Judith Beck talks business (and investing in a Van Damme movie)


Founder of both Financial Recruitment Group (FRG) and Financial Executive Women (FEW) Judith Beck knows a lot about getting a good job and also getting the job done.

A few years ago, in Tasmania for a conference, she loved it so much that when her husband joined her, they decided that it was the place they wanted to be. They've now built a house in Swansea (halfway between Hobart and Launceston) and she's written a book - No Sex at Work.

She's still sharing her recruitment tips to help women (and men) secure their next rung up the ladder.

judith beck no sex at work

What was your first job?

My first job was working for my mother at home shows - I can flip an egg like nothing else. My mother would demonstrate cookware and I'd go along.

That was when I was in high school, then I worked in retail while at university.

When I graduated I worked for about 10 years in banking in Dallas, US, and then when I first came to Australia (after marrying an Australian). I then started my executive search firm when I was about 30.

What achievements are you most proud of?

Being the founder of FEW, because that was truly about giving back and helping others and I think that we really did help a lot of women achieve their goals. I am also proud of founding A Few Good Men because we were able to pair quite a few executive men to help women in the industry. People told me it's been life-changing for them. And I'm very proud of the book - the feedback I've been getting is that "it's helped me navigate my career".

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

Don't spend more than you make, and also save for a rainy day. I think 'save for a rainy day' was actually something my grandmother and mother would say. But it stood me in good stead with my firm. I always made sure I saved a year's overheads and when the markets went down I never had to make anyone redundant. The market always recovers and you don't want to let go of good consultants because then you have to go and find them again. I was always able to ride the wave and things would always pick up.

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

When I was ready to move into a permanent office with FRG, instead of leasing the premises I bought the premises. I had it for 25 years and it was a good investment decision. And I didn't waste money on somebody else's property - any money I put into it, I benefited from.

investing in a jean claude van damme movie

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

In my late 20s I invested in a Jean-Claude Van Damme film - one of those film investments around the time Crocodile Dundee came out and people were making a lot of money. The Jean-Claude Van Damme one wasn't a hit. I learned that those kinds of investments are not good investments. But I figured it's best to lose a little early than a lot later on.

What is your favourite thing to splurge on?

My favourite thing to splurge on is a holiday. I've always seen it as my reward for working hard and so I don't think about what I'm spending, I just do it.

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

I'd probably invest it in land in Tasmania, because property has boomed.

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

I'd probably buy food - you can never do anything on an empty stomach!

Do you intend to leave an inheritance?

Yes, I do but it depends on how long I live.

What's been your best money-making career move?

Definitely starting my own business. I had the view I was going to start a business and make money out of it. I also liked the idea of helping people in their careers. The job itself never felt like a job and I never got bored because it was different every day and it was rewarding to find people their next opportunity. There were no negatives to it except it was hard work. I then started FEW because I thought the reasons women weren't getting to the high positions as men was due to lack of support systems rather than blatant discrimination. I wanted to pass onto women what I'd learned in FRG to help women with systems and the advocacy they needed to help them get to the next role.

Finish this sentence: money makes...

... life more comfortable even if you're feeling down. I'd rather be miserable with money than miserable without - but I'm very happy!

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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.