The money lessons learnt from going Further Back in Time for Dinner


As the mother from ABC TCV's Further Back in Time For Dinner, Carol Ferrone and her family have lived through each decade from the 1900s to 1940s.

Carol, husband Peter and their children Julian, Sienna and Olivia took the changing times in their stride, across fashion, food and finances.

In this series, Carol struggled with not working outside the home. In real life Carol is a business coach working with small to medium-sized businesses, mainly run by women.

carole ferrone further back in time for dinner abc
Carole Ferrone in Further Back in Time for Dinner. Photo: ABC TV

What was your first job?

My first job was a checkout chick at Coles when I was 16. A certain young man used to come shopping there and I ended up marrying him!  My first real job after that was on the trading floor of a merchant bank in the settlement division while studying economics and financial markets at night. I was the person who would run through the RBA to get the cash rate three times a day, and I took cheques to other banks. I was 18-years-old and was the only female on the trading floor.

I was the only married European woman on a $16,000 income with money market dealers earning $80,000-100,000 a year which was so exorbitant for me back then and they would ask me to help them out with their rent money!

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

Owning your own home. My dad told me that and also he's told my kids. It brings security.

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

Property is the best investment decision we've made. In Sydney, property values tend to increase over time. We also own shares but they sit there and we forget about them for the future.  I did trade shares until the global financial crisis (GFC) but investing in property has provided the capital gain and security of knowing my family is safe every night. We are fortunately in Sydney to have capital gains to be able to go from a two-bedroom apartment to a comfortable four-bedroom home now.

I haven't had a secure job with an income for 21 years but we've still managed to do that and our kids go to good schools and we drive decent cars (not luxury cars). I look back and think we've done well - if we want to take out three months of our lives (twice now) to film a TV show, we can.

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

The worst investment decision was thinking I could trade my way through the GFC in 2007 while I was pregnant with my third child. I had "hope and pray" syndrome. I played derivatives (which have an expiry date) and I was hoping and praying that things would turn around and I blew $30,000 in one day, which is a lot of money. I've never traded since; it has scarred me for life.

What is your favourite thing to splurge on?

Food - we go out for dinner quite a lot. All three of my children learned to use chopsticks at the same time they learned to use a knife and fork. We like to travel as well. We would never borrow money for leisure things.

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

I would whack it in our mortgage or in our offset account. Or I'd buy some blue-chip shares at a very good price. We did that during the GFC - we had a bit of money, and we topped up our share balances and it's a good thing to do.

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

I'd keep it there and just keep working. We have been there, where we've had $50 in the bank and a maxed out credit card.

Do you intend to leave an inheritance?

Absolutely.  I'm an only child and I will get an inheritance and Peter will get one. We've decided that will be for property for our kids. They'll have a very healthy start to their adult lives.

further back in time for dinner
The Ferrone family in Further Back in Time for Dinner. Photo: ABC TV

What era do you think has been the best for women in Australia (from your TV experience)?

Over the show's 120 years, I'll say the 1970s because that's when I finally got out of the house and got a job. In the current series, it would be the 1920s. I was in the kitchen, but I was making food for the parties I was having.

What lessons can you bring from previous eras that can help with finances today?

Always plan for a rainy day - things can happen outside your control, you can have a great business and a great job and something happens such as a war, a pandemic and things out of your control will affect you. Have some sort of a buffer. This year we've been ok, we have a buffer, in our situation it's in an offset account. On the other hand, don't live too frugally - just live within your means and don't put stuff on credit.

Finish this sentence: money...

... gives you choice.  When you have not much money you have very little choice, the more money you have the more choices you have. You might choose to fly to London rather than drive to the South Coast because you have more money. You only need to make enough money to live comfortably; extra money and you just buy better quality stuff.

Further Back in Time can be seen on ABC iview. 

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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.
Tina Faulk
October 26, 2020 3.39pm

Very smart lady - and very wise words! Thank you Carole and I'll enjoy the series on iview!