Business Personal Finance

Wednesday 24 April 2019

'There are two sets of rules: the set for the wealthy and the ones for everyone else'


Irish author Dervla McTiernan
Irish author Dervla McTiernan

My money: Irish author Dervla McTiernan

The Irish author Dervla McTiernan was born in Cork. She studied corporate law and practiced as a lawyer for 12 years before she moved to Australia with her family in October 2011. She now lives in Perth with her husband and two children, Freya and Oisin.

As well as working for the Mental Health Commission, McTiernan turned her hand to writing. Her debut crime novel, The Ruin, was published in early 2018 and was a huge success. Her new book, The Scholar, was published earlier this month. Visit for more information.

What's the most important lesson about money which your career has taught you?

My career in law taught me that there are two sets of rules: the set for the wealthy, and those that apply to everyone else. I worked with and for some lovely, kind and exceptionally hard-working people, but legal tax avoidance (from tiny corporation tax rates to tax incentives and loopholes) was common and socially very acceptable. Those sorts of opportunities are not available to people who work in lower-paid jobs - no matter how hard they work.

What's the most expensive thing about being a parent?

Hands down, it has to be childcare - even in Australia, where out-of-home care is heavily subsidised by the government.

What's the most expensive country you ever visited?

Australia. We arrived at the tail end of an economic boom, and rent was very expensive. We lived about an hour out of the city for the first couple of years as the alternative was paying A$600 a week for a cockroach-infested three-bed property with rotting carpets.

What's your favourite coin or note?

I like the Aussie [polymer] notes because they survive if they end up in the wash by accident.

Apart from property, what's the most expensive thing you have ever bought?

I bought one of the new Dyson air wrap thingies. It's basically a styling thing for your hair and it costs A$600. Insane - but I use it so much for my daughter and I. And every time I do, it definitely sparks joy.

What was your worst job?

My worst job was probably my first - a casual job working for a catering company at the Galway Races. I was about 15 and completely clueless, so I was set the task of removing egg shells from hard-boiled eggs. For about four hours. It was less fun than it sounds.

What was your biggest financial mistake?

Buying our house in Ireland in 2006. Stretching ourselves financially to get the mortgage, because it was going to be our forever home. It didn't quite work out that way.

Have you ever made an insurance claim?

Yes, on our health insurance - when I was diagnosed with a brain tumour in 2016.

iTunes or Spotify?

Spotify. The kids get more fun out of it than anyone. We have an Amazon Alexa in the kitchen and they're always asking it to play some weird and wonderful songs.

What was the last thing you bought online?

Skylanders. My little boy is crazy about them but they don't sell them anymore for the older PlayStation3 platform, so we have to try to get them second-hand.

Would you buy property now?

No. I think watching all the pain and fallout of the crash put me off property investment as a strategy - it feels too much like gambling.

Do you ever haggle?

Yes. My mum was a wonderful haggler. I used to be mortified when she would do it as a child, but now I think it's a great skill.

What three things would you not be able to do without if you were tightening your belt?

Books (but there's always the library), health insurance and internet access. If I could have a fourth, it would be tea.

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