years back I started up a company with somebody who didn't carry their end. I tried to keep that company going for too long. If I had just capped that when I had the gut instinct, instead of throwing good money after bad, I could have avoided a lot of hassles.

Please finish this sentence: Money has the power to... 

Protect or destroy.

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Genevra Leek was part of the Money team in 2022, bringing over 20 years' experience in consumer publishing.