Meet Annika Tierney Lemisio — humanitarian, goal setter and advocate
by Verve Super
As happens so often here at Verve, we speak to members and think to ourselves: ‘this is exactly who we built this fund for, this is why we exist.’ Speaking to the wonderful Annika recently was no different. So, we are delighted to bring you her words and her wisdom about what a wealthy life looks like, and how being part of the Verve community has ‘changed her life’. It’s heartwarming and wholesome, and everything we need right now. Take it away, Annika!
Tell us a little bit about yourself…
I am in my late 20s and currently living in Samoa with my husband and his family. I moved here from Sydney three years ago to work for a local NGO focused on advancing sexual and reproductive health and rights for women. Recently, I began working for another community development organisation, this time working to further the rights and opportunities of people with disabilities.
Samoa is still COVID-19 free at the moment, but that hasn’t meant we haven’t met our fair share of challenges! With tourism brought to a standstill and exports disrupted, it has been a challenging few months. Food shortages are an issue in some areas and, for the community development sector, our workload has definitely increased and funding stretched as we work to ensure our community is supported in such uncertain and difficult times.
How would you describe your ‘money story’ or what money meant to you and your family growing up?
My family didn’t have a lot of money growing up but my parents were determined that we would get a good education. School was the first priority in our house and due to great sacrifice on my parents’ part, the kindness of some wonderful people and scholarships, my brother and I were afforded the privilege of a fantastic education but I think pretty early on, my brother and I knew that we didn’t want to remain in this socioeconomic situation for life.
My father got really sick before either of us finished school, which really added to our financial strain but my parents made it clear that his illness was not allowed to be an excuse to slack on our studies. I have completed more assignments (including 2 degrees!) perched at the end of hospital beds than I care to count. There were times when it got really tough but I remember my dad being determined that we would finish our education no matter what – an opportunity that was never afforded to him.
It is only recently that I have felt that financial literacy was something that was accessible to me. That is until 2019 when I found Verve Academy!
And, how has your experience with Verve been so far?
I never thought you could be in love with a super company, but here I am. Finding Verve really changed my life. I found judgment-free, accessible and relevant information that broke things down and moved at a pace that I could grasp. I was able to start to identify gaps in my financial knowledge and research more where needed. I had always craved the opportunity to learn more, to feel empowered to take control of my finances and make long term, ethical and conscious financial decisions. Verve really gave that to me, and has greatly changed my decision making and understanding in a way that has been life changing.
Everyone says they care about their customers, but I really feel it with Verve. You drive home the commitment to ethical investment and women’s empowerment, which is important to me – and I really appreciate the fact that members are encouraged to make educated decisions and take control of their money. What I love is that I could access information based on where I was at. I wasn’t excluded from learning just because I didn’t have much money or came from a lower socio-economic background.
Verve has made me feel like I have the opportunity to build financial stability over time, and with incremental steps. I have never been one to recommend things to people, but Verve has been a company I talk about regularly. I truly felt a shift in perspective when I joined Verve.
What is it like to be part of a super fund that aligns with your values?
Ethics have always been really important to me. My mother works in the environmental sector, my brother is studying to be a conservationist and I have dedicated my life to community development. We are a family that has chosen to spend our lives fighting for what we believe in! I really wanted my money to be in places that aligned with my beliefs.
I moved to Verve during a big transition time in my life. My father had passed away after his long battle with cancer and we had been in survival mode for so long, just trying to make ends meet and maintain a certain level of comfort and care for my dad. After such a long time of just focusing on the immediate urgency of life, I decided I wanted to make some more long-term decisions.
It had always bothered me that I never made a conscious choice about my superannuation. I work so hard to ensure that I do no harm in all aspects of my work and personal life and then here I was with a super company that invested in industries that I knew I didn’t support. I was a member because it was the first one I saw when I started working and I didn’t know what my options were at 18. It took me a long time to find Verve. I found that when I asked people in my life about ethical super options, the vast majority of people were with whoever they had been with when they first entered the workforce and hadn’t thought much about it since – this did not help my research at all and I feel so lucky that I found Verve because it was purely by chance.
I know you can’t control everything, but superannuation is likely to be the biggest savings I will ever have, and the most investment I will ever make. It is important to me that I ensure that investment is in line with the rest of my life and Verve allowed me to do that.
What does a ‘wealthy life’ mean to you?
Whenever I consider this question, I always think back to being a kid, waking up in the morning not wanting to get out of bed. It was warm and cosy, and my first thought every morning was always that I needed to find an excuse to stay there. Then I would start thinking about the day ahead, and there was always some reason why I couldn’t stay. Maybe it was a conversation I wanted to have with a friend, a book I needed from the library or a class I was really excited for and I would find myself propelled out of bed by my own joy for what was ahead.
Now what I am excited for has changed slightly! It might be a project I am working on or a phone call back home to my family and friends, maybe even a date with my husband. But I still wake up in the morning and think how much I would love to stay where I am, only moments later to be filled with all the reasons I am excited to get out of bed. As long as I am able to hold on to that feeling, I think I am doing okay in life. I have the enrichment and excitement I need to define it as a good, or ‘wealthy’ life.
What’s your number one life or money goal for the year ahead?
My financial goal for 2020 was to make conscious and long-term decisions with my money. COVID-19 has thrown a bit of a curve ball in this area! I am still committed to achieving this though, and am working my way through the Verve Academy.
What is the one piece of financial wisdom that you want to pass on to other women?
Take control of your finances! Don’t worry about how many times the world has told you that it is not something for you to worry about, or not something that you can understand. Find somewhere to start, and take it one step at a time. Be patient and kind to yourself, but also be persistent. You will get there.
Any last things you wanted to share with the Verve community?
Joining Verve was a really important milestone for me and I am able to clearly identify how my attitude and understanding has shifted since learning from Verve.
For the first time in my life, I feel like I am able to make informed and empowered decisions about my money that will allow me to move beyond a constantly unstable financial status.
That knowledge has lit a fire inside me, and caused me to advocate strongly for the people in my life to take back control of their finances. I have conversations now that I never would have known how to have before joining Verve, and my hope is that these conversations will continue to have a ripple effect.
Verve has given me tools to make sustainable and achievable decisions and that have never existed for me before. We hope you got through that without dissolving into a pool of happy tears! What an incredible story, and we are so grateful to members like Annika for sharing their journey and what it has meant to them to be part of the Verve community.
Are you a Verve Super member? We’d love to hear your story. Send us an email and let’s do it: firstname.lastname@example.org