Profile: Monica Rule

Monica Rule arrived in Australia at the age of nine with her family from Burma in 1971. Monica could not speak a word of English and going to school in Australia was tough – not only because she didn’t speak English but also because of her Asian appearance. She was bullied and called many cruel names at school including Kung-Fu lady and Ching-chong amongst others. Due to Government errors she missed out on being placed in language classes and was put into mainstream high school classes. Somehow she learnt to speak English from observing others. In her teenage years she purchased English books and taught herself correct English grammar and punctuation.

In 1985, she sat for a data-entry operator test and landed a job with the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) in Perth WA at the base level of a Public Servant Level one. She then discovered her work life was no different to her real life in that because of the colour of her skin, Asian appearance, and having a soft spoken nature, she had to ‘prove herself’ and work twice as hard to advance her career in the ATO. There were many jobs where she was overlooked because the successful candidate was not necessarily someone with more skill but because they appeared more outgoing.

Monica did advance in her career at the ATO only because she would often put her hands up for difficult jobs that no one else would want, and she was fortunate in that some of the selection committee members did their job correctly and chose successful applicants based on experience, skills and proven records.

Monica became passionate about superannuation when she joined the Superannuation Business Line of the ATO in 1996. She wasn’t recruited into the business line because she had knowledge and skills in superannuation, but because no one else applied for the job. In fact she hated the first three months in her new job as she didn’t understand anything about superannuation and income tax. She couldn’t even pronounce the word “annuity”.

Monica has always strived to be the best at whatever she does so she decided to enrol in a correspondence course for a Diploma in Superannuation Management through Macquarie University. She was surprised how she understood the income tax and superannuation legislation in relation to all aspects of superannuation and soon she was relaying her knowledge to the staff and clients of the ATO. Monica soon advanced up the career ladder in the Superannuation Business Line and was promoted to an Executive Level One (equivalent to a Public Servant level seven) where she became the technical adviser who assisted senior executives with their external presentations, presented external seminars to professionals, wrote technical training packages for staff and contributed to ATO publications. Later, as a senior compliance officer, she audited self managed superannuation funds (SMSF), SMSF auditors as well as large SMSF auditing firms.

It was in her role as a compliance officer that Monica came across SMSF trustees and professionals who did not understand the superannuation law and were making costly mistakes. Monica first approached the senior management of the ATO to convince them to run an education course for SMSF trustees. Then in 2007, when she realised the ATO wasn’t doing enough she took time off work to run SMSF workshops, in her private capacity in WA. Monica received approval from the ATO to run these workshops.

However, Monica realised she needed to find another way to reach the rest of Australia with her SMSF knowledge. So in 2009, she sought permission from the ATO to publish a book on superannuation for SMSFs. As Monica was the first employee to ever ask for such permission, it took the ATO over nine months to decide on the approval – Monica’s book titled “The Self Managed Super Handbook – Superannuation Law for Self Managed Superannuation Funds in plain English” was published in October 2010. The main restriction the ATO placed on Monica obtaining the permission was that she must not identify herself as an ATO employee in any of her text.

In 2012, prior to the release of the second edition of Monica’s book, Monica approached the West Australian and The Australian newspapers to see if she could contribute articles for their readers. Both papers agreed and the articles were favourably received. Monica was again given permission by the ATO to write these articles on the condition that she not identify herself as an ATO employee. Unfortunately as Monica’s public profile grew through these articles, she began to encounter jealousy amongst a few of her colleagues in the ATO. Some staff began to complain about the permission that Monica had been given to publish her book as well as write columns for the newspapers while being an ATO employee. In July 2013 the ATO chose not to renew Monica’s permission to write articles for the newspapers.

In August 2013, Monica decided to resign from the ATO to pursue her interest in SMSF and superannuation education and consulting. It was always her intention to leave the ATO at the age of 55 but she felt the decision to leave 3 years earlier was the right decision considering the phenomenal growth of SMSF market and the knowledge she had to offer the industry.

The third edition of her book was released in September 2013 as Monica established her business website Monica explains things in plain English and in simple terms so that people will want to take an interest in superannuation. She is available to assist anyone with superannuation knowledge whether it is through her book, her monthly newsletters that are freely available on her website, her articles through various media outlets, or face-to-face consulting and training.

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