Rebecca Jones is the editor of ethical and sustainable money blog Good With Money – the UK’s best and only resource dedicated to helping people do good with their money: from bank accounts to saving and investing to mortgages and home insurance. She has been a financial journalist since 2012 and an environmental activist since 1990, when she insisted her parents send her pocket money to WWF to save the rhinos.
Rebecca’s #BEYOUROWN WOMAN Story
Staring up at my mother’s flushed, beaming face that evening, I marvelled at the wry smile playing around her lips as she described a new colleague of hers; a woman, and her new manager.
“She’s a bossy cow, I can tell already. All shiny blonde ‘air and teef – and skinny too. No kids, a’ course. Travelled a lot – like all the Aussies. But she wears a sharp suit and really; you can’ not like ‘er. She cracks some rotten jokes.”
My mother went on to tell one of these jokes, which I will not repeat here for the sake of decency. After, though, I remember thinking very clearly that when I grew up, I wanted to be just like this woman.
I am yet to figure out exactly what this looks like. Back then I knew it was more powerful than my mother was: a secretary among a pool of many at a big City firm. I imagined it meant power and tailoring and bossing people around.
Graduating university with a first-class degree in English Literature in 2011 was perhaps the first hint at success. I was a little late to the party, having left school at 16 and worked as a secretary myself before going to night classes and then Queen Mary University. As my mother would have said: “just like the British Rail, you got there in the end.”
She had died five years previously and we hadn’t seen her since I was 13, the pressures of family life finally crushing her. A working-class woman from East London, she married at 19 and had her first child – me – at 23. If she had any ambitions they were soon squashed – as indeed they were for many women of her generation.
One of my early ambitions – somewhere between being an illustrator and a vet – was to be a writer, and a journalist especially. Perhaps tough-talking, chain-smoking Louis Lane played by Margot Kidder in the Superman movies of the 1980s fitted the image of my mother’s boss – excepting the blonde hair, of course.
And so, on joining university, I threw myself into student media, becoming the features editor of the union magazine and founding its TV station around the time of the student protests in 2009 – at the start of the Lib-Dem Tory coalition that marked the end of liberal Britain for the foreseeable future.
That, and my studies with renowned psychoanalyst, journalist and Middle East expert Jacqueline Rose brought many opportunities, including a mini mentorship under Jon Snow. And so, after graduating, I began a master’s degree in television journalism.
Not long into this, however, my grandmother – who had been ill for some time –took her final turn for the worse and died. Devastated, I dropped out. For a while, I waitressed, worked for free at a music magazine but really, I felt directionless. Back to square one.
On a day of blasting CV’s I noticed a job post for a financial magazine and applied. I had gotten a D in maths at GCSE, however, I was applying for a hundred jobs a week and so didn’t think too much about it.
In the interview I was relaxed – I felt there wasn’t a chance I would get it and so I chatted freely to the editor. We spoke about literature and music and, oddly, my mother and how I had been put in charge of the family finances after she left. Even more strangely, I got the job.
That began what has been a seven-year career in financial journalism. A career that has spanned magazines, investment houses, and newspapers – one I would have never imagined possible and one that has led me to a place I am, truly, proud to be.
Well before my mother implanted the tough-talking, sharp-suited businesswoman into my mind, I had been a passionate advocate for the environment – aged five I was insisting my pocket money went to WWF, while aged 10 I had implemented some complex recycling initiatives.
I took this into finance, and almost immediately began to specialise in ethical and sustainable investment, finding – to my delight – a human, caring side to money that for me had previously been characterised by Gordon Gecko. Of course, all of my editors roundly ignored my suggestions to include more on this in our publications – it is a little fluffy, and ‘not what the audience wanted.’
This led to my relationship with the founder of Good With Money Rebecca O’Connor. The UK’s first and only website dedicated to ethical and sustainable money, I was chomping at the bit to be involved in any way I could.
Three years after our first meeting I found myself a freelancer taking a hiatus from the UK when Rebecca called me and asked me to be an editor. As I sat in the wilds of the Balinese jungle (yes, I apologise) I wondered if this was the right thing to do. I wasn’t altogether sure being a boss was, after all, what I wanted. Having tried and burned out in London the image my mother had set for me had failed and faded – I no longer wanted a power suit, nor the pressure of coming up with a sharp retort to the misogyny that seemed to be fairly rampant throughout the industry.
What I have found since taking over Good With Money, however, is a different kind of power. A power that comes from a hard-won experience balanced with an active, conscious and passionate choice. I do not measure success by tailoring, salary or staff, but instead, by the motivation, I feel when I wake up every day determined to make people and the planet richer, happier and healthier.
My goal especially is to help women make strong and empowered financial decisions – to never feel powerless in a world they feel is bigger and cleverer than them, as I believe my mother did. In short: to encourage them to be their own women.
And to be your own woman is, I believe, to be absolutely honest. In that, I include the confused weed-bed of images and influences you may have to dig through first – those of sharp suits and dirty jokes – before you find your calling. And then to accept what you find – even if it’s not what you thought, or even wanted.
I took that risk and today I am heading a business I couldn’t feel more passionate about. I drive it forward with a relentlessness that gives others (apologies, Rebecca) a headache. But it seems to be working. Just as anything does, I think, that we truly believe in.
I am less than qualified to give business advice and as a single, childless woman, I do not face the same challenges many other working women do. I will say this, however: it doesn’t work if you want it. It isn’t hard if you believe in it. It is absolutely achievable if you drive at it. And ultimately, it is inevitable if it is for you.
Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/goodmoneygirl/
Join BEYOUROWN Membership Club to connect, network and feel inspired amongst many of our like-minded ambitious women just like you.