'It's OK to need help', says R U OK Day ambassador Rob Mills


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Locked down in Melbourne, Rob Mills is dreaming of the seaside. The singer, who had his first break in the first season of Australian Idol before going on to star in Wicked, Jesus Christ Superstar and Ghost, is also thinking of those who might be struggling mentally. An ambassador for R U OK Day on September 10, Mills wanted to break the cycle that he experienced through his own work. "In entertainment you are on and then you're not on. You have high highs and lower lows. We need to get rid of the stigma, that when we need help, that's ok," Mills says. If 2020 has taught us anything, it's the value of having genuine conversations with people who are struggling, he says.

What was your first job?

Working in a video store - kids today probably don't realise how cool that was as they can just get a movie anytime they want. I was a paper boy at 12 but the video store job was at 15 or 16.

rob mills barry conrad r u ok day september 10

Best job since then?

Getting into Wicked - it was the journey of getting into the show and being part of something so wonderful, so special, having two female protagonists in a story that is super empowering for women and I'm a champion of feminism.

What are you doing now?

At the moment doing I'm doing some creative consulting on a start-up and looking at becoming a better facilitator - getting the most out of people, particularly kids in a motivational and empowering environment.

What's the best money advice you've received?

Just save, even it's just a little bit - open a special account and put it away as if you've never had it.  You've got to put it away for a rainy day in our industry, for sure, money you get paid in a gig is great but it might be three, six or 12 months between gigs. My dad also told me that rent money is dead money so I bought a property that I'm steadily paying off.

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

Buying my first property in 2007, it's that forced savings. And, I don't think I bought a new car until I was 30, I always bought second-hand cars off my brother or my dad. A new car is a want and not a need.  I bought the property when I was working but not heaps. I had saved the deposit after Australian Idol and gigs and a late-night game show I hosted. It was time to move out so I bought a one-bedroom place and it was a good investment. It was never going to be my forever house but it was a great place for now. I only lived there for 12 months until I moved to Sydney for Wicked. I stayed in Sydney for seven years and bought another property there.

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

I bought a new car at a charity auction, I was really emotional after visiting some kids in hospital, one kid in particular and then I went straight to the charity event for the hospital. I didn't need it but it made me feel good. I ended up selling it two or three months later and went on an overseas trip. It was a much better way to spend the money, learning and having an overseas adventure. I still had my 1988 Camry wagon waiting for me when I got back.

What is your favourite thing to splurge on?

Gear - bought a new laptop in isolation and I bought a PA system. I splurge on bits of music gear or camera gear. They're my big ticket items, and good hi-fi, I like good sound and good TVs.

If you had $10,000 where would you invest it?

At the moment, I'm hoping there's a company that works out what to do with all the empty buildings in town. I would invest with anyone who turns the city building into farms. That's what I'm hoping - I'm looking at the city, they're still building but now everyone can work from home, why would you pay astronomical prices for office space. They should build farms, hydroponic farms. I'm into green tech, if government won't invest in it then we have to.

What would you do if you only had $50 left in the bank?

I went overseas in 2006 and ran out of money at one stage. I only had $50 and I couldn't afford accommodation, so I was going to sleep on the street in Venice. I went to a pub started chatting to people and bought them beers, they introduced me to people who had a spare room and I had somewhere to sleep that night. So I guess I'd buy someone a gift, or buy drinks and start a conversation with people because you never know where that conversation might lead.

Do you intend to leave an inheritance?

I would like to say I would have a good enough career to leave an inheritance I'd donate some back to the arts to create new works or leave go to my children (to be) - hopefully they'll be alright without it.

What has been the best money making career move for you?

The next job that gets you to the next job - in the arts it's not a decision. I decided I really liked musical theatre and that was a really good decision, not monetary but the end result was a monetary win for me because I got into more shows and that gave me a career for last 10 years or so. It's hard work, though, eight shows a week.

Finish this sentence: money makes
no sense especially at the moment, the money we're printing around the world. Why don't we cut it all back and start again. The amount of debt people are in and will be ... let's go back and start again.

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Julia Newbould was editor-at-large and later managing editor of Money from November 2019 to February 2022. She was previously editor of Financial Planning and Super Review magazines; managing editor at InvestorInfo and at Morningstar Australia. Julia co-authored The Joy of Money, a book on women and personal finance. She holds a Bachelor of Economics from the University of Sydney where she serves on the alumni council.

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