Graduate teacher's plan for prosperity

Hi Nicole, I am 25 and I have just completed my Masters in Teaching and I am starting to look for teaching jobs. I currently rent, and enjoy living within 25 kilometres of the CBD. I am working casually at $30 an hour plus penalty rates (about $47,000 a year). I also have about $50,000 HECS debt. I want to remain positive, but I find it difficult to consider who my future financial self will be when a lot of jobs on offer are only part time, casual or, if they are full time, contracted for 12 months at a time. I wish to have children in the next five to 10 years and so maternity leave is something I always thought would be an option, until now. One day I'd like to buy a home. Even though I like avocado on toast, I make sure I mostly eat it at home - but I will buy an occasional croissant. Thank you, Isabella, Northcote

Ah Isabella, I realise how challenging everything seems right now, despite having worked for so long to get yourself educated and employable. An odd expression springs to mind: The way to eat an elephant is take one bite at a time (the "why" is a mystery).

My point is breathe - and let's deal with each of your concerns in succession.

Your first priority is employment. As you say, teaching has become more casualised and contract-based - like many other industries (there are 130,000 more Australians working part time than there were a year ago).

But think of any temporary gigs you win as auditions for the real full-time deal. You're getting a foot in the door and the chance to show-case your abilities.

You usually need 12 months' service before you qualify for an employer's paid maternity leave scheme. But you'll get the government's parental leave pay (albeit only 18 weeks at the minimum wage) if you have worked anywhere for most of the year before a baby is born, including for multiple employers.

You'll also need private health insurance for (usually) 12 months before pregnancy if you want to deliver in a private hospital. You'll pay a lower rate if you sign up before age 31.

Forget your HECS - it's virtually a no-interest loan and soon enough you'll earn sufficient to make automatic repayments.

On the new international symbol for excess, the ordinary avocado, I like your approach. As soon as you can, get saving as much as you can ??? while your work history and time in a job affects your ability to get a mortgage, so too does a determined savings history.

Finally, pick a good super fund so your employers' contributions take care of your long term while you sort the short.

Nicole Pedersen-McKinnon is a money educator and consumer advocate: You can write to her for help solving your money problem, or with a consumer question, at

This story Graduate teacher's plan for prosperity first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.