MoneyTalk With Sarah & Cali, Graphic Designers

In this Interview series, we want to feature amazing and inspiring women who are willing to talk about money. Our goal is to break the taboo around money, share experiences and learn from the community. Please see exemples here.

Sarah Malik Cali Mack

Hello Sarah and Cali!

Sarah is our first-ever Vestpod ambassador so no doubt you’ve already met her at a workshop over the past year. Super happy to have you both here today!

Could you please tell us a little bit about yourself.

SM - Well, first and foremost, I’m Sarah the flagship Vestpod ambassador! I’m half French, half Pakistani but confusingly for everyone, grew up in North Yorkshire. I think I can safely say, I’m a Yorkshire lass at heart. After years of working for other people, I’ve finally launched my own business with my partner in crime Cali. It’s already been a whirlwind experience of late nights and early starts, but also, luckily, good fun.

CM - I’m Cali, I’m a Kent girl through and through. I was once described in a school report as ‘unbearably cheerful’ which perhaps helps to sum me up. I have always wanted to start my own business and have recently made that dream a reality with the lovely Sarah!

You just graduated from a design school and launched your agency Malik + Mack, that’s amazing. What were you doing before and what inspired you to change career?

SM - I’ve worked in professional services, tech startups and scaleups since graduating in 2011. I’ve basically been trying to learn how to run a business from lots of different angles. I’ve been pretty lucky in that I’ve always had close contact with leadership, and have worked with some pretty inspirational CEO’s. I had, until recently, kept my creative instincts largely at bay although I did begin my career with an MA in Drawing at UAL. But I recently retrained as a designer when I discovered a course which bridged the gap between being a creative and having purpose in a business sense. So what I do now feels just right for me as it combines my commercial and creative instincts. I haven’t looked back!

CM - I’d been working in advertising for 4 years, starting out in insights and eventually becoming a media partnerships specialist. I loved the strategy side of advertising but was always keen to get closer to the creative. I therefore took the plunge and retrained as a designer. At the time it did feel like a bit of a leap of faith, but luckily my advertising experience really helped with understanding branding and answering client briefs.

What’s your relationship like with money and personal finance?

SM - I had an ‘ah ha money’ moment when visiting some friends in Yorkshire. Over, a very, very, (very) cheap pint I suddenly realised I had no idea what my male friends were talking about (stocks, shares and recent investments). I felt annoyed at being so out of my depth, especially as we had all been on a par at school. It dawned on me that at the same table, my equally switched on and clever female friends were talking about their families, their jobs, everything and anything but certainly not about money. I left on a mission to not be left behind and that’s how I stumbled upon Vestpod. I quickly fell in love with Vestpod because of the accessibility of the newsletters, as someone who knew very little, it gave actionable advice rather than general information. A key difference for someone who didn’t know where to start!

I’d say apart from the investing knowledge gap, which I hope is now fast closing, I’ve always had a pretty good relationship with money otherwise - I’m a saver at heart!

CM - I’m a huge fan of a fintech app and rely 100% on my Monzo card to keep track of my spending. I’m useless at saving so use Plum which is great for silting away holiday money. Starting Malik + Mack has been a huge learning curve in terms of corporate finance and tax structures - Google has been my best friend there. I do think that it's madness we don’t learn these sorts of things in school as they’re so important!

What does financial independence mean to you?

SM - Financial independence means being okay if the company you work for suddenly goes under. Growing up in the North I saw whole communities being affected by a sudden wave of redundancy after a company restructure or a buyout. Being totally reliant on a paycheck leaves you very vulnerable, probably the reason I’ve always been driven to start my own company!

CM - For me its having guaranteed regular income. Obviously with a freelance business one month can be vastly more lucrative than the next, we’re therefore keen to diversify our offering so that we can create a regular monthly income stream. This would give us the freedom to work on more creative projects.

What’s the one thing you indulge in? 

SM - CHOCOLATE, no bargain hunting in that department, any price, any time. And also holidays... it’s often quite hard to gage what ‘good value’ is when you’re talking about an experience.

CM - Probably exercise - I do yoga and a fair share of eye wateringly expensive gym classes. Saying that I should probably be in better shape…!

What is the best financial decision you have ever made? And what is the greatest long term investment?

SM - Hopefully my design course!

CM - My dad encouraged me to invest with a ghost portfolio so that I’d learn about stocks and shares. I then upgraded to cold hard cash and that taught me how to take calculated risks. I would say that my greatest long term investment was the graphic design education as it has completely changed the course of my life.

Have you ever experienced a financial epiphany? A sort of wake-up call, where you suddenly think - “I must start doing things differently”? 

SM - I remember learning about depreciation… embarrassingly late. It shocked me into investing rather than saving.

CM - It’s not necessarily an epiphany but I used to be embarrassed to admit that I was money motivated. I also found it very difficult to talk about or ask for more money. Since going freelance I understand the importance of knowing your worth much more.

You know Vestpod too well but can we ask: what is Vestpod for you?

SM - A movement! Arguably the most important one in addressing gender imbalance!

CM - A brilliant idea tackling a real need in a practical and insightful way. I wish I’d known about it sooner!

Own up. Have you made any major financial faux-pas?

YES - buying holidays to very risky war zones, and then not having the right travel insurance to cover me, when I inevitably realised it was far too risky to go! At least I got an anecdote out of that though...

The biggest I would say was in my early career; saving and then keeping my savings as cash, as so many people do - but it’s really a crazy thing to do unless you have a conviction about other asset classes being unstable, of course.

CM - Where do I start! I once spent £500 on an electric guitar as I was convinced I was going to become a rockstar...then quit lessons 4 months later. I would also argue that taking out a student loan was a huge mistake as the interest structure is crazy...although I tell myself that’s more of a society issue than my personal faux-pas.

What do you wish you have done earlier in terms of financial planning?

SM - Apart from not keeping cash, I would say keeping track of things - it’s only relatively recently that I have started managing everything in a spreadsheet, which means in one view I can see where I am at financially. If you don’t have this sort of perspective on the whole picture then it’s harder to make good decision.
CM - I wish I’d been more savvy about property when I was younger and had pooled resources with my siblings to invest in property. Now we all live all over the place and that chance has very much disappeared! I hate to think of how much money I’ve wasted on renting over the years.

Favourite book & podcast?

SM - Favourite podcast is ‘In good company’ and fav book is Anna Karenina (epic)

CM - I always say that my favourite book is the one I’m reading at that moment. Currently its Lines In the Sand by AA Gill - his writing is so evocative its giving me the most vivid dreams as I read before bed. Favourite podcast is 99% Invisible, although I can’t tell too many people about it as they’ll realise that literally all my fun facts are pinched from it!

Where can we find you?


Instagram: MalikandMack

Thanks a lot!

-- Emilie & Christina