Aussie Firebug

Financial Independence Retire Early

Podcast – Strong Money Australia

Podcast – Strong Money Australia

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Summary

Our guest today is Dave AKA Strong Money Australia. Dave reached financial independence at the ripe old age of just 28. Dave is originally from country Victoria but moved to Western Australia at 18 to take advantage of the mining boom. Roughly 2 years into a job, Dave got a new boss and suddenly going to work each day was a struggle. He discovered investing and financial Independence shortly after and after 8 more years of work, 8 investment properties and a lot a stocks later, discovered that he had reached financial independence.

We chat about Dave’s early years at work, questioning the 9-5 day grind for the next 50 years, investing and much more.

In this episode, we talk about:

  • Daves struggles with work early on
  • Questioning everything
  • Transitioning from property investing to shares
  • Dividend growth investing
  • Listed investment companies (LIC’s)

and much more

 

Show Notes

 

Transcript:

Aussie Firebug: Why don’t you just start off with a little bit about yourself, mate?

Dave: Yeah, so my name’s Dave and I’m originally from country Victoria but I moved to Perth when I was 18 years old and then I worked as a factory worker basically in a sheet manufacturer and then as a forklift driver and a store man at a dairy factory. The first job was for roughly two years and then the second job was for roughly about eight years and I now live in Perth with my longtime girlfriend and my dog.

Aussie Firebug: Cool, and so you’re 28, is that right?

Dave: Yeah, just about to turn 29.

Aussie Firebug: About to turn 29. And so you left country Victoria roughly ten years ago, did you say?

Dave: Yeah, yeah. Just after I turned 18 basically.

Aussie Firebug: Yeah, so what made you decide to pack up shop and head over to the other side of the country?

Dave: Yeah well I was 18 and I needed a job basically and country Victoria was pretty quiet on the jobs front especially where I’m from; there wasn’t much happening there and I had a couple of mates that actually came over to Perth about probably six months prior and they were telling me how many jobs were available at that time because this is basically the middle of the mining boom back then so there was just jobs for anyone who wanted them so I thought if I’m going to have a better life I’ll probably need to go somewhere where there’s a decent job so that’s why decided to move.

Aussie Firebug: You’re right, and what was that like- heading over there at such a relatively young age, 18 year old bloke, kidding off with a few friends would have been a bit of fun?

Dave: Yeah. So it kind of happened quite fast. So when my mate told me how many jobs there are, I started Googling jobs online and started finding just your average jobs paying $20 an hour or something in a factory and I thought yeah, I could probably do that for forty hours a week and that’s pretty decent money where I’m from and back then so I didn’t really think too much about it. It was basically I could stay in country Victoria and not have a job or I could move to Perth and start making some half sticks and money that would actually get me somewhere and so being one other matter decided to pack up and drive across and actually when I got here, I had $800 in my bank account so didn’t really plan ahead too much because I just figured that there were that many jobs that it would probably work out alright.

Aussie Firebug: Well $800 in your bank account, incredible. Now, I was going to talk about this a bit later but we might as well just bring it up now. So on your side you’ve got that you’ve reached financial independence at the age of 28, can you just talk a bit about how you–  so you went over there and got this job, $800 to your name, like no other investments or anything prior to that?

Dave: No, nothing at all. Just my whooping savings there.

Aussie Firebug: So $800; so how do you get from 18 years of age with $800 to financially independent at 28, can you just walk us through the steps of you know, discovering investing and stuff like that and what led you to save so much money?

Dave: Yeah. So I’ve always been probably more of a saver than a spender and as soon as I got a– I did end up getting a job I think within about ten days so my savings didn’t go down too much from $800 so then it was just the case of I was renting with a friend and it wasn’t really costing me too much so even at my $20 an hour wage, I managed to save a reasonable amount and then we ran about moving into a bigger house but with more people which sort of made the rent cheaper. When I reached out and I was like we could save a bit more and then that job had a decent amount of overtime so started taking up a bit of overtime and started building up my savings and back then you could get maybe 5% or maybe even 6% in your high interest savings account so I thought I was doing alright there. So I did that for a couple years then I started thinking that I’m going to have to learn about investing or something because this savings account is pretty cool but it’s probably not going to make me rich so I started researching about investing and I think initially I actually Googled ‘How to get rich’ basically because I was sort of getting a bit depressed looking around at all these older guys at my work and they sort of were hoarding along and they didn’t really look happy and they were just working every week to pay their bills and it just didn’t seem like that was for me so I wanted something different.

Aussie Firebug: You didn’t want to end up like them?

Dave: No, I didn’t want to end up like that. I just didn’t like such a limited life with no choices; you’re basically just working to survive and you never question anything and you just keep doing the same thing every week and it didn’t seem like it was for me.

Aussie Firebug: How many years into the job did these thoughts start creeping into your head?

Dave: Probably round about two years into it, maybe a year and a half, I was maybe 19.5 and we actually got a different boss at that work place. It was fine until we got we got this different boss and then he was just a nightmare so I just thought like man, why do people put up with this and I just started questioning everything: why do people just work forever for a shit boss they don’t like and I don’t know, it just didn’t appeal to me, the regular work forever lifestyle and to get nowhere so I thought that I had to do something different to end up with a different result.

Aussie Firebug: Absolutely, I’m definitely hearing you and I think a lot of people go through a similar thing. You know it’s good if you like your job and that’s awesome but you know, all it takes is management to change or a different boss or a co-worker that you don’t particularly get along with and all of a sudden your great job can turn into a bit of a nightmare. A similar thing happened to me. Just towards the end of my job, it was a great job- I changed jobs the start of last year- and my old job was fantastic but then management changed and it just wasn’t as good anymore. I didn’t really want to come to work to do my job anymore and you know, I had the opportunity that I took it but I had a strong savings and I wasn’t locked in to that job which a few people were, they had to rely on that job to pay the bills and stuff but I could sort of switch jobs and take a bit of a pay cut and still manage.

Dave: See, that’s the thing- it gives you that flexibility, doesn’t it?

Aussie Firebug: Absolutely.

Dave: So even if you love your job today, just to say that next year, you might wake up and all of a sudden realize you don’t actually love it that much; you’re just doing it for the money and then you get a different boss and it just becomes not very enjoyable anymore.

Aussie Firebug: For sure, for sure. So you get this new boss and then everything changes?

Dave: Yeah, basically I just stopped enjoying work really so I didn’t want to be there anymore, I even stopped going overtime. I just did not want to be there and then it got to the point where they actually called me in and my attitude was so bad that they basically said, “We know that you don’t want to be here and it’s got to a stage where we don’t really want you here’s maybe we should just part ways,” and I said, “Yeah, that’s probably a good idea,” so that was my last day at work for that job.

Aussie Firebug: And that was two years in, in WYO, roughly two years in?

Dave: Yeah probably almost two years, about a year and a half, almost two.

Aussie Firebug: Okay, and so you’re Googling ‘How to get rich’, have you discovered you know, investing in financial independence at this stage or you’re just sort of on the cusp of that?

Dave: Yes, I didn’t really know it was a thing back then. I was just sort of Googling how do rich people actually get rich and the Google results come up with the old favorites of property and shares, you know? So I thought well, shares are a bit scary with the market crashes and the fluctuations that don’t really make much sense so I thought when I get another job and start saving, I’m going to get into property and that’s how I was planning to get rich.

Aussie Firebug: The Australian dream.

Dave: Yeah, the Aussie dream mate.

Aussie Firebug: So you get this new job and?

Dave: Yes, so I got a new job and it actually to my surprise pays better than the old job so I was suddenly surprised there and actually I’ll just go back a bit, just before I got this next job, I actually took maybe three months off and lived on my savings over the summer because we were living in a beach house in a coastal suburb, just me and maybe I think it was about four or five other blokes. So I had these savings built up and I thought I actually don’t have to get a job straight away so I might just enjoy the summer while I’m here, just in this beach house because it might not be here next year and then I’ll get a job after that. So I had a bit of a taste of what it’s like to have some money and not have to work and I thought it was the best thing ever really and I thought I’ve got to have me some more of that.

Aussie Firebug: It sounds good. I could just imagine a young bloke with his mates in WYO enjoying the summer without working living off some money, yeah I could see how that’d be nice.

Dave: It was amazing. It was just a bit of a taste of what it’d be like to be rich because we actually lived in, it was like a rundown mansion basically in a coastal suburb here and because it was so rundown, it was quite cheap to rent it especially between five blokes so we were living in a pretty fancy area right across from the water and it was pretty cheap but we loved it and it was just an awesome summer off really and a bit of a taste of what I wanted in the future.

Aussie Firebug: A few parties were had at that place, no doubt?

Dave: Yeah, definitely.

Aussie Firebug: So did that light a fire under your belly to really get back stuck in to the workforce, earn some money and you know, reach the goal?

Dave: Yeah, it really did. I probably haven’t thought about it that much but I think it did. It just showed me what savings can do. You know, if you’ve got savings in the bank you actually have a choice then; you don’t have to just work every week forever with no end in sight. You actually can choose to spend your time differently.

Aussie Firebug: Yeah for sure, couldn’t agree anymore and also it’s good for your mental state at work anyway if you know at the back of your mind well, actually like even now, I’m not financially independent but shit, I could 10 years of working and I could live off you know, what we’ve got at the moment so in the back of my mind, I’ve always got that you know, if I really wanted to I could just scour back to two days a week at odd jobs and live for a decent while without having to go back to work even if it’s just a year or so just to recharge the batteries, I’ve always got that option but I’m really liking my current job at the moment so that’s not something I’m going to do but it’s very healthy to know that you’ve got that option.

Dave: Yeah, it’s like a bit of extra comfort there you know. You’ve got that flexibility and you know that if you get too frustrated that there is actually a way out and you don’t have to put up with certain things and it’s just a different way to live mentally, isn’t it?

Aussie Firebug: For sure, for sure. It’s very underrated sort of say, “You get to financial independence and maybe I don’t want to stop working,” and that’s perfectly cool but you’ll find a lot of people say that they get to financial independence and sometimes their job becomes even more meaningful, you know it’s the same job but once they reach that number, suddenly they enjoy work more which is a weird side effect but yeah, a lot of people say that happens.

Dave: Yeah. It’s funny, isn’t it? Because it’s the same job but the point is they get to choose to get that job, they don’t actually have to anymore.

Aussie Firebug: Correct, yes very important mindset shift.

Dave: It’s pretty subtle but it’s pretty powerful at the same time.

Aussie Firebug: Yeah right. So how long were you in this second job for?

Dave: I was in that second job up until last year. I worked there for I think it was roughly eight years.

Aussie Firebug: Nice, nice. And it was seamless sort of work like in the warehouse, was it or?

Dave: It was a warehouse but it was a milk factory so it was just a refrigerated warehouse that was a bit more pleasant in the Perth summers. You’ve got to work in a refrigerated warehouse, it’s pretty good in summer.

Aussie Firebug: Yeah, cool, cool. So what happened during those eight years? You had your great summer and you got stuck into work for the next eight years? You just wanted to work, is that what happened?

Dave: So I think I was just about 20 when I got this job and it paid decently better than the last job and there was a little bit of overtime as well so I’d start getting motivated about saving and I had a little bit of savings left from my time off so I wanted to add to it so I started doing lots of more hours at this job and started building up the savings and started reading about properties since I’d decided that that was what I was going to do and then it was about to be a case of just keep learning about how I’m going to be able to buy enough properties to retire and build up the savings as fast as I can by just hardcore saving and being super frugal and trying to do those deposits on buying properties so I ended up being able to save a bit, I think maybe- I can’t remember the numbers man, it was maybe like 60-70 grand when I was turning 22 and I bought my first property with that one and then in the next twelve months after that, ended up buying another property with more savings that I did. I ended up just doing so much overtime. I didn’t have much free time, I just wanted to save, save. So I ended up buying another one and I was 23 and at that point, I’d met and moved in with my partner at the moment. I think we met and moved in when I was about 20 and so our finances were separate at that point but she bought a property as well around the same time that I bought mine she had a fair bit of equity in our house because she’s a fair bit older than me so she’d had a prime for quite a while and paid a lot so she ended up tapping into that equity to buy her investment property and then we sort of teamed up promptly and joined all our finances together and it sort of made it a lot easier to save because we’re on the same page and we wanted the same goals and so we just cooled down and started planning together. We have equity in this property and some equity over in this property and we combined with our cash savings and we can buy another one and we just sort of snowboarded from there I guess just through the combination of savings and some equity in the properties that had grown a bit in value and back then it was sort of easy to borrow a lot of money, not so much nowadays, but back then it was. So that really helped us be able to build that portfolio in a fairly short amount of time so that was quite handy and so then it got to the point where I think I was around about 25-26 and our equity was building a bit. We still had a fair bit of savings each year even after paying for the properties because they were mostly negative cash flow capital city properties in Australia so as you probably know, the rent doesn’t cover the bills so you’ve got to put your hand in your pocket. So we still had savings after paying for those and that’s when the finance started to become harder to get, harder to get loans and the regulators sort of started cracking down on loose lending so it became quite hard to borrow and we basically maxed out at that stage and borrowed as much as we possibly could. So we ended up with savings that we weren’t sure what do with because we really didn’t want to pay down debt because we thought we could get a better return investing rather than paying down debt so I actually started looking into where else we could our money in and I was pretty hesitant at shares for a while and that’s why I ended up choosing property. I decided to do a bit more research, I ended up coming across this approach that’s basically investing in shares but instead of focusing on the proceeds, you focus on the dividends and I thought that that made quite a lot of sense since the share price fluctuations for me didn’t seem to make a lot of sense and didn’t seem all that reliable to base an investment strategy on. So we started buying shares that were dividend-focused and we found out about educational material like Peter Thornhill’s book which is ‘Motivated Money’ and the videos on his website which helped us quite a lot in understanding basically just how the share market works and why you should focus on the income and not so much on the share proceeds. It just really put things together for me and it just took away that fear that fear that I had about shares because like a lot of property people, I was pretty afraid of the share market; I didn’t think it made a whole lot of sense and so I went to property in the first place but we started investing our savings in these dividend paying shares like at least with investment companies and some other dividend stocks and we started getting these dividend checks and they were quite a lot and we felt oh this is actually pretty easy: You just put your savings in, get a dividend check and you can reinvest your dividend or you can do what you want with it so it just gave us something more concrete where we were getting these regular returns and we didn’t have to worry too much about the market going up or the market going down so we started focusing more on that. And around this time– I’ve gone blank for a bit mate.

Aussie Firebug: That’s alright. So much to get through so I’ll sort of just let you go on because it was really good what you were saying so I’ll just let you go on but a few things I want to touch on: So first question is actually, how did you meet your girlfriend if you’re doing all this overtime?

Dave: That’s a god question. it was such a long time ago, I think she was in [00:21:41] for a night out, we’d wanted to be friends for a bit and in that moment we just sort of met up and just got to know her well and just went from there.

Aussie Firebug: She might have come to a party at the rundown mansion.

Dave: No, I think it was at the [00:22:01] actually.

Aussie Firebug: Fair enough. Right, what a story! Basically eight solid years and I can relate to it so much. You know you being born in Australia, if you want to make money it’s pretty much probably shoved down your throat in every direction with your parents, your uncles, your aunties, the media, everything is all property, property, property but as I discovered as well, the share market is also– they’re both really good asset classes to be honest but like it depends what you want do and how you want to do it but they’ve both got the merits. Now, you guys started buying properties in capital cities, did you say? Was it like Sydney-Melbourne area?

Dave: Yeah, in Perth we started with, because that’s our city so everyone buys around their own city first, and then so we got quite a few here which haven’t actually done much for us to be honest.

Aussie Firebug: When you say quite a few, how much are we talking here?

Dave: We have four here.

Aussie Firebug: Four in Perth, okay and you’ve still got those?

Dave: Yes we do. One was our house which is rented out now because we’re renting ourselves and we had two in Melbourne, one in Sydney and one in Brisbane.

Aussie Firebug: Wow! My Math is what, seven, is that right?

Dave: A seven and our own house so eight altogether.

Aussie Firebug: Wow, eight properties, incredible. So did you buy the first four in Perth to start with and then you ventured outside the state?

Dave: Yeah, yeah that’s right.

Aussie Firebug: What made you invest outside the state because when you were buying in Perth, it would’ve been peak in the mining bloom I’m assuming so the yield would’ve been pretty good?

Dave: Yeah, so I think the first two properties I bought were actually positive cash flow because the rental returns were actually good back then, I think it was around 2011 so the rental returns were pretty good back then, not so much now though. So they didn’t cost me too much so I was able to save up the next deposit actually quite easily.

Aussie Firebug: So what made you go to Melbourne and Sydney?

Dave: Yeah, it was basically just a diversification thing so if Perth struggled for a while which it ended up doing, then we’d have properties in other cities that would hopefully have grown in value so we could harvest equity from there to continue buying, that was basically the idea; not having all your properties in the one place sort of gives you more optionality and a bit of diversification as well.

Aussie Firebug: Yeah, great. So did you end up with the eighth investment property before you went to shares, like once you went shares, was it no going back or did you double in shares and then still bought investment properties along the way?

Dave: We basically started buying shares straight after we bought the last investment property.

Aussie Firebug: Which was what year?

Dave: That was at 2015.

Aussie Firebug: Yeah right, 2015. We’re of similar age and I can definitely relate to the lending restrictions and everything like that. You know back in the early teens- teenies, whatever they call the 2010’s to 20’s, you could get a loan or more importantly, you could withdraw equity so ridiculously easy. I did it three times with my three investment properties when they went up in value like I did the 20% deposit, it went under 80% loan: value ratio and then I just topped up eighty and it was literally an email to my mortgage broker saying, “Hey, Commonwealth Banking is worth this much, this is the loan, can you like get out the extra 20 grand,” and like literally two weeks later, it’d be in my account. Like that was easy, didn’t cost me anything, like it was just so much easier.

Dave: Yeah, they were sort of bending over backwards back then.

Aussie Firebug: Yeah, I know and the last time I went to do it like it was just so much more difficult and I just don’t even bother to do it now like at the moment it’s just really hard but you’ve got to make the most of it when you get it right. Like that was an opportunity back then that you did and you got all these properties and you used that to your advantage and you know, what kind of position you’re in now.

Dave: Yeah, so we didn’t actually know that obviously, we didn’t know that the finance arena was going to get a lot tougher, we just basically stuck to our strategy which was borrowing as much as we could and luckily it tended to work out more times than not but yeah, I don’t think anyone was sort of guessing that this was going to happen and that it was a short term thing. We just assumed that that’s the way it is and you’re always going to be able to borrow what you need if you’ve got a decent income and you’ve got some equity, the banks will sort of maybe bend the rules a bit and yeah.

Aussie Firebug: When I was crunching the numbers, as long as the cash flow was strong, I wasn’t afraid to loan money to buy properties. I got a lot of people saying oh, “You got your third property you know, all this money and debt,” well I’ve  got my parents and uncles and aunties that run businesses and we’re talking millions of dollars they’ve got to juggle so I sort of was brought up with “There’s good debt and there’s bad debt.” So it wasn’t like a scary thing for me to do if the numbers worked and I’d figure out you know, this is how much the property gets from rent, this is how much it’s going to cost, factor in a 2% increase in interest and if the numbers make sense, I’m just going to go for it and luckily the banks’ lending in Australia at that time allowed me to do so. But I think if started again today, I wouldn’t be able to do that like to get three properties. With today’s restrictions, there’s no way, I couldn’t like that. Really, my gains from 2012 when I first built to the last one I bought in 2015 really has like amplified my net worth in the last couple years so you’ve just got to make most of it when it’s available.

Dave: Yeah, that’s spot on. I mean a lot of people are afraid of debt and I just figure that if you’re going to make a total return that’s not so high then the interest payments, it sort of makes sense you know. If you’ve got plenty of extra cash from your job or from the asset itself then even if interest rates go up you’re going to be fine and as long as those assets have half decent returns over time, you’re probably going to come out ahead.

Aussie Firebug: Yeah and like it cuts both ways like if you leverage an investment and it does well, it’s implied and if it does poorly, that’s amplified as well but I think it’s just about being smart with the cash flow is what I always look at when people ask me about property. As long as it’s got strong cash flow, then I don’t care about housing value. If Australia goes through recession and it goes down half price, as long as the rent doesn’t go down half, then you know I can absorb 20-30% rental loss across the three plus an interest rate and I can still hold through that downturn and if you’re crunching the numbers with your investment properties, can you do that because that’s something that you need to consider, not so much how much it’s worth- it’s all about how much it’s bringing in, that’s how we’ll look at it anyway.

Dave: Exactly, that’s a smart way to look at it. Outside it was more prime, the best located properties that we could afford to hold and there’s definitely some luck involved you know. I mean if Australia did have a recession in the last few years and houses probably did drop in value, we probably wouldn’t be retired today because if the value is going to be less than the loan that we have against it, we’re not going to be able to sell it and put the money into shares so there’s definitely some luck involved there no question.

Aussie Firebug: For sure, for sure. So you discover shares, what year was that, 2015 were you saying you bought your first shares?

Dave: Yeah, that was in 2015.

Aussie Firebug: And who- I’m going to put a link in the show notes- Peter Thornhill, was it?

Dave: Yeah, Peter Thornhill.

Aussie Firebug: I actually haven’t heard about him, what’s his story?

Dave: So he might be seventy by now but he’s an ex-finance guy, used to work for fund managers back in the 80s and 90s and so he knows what goes on in there in the share market space and so after he retired, decided to become an educator and he runs courses actually in Sydney and I think sometimes in Melbourne. It’s like a one-day training course of how the average investor should approach the share market and it’s not about studying things, it’s just about that pure fundamental education of how the share market works, what you should focus on, what you should ignore and he’s got a few videos on his website that basically explain the same thing and they just really helped me in cutting through the rubbish that you see basically spoken about in the media about the share market nonsense that goes on and he just explains it in a simple term that even a beginner and a property guy can understand and it just makes a lot of sense and it just took away that fear of the unknown of the share market for me and just gave me something to focus on that really struck a chord with me, the income of shares, just made a lot of sense.

Dave: Yeah right, so this guy really help you understand what the share market is, what should focus on and then I’m going to put a few links in the show notes as well because you have some really good articles about your thoughts on dividend investing and these investment companies and we’re going to them in a second. But so just to stay on track with the title line here, so you listen to this guy, Peter, and you start investing in what in the share market back in 2015?

Dave: Listed investment companies mainly and some dividend stocks as well.

Aussie Firebug: So you were after that dividend focus?

Dave: Yeah, exactly.

Aussie Firebug: I liked how you said before as well, how you get the dividend, you basically just dump your money in this thing which is the share market and it spits out some money at you and you think well this is good, I’m not really doing anything because I got the same feeling when I first got my first dividend like well, didn’t do anything! Like I didn’t have to manage anything, I didn’t have to do like jack on, on it just popped out. It is a magical feeling, isn’t it?

Dave: Definitely. I think that’s why there’s such a love for many people for dividends because it sort of feels like easy money. I mean the company could retain and just there but just to check in the mail or the deposit into the bank which you’ve exerted basically no effort for, there’s no headaches, there’s no property manages or bills associated with, you just collect it and go or you can reinvest it back in and it’s just extremely easy.

Aussie Firebug: Yeah so and you fall in love with investing in the share market, is that fair to say?

Dave: I think that’s fair to say.

Aussie Firebug: And what happens then? So your strategy is shifted, is it, from buying properties to everything in share market and just talk us through a bit about like did you sell down a few properties or you still got all of them, how did that go?

Dave: Yeah so a few things happened at once. In that time around 2015, the finance space was changing. There was absolutely no way we could even have borrowed the amount that we had borrowed at that stage let alone get any more so that was part of the reason for the shift to shares. And then growing knowledge on the share market and of dividend investing really helped us see what kind of income that we could create and because of the lack of expenses really associated with that and the franking credits in Australia, the income that you can get from shares is actually very, very high here especially compared to capital city property. So it became kind of obvious that well, we’re not going to be able to just draw down some equity because originally our plan was to have this big portfolio and we could just draw down a little bit of equity to live on which was sort of doable back then 10-15 years ago but it wouldn’t be doable today. So we started realizing that that was not going to happen so even if we decided to sell out and just have a couple of mortgage rate properties because they were capital city based, you’re only going to be left with a yield of maybe 3% if you’re lucky so your million dollars might get you 30 grand after expenses but then a million dollars in property shares might get you say, 55 grand or something like that of income so it became pretty obvious that we were going to have to change and we were going to have to basically just change our direction and switch assets and just put more money into shares while we take out money selectively out of property over time.

Aussie Firebug: Nice, and it’s so funny because I went through a very similar mindset, I was all on the property same thing. I wanted to own twenty properties and pay off ten and just be like this multi-millionaire property guru but same thing, it just seemed like properties are a good wealth builder at the start of your journey because capital gains can definitely be amplified by the original investment. But once we first had a go at investing in the share market and we got those dividends and stuff like that, the more I thought about it you know with the headaches of property I thought they’ve served me well like they’ve had great gains so far, there’s no shame and I think this is a mindset thing for people which I always find funny. Some people always either are pro-property and hate the share market or pro-share market and hate property but like you can do both, right? They’re both great asset classes so we are shifting now from the property mindset now to more share market but that’s not to say that the properties haven’t great, they’ve been our best performers in our portfolio but moving forward and if you want to retire early, it makes more sense having that passive income that the share market helps you with so totally understand you’re coming from and it’s good that you realize that you know, eight properties deep, some people might think that your mind was made up like that was where you were going to go so it takes a big person to sort of switch strategies and say, well the air force one isn’t going to get us where we want to be and now I’m going to do this so kudos!

Dave: Yeah, exactly. I mean if the information that you’ve got changes then you should change your mind. You just don’t keep going and going just because you’ve been doing it all along, that doesn’t make much sense to me. So it started becoming obvious that we’re going to need to change and so rather than just ignore the information that we had, we sort of swallowed our pride and changed course. But it’s funny you say you wanted to have like twenty properties and make yourself a millionaire, they don’t tell you about that in a magazine, do they? They just tell you about, you just borrow some money, collect these properties and then in 5-10 years, you’re like super rich and you don’t have to work anymore and it looks so easy.

Aussie Firebug: Yeah it’s a small job and I’ve only got three. I could only imagine the amount of extra work you have to do for eight.

Dave: But do you manage them yourself?

Aussie Firebug: No I don’t but like even then the accounting stuff that goes in what and where like the in-house, there’s definitely management involved, there’s work involved.

Dave: Yeah, exactly. Another thing was how you’re saying about some people being pro-property and pro-shares. It’s funny because now that I’ve been talking to quite a few shares guys and quite a few guys who are doing both, I’ve noticed that a lot of the shares converts used to invest in property but when I was investing in property, I hadn’t met anyone who had switched from shares and I started thinking lately I think it’s just the ease of use and the simplified approach that you were talking about earlier, how you just get this cash payment and you’re like well, that was easy, I didn’t have to do anything. And so even if people get lower returns, they don’t mind because it’s so much easier or whenever you know; you get to that point where you’re not really interested in leveraging more end, you just want to simplify the process. You just want this cool lazy income string that’s coming in.

Aussie Firebug: Yeah, for sure. I think it seems to be the natural progression for a lot of people especially in the fire community to start off with property and I think it’s a good asset class especially if you’re like a cheapy or like some sort of tradee that you can put your skills into the investment. That is a real plus that you can’t really do with shares; like you can’t really add value to shares but there’s a lot of different ways you can add value to property so if you’ve got the time and energy and like you don’t have commitments when you’re young, I think you can really thrust and leapfrog your portfolio in the early years but then as you move to be older like we are, the passive income of shares becomes a lot more attractive so I think that may explain a little bit why it’s more of a natural shift from property to shares.

Dave: Yeah, I think you’re spot on there. I mean if someone’s a builder, they can obviously add a lot of value at very little cost to them you know because of their contacts and skills and suppliers and whatever so I think that’s a good point that you make for the average Joe, there’s a– I can’t remember what I was going to say there.

Aussie Firebug: I think it was that the passive income is just a lot more attractive, right, for your average Joe?

Dave: Yeah, yeah exactly. It’s just super simplified; there’s just nothing to do. It’s almost like a savings account. You know you just swipe your money away from one account to the other, buy a parcel of shares and get back to work or go back to the beach or whatever you were doing before.

Aussie Firebug: And the best thing about the index style investment which you know, you invest in listed investment companies which also follow a slightly managed but its similar index style investing.

Dave: Yeah, it’s very similar.

Aussie Firebug: There’s no research to be done, that’s what I love about passive investment is you don’t have to study any box, you don’t have to read anything, you don’t have to be watching certain stocks, it’s just the price is set, the day you want to buy you buy and that’s it. There’s no waste of time, you literally can do it on the phone, you can do it overseas, you can stick to a really high performing portfolio investment strategy with little effort involved. It’s definitely a huge positive for that style of investing.

Dave: Absolutely but I think a lot of people, especially property and I was like this myself, they just hate the CMF and I think it’s– I wouldn’t call ignorant but some people, I think it’s just the fear of the unknown. They see the scary headlines oh this went up today and this went down today and they think, what the f***, how does that work? You know, why has it done that? Because they don’t understand it and there’s only bad things associated with, there’s no good deed. It’s assumed that it’s some kind of crazy casino and you either buy these mining stocks and try and get rich from it. There’s no the slow and steady passive income stream approach.

Aussie Firebug: Yeah, I couldn’t agree anymore and I can’t really blame them that much because unless you are looking for it, all you have to do is think about property prices in Australia in the last 50 years and you think about the share market, the GSE especially 2008 and they’re hearing all these horror stories of people in these cases and their pension money and stuff like that. I can’t blame them too much but once you dig deeper a little bit below the surface and see that no, there is actually a very well backed investment strategy for the share market, then it opens your eyes up a bit.

Dave: Yeah, I mean the GSE was obviously a big event but I know some shares guys who say that there was a massive effect of speeding up wealth creation because IRA would buy these companies or buy these index funds or these investment companies that were trading at super cheap prices on really great yields and it just amplified their returns from then on.

Aussie Firebug: Yeah, kudos to them to have the mental strength to go through that and I’d like to think if I was in a similar situation, I would look at that event as a fire sale for shares and buy everything cheap but you never know until you go through it, until you actually see a portfolio half in value or even worse you know, you never know what you’re going to do.

Dave: Exactly, exactly. No pun intended there, fire sale?

Aussie Firebug: Fire sale, yeah. Sorry, continue.

Dave: I was just going to say another thing I think with property and shares is that the approach that we’re following year with the income stream and the dividends, you don’t have to do anything, it’s all actually really boring and I think that that’s kind of what’s off-putting to young people, I know I would’ve thought it was extremely boring and I’m not going to follow that, I want to get rich and I’m not going to get rich with this silly dividend each year. I know I need to borrow some money and go and buy a half a million dollar asset and get rich that way. I think it’s partly how young people are wired, wired for risk so I think that until we get a little bit older and see things a bit differently then we start seeing this boring approach with this income stream is not too bad after all.

Aussie Firebug: Could not agree any more, I was the exact same like I have to do something outside the box, this strategy that a lot of people working are recommending, it’s too easy. It needs to be more complicated and it needs to be harder for it to really be where the big bucks are. Yeah, definitely thought like that as well when I was younger. Yeah cool, so did you end up selling some investment properties to part more money into the share market?

Dave: Yeah, so what happened was we started investing in 2015 into shares and started collecting these dividends and realizing that that was going to be the income stream for us in the future. So we sold a property last year to generate quite a bit of free cash to invest in the share market and also to have cash in the bank sort of for us to live on as we’re joining up our shares as well because obviously we’ve only invested for a couple of years. We were tired that the income stream wasn’t large enough to sustain services so we used part of the money from the property sale to live on and part of it to invest in shares every month so the income stream gets larger and larger over time and last year, we sold the second property and basically did the same thing. We put a bit of a lump into the share market and we also chip some more into it each month and we used some of the money to live on as well. So I plan to do this for the next probably like ten years. So the plan is to sell off the properties slowly to minimize capital gains tax and also to try and sell at opportune times in certain markets so we decided to sell our Sidney property last year and the year before that was one of our Perth properties. So our third property will probably be the last to go because it’ll probably going through its growth cycle maybe some time over the next 10 years you would say so it’ll probably be the last to go. So we’re just trying to do that and optimize the outcome.

Aussie Firebug: Yeah nice. Now that’s a cool story and I quote from an 18 year old going to WYO and getting this job and then buying these properties, discovering the share market and what you’re doing now, the selling of the properties, awesome stuff. Do you just want to touch on a little bit more about when you actually found out you were financially independent?

 

 

Podcast – BetaShares

Podcast – BetaShares

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Summary

Our guest today is Ilan Israelstam, co-founder of Australian investment company BetaShares. You may have heard of BetaShares as one of the leading managers of ETFs with over 44 ETF products for investors to invest in and managing more than 5.4 billion dollars of assets.

One of the most talked about ETFs in 2018 has been the soon to be released A200 ETF from BetaShares which boasts an incredible MER of 0.07%. This ETF covers the top 200 companies in the Australian market and will become the lowest management fee of any Australian ETF ever!

In this episode, we talk about:

  • BetaShares
  • The new A200 ETF
  • Ethical ETFs
  • The role active management plays in investing

 

Show Notes

Podcast – Vanguard

Podcast – Vanguard

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Summary

Our guest today is Tim Sparks, Senior Key Account Manager, at Vanguard. Tim has more than 15 years’ experience in the financial services industry and joined Vanguard in 2013.

In this episode, we unpack one of the most famous investing companies in the world. Vanguard.
We go into who Vanguards is and what they can offer investors. Explain Some of the key investing philosophies AND We chat about the 4 new diversified ETFs that Vanguard released in Nov 2017 and why they are such a big deal for anyone wanting to reach financial independence.

In this episode, we talk about:

  • What Vanguard is
  • Vanguard investing philosophies
  • What happens if Vanguard goes bust?
  • How to invest with Vanguard
  • Vanguard diversified index ETFs

 

Show Notes

Transcript is coming

Podcast – Nick

Podcast – Nick

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Summary

Our guest today is 34 year old parent of 3 Nick from Toowoomba Queensland who describes himself as the most bland and generic person who has ever been on the podcast. Nick reached out to me just over 12 months ago detailing some of the things he was struggling with while trying to reaching financial independence. The email was very genuine and sincere and a good amount of people would struggle with the exact things Nick mentions. I spent a good hour or so responding to all his points and what I thought was a pretty decent motivational reply email.

I didn’t hear back from Nick until another 12 months. But I was very glad to read about all the progress he had made since sending the original email.

I often interview people who are either running a business or are doing insanely well for their age. Nick come up with the idea of having himself on the show to give you guys out there some perspective from a self proclaimed average Joe.

In this episode, we talk about:

  • Embracing average and how you don’t need to be a rock star when it comes to FI
  • Mental barriers to get through along the journey
  • Reaching FI with a family of 5
  • Not getting obsessed with reaching FIRE asap and learning to enjoy the journey along the way

 

Show Notes

 

Transcript:

Aussie Firebug: Nick, welcome to the podcast.

Nick: Thank you very much for having me, Firebug.

Aussie Firebug: Now where we begin, how about we just tell the audience, or you tell the audience a little bit about yourself.

Nick: Sure. I’m probably the most blend generic person that’s been on the Firebug podcast [laughs]. I sort of email: [email protected] saying, you know “Love the podcast.” Actually I sent him a little bit of a brief email that I was in a bit of a brief that is financially. I think it was a year or two before that never got back to him. But, yeah I’m a different—I’m a bit older. I’m 34, and I know there could be people much older than that but a lot of the Fire sort of community in their 20’s doubling come no kids, where singling come with three kids and a crazy dog. Trying to make that work, so that’s sort of who I am.

Aussie Firebug: And you are in Queensland?

Nick: I’m in Queensland, I’m in Toowoomba which is west of Brisbane about an hour and half awesome original city, I love it. I moved from the Gold Coast about 11 years ago. Parents and family still trying to get me back but Gold Coast is a lot different place now plus I’m already into the beach, so this place works perfect for me. It’s good for families. Probably not good if you into night clubbing and all that but I’m old now. I watch down that being drinking a cup of tea and not toggling something that I would say.

Aussie Firebug: Nothing wrong with that mate.

Nick: True, it is perfect.

Aussie Firebug: And what do you do, if I could ask Nick?

Nick: I work in the public service and so I may have posters from Canberra. Which means my job is based in Canberra but I’m in Toowoomba which is great so you kind of working autonomously pretty much to sum up IT sort of projects, data stuff, along isoclines.

Aussie Firebug: Another IT brother.

Nick: Yeah, I think it’s pretty strong throughout the FIRE community. If anyone is listening and don’t know what FIRE is, that is Financially Independence, retire early. I think if you good with computers you’re probably good at researching stuff and learning things and math. A lot of this is about math, not complex math, just like, if you don’t spend this and you save this amount in the future time, it will most likely be worth this. It’s kind of simple but I think maybe as computer data nerds, maybe you’re attracted to that, or you pick it up a bit quicker maybe.

Aussie Firebug: There definitely is a correlation between the two but I think Matt once said some post about it or something about. It’s like you said, not very logical, you know, you do this, you get this. Almost like a bit of programming’s, you know.

Nick: Yeah, a little bit. Throw me a whole bucket load of crazy human emotion at the same time.

Aussie Firebug: Yeah, exactly. So you’re 34 years old, three kids.

Nick: A bit old.

Aussie Firebug: [Laughs] that is not, definitely not that old. 34…

Nick: No, no unconscious. I say that because I feel old and you know, you read a lot of people who are a lot younger and you get, “Men, why didn’t I do this when I was 18 and the compounding by now would have been done. But equally there are people who are…you know, could be 44, 54, at 64 you know you’re listening to and you go, you know, I am not really that old. So I feel it’s more about where you are right now, what you can do for the future than looking back otherwise you will pick yourself around all the time.

Aussie Firebug: That’s right. You aren’t any as old as you feel Nick or any as old as you feel.

Nick: Let’s say 44.

Aussie Firebug: [Laughs] 44, you’re right, so you know, you have three kids, dog, living in Queensland. When did you come across financial independence?

Nick: I was actually thinking because we had a bit of a chat before we recorded this and I was going to say end of 2016 because that’s when I sent you my Help Knee OB canopy through the RTD tweet.

Aussie Firebug: Which we’ll get to in a second.

Nick: Which we will. I think it’s probably a couple of years in the lay up to that but nothing serious and I think you got a hit of a point before maybe you dived in a bit and actually waste your time…Not waste, invest your time on mine learning about this stuff because I was on Mr. Money Man Stashes. For some reason I think there is obviously something in me that I must have some across in the summary in the news article or something. Went there and we sort of connected and went, “This guy is really good.” And I remember sending a number of guys at work and not sending them the boxes. Despite the fact that I hadn’t ever really acted on either but I’m sending them that. ‘This is awesome. It’s awesome, but not actually applying any of it to myself. And that was probably a slow bone until the end of 2016 where I had basically hit the point.

Aussie Firebug: Right, so when, what made you, what was the point where you…like you are whining toward a little bit more serious and then I guess you discover that, “hey this financial independence stuff is real” you crunch the numbers. Did you have an idea in your mind of where you wanted to be because of financial independence? Or like what made you want to pursue that goal and you know reach out to me as one thing, but you know, go down that path?

Nick: Yeah, I think it is probably a bit normal for everyone I guess but just work. Like you sort of hit that point where all the math is on payback out there and sideway and particularly to me in my mid-thirties, you’re in that grow end of the career where you’re doing okay income wise, you’re quite stable, you know, being with my employer for 11 years which is pretty good, you know, at this day and age and you know, and you simply go, you look around the office and there is the guy who’s been there for 20 years, and the guy who’s been there for 30 years then you go, “Is that going to be me.” And those guys are great, I love them to bit, but you go, ‘I don’t know if eventually I can keep doing the same job.’ So, but it wasn’t so much about retirement but I was like is this what is making me happy and other things I prefer to do with my time, and  I’d sit there and to me super was the only thing I could think about. And it was, “Okay, so super I can’t access until I’m sixty so that’s my life.” That’s the price that’s mapped down till I’m 60. And I just started towards the end of 2016 get…I wouldn’t say depressed because that’s a very serious thing that people get but just really down and just going to work in my work, Vic. I remember coming home to her and just saying, “I can’t keep doing this, I can’t keep doing this.” It wasn’t completely hating the job but I just…I can’t do…you know, being forced to do this work even though I’m good at it, and you know, you have days where you really do enjoy it but is going to be something old. And I think I must have gone a little bit more into Mr. Money Man Stash maybe read a few more things and then I think by then I was listening to your podcast too and it’s good to hear all this, and it just started to connect and I thought now I can do this, and I can really start to…I think it’s over those holidays then I bought another book invest book which every man with dogs literally has this days and J L Collins, Simple Task to Wealth and it just really start to kick my brain and I think that’s when I really got into it.

Aussie Firebug: Yeah, I think a lot of people are going to relate to that. Nick, I know for myself, you know, it was a similar situation. I like my job, you know, I don’t hate my job by any stretch in me, but it is definitely days where you don’t want to be there and…It’s funny because when I discovered financial independence it almost made it worse for me, you know, always quite happy, I was only like three years anyway fulltime working career. So I was like…

Nick: This is just going to keep going on.

Aussie Firebug: Yeah, I was like, “This is just my life and it’s good, I got money, I got ample of weekends and it is fun but then when I discovered this thing I was like, “Whoa, this is what I need to do” but then it’s like, “Oh my God, it’s years away like decades potentially.”

Nick: Very tricky.

Aussie Firebug: It almost made it worse for me, yeah, and I went through…I was like a bit depressed as well, at work I’ll be like, “So I want to go.” And then I really, it took me a year also to make that mind shift to enjoy the journey to the end goal.

Nick: Exactly right. I was going to say very much the same. But if I jump into a hobby in a bicker my wife would probably, you know, laugh in agreement there. Because if I get into a hobby or something like that, I try myself all in I’m just all in from day one, I would be decked down any accessory now into men or something like that. It’s a terrible impulse spender, but it sounds fly like, “This is it, this is an awesome straight way you’re going, ‘I am going to cup this and this and just shave everything when you live like monks and then will get big, you know, X amount of months sooner than we would have otherwise or saying it is not that bad.

Aussie Firebug: It’s not a healthy thing to do.

Nick: Not a healthy thing to do and also deeply when you start to tell your in-laws or family about it and it is actually very tricky because they will start thinking, you know what? You are not going to spend any money ever again and it is a whole lot of, that is a whole lot of amount and since I could not… I ‘m going to spend but on things that are determined to make me happy or we that we see their value in and also they can think you judging them too because they’re spending money on stuff but it’s very important, I guess if you’re in this world to not judge people and everyone’s got different things I like. Like, you know, I like guns and shooting or paintball or things like that, but you know, someone else might like fishing, skydiving or something like that and they might be saying that they’re really going to spend their money on.

Aussie Firebug: Sure, and that was definitely, I don’t know if you’ve seen the term before, but you know, financial snobs. I was definitely one of those people, I’d see someone like person you are on a team with just bought a brand new X trail or whatever, and in my mind I’d be like, “Pathetic.” I’d be like, “Oh my God.” What a move.

Nick: A little bit of that there on Facebook or someone’s got a new house that looks incredible and you’re like you know basically what it will be worth. And you go, “Oh, Jesus it’s a lot of money they could have done same cheaper, particularly cars. But now, you know, you’re mature in life and you are mature far enough and you sort of go, you don’t know people circumstances. It’s the same way that people look flashy you don’t know their debt. Other people can look flashy, else other people can look cheap and poor but they’re actually wealthy and there is that middle ground someone kind of wealthy but they might actually…That’s where they’ve decided to put their money. But they don’t blow it every other place that we blow it in the…There is a balancing act, I guess don’t judge, more internal, do your own path, do your own thing, but you’re only endorsing in, don’t worry about everyone else’s.

Aussie Firebug: Yeah, It’s easier said than done but I really like you got to get to that point where…you know, I can, other people can spend their money on what they want to spend their money on and you don’t have to feel bad even if you’re on the path of financial independence by going on a holiday every now and then or amount of the…

Nick: Which is particularly true for someone with a wife and kids, because I’m lucky my wife, Becky…she, I’m actually the really discretionally spender she is always, even though I’ve always been the budgets guy in a not so much strict but all of that bills I’ve always been prepaid this is sort of like even in our early marriage and all that, even though we live to it through week, it was, “Pay all the bills. Yep, that’s great. Everything is prepaid just spend the rest. You’re still wake to wake. You’re never investing, you’re never getting ahead, you’re never really saving so I thought it was quite great and all and you know a frugal person. But once you get onto FIRE and you crack it and you really red point of a start, you say to your wife, “We’re not going on a holiday, you say, you’re not buying presents for your friends at school this sort of stuff.” You can very quickly get chopped down. So I think if you’re by good kids or if you’re doing FIRE it’s the whole family unit, and if they’re not completely on board and you’ve seen that on forms down to formalities to husband or wife or partner whatever is not into it. That’s super tricky. I’m lucky that Becky she just sort of trust me. I said “Look I’m into this stuff, you know I was just observing.” And she just sort of have to nod and go, “I trust you.” But she also had to sort of  teach me to pay it back a little bit too, you know, from the passion of it all…We still have the passion but I guess being hanged on about it you can spend a little bit more money and all of a sudden you get that right mind set too. I think we’re doing pretty good like, you know, this Christmas time we have probably spent a bit more than we probably should have but saying that we’re not in any debt. There is no debt growing, we got the mortgage in that but it’s all money that we had sort of set aside that even if we shuffle it from this it will balance to this one because we prioritize where we want to go. That’s cool, don’t beat yourself down.

Aussie Firebug: Yeah, I couldn’t agree anymore, mate. When I joined finances with my partner it was a great balance because when I was on my own it was a bit too extreme. It was like…I would go to restaurants with her sometimes and just not order anything, like with the embarrassment look of “I’ve hit the budget for this month I can’t spend any more money which is outrageous. I just…

Nick: We love spending time with her family in town and I remember in the early part of it, you know, after I’d gone through the rough path and I’d got into FIRE and I was like, “Yeah.” You know, the family would say, “Who wants to go to this place for dinner?” Just a standard family place nothing huge expensive,

Aussie Firebug: Yeah.

Nick: But no, we’re not. That’s it. We’ve spent our grocery money and that’s it, like we’re not doing anything else just to learn that. Sometimes that’s fun, you know, It’s a bit like teaching the kid to have lolly’s, sometimes you feel lucky, sometimes fine to you know, spend money on some stuff.

Aussie Firebug: You got to save in other words honestly.

Nick: You do.

Aussie Firebug: It’s used to be at where…where do you get the most bang for your back? It doesn’t matter if you split your bit but you’ve had really…Is a kickass experience or you really want this whatever it is you want, Apple watch don’t care. If you’ve thought about it for days and you still want to pull the trigger.

Nick: And that’s a great thing and you’ll probably read that in a lot of books if anyone is listening to this one they might not be.

Aussie Firebug: Listen to one ever.

Nick: It’s going to break the internet. You better watch here. Have to think it better if you still want it cool, grab it. I’m a terrible impulse buyer so if you’re an impulse buyer, you know, It’s a tricky thing and I still get over…I’m sitting in a really dodgy chair because the kids have ripped it to bits at the moment. You know they get that clever, I’ve just reaped it to bits and I have Christmas, there is all these things popping up on Facebook, you know fairly personal some amazing gaming chair and you just going to be the coolest dude ever. I actually had my hand on the button to buy one even though it’s basically impulse buying but we hadn’t really spoken about it with my wife Beck. And I’d close that, I’m not going to get it, and then Facebook’s brilliant it shows up the sponsored, I’d say, “Hey, you didn’t finish it, you check that, come and do it again.” I’m like, “get away from me Satan. Get off my shoulder.” Really smart and nearly got me by a surprise but for that, that’s where I always see my brain going. I would have impulse bought that before like a $400 chair and I was like I don’t need this chair, I’m still sitting in it and there are other things that are more important at the moment. It’s not I’m not going to spend money. It’s I will probably spend some money but I would put it, you know to other things that need to be done more importantly because we don’t want to write it into a savings or…

Aussie Firebug: Absolutely, Black Friday a couple of months ago I was so close to buying this $250 sand bar.

Nick: Are you going to need a sand bar?

Aussie Firebug: I absolutely do not need this and this is…

Nick: Oh, you can listen to this podcast would have been brilliant.

Aussie Firebug: Yeah, that would have been the only…Well, I ended up not buying it but that was like, I tried to do that as my only possible mean, I would be like, I really, really want that but let me just sleep on it. And if I still want it after she dies I will just get it, but thank God I didn’t because I literally woke up the nest day thinking, “What was I thinking?” I don’t need that at all but it was like cheap and it looked really nice. So this is it, everyone goes to the road. Now I want to get back to…

Nick: Sorry.

Aussie Firebug: That’s all right.

Nick: You got to completely bring me in because I would just go and go. You can edit junk head of this. If people hear lots of weird pauses that’s fine, but we just chopped it to bits so you might get some quality

Aussie Firebug: No, there will be no editing so far. [Laughs] Let’s get back to…Because I really want talk about how we first started emailing each other, so can you just go through the story it was back in 2016, I got an email in my inbox from you just tried to be about that.

Nick: Sure, I can set the same. I imagine the skinny not so good looking but you know, probably thinks he’s good looking bloke really struggling at work learning about FIRE thinking, how can I do this? And who’s the army and is AUSI doing this FIRE stuff? It’s very tricky when you’re new because you don’t…you generally…If you’ve got a close circle that knows about this stuff and they’re telling you about it and you’ve gotten into this podcast because you’ve got mates, you’re doing well, you got someone that you can chat to who gets this stuff already. I had to reach out to random guy on the internet which worked out well. We had a pretty good email exchange. I’m not saying everyone bombarded on us [Laughs].

Aussie Firebug: 700 emails.

Nick: But if you going to do that give me money on patron or something like that first. Any way I did and it worked out well. I can read you a few lines from it if you want.  This is if you want to shoot back to 2016.

Aussie Firebug: Yeah, so, just while you’re getting that up, so you’re having a rough day at work and you need to…I could feel it through this email, it was such a genuine email and it was, I was quite touched that you emailed me, you know, with this. Here we are in the podcast I’m glad you did.

Nick: [Laughs] That is right, it is hard, I think particularly if you’re a dad too with kids or…If you’re the bread winner where sort of the singling comes three kids, and if you’re the bread winner, you’re wearing everything that little bit hotter because you’re feeling even more trapped instead of being like, “Oh we’ve got a mortgage we got to pay it off.” It’s, “Yeah, I’ve also got mouths to feed; I don’t have the ability to just go and say, “I’m going to move back at mum’s and dad’s house. I can’t just say, “No, I’m just going to pack in and go backpack for two years or something like that.” You’ve got responsibility. You’ve got to man up and own that. And that includes manning up and owning your mistakes and nothing really goes struggling with no mistakes going. I’ve got a good solid job but we’re not getting ahead. And I think a lot of people has that where you go, “Well, hopefully they’ve got the good solid job you don’t know these days, but you go, “I’m not getting ahead, you know, I look at other people and they’re getting ahead. I was in a rough spot so I thought I would email and just sort of send the email.

Aussie Firebug: Yes, so can you go into just a little bit about what we discussed in those back and fourths and what you were, you know what you are going through mindset and…?

Nick: Yeah, so I sort of said that I listen to your Fire podcast it was really good. I didn’t even know which episode actually it was, but it must have been a good one. I mean they’re all good, but it must be one that maybe resonated with me. Or perhaps it was someone who was just crushing it and I was like, “Uh, men, these person is crushing it. Who I’m I to even enter this FIRE world or even feel like, you know, I could post in a forum I am a shamble at that because would get shaved in and there’s a lot of people a lot worse than me. I’m sort of preaching at the people on my level and below, so If you’re brilliant you got 50 investment profit is you need and you need a 17 if you are killing it right, you should tune at it because I haven’t got anything to tell you. I said, “Look I’ve got all this financial knowledge on my head. I’ve always been, I’ve actually done most of my family’s tax returns and stuff like that. I do people’s budgets. I’ve brought young brother in laws get mortgages and I do up there their budgets and sort of this is how much your wage is, they very open with me so I’ll give him all the figures. This is what you’re going to need from rights, to all these things that come out but still that’s just a week, two week you’re not getting anything ahead. I think I said to you that everyone that I seem to have come across Mr. Money Man Stash and these other ones are women. Very young, they didn’t have kids so I get sort of hectic about financial independence but I just can’t do it. I don’t feel like I’ve got all these excess disposable cash to save and invest. Now people go, “I got to save your ID interest, I’m done. 100% has gone each way and I think most Australians families will probably relate to that. Where you just go, because you…you lost all quick. I remember one of my old jobs, it must be 20 years ago after high school I remember being like 34k, and I remember finding out that a manager’s wage is like 50 something k and if I ever got to that I will just be like flicking cash out the window down the street.

Aussie Firebug: Making it rain.

Nick: Yeah, making it rain, absolutely. But obviously there’s inflation that too but you just lost when you get mortgage, and you get kids, and you get a car, and you do this and then in discretion where you go, “particular pave way where you get to throw that sucker everywhere. And it disappears.

Aussie Firebug: It’s bad isn’t it?

Nick: Yeah. I think I said to you, I said like I just feel useless I feel like a bit of a fraud that. I thought I was a finance guy because I’d actually watched the several budgets and stuff like money and numbers but personally you’re just churning it in the bank account and nothing is getting ahead. And when you find fire it’s exciting but it can be crushing if you didn’t make, this is another level and this feels like the people who got old money but they got their parents helping them out not to buy a house and all these sort of stuff, like it’s not for me. You see average PIYG, the money goes in the bank every 4 month end but also that’s not also… I grow up saying, “Why always me?” A lot of these stuff you aren’t chose is not always smart enough after high school I could have studied more about personal financing or maybe could have done things in reverse where you had kids light and all of that. We got married young, I was 21, Beck was 19 and a lot sort of got on but just for whatever reasons everyone makes their own choices now. And it’s not about saying, “My life was really bad.” Because there is someone listening to this whose got a million times worse, it was just saying, “Look, this is where I am at now.” What can I possibly change now” I think I reached out to you saying. I said, like my ideal lifestyle and a little bit of casual stuff in town and I said to you, “Doesn’t sound like anything achievable. I really don’t know what to do.” That was sort of where it wound up. I think that was basically where I signed off and then you came back with some good encouragement which is what I needed. If somebody got encouragement face to face brilliant, but for a lot of us this amount of heavy stuff is how we learn about it and I mean why we can interact with it, so thank you for that.

Aussie Firebug: Very wise, and when I read your email for the first time what I took away from it was you laid a lot of things here and you’re just talking about your life and how you listen to one of my podcast and you’re hearing other people’s stuff online about this young early 20 people in their 20s with no kids chewing gum making $200,000 each and this inspired you, how was any job with…

Nick: That is well said you know, I sort of, it is been the World form of forums. The show runner is 200.

Aussie Firebug: Yeah, of course. But it was just so genuine, that email that you sent and I immediately started talking and applauding you. Basically what I wanted to get across was everything you told me and from everything that I know in my life and even the statistics prove it, you were doing way better than majority of people are doing. But it doesn’t feel like that when you’re consuming all that content or people that are doing better than you, that are younger than you.

Nick: Exactly right.

Aussie Firebug: So, I really just wanted to try to get it across like you said, just the encouragement of how well pretty put it to perspective how well people in Australia in general are doing with other people all over the world. And I show you a whole bunch of you know a bunch of websites,

Nick: Absolutely.

Aussie Firebug: But a lot, one of the ones that I really like and I’ll put it in the show notes, there is a website, now I’ve got it in front of me. Yeah, here it is, theearthawaits.com, I am going to put this end and basically you can punch in how much passive income or just income in general that you have and it will show you all the places in the world that you can currently live which is really cool. It’s a bit of motivation because Australia has a very high cost of living and if you have a passive income of let’s say, $10,000 in Australia, there is a whole bunch of places in the world that you can live off that. I ‘m not saying you got to move to other places in the world, but it’s just an example of even though you’re thinking you might drowning a bit in your current environment it’s so much. It’s so many people all over the world that you’re ahead of. And even like your situation you’re ahead of hades of people in Australia and that’s a lot of people that I know personally in your age with kids and everything so like I just really wanted to get across and hopefully encourage you a bit and make you feel a bit better about the situation. Honestly it was a really good spot to be in to be honest and then I don’t think I heard from you after that. I totally didn’t, I put my hat I didn’t seem like…

Nick: I know. You did well. I put my hat out and you put your hat away and it’s like we met in the field gave each other a hug and walked away. So it was all credit, it was all brilliant.

Aussie Firebug: We were like wing man of an airfield football match.

Nick: We were.

Aussie Firebug: Shook hands at the start of the game and said, “I’ll see you at the end of the game.” Just relax as much as possible as you can.

Nick: It’s brilliant. That was basically. I was processing all that and processing books I was reading at the podcast and stuff like that, and gathered all these stuff and start putting some of this into action. Basically 2017, we’re at 2018 so 2017.

Aussie Firebug: That is crazy. It was a year of getting stuff done. And it is amazing what you can do in a year. And I am not, If anyone is listening right now I don’t think now he’s going to say he’s got an investment properties, goes to TED talks and tells everyone about how awesome he is.

Aussie Firebug: He is now financially independent.

Nick: Yeah, that’s right.

Aussie Firebug: Surprise.

Nick: Yeah, I definitely I’m completely low in the middle of the road I guess you would say there is always some lower there is someone higher, and I think it would be an estimate people overestimate what they can get done in a year and underestimate what they can do in six years, and I think that’s very true. He probably stole that from somewhere else, who knows but it’s completely true. In a year we’ve done enough stuff that is gone and you know we can see where this is heading here. We’re not going to a mortgage off in two months. We’re not going to have enough invested in funds and stuff like that to be gone in four years and all that. We did six to ten years. My 10-year self, my 44-year-old self right now is absolutely high fiving me because of what I’ve done now at 34. And that’s not to say I’ll be completely checked there I can do whatever I want. It’s actually not about retiring like, “My job is actually kind of cool now. It is been a year and I think that is partly in your mindset you say now that I know that I’m not stuck or working in this job or a job until 60. The fact that we got a trajectory now, there is a chance shuffle things around that part and I think that changes your mindset at work. You’re not growing in there because of why? I’m just paying tax each you know, running low on the hamster wheel. You can see a bit of a lot of the tunnel and it’s not a lot to get there. It’s a lot for these other opportunities and I keep working happy.

Aussie Firebug: Exactly right Nick. The mindset difference that you’re probably even feeling now. Like you think back, you rewind one year to 2016 and how much. Better work certain years, the grass is greener. The sun’s shining a little bit more brightly as you approach it. Because on the same amount I have in my mind as you hit financial independence that’s when throw out the Xbox and just play games all day or something like…It’s not going to be like that. I will work most likely forever in some capacity.

Nick: In some capacity and I don’t know if anyone is listening to this there is a guy called J L Collins. I really like him. He’s got a blog which is—it a bit scattered all over the place but I like his book—He did a book and he talks about the FU money on there. That’s obviously the swear word FU money. It’s just a pair of that saying and he talks about a story that when he was younger his first job he basically wanted to go overseas for like five weeks and his boss said no. And he said, “Okay.” This was back like in the ‘70s or something like that and he just felt like so I can’t go. And then he thought about, but I actually have enough money. He just went back in to his boss’s office and said, “I’m just gonna quit if that’s all right.” His boss said, “Whoa,whoa, don’t quit, why are you going to quit.” He said, “I don’t really need the job.” But he had enough just to survive a couple of months or something. And his boss said ‘let’s work something out, and take the time and do a little bit of part time here and this sort of stuff,” and without even knowing what that was back then- he told us back then- it’s so true. Like if you don’t have to have to work because you’ve got enough income coming in from other sources, you can apparently go, “Yeah, I’m going to check out,” or “I want to do part time,” or “I just want to go to another occupation that really interests me,” but most of the time you’re going to start up on the lowest rank, you’re going to be the plate or you start your own business or everyone has got a different thing that they like.

Aussie Firebug: Yeah, that’s powerful, powerful stuff and I look forward to the day where I can wane back to four-three days a week, two or eventually have the option to do none or throw my hand into someone else.

Nick: And the cool thing is that you can just on average income, like average my income or something like that and you go and it can actually work like you don’t have to go “Oh, I’m not a doctor, I’m not someone earning 150-100K.” Technically, those people should be able to get there a lot sooner but what happens is they get lost: they get expensive cars, they get expensive houses, they keep up with the Joneses, you know they’ve got to be in a certain post card or whatever and then they’re still sixty towards seventy and they’re still not checking out because they lost all this selling large. Yeah, it’s exciting to know that you pretty much can do this just depending on I guess your standards, we need to lower our standards people.

Aussie Firebug: Yeah, I think that’s one of the coolest things about it as well, 100% agreeing. You know we touched on a bit about this when we were chatting before; average people can achieve this. It might take a little bit longer and the doctors will try to achieve it or someone earning a lot of money but if you live in a first world country, you should be able to achieve it. I don’t care about circumstances, okay it’s going to be harder for some than others but if you live in Australia, America, Canada, New Zealand, you know first world countries, this should be well within your reach if you want it bad enough.

Nick: Absolutely, absolutely.

Aussie Firebug: So back to the email so the one that I sent you, it’s sat in your inbox for a while, is that right?

Nick: Well, for everyone listening, I didn’t actually ignore him, I actually kind of did but I left it there basically at the top of my inbox essentially for a year, why? And it’s the same reason why I’ve kind of gone a little quiet on this, that I haven’t said it live is I feel like [00:32:38] I don’t want to reply back and, yeah, yeah cool, I’ve done this tiny little thing, I wanted to basically prove to myself that I can make some changes and I did. We did a bit of stuff, we got rid of our credit card and it was only a small credit card, like it was like a 2K credit card, $2000. People go, “That’s tiny man, I’ve got like 89K.” Yeah, that’s a problem. 2K is also a problem when you’re churning twenty or thirty thousand through it not the points or not to pay the rights and all that, a card that’s meant to be emergencies became emergencies for lunch time because Subway is really tasty. Getting our mortgage interest rate down from 8.19% now down to 4% because we had it locked for so long which is terrible. Discretionary spending, you know I think we spent like- this is our entire family, one income plus I do some side work for another business plus my wife does some casual teaching which stops during the holidays- I think we spent like 117000 but we only earn like 105000 so that’s already a red herring and that was one of the granular things I did which you suggested and you’ll see a lot of people suggest it; go through your spending. It doesn’t mean you have to be this being counter every day plugging it in. What worked for us is always being counter for 2016 transactions. So I went through all of 2016, I used money brilliant, there’s heaps of other ones out there and basically categorized where I could and what things were and it really showed that pretty much I was the problem, with the discretionary spending and these other things were doing silly also, having a leased car was terrible. You get a leased car so easily through work. “Hey, get a leased car, package your vehicle,” you know this sort of stuff, it’s great. You get this magic little card and you swipe away, you don’t even know what things really cost. If you go and get a service, you just swipe the card, done. It’s not like when you pay through EFTPOS, they put in, you know it’s $328, it all gets charged back to this place. You don’t really see the money, you’ve got to log in through these portals to check it out. There’s like $8 card fees every month and all these other transaction fees. If you go to the wrong serve out, it’s an extra $3 per tank. You don’t even see the interest rate. You know if you were to get a car through- I wouldn’t advocate, I’m kind of anti-financing cars, they’re a little different- if you would go through a car dealer, you’d at least know what the interest rate is 3-4-5-6-7%, but with the lease you don’t; it’s just hey yeah, it’s all approved, don’t worry and the lease in it was like 9% or something like that; little things like that. So we went through all of our spending, paid off the leased car so we own it outright now and we’re just going to probably drive that thing into the dirt and my wife’s sort of onboard with that. I say that now because it’s actually got something leaking at the bottom of it but in no way am I going to buy like a super- it was not a super expensive car, I think we bought it for like 28 grand but I can’t just put that in my mind to alignment and someone else here might think, “Man, this dude’s just being a cheapskate, buy a new car,” and that’s cool if that works for you and you’ve done the math and it’s like us, for us a 2K credit card doesn’t work for our family. I know you can get points on things there but for us it’s a fog of war, it’s a way of masking the true cost of living because we had our bank account which has our money in it but this is extra one that sits here so you do that one and it’s just a money tune, you’re just constantly sending money to reduce the balance on that one. What else did we do? Oh yeah, we put more into a super which is probably a contentious one in the fire. Our community- if we can talk about that a little bit- put like an extra 400 Bucks [00:36:13] on the mortgage so like 200 in the super, 400 into the mortgage, saving like 400 a fortnight and things like that and putting 50 a fortnight into my wife’s super because she gets a contribution match because she only earns a small amount every year at this stage, she stays with the kids and I’ve [00:36:31] so yes, we’re one income with the kids but it’s important for me not to go, “Oh wow, it’s me.” Society hasn’t done that to us, that’s our choice. We’ve chosen that the way we’ve done life is having kids before you’re financially independent because I didn’t know about that beforehand because I’m an idiot, is we’ve got kids. The kids are awesome. I’ll say that when tomorrow probably they’ll hit a vain and we’ll go nuts. The thing through school holidays and all that is that’s great, the way we’ve done life, it is great. A bit of that is choice about where you live and cost of living and all that, we leave in a regional Queens [00:37:08] which is west of Bristol, I think I said it earlier. It’s the point where I can at least pay the mortgage on my income which obviously that compounds the dramas that you have earlier where you are the bread winner and any little issue at work or any kind of stress or mental health you’re dealing with, that’s compounded more because you’ve got to keep that income coming in, health and all that but the flip side is that Christie has been at home, this is kind of like a file without paying for it. She gets to have that awesome time with kids and I get all these brilliant messages on my phone at work so if I’m having a crap day at work and if we were both having a crap day at work or we’re pursuing fire, that would be really sucky, we did message each other saying, “When do we check out?” At least I get a message from her because she’s taken the kids to a cafe or a playgroup or you know, you get the little video of your kids’ first steps and that sort of stuff so that itself is worth its weight in gold so I’ll start paying the penalty for my silly mistakes earlier in life of not investing and not getting onto this stuff sooner is at least we’ve been through some choices like living somewhere cheaper and cutting that cost of living down, you say Beck’s going to be home with the kids and that’s awesome. Yeah of course that completely destroys you firepath for how many years till we can check out but it’s a tradeoff. We just thought that we wanted her to be home with the kids, she was very keen on that- I’m probably going to get smashed by feminists there but that’s just the way it worked there. She really wanted to be a mama with the kids and we could afford it. Yeah, so we’ve done that, it’s silly like for paying the mortgage down and technically, if you do the math for most people getting rid of the mortgage if you’re living in an own-occupied it’s usually you know, mortgages are like say 4%. It’s pretty smart money just to put money into that and pay it off because it’s basically if you take tax into account like a 6% return guaranteed, pretty easy, put it into your mortgage but as I said to Firebug in sort of the catch up email after the year, I said, “Look, it’s dumb but I wanted to feel like I’m a bit of a cool kid in the fire thing and I bought 5K I think index funds just to feel like I’m part of the crowd.” We’re all social animals like a herd and I didn’t want to be too left behind even though that’s tiny and someone listening to this has probably five million and yeah, our savings rate’s up. So our savings rate before was pretty much like I guess 0% or 5%, now we’ve got it to say 37% which isn’t bad for like a single income family, it’s 56% if you include super so that’s not bad. I’m including in that like the principle, we’re paying off the mortgage.

Aussie Firebug: Yeah, definitely, you include that for sure.

Nick: Yeah, so our super’s a funny one, that’s a different topic and I feel like no, don’t touch super because you get the people for the [00:39:56] have time to talk about the government’s going to steal all your money and all that but aside from that, that’s right down the track. If you’re talking to Fire, you want to have this happening earlier, then absolutely. Once we’re on sort of two incomes, yeah I can get into all that later in the podcast if you want to consume more time but for now it’s more of a tax thing; it’s we can’t do heaps to smash other investments in that but it’s something I can put aside because I’m a bit older too, I’m 34, if we think sort of ten years is when we’ll probably would maybe hit fire, then I’m only looking at say ten to fifteen years for that to sort of last before super also kicks in so it’s a different thought. If you’re 45 listening to this, then your super would probably be a pretty serious part of your whole investment portfolio. So that’s something to think of. If you’re twenty it’s obviously different or if you’re 30, if you’re 40, if you’re 50, if you’re thinking of compounding and all that.

Aussie Firebug: Yeah, I think you’ve just gone through most of the talk points that you sent me but I remember coming into my inbox and seeing this message from you like a year later and I was so happy, had this big grin on my face reading it at work and I really liked this email because like you said, there’s a lot of people that are doing very well and there’s other people that are not doing so well but this was just a very genuine email from a guy that emailed me a year ago and had some mindset things and I tried to give him my best as possible and he comes back with all these wins that he had and I just thought it was absolutely fantastic and it is those little mental wins that like you know you said even though it might not to be the smartest move which is debatable but you bought some vanguard funds. That’s a mental win; even if it isn’t financially the best thing to do, there is a psychological win that cannot be understated. It’s like a lot of people say don’t pay off your HECS debt which is financially the correct move but then there’s other people that just need it paid off, they just got five thousand and they just want to pay it off.

Nick: Yeah, everyone’s completely different. I don’t think that whole mortgage versus investment thing, there’d be like a million blog posts out there that will do this math and everyone’s different and there obviously no mortgage means you have a less amount you need in the future but if you delay the investing, it means the compounding is just a chicken and egg kind of thing. Yeah, I think at the moment it’s obviously mortgage for us just because that makes a bit more sense and then once we’re on two incomes, we can really think about the other investing.

Aussie Firebug: Yeah, and like you mentioned in this email, one of the lines that you wrote was “I guess I’m now a mix of a one of a wannabe fire person (coming from two incomes) and an average good with money person. I read that and I thought there is absolutely nothing wrong with that and if anything, if you just have the knowledge and the internet is a wonderful thing these days, in your mind of where you want to be and your average with money which is I would say you’re good with money–

Nick: We know a lot of people who are terrible with money so that’s good.

Aussie Firebug: I wouldn’t put you average with money to begin with but even if you’re average with money and you’re getting average returns and everything like that, you’re going to get there. It’s can you be in the right mindset to reach the end goal and can you enjoy the journey enough? If you’re hating the journey, you’ve got to change things up. This goes out to anyone listening to this, if you’re struggling with reaching fire and you’re not enjoying it then you’re doing something wrong. You should be enjoying your life on the way to financial independence, not in a vacuum where you’re thinking oh, I’m just going to grind out these next seven years of this crap I hate and this life I hate, then everything will be rainbows and cactus.

Nick: It gets hard like anyone who’s married or partnered and got kids and in the grind like I am most weeks, finances are massive stress in most marriages or partnerships anyway. If you’re living week to week, a fortnight to fortnight, it is stressful; you’re at each other because you’re like: we’ve got to pay for this, now you want to do that, you can’t do that. That causes fights. If you go and then stress about the next seven years of your path, ten years or fifteen years of your path of getting enough investments going, you just kind can’t handle that stress. Instead of just stressing about the fortnight, you’re now stressing about the next seven years and I would get that like I ride a push bike which is great. If you read about Mr. Money Moustache, he’s like, “Yeah, ride a push bike, it’s cheap, you’re saving the environment and whatever…” I actually ride a push bike and that’s because we’ve made a choice to just have one car so even before being fire, I was probably already somewhat in that mindset plus [00:45:10] is a small town and I’d feel like a bit of a douche if I did get a second car because it’s seriously like a three-minute drive to work or a ten-minute ride but I ride the push bike, I listen to podcasts, I get so much enjoyment listening to podcast. I used to hate riding a push bike, now when I listen to them, I’m learning every day. Now, I love it when your podcast comes in, like “Yay, an Aussie one, this is great!” If anyone is listening to American ones, I highly recommend Choose FI and Brad and Jonathan, they’re brilliant as well.

Aussie Firebug: I’ll put a link in the show notes, Choose FI.

Nick: Yeah, Choose FI, they’ve absolutely nailed it as well and you get home and sometimes after listening to one, you feel, ‘Damn that guy’s crushing it and I’m a loser and I had a bad day at work and I’m not going to get a promotion blah-blah-blah,’ get in the house, three kids at me, I’m sweaty from the bike ride, one wants to kick a soccer ball, one wants a hug, the one wants to show me some sticks he strung together or something like that, you just get this craziness. If you try and compound fire stress into that, it’s going to be hard so you’ve got to get an even balance between your family as to what do we all want to do together. Often fire’s about where do you want to be in ten or twenty years, what makes you happy, and for most of us in fire happy isn’t buying expensive houses and that, fire is spending time with family or doing things by choice but yeah, the whole family has got to be on board with that so you do have to talk with you wife, your partner and the kids to a degree. Like for us, if we were doing fire the normal way around, we’d be fire and then we would have kids and we’d both just be home and the kids would be awesome, we’d get to have all those early years together, it would be great. My mindset’s got to be a little bit different as to well, we made a choice for like a cheap [00:47:02] that she’s on at the moment with the kids until she sort of goes back to work so that’s great, that’s a hard job for her and for me, okay I’m going to be working and when we actually realistically hit fire, we won’t be with our little kids taking them to the [00:47:18] but I’ll probably have teenage kids or young adults and you never know, even grandkids, it’s like I may not be there to invest all the time with my kids but I could invest it with my young adult kids or teenage kids or grandkids, it’s pretty exciting. So whichever stage of life you’re on, you haven’t missed it because you weren’t at home to raise your kids but there’s always something else you can capture back.

Aussie Firebug: And that there is an epic way to think about it, Nick, like that really is awesome. You’re going to have teenage kids when you’re still in your forties that you can spend way more time and then if grandkids arrive on the scene, you’re going to be free to do whatever you choose.

Nick: Completely available, that’s exactly right. My wife Beck, she’s just awesome with kids, she’s a pro-mystical teacher, she’s just amazing, and she cooks awesome too because I’m useless. And I know that we’re going to be at the point where one of us says can say, “I am not doing the work thing anymore, I’m going to help out our kids with the grandkids as much as possible,” and that’s by design, that’s just not a lockdown because there’s a lot of people you see where the grandparents would love to spend more with the kids or they’d love to spend more time with the teenagers or young adults and yeah, to be cool. It’s just by design, it’s not an accident, it might be an accident, someone might have spammed your work email box like I was doing to my folks, it’s just kind of learning through your outbox rather than your inbox but yeah, I don’t even know where I’m going with this but it gets exciting.

Aussie Firebug: I’m definitely hearing you. Now, I want to just ask you a few questions before we wrap things up. So three kids, you’re pursuing fire, what’s the hardest thing about pursuing financial independence with three kiddies on the same?

Nick: Look, we’re public schooling at the moment which is obviously the cheaper way to do it and it’s been great, I’m a [00:49:24] about public schools so someone could say, “Oh private school is very expensive, that would be. Kids’ birthdays is hard. Our own kids’ birthdays, it’s just like you laugh on Instagram and all that, someone’s got an awesome house and car, other kids have got great toys and gadgets and I’m trying to teach my kids that it’s about doing stuff that’s fun so we really into bike riding, doing stuff in the backyard, we’re pretty active but I still get presents. I’ve bought a couple of Xbox controllers for the computer so they could play like a Lego game and all that on a computer but it’s tricky and then little kids birthday parties, there’s 20 Bucks here and there but man, that stuff disappears quick.

Aussie Firebug: Aren’t they just insane, some of these kids’ birthday parties though?

Nick: Yeah, it’s off the chart.

Aussie Firebug: Because I’ve got a sister that’s a wedding photographer but she also does like high end kids’ parties like they actually a freaking photographer for this like five-year old and it’s like she works an album and it’s actually insane like she says sometimes they’ve got catering and it’s like what is happening here? This kid won’t even remember this birthday party, it’s just the parent showing off.

Nick: I know and it is very true and if you can get invited to them, it’s awesome because you go, good these other kids at school actually like my kid, that’s nice because [00:50:41] when you’ve got kids. You don’t want to find out they’re being bullied, you don’t want to find out that who’d you play with at lunch or no one, like why? “Because no one wanted to play with me,” so you get a birthday invite, you go “Yeah, awesome great,” then you get a [00:50:53] saying that stuff is all kind of minor at the moment. I’m sure if you interviewed me in five to ten years’ time when the teenagers are kicking in, it probably gets even more expensive. Really it’s food, you know if we want to get out for tea, you pay a lot more for food because you’re obviously feeding five instead of feeding two, I don’t even know if it’s always about the money you know, about the spending issue. You should cut your spending down on silly junk, invest your money in stuff that’s worthwhile, we won’t to talk about crypto and all that–

Aussie Firebug: Let’s not open that black box.

Nick: Yeah, invest your money but really learn to enjoy life again. That’s it, stop being a consumer of economy, start earning a bit of the economy with your investments then you can focus on your lifestyle but also I guess like I was saying before, focus on your lifestyle a bit now. Be happy with where you’re at to a degree, Facebook and Instagram are harsh, you see people they’re on their overseas holiday, everyone takes that really good picture [00:51:59]. Here’s the kids, this is what we did today, it was awesome. That picture doesn’t show the crazy fights and everything else or the fact that when I was at the checkout, someone thought I was scrolling Facebook but I was actually transferring money because we didn’t have money in that account to buy this.

Aussie Firebug: Yeah, I’ve been there before.

Nick: Yeah, and I think it’s pretty normal but you walk into the store and as you’re walking in, you tap and you pin into your phone checking your bank balance just to go is tis money actually here and all that and whether that’s because you’re living week to week or because you just got money in other accounts and all that, yeah, just changing their mindset.

Aussie Firebug: For sure. I know you beat yourself up so I do not want to hear anything about the kids or anything with this one but has been your biggest mistake in regards to reaching fire so far?

Nick: Apart from learning about it later?

Aussie Firebug: I heard you say that before and it’s definitely not a mistake, everyone learns about it a different time and I would argue that thirties is an extremely early age to be involved with this stuff, extremely early.

Nick: Absolutely, because there’ll be people in their forties and fifties and sixties and all that.

Aussie Firebug: People with 65 and they’re just, “Uh honey, I guess we better start learning about super now, when they’re like 64.

Nick: Yeah, that’s exactly right. Just quickly talking about that, I’ve said that to my super fund, they sent out a survey and said “What can we do better?” I said, “Stop pitching your retirement things to people in their 55’s.” They go, “You’re 55 now,” they send out these things, come along to our retirement seminar, they even do it at my work, I said, “You should be doing this to the people who are 20. If they start saving and investing more now, by the time they hit that 60-65, they’re going to be crushing it,” Anyway, back to the question so the biggest mistake financially really apart from fixing a mortgage at 8.19% for five years just after the GFC when it all started to crash, everyone else’s quickly went down to say 4%, 6-5-4%, we were at 8.19 for five years with a break free of like I think it’s twenty five or thirty grand or something, that hurt but that was a big life lesson. Other ones would be over time is financing cars, we may not have $10000 cars which is not expensive that we’ve turned through that never actually paid off. You know, you get it, paid in like three grand of it then go into another one, go into another one, go into another one and I’m probably glad I don’t have all those loan statements down in the filling cabinet because that would be so crushing to think how much not just in interest but just in money going to depreciating assets.

Aussie Firebug: So you would not recommend leasing a car through work?

Nick: Don’t lease a car through work, everyone goes, “Oh but you saved money on the purchase price,” or “you saved a bit of tax,” but man there’s a lot of hidden fees, you don’t always understand the finance. If you’re really a fire person and you’ve done all the math and it worked, yeah okay sure do it because it’s really about the map. Everything we decide should just be about how does this work.

Aussie Firebug: Read the fine print people, read the fine print. So overall, read the terms and conditions, financing cars and the interest rate which really wasn’t your fault but yes. Next one, just super quick, what has been your biggest win so far and why has it been discovering Aussie Firebug?

Nick: Because he’s just doing what no one else doing which is also– biggest win is just being aware I think. Going through that granular spending, that took a while man, you export your stuff into a CSV or Excel then punch into something like Money [00:55:33], it takes forever because most of the things on your statement, they don’t say “This was purchased at Subway.” They say, “This was at something PT Limited” you’re like what was that? Tricky but I think I spent about four nights, a few hours each night, four nights is not too bad really for a year’s transactions.

Aussie Firebug: Which is not too bad considering how much value you got out of that, right?

Nick: Yeah absolutely and it went well. This is where it’s going and it’s not a classic “Oh my wife spends too much money,” it was “I’m spending this money, it’s me, I’m the guy who does the banking, I do all of this, I’m the guy spending on discretionary sort of junk which I can’t even account for now, well I could account for but I couldn’t see the value in anymore so that was powerful and just learning the math that if you convert that into savings and investing and doing exhibits smarter, you know, cutting your mobile phone bills from eighty to twenty and all the basics, you can free up a bit of cash. You know we’re one income and we’ve sent each month, I didn’t think we’d save in that first email sent you. I think I said to you, “I cannot imagine how we’d save $500 a fortnight,” and we’re doing way more than that now.

Aussie Firebug: Alright, tell everyone tracking your spending is the best thing you can do. Second last one, tell us a bit about so you said you’ve got a blog but it’s not live but by the time this publishes, it will be live, right? So tell us a bit about your blog, it’s Blogrollerthree, is it not?

Nick: No, it’s just rolledthree.com so like the r-o-l-l-e-d-t-h-r-e-e.

Aussie Firebug: .com? Tell us a bit about that and what the name means.

Nick: Yeah so I’ve got a good friend at work and we used to joke because you know generic public servant office jobs, you’re doing your thing, you’re grinding life out and then go this is so hard, you get down on your grumps and all that and he’d say, “Roll the three buddy, could’ve rolled a two or a one but I rolled the three, and I didn’t roll a five or a six,” and I thought that’s great and that’s like my financial life that I can’t be the worst person the world’s because there’s someone who’s absolutely got no dollars at all, they can’t even feed their kids, that serious stuff and there’s obviously support agencies out there for that. I rolled a three, you know there’s opportunity for me to hit a four or a five or a six, I think I’m in a four now, it’s around a three.

Aussie Firebug: I’ll definitely say you’re above a three but I like the name.

Nick: So it’s about being average; you know, just being aware of being average but celebrating it and also getting a bit better.

Aussie Firebug: Embracing the average, embrace the average. So you don’t have to be killing it in your returns, you don’t have to be killing it on your wage, you just have to be average and you will eventually reach financial dependence which is why it is so brilliant because it doesn’t matter if you live in a first world country. Maybe if you’re in a third world, you might not be able to reach it ever but if you’re average, it is within your grasp.

Nick: Absolutely.

Aussie Firebug: Mate, we have finished the show. Thank you so much for coming on, I’m really glad that you sent me that email over twelve months ago now and the follow up with everything that has happened in your life since the other month. It’s been an absolute pleasure, I hope you have enjoyed it as much as I have.

Nick: Yeah, absolutely, it’s great. Thanks for replying, that’s good; you know many people these days don’t reply.

Aussie Firebug: I reply to everyone, everyone. I shouldn’t say that, should I?

Nick: Challenge accepted Pet, I’ll start emailing with all kinds of random junk. But yeah, I just thought I’d contact you then we sort of talked about maybe doing this. I said look, I’m not somebody who should go on a podcast because I don’t have heaps of investments, I’m not super smart, I’m not killing it, I’m not a poster child fire person but there might be a lot of us out there who’ve got a bit of a mongoloid map but you can still get on the path.

Aussie Firebug: Right, it’s been awesome, thank you so much. And yeah, much appreciation for you coming on.

Nick: Excellent, thanks man.

Aussie Firebug: Alright, ciao.

Nick:​​​ Ciao.

 

 

Podcast – SelfWealth

Podcast – SelfWealth

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Summary

Our guest today is Andrew Ward, the founder and managing director of online investing tool Self Wealth. Andrew is a former Executive Manager at Commonwealth Bank who has held many other high positions throughout his 20 years in the finance sector. Andrew seen an opportunity in the market for an online community for investors, but after failing to get through the red tape that comes with working in a large organisation, decided to start up his own company.

 

In this episode, we talk about:

  • What is Self Wealth and what does it offer
  • $9.50 flat fee brokerage costs!
  • The catalyst for the idea of Self Wealth
  • Pricing models
  • What CHESS sponsored and HIN means and why it’s so important
  • Integration with Sharesight

 

Show Notes

 

Transcript:
 

Aussie Firebug: Hi guys, welcome to another episode of the Aussie Firebug podcast, the financial independence podcast for Australians where I interview clever people who have already reached or are on their way to financial independence. Our guest today is Andrew Ward, the founder and managing director of online investing tool ‘SelfWealth’. Andrew was a former executive manager at Commonwealth bank who has held many other high positions throughout his twenty years in the finance sector. Andrew has seen an opportunity in the market for an online community for investors but after failing to get through the red type that comes with working in large organizations decided to start up his own company. Andrew, welcome to the podcast.

Andrew: Aright mate, thank you.

Aussie Firebug: Can you tell us a little bit about the online tool SelfWealth?

Andrew: Well really, SelfWealth was born out of frustration as you mentioned in your opening. I’ve been in the industry for a long time working at larger institutions across administration platforms, funds management, financial planning, stockbroking etcetera and I thought I didn’t necessarily want to pay the typical valued time and all those percentage-based states across the industry so I thought if anyone could get self-directed investing your crack, I potentially could. But really the only option I had was to jump over the dark side so it’s online broking to the concepts and of the world but in doing so very quickly realized that there were some services on the traditional part of the industry that I did value, you know portfolio construction, advice, reporting etcetera. So SelfWealth was really born out of trying to bring diluted levels of those services into online broking world where you directly own your own stock, you weren’t held up in custody or unit trust etcetera. The first hurdle I really had back then, I wanted to remove the percentage sign on financial services as well so I wanted to have a subscription-based service so I think what  100000 versus 10000 if you get the same level of service so I think it’s nonsensical so I wanted to remove that so the first hurdle I really hit was trying to construct portfolios although I’ve been in the industry for a while I’ve never actually been personally a funds managerial stockbroker so I tried to go to the various professional to give me portfolios to construct for this growing membership base. They all either wanted to charge a percentage based fee or asset management fee or didn’t want their IP to be shown. So that’s when it dawned on me and this whole P2P construction of social network for investors was born. I realized I had to really use the intelligence of sort of my own investing community itself wealth to create those portfolios for others to follow and help them construct their own portfolios moving on. SelfWealth was really born out of that and since the journey began five years ago, we’ve really developed those diagnostic tools to help people better construct portfolios based on the rest of the community and the main challenge we had at the start was there is no greater heart mentality than investing so we really had to stop that  going over ball process. It’s like you know, you have a stock in a taxi but the stock has already run its course so we really have to create a diagnostic tool to really enable our members who might not be that savvy when it comes to investing. Next chapter, we the help to know who are the best investors and the best ways to construct portfolios so we did that. We created two diagnostic tools: one called a ‘safety rating’ which has a five star score. It really just measures the diversification of your portfolio making sure you don’t put all your eggs in one basket and this really encourages a lot of ATF investing in the community because that’s the only way we’re able to get international shares, property, interests etcetera. And that feeds into our sort of our gold standard diagnostic tool which is what we call the ‘wealth check score’ which of the 30000 portfolios in the solution as we speak, where do you see- on a timeline performance basis- so where in that 30000 on a P2P basis, how well are you investing? So let’s take a that. Besides, we just mentioned that the personification tool is part of that as well and that really gives you an indication of the best investors over a long period of time over a diversified– and really we do prove that past performance is not indicative of peak performance at all just as a disclaimer. We truly do prove that but however using these diagnostic tools you can see who have been the best investors over a period of time and you give you the best chance to realize they’ll probably be the best investors into the future. So that will sort of be the genesis I suppose of SelfWealth but what really evolved to take you to SelfWealth today, you construct portfolios within the solution and we tell you how well you are going compared to this target portfolio that you might create from the community. And until last year, you could click on and we’d tell you what to buy and sell to get that perfect target portfolio but people then have to go to to their broker and it was sort of an overwhelming demand and members coming to us saying, “We really like the solution, you know it’s user friendly, it’s easy to use. However, we don’t want to toggle over to our broker. Can we do trading within SelfWealth?” So that had me starting out another junior kind of fund flat fee consistent with my of this no percentage based brokerage service. It took me two years, I was told it couldn’t be done because the have two; percentage based– it needs a clearing fee and a settlement fee but finally I was able to convince the clearinghouse of [00:05:48] and got a banker from New York, Millan, to provide a flat fee for it and that was sort of revolutionary for the [00:05:56]. SelfWealth now is the only flat fee brokerage in Australia and we launched that at the end of last year and that’s really changed the business. It’s commercialized the business and it’s almost like bringing the horse to water. People understand a $9.50 flat fee trade so in other words for a five million dollar trade or a five thousand dollar trade and when they come into the solution based on that, then they discover this whole social networking and the whole community which really cuts the stickiness for our solution. So it’s a long-winded way of getting there but SelfWealth is rally picking. That’s the online flat free brokerage with this really rich community P2P interesting solution behind it.

Aussie Firebug Well, so much to unpack in that opening. Now, that was fantastic; and it’s funny that you mentioned that because I was doing that my research before this podcast and I wasn’t completely aware of the social aspect of SelfWealth. I had come across SelfWealth in last couple years and we spoke before we started this podcast. You know every couple of weeks I would get an email or a comment saying: Have you checked out SelfWealth, there’s is flat fees… It is $9.50 did you say, per trade?

Aussie Firebug: That’s right, yes.

Andrew: Just phenomenal, $9.50. I’m currently playing and 19.95 for under 10000 dollars with CommSec at the moment and that’s half price to what I’m paying and then like you said, as you trade with greater volume, it’s the percentage-based model with CommSec and all the others and you pay more and more but with you guys it’s just a flat fee, $9.50 and that’s sort of how I came across SelfWealth in the forums and stuff but doing the research and stuff, there is the whole other side of SelfWealth once you’re actually in is the community and having that benchmark to measure yourself against?

Andrew: That’s right. It also creates exponentially the stickiness tactically zero and that’s based on the fact that most people in the community and they as you say, benchmark themselves so it helps to improve their performance you know after their retirement they don’t tend to go anywhere and you listen to the 19.95 trade– there’s big incentive to move to a $9.50 flat fee trading solution but then once you’re sort of with us and you have to help instead of being patted in the back there’s an arm around you to help you better at this. People don’t tend to leave. It’s really that community; not only is it fantastic for all the investors but it’s really great stickiness and the customer loyalty too.

Aussie Firebug: Yeah, absolutely. Now, I want to read you a quote I got from and an article I was googling about you online and I just want to hear your reaction. You were once quoted saying, “At the bank you need 5000 meetings to get anything done, six months before an IED is even looked at, you need another 5000 meetings to decide if it will work and then it takes three years and $50000000 to make it happen.” Now, I have to ask you: was SelfWealth the idea floated at a previous employer and did it or did not get off for whatever reason?

Andrew: No, SelfWealth was never floated but it’s my role at the CBA. I was responsible a lot for sort of the innovation and sort of the wealth chain because you know how the banks especially the big four are really looking for wealth solutions not just the red carpet, you know the loans et cetera and I was trying to get some [00:09:38] and having traditional platforms and trying to get managed account technology SMA’s, IMA’s up and running. I was part of a working group on which platform we could potentially use and you know I was probably doing that for two years and still when I left it hadn’t been implemented and everyone wanted to get their fingerprints all over it and also being based in Melbourne working for Citibank, that was also problematic so it’s pretty accurate in regards to many, many meetings, lots of people who want to sort of justify what they’re doing and to not have their input– you know, too many cooks in the kitchen type of thing–

Aussie Firebug: Was it– sorry, continue.

Andrew: Yeah, and so when you have an idea and you try to work towards a resolution and it takes longer than a year, it’s actually going to meander and not be [00:10:30], it’s nothing like what it should be and the benefit of a startup and this is really what I’ve been able to experience in setting up SelfWealth is you can just move so quickly and it’s you, a work board and a couple of your team making e decisions within five minutes and that is such an advantage over the big banks and we can talk later about how I think banks went into [00:10:55], their competitive responses and what they’ll do but there’s such advantage. The winner in this [00:11:02] it’s the [00:11:06] getting that distribution or the big banks working– I mean whoever gets their first win.

Aussie Firebug: Yeah right, that’s definitely something that we’ll be interested in to talk about. So you mentioned the flat fee for the brokerage cost. Is there another fee associated with the online community or anything like that?

Andrew: Yes there is. So there are two components to it. As I mentioned, we have sort of a two-offering. There’s a $9.50 flat fee brokerage that permits you to trade then once you join- it’s free to join- you get the whole– all the tools, all the bells and whistles, the whole community, construction tools etcetera for free for three months. At the end of the three months if you still wish to use the community and all the tools and bench marking that goes along with it, it’s $20 per month.

Aussie Firebug: $20 per month.

Andrew: You can choose not to pay that and just have the brokerage solution but then you won’t have access to the 30000 members which is growing rapidly and all the tools associated that will help you to better invest.

Aussie Firebug: Okay, so you get the first three months for free just to get a taste and if you like it you can continue paying the $20 a month but you don’t have to, you can stick with SelfWealth if you just purely wanted to your trades.

Andrew: Yeah.

Aussie Firebug: Okay, cool. And what happens if– I’m with CommSec so let’s say I wanted to go over with you guys. Can you just explain to the listeners what a CHESS sponsored holding is [00:12:36]?

Andrew: Yes, that’s one of the key things we wanted to do from the start and by my background having a CHESS sponsored means you’ve acted legally and beneficially own the stock as opposed to having it under custody as some [00:12:56] in Australia do. One of the problems with the JFC and a couple of the brokers like Opes Prime that went down is that sometimes if there’s a custodian you should be very careful to ask any broker that you have whether it is CHESS sponsored which means it’s legally owned by you, not just beneficially because if there’s a custodian there actually legally owning the stock, they have the ability to on sell or lend that stock to others to short the market. So CHESS sponsored, I was paranoid that I had to have that solution because then it’s my way of safety. If SelfWealth for whatever reason ceases to exist or our clearing house ceases to exist, you literally can just remove SelfWealth from the equation and then take your CHESS sponsored stock to another broker because you actually legally and beneficially own it. So it’s a big question to always ask when you have financial brokerage– is it CHESS sponsored; do I legally own it or is there a custodian under the hood?

Aussie Firebug: Yeah, and this is a huge point. I just want to emphasize here because as he said, if it’s not CHESS sponsored and if another company owns it I guess it can put you can put your mind at ease because SelfWealth is a relatively new company, you guys have been around for what, five years did you say, or four years?

Andrew: That’s right.

Aussie Firebug: So some people might not have that trust with a newish company, a startup, but with it being CHESS sponsored like you said, you own your shares, not someone owns them and then on your behalf you can do whatever you want, so you own them so if something ever happened to SelfWealth, you still own the shares and you can start up with another brokering you know continue your investing journey. Very, very key point there.

Andrew: Yeah, exactly right mate. And that’s really tied up by our live chat and the people who call us up. You’re right, when you’re in the financial services industry, trust is paramount and we’ve recently just [00:14:55] which is given and I’ll tell you what, it’s maybe not great for your mental health but I would IPO or list the business in every trade market because it’s such a great marketing tool in validity and trust and credibility aspect to us. All these people that ring us up, “Who are you? We haven’t heard of you. What’s the bank account under the hood?” and say all that and I have faith in that that the government guarantees on that as well and then we say it’s CHESS sponsored, one out of five people say what happens if SelfWealth doesn’t exist so you spot on them. It’s very easy to answer and say it won’t affect you. It might be a little hectic for a week or two as your broker but that trust and credibility and the peace of mind that you own it and SelfWealth doesn’t or some third party doesn’t is spot on, it’s a very valid point.

Aussie Firebug: Yeah, absolutely. Now, I started on a point but I didn’t get to quite finish it but I have all my holdings with CommSec, can I transfer my holdings over to you guys or how does that work? Can you explain a bit about that?

Andrew: Yeah, it’s a very simple process. We use sort of an online application process and there are possibly three things you can go with as you sign up. You can either sign up from scratch and put cash into the account and we’ll CHESS sponsored holding identification number for you. Alternatively you can say, “I still want to use you, I want to transfer my assets from CommSec over to you,” or the third option which is what about a third/ 35% of people sign up with us is, “I want to bring my [00:16:34] and my shares across to SelfWealth.” So there are the three ways to do it, it’s all online. We use sort of an anti-money laundering counterterrorism behind the scenes with a company called Vader so it’s seamless and it can be up and running either with a new pin or the transfer of assets in 48 hours. So it’s quite a seamless process.

Aussie Firebug: Great, and you can probably educate me a little bit about this as well but so I’m with CommSec and they’re CHESS sponsored holdings as well, so if I was to transfer my holdings because a lot of people and myself included for a while there you know was under the impression that the holdings were with Commonwealth Bank but that is not the case I don’t believe. Actually your holdings, what shares and how much shares you own, that’s stored at the register, is that right?

Andrew: That’s correct.

Aussie Firebug: And mine I believe is computershare.com.au and when I’m transferring what I own,  I’m transferring my holdings there to reflect that in SelfWealth so when I log in, everything comes up and it’s from CommSec, is that sort of what happens?

Andrew: Yeah, that’s right. There are about five key registries in Australia. The two main ones are Computershare as you say and the other one is Link and that is not so much attached to the broker. Each company so whether you’re investing in BHP, Woolworths, etcetera, they choose their own registry so your shares that you own through CommSec are split between the registries so you have some on Computershare and some on Link so if you transferred your shares across to SelfWealth and you want to bring your [00:18:26] with those shares, without getting too complex, nothing gets transferred to SelfWealth’s PID and the [00:18:36] is what the registries acknowledge as where the other shares now sort of reside and that will be split between the registries. Computershare and Link pretty much have about 90% of that market though.

Aussie Firebug: Okay, and if I bring over all my holdings, like if I sign up I get the first three months for free, the community aspect, can I do the analysis on my current holdings that I’ve got that I’m going to transfer across?

Andrew: Yes you can. At this point in time, you’ll enter SelfWealth at that point in time. There won’t be any history in so the analysis will really occur from there. However, your functionality we’re bringing in within about three months’ time, well then now we [00:19:21] your portfolio once you do bring your holdings in but at this point in time, your sort of history will start from the day you join us.

Aussie Firebug: Great. Awesome. So I’ve seen as well that you’ve got an app on Android and iPhone I believe. Is that a free app for members?

Andrew: It’s a free app, it’s actually right. But you can do a couple of things with that so it’s not necessarily just for members. We do have quite a few people who sign up and set up what they call a virtual portfolio so literally you can come in and create like a watch list and we call that a virtual portfolio and you have all the bells and whistles and yet again, three months free for the community. So that can be also on the app or through the main application solution on your desktop but obviously with the app, you can trade through the app so it obviously has people who’ve signed up for trading but you do have this trading and virtual portfolio if you do wish.

Aussie Firebug: Right, awesome. I did see, that looks pretty slick so definitely make sure you check that out. I’ll put a link in the show notes. Now, I’ve got another question. There is an online tool that I use all the time and I know a lot of my listeners use called Sharesight, I don’t know if you’ve ever heard about it?

Andrew: Yes, it get raised every couple of weeks.

Aussie Firebug: Okay, I’m going to put it to you Andrew, when is the integration coming?

Andrew: Good question. We are actually catching up with the Sharesight guys- I know Doug Morris who runs Sharesight quite well- in Sydney within the next couple of weeks to talk about how we’re better willing to grow with their API’s etcetera so that’s– we’ve watched this space but it is yet again by popular demand not only Sharesight members, [00:21:14] their members are hassling us because it is a great tool for recording. We’re sort of the brokerage and portfolio construction tool while they’re one of the best recording tools going around. So watch the space.

Aussie Firebug: There you go, exclusive! An Aussie Firebug exclusive, it’s coming guys, you can stop asking about it, it’s in the works. Now, you mentioned before the banks and entering Fintech. Now, I’ve interviewed a few companies in the Fintech space that have won a bunch of awards yourself included, I looked at your website, you’ve won a whole bunch over the last couple of years, it seems to baby and like you said a little bit, I feel like they’re going to get left behind quite quickly as well because I’m work in a semi-large organization and you know there’s politics in there and yes, decisions take ages to get done whereas a startup, you guys seem to be able to move so quickly and with the times and so in his garage can make a company and in three years have more of a reach than some big company so how could the banks ever compete with something like that?

Andrew: Yeah, well they have the biggest asset of all which is hard to take the tip away and I mentioned it briefly earlier and that’s that trust, this solid understanding that this bank isn’t going to go anywhere, I’m not going to lose my money. Now, things can get lazy because they know they have that, they’ve got this massive distribution base, they’ve got this massive customer base and as I mentioned earlier, to break it down really at the highest level, whoever is going to win, are they going to be the same to get the distribution or other banks that get the innovation and work ahead quickly? Whoever gets in line first will win. Another thing that we’ve discovered is well, it’s not this being Fintech thing twice is good or three times is good, what the banks do can maybe ten times as good since you have the customer loyalty to get them to actually pick up the restriction of moving from one institution to another and one of the major benefits that the Fintechs have and this will probably unhinge the banks and the banks might lose is the cloud. We have such an advantage of starting in the cloud. I mean we’ve built SelfWealth up with just over ten million dollars in funds and we’ve only got twelve fulltime staff and starting in the cloud has provided so much scalability and so much that ability to do things quickly and at a lower cost. If you take Nabtrade for example, Nabtrade have just spent two hundred million dollars upgrading their own systems and with the bricks and mortar and their seven computer legacy systems attempted to talk to each other and all their staff, it’s very difficult for the banks to move and to come down from their $20 and their percentage-based fees so by being so let’s say the $9.50 flat fee, that’s a significant [00:24:23] to move and we really don’t believe the banks can match because they can’t move to the cloud simply and also with all the drama that CommSec have gone through based on the [00:24:41] dramas over the last couple of years, the security and tightening up of their security and the cyber threats at the top of minds will be very difficult for the bank to throw away all day a computer system which [00:24:56] into them in-house and throw that out to the cloud so I think that’s the significant benefit that Fintech has and you know, there’s probably five years of [00:25:10] time that Fintech can garner at distributions so really that’s the significant threat to the banks. First of all, they can do anything really about the size of their internal [00:25:23].

Aussie Firebug: Yeah, absolutely. I think you’ve narrowed it because even the trust is a big one and you know I’m a self-proclaimed huge tight ass myself and even moving from a CommSec where it’s more than double than what you guys are offering, it’s still not a very easy decision straight away because you know this is everything, all your shares and it’s so important so even though I’m paying double, I’ve put it off for the last couple months really looking into SelfWealth just because in my mind, it’s safe with CommSec, it’s trusted, everyone does it, whereas SelfWealth is a bit new. But now interviewing yourself and learning a bit more about you and the company, that’s an avenue that I think I’m going to go down to investigate further but yeah, the trust is definitely a huge, huge part.

Andrew: And if you look at the online broking market, there are about 700000 active online traders in Australia, I think there are about three million who have got online trading accounts but 700000 of them are the ones that are active. The banks own 75-80% of that through CommSec, Nab, Westpac, etcetera and they control [00:26:42] in the market that’s really what we’re after and SelfWealth becomes a profitable business with an opportunity [Inaudible 00:26:53 – 00:26:59] so when the legacy sits there’s no big staff overheads. So when will the banks sit up and take notice and Fintech and especially us in the online broking market? Probably when we start to get to around the 5% mark and that’s where things are really too light because there the momentum is really shifting. Another thing, you mentioned about that friction of moving. We actually surprised ourselves a little bit and I think Fintechs are getting a little surprised at some of these early success they’re having although it’s still just a blip on the radar but I mentioned earlier that about a third of the people who are signing up are bringing their assets across straight away which surprised me. We initially thought that 95% of people initially signing up would sign up with a new pin and cash just to try us out then get that trust over time but we’ve been totally surprised that 33% of people signing up are actually making the leap straight up so maybe that’s a new education in this new internet crowd based world, people are trusting–

Aussie Firebug: Yeah, they’ve got more trust.

Andrew: Yeah.

Aussie Firebug: Absolutely. Now speaking of looking toward the future and you mentioned the next five years is crucial, where do you see SelfWealth in five years? Where do you want to be and what do you see yourself moving towards?

Andrew: Well, I think an internal goal for us is to get to that 5% of the industry. Hopefully we’ll do that in sooner than five years. In actual we’re using at 35000 of the 700000 online traders coming to 35000 it’s a nice sort of audacious goal for us to get to. As I mentioned probably we’d like to do it sooner than five years. Also, we’ll be launching other products and services that users are demanding from us: margin lending, international trading, yet again flat-fee international trading, we’re launching that next year–

Aussie Firebug: That’s quite big one, flat-fee international trading. So at the moment, you don’t offer international trading so anything outside the ASX you don’t offer, is that right?

Andrew: That’s correct. So the only way to access diversification into international interests is through ATF’s. You can get that international [00:29:20], it’s just what’s on the ASX– you have to be popular with us.

Aussie Firebug: Yeah, because I only do the ASX and like you said, my international exposure is through ATF’s myself but I have seen a few people like to buy international shares so that’s quite a big one as well. International trading next year, did you say you were hoping to get it?

Andrew: Yes, and courtesy of a deal that we are in the process of signing up. The beauty of this will be sort of the Australian search that you’ll be able to settle the international tribes [00:29:55] buying an outfit, going on Facebook etcetera on your same domestic Australian [00:30:00] and it’s settled through the same cash account. So that’s going to be very exciting so it’ll be quite a seamless process, you’ll be able to buy Woolworths and then Facebook and you’ll have it all sitting on the same [00:30:12]. You’ll legally and beneficially own not under trust or custody so we’re very excited by that. We would hope to get that working before June next year and yet again it would be a flat-fee solution as well so a flat-fee international client list.

Aussie Firebug: Amazing.

Andrew: Also, we have a safety mechanism, we do want to make sure that we solidifying our competitive position here in Australia first but the social networking of the peer to peer part of our business Arab and the flat-fee brokerage is translatable to many markets in the UK and Asia obviously being first because they’ve got similar regulatory regimes like us here in Australia. So at some point in time we’ll hit up offshore as well.

Aussie Firebug: Great. Alright Andrew, I think we’ve just about covered everything. Was there anything else that you wanted to add?

Andrew: No, I think that’s it. I really am trying to make it as simple as possible. We have those two solutions at the moment; the flat-fee brokerage and this community of investors to help you better invest and we are constantly developing new solutions based on the feedback that we’re getting so international trading and [00:31:37]. Thank you very much for your time, it’s been a pleasure.

Aussie Firebug: It’s absolutely been a pleasure Andrew. Thank you so much for taking time out of your busy day to tell us a bit about SelfWealth. This is a product I’ll definitely be investigating personally and I’ll probably be doing an article about it with the release of this podcast I would dare say so. Yeah, watch your space, thanks a lot Andrew.

Andrew: Thank you Matt.

Aussie Firebug: Alright, if you enjoyed this podcast guys and want me to make more, make sure you drop a comment and writing on iTunes and just for everyone’s information I did check iTunes for the first time in a while the other day and I’ve seen a whole bunch ratings and comments so thanks a lot guys, that’s awesome. Just search Aussie Firebug on iTunes and you will find me. I’m also on www.soundcloud.com/aussie-firebug. A transcript and show notes of this episode can be found on my website at www.aussiefirebug.com. Thanks again for your time, Andrew.

Andrew: Thanks Matt

 

Podcast – Ms Frugal Ears

Podcast – Ms Frugal Ears

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Summary

Our guest today is Serina Huang or better know as, Ms Furgal Ears. Serina works as a public servant but is also a writer, blogger, and foodie. A self proclaimed frugalista, Serina lives with her two sons in Canberra and has appeared in such publications as the RIOT ACT and the Canberra Times. She is currently writing a book about becoming a frugal multi millionaire and one day hopes to be a billionaire!

 

This was a really touching episode because Serina was brave enough to talk about very personal issues including handling a divorce as a women and how important it is to have you finances under control.

 

No one wants to be in a position where you are relying on someone else to survive and can’t leave a relationship because you don’t know how to handle your money.

 

In this episode, we talk about:

  • Serina upbringing and working as an expat in Taiwan
  • Managing 10 investment properties during a downturn
  • The importance of having your finances sorted especially if you go through a divorce
  • Striking a balance between enjoying life and being frugal
  • Living off $50 a week for food, groceries, and toiletries

 

Show Notes

 

Transcript:

Aussie Firebug: Hi guys welcome to another episode of the Aussie Firebug podcast, the financial independence podcast for Australians where I interview clever people who have already reached or on their way to financial independence. Our guest today is Serena Hung or better known as Ms. Frugal Ears. Serena works as a public servant but, is also a writer, blogger and foodie. A self-proclaimed frugalista Serena lives with her two sons in Canberra and has appeared in such publications as the Riot Act and the Canberra Times. She is currently writing a book about becoming a frugal multi-millionaire and one day hopes to be a billionaire

Aussie Firebug: Welcome to the show Ms. frugal Ears

Ms Frugal Ears: Thank you it is a real pleasure to have an opportunity to speak with you.

Aussie Firebug: First question I have to ask. What is a Frugalista?

Ms Frugal Ears: Good question, some people probably heard about a fashionista. Fashionista is someone who has very good fashionable taste on a budget. Well, a frugalista is the same it is someone who wants to live an amazing life, doesn’t want to feel deprived but, still wants to leave quite simply and within their means. I think once you take that concept you can really learn to appreciate some amazing things without having to spend a lot of money.

Aussie Firebug: Did you come up with this term or did you read it somewhere?

Ms Frugal Ears: I don’t think I specifically coined it has been original but now that you think of it I haven’t really seen it used a lot. No

Aussie Firebug: I definitely haven’t seen it. When I had seen it on your site that was the first time I had seen it. It makes a lot of sense I thought it was something to do with been frugal and been Ms. Frugal Ears and fashionista but, very clever term well done for coining that if you did.

Aussie Firebug: Where in Australia are you from?

Ms Frugal Ears: I currently live in Canberra have been here since 2000 other than 3 and half years of posting in Taiwan. This is now my home.

Aussie Firebug: Fantastic. Have you always lived in Canberra?

Ms Frugal Ears: No I was born in Melbourne. I grew up in and I did most of my high schooling and university in Brisbane.

Aussie Firebug: Wow, that is a bit of traveling especially, I am outside of Melbourne but we are currently not in the middle of winter but, I know how miserable and cold how Melbourne can be so moving to NSW would have been a nice change of scenery I am sure.

Ms Frugal Ears: Yea it was, although I was always a little bit of a book worm. So I struggled not been close to a library when we lived there in the early 80’s. There was not a lot of infrastructure there so it was quite different. I do actually like the cold of Canberra mind you it was snowing a little bit today and sleeting .It will be good snow in the rangers

Aussie Firebug: It is a very good snow season

Ms Frugal Ears: It is a very good snow season and I took out cycling to work just as winter hit this year minus 4 degrees and I am still on my bike most days

Aussie Firebug: That is dedication. Have you always been frugal?

Ms Frugal Ears: Yes, in my own way.

Aussie Firebug: Where do you think that comes from?

Ms Frugal Ears: Good question, probably my upbringing. I think my parents were frugal on both sides but in different ways. My mum is a fashion designer and you would think with that it would go a huge propensity to spend money on luxury handbags and luxury designer brands we certainly always lived in very big houses you know the sort of houses that sometimes it was a bit embarrassing to bring left wing university friends over to visit you. I tended to kept a little bit quiet sometimes. And aloof cause they were always big impressive places. But actually beneath that the average weekly budget spent or the clothes spent were quite small. Mum had always an amazing sense of style she just knew how to coordinate her articles and the clothing that she wore. Often it was a simple black t-shirt but with an amazing scarf and accessories and the whole thing did not cost a lot of money. Our shopping trips we didn’t tend to spend a lot of money we went to budget supermarkets. There was always this I guess kind of living the high life or appearing to live the high life at least but actually not spending a lot underneath. My dad too, he was a public servant. My parents are divorced so they live very different lives but there is a strong history in his family for strong community service and strong values of valuing people and giving generously to certain things. But not necessarily living in an ostentatious way themselves. So I think on both sides there has been a history but in different ways.

Aussie Firebug: Yeah it’s usually from my experience talking to people about where they have learned the value of the dollar or investing or being frugal is usually in the home experience they have had good or bad from their upbringing that usually dictates that. You live a relatively middle to upper class lifestyle growing up with your parents, they had great jobs it sounds like but they still

Ms Frugal Ears: They were very successful entrepreneurs. She did very well. I went to a fairly exclusive private school in Brisbane but she had a very strong work ethic. She was very big, very big about not giving us money. So if we wanted money we had to work for it. She would say well if you want money than come into my factory and work and then you can earn some money. She didn’t really cut me any slack you know. I had to work if I wanted money so I would always have part time jobs either with her or later as a check out chick or clerk and doing other things. The work ethic that she got from that and she didn’t get handouts and she was also very determined that she’d seen a lot of what she termed I guess rich kids who would give handouts. And she didn’t want my sister and I to grow up like that. So that was a kind of a bit strange because growing up particularly at university, people assumed that we had a lot of handouts, that we had gold spoons, that we had a lot of money. But actually we didn’t we probably had less than most people would be given from their mother or father. And sometimes that was difficult to reconcile

Aussie Firebug: And did you ever-

Ms Frugal Ears: And-

Aussie Firebug: Sorry go on

Ms Frugal Ears: But, I think in the end of the day that kind of worked in terms of instilling a strong work ethic and a strong saving history so it was good.

Aussie Firebug: I was just about to ask that some people resent their parents in that position when they are young and they know their parents got money but they won’t give them money for a trip or for a new car or whatever it is but they learn later in life that actually the lessons they learned were far greater than the gifts they would have gotten at that time. Sounds to me that you fall into that category with your parents which is nice to hear. So let’s talk a little about Ms. Frugal is and how it came about.

Ms Frugal Ears: Lovely, the name of it is serendipitous actually, my first blogging attempt was actually when I lived in Taiwan and I used to blog about certain restaurants and places that I liked to go to. At the time as an expat Australian living in Taiwan it was actually fairly cheap to go out. And I would often go out with my work so it wasn’t necessarily a frugal kind of view; it was more of a cross-cultural view. But then when I came back to Australia in 2014 my financial situation changed quite a lot because I was no longer on the expats salary I was back in the suburbs of Canberra and my ex-husband and I at that time had 10 properties between us.

Aussie Firebug: Wow!

Ms Frugal Ears: Sounds fairly impressive but in 2014 also there was a massive reduction in the common wealth public service particularly which affected [00:08:30] so there was a severe downturn in rental incomes and in fact we had a 6 month gap rental gap a lot of them went down on rent so it was actually quite a difficult time coming back to Australia no longer been on the same salary and also taking a hit with the investment properties not really been able to sell them necessarily even if we wanted to because the market conditions weren’t right. Things were pretty tense and then six months later I separated from my husband and suddenly I had that kind of burden of paying for those plus child care fees which in Australia, the child care fees in Canberra are more expensive than anywhere else in Australia before rebates they’re 100 dollars a day and I had 2 children in child care. Things kind of got quite difficult quite quickly and I knew I was always frugal and I knew I could find a way through that. So I just kind of dove into my inner frugality for those first few months when things were pretty tight and I tried not to think about the future of what if I run out of money or what if I couldn’t pay the mortgage or what if there was a major medical problem. I was just kind of at that stage I just sort of decided to focus on the day to day so my philosophy was one day at a time one thing at a time and that was what I kind of focused on. And then probably as I was sort of getting out a bit I realized that I wanted to get my writing mojo back. And it no longer felt wrong for me writing about Taiwan, because my ex-husband is Taiwanese. Because that no longer really reflected what my identity was anymore and while I love Taiwanese culture and I always will, it didn’t feel authentic for me to write about it in the same way anymore. Then I thought about it a little bit more and thought about what are my values and what is authentic to me and what is my life. I realized I was always been frugal and I was especially frugal now. And I felt there was message in there about the importance that when you have financial empowerment you can make important choices to do the things that are important to you and in my case it was getting out of a bad relationship and feeling a lot more liberated and empowered by that. And it occurred to me that I was in a good situation because I had a good job, I had investments, I was good with money so I could do that. I was scared but I could do that, there are a lot of women who do not have those sorts of choices and society may or may not blame them for staying in bad relationships but really at the time they may not have that many choices. So that has always been a subliminal back story that I do not always necessarily bring to the front because it’s really more of a lesson message about living a very fulfilling and happy and positive life. I am definitely always conscious that sometimes not everyone has lots of money so they have to do without. And so how do you make that so it becomes a challenge and something that’s and something that’s rewarding rather than something that is all about deprivation and misery.

Aussie Firebug: Absolutely, so much to unpack in that. You wrote a very moving piece called money and divorce which I can link to in the show notes. You talk about how important it is for women to have their finances sorted especially with yourself going through a divorce. Can you just touch on that a little bit more; you mentioned it a little bit before but how important is it for you I know you have two sons, but let’s imagine you have a daughter. The values that you would instill into her about having those finances sorted for all different reasons but especially I feel as though majority of society look to the man to handle those finances and you know the woman in the case of a divorce doesn’t know where to turn.

Ms Frugal Ears: That’s really interesting; I think things are changing a lot. The family court has this vision of the man as the bread winner and the woman is a stay at home mum. That is not always the case. In my case I was the main income earner and I actually had to give my ex quite a lot of money during the divorce settlement and that is just how it is. I guess that is just kind of one thing I would say. It is interesting that you picked this article because when I wrote it I didn’t think too much about it, it was kind of one of this things that I kind of went oh well you know it was my experience maybe there is something in there that would help other people. There was actually one friend who herself is also single who actually contacted me and said wow Serena you are so courageous and I went, for what? I just didn’t even kind of think about it. Now that she mentioned and you mentioned it, it seems like somehow still divorce is a taboo. People can sort of understand how people get divorced and they might somehow think that it is on some level their fault because they did not manage their relationship perfectly. But, the money side of it that goes with that is really talked about and that is really important because there is a lot of things that goes with that. For instance one of the first things that is really hard is that so many things are so intertwined. I mean when I broke up with my ex we had been together for 17 years, we had 10 investment properties together; we had other shares and other investments together. I mean nearly all been wound back now but that doesn’t happen overnight. You know it might be tempting to say you will never speak to this person again but, the reality is that you’ve got bills to pay and so you have got to have measures in place to do that. One of the first things I did was to put in place on our bank account was that we would always require joint signatories. Which is a fairly dramatic thing to do but also very important because especially in that initial divorce time when you’re separating there can often be some problem with the lack of trust and you do not want someone to go into your bank account and suddenly withdraw a 100,000 dollars and go off to Rio and you never see them again. And I am not saying that would have happened with my ex I am saying things are very flawed and you just want to make sure both sides will do the same thing

Aussie Firebug: Absolutely

Ms Frugal Ears: At the time and actually still I’m banking with I&B and they are one of the few banks who do that electronically so still when we pay for joint things with my ex and I they’ll send an authorization to my ex if I pay it first or pull it through the system first then send it to him so that both of us electronically agree to something before it goes through. So I guess that is one of the first things, the second thing is sometimes the initial focus is very much on custody of the children. Which don’t get me wrong is important, but the property settlement stuff can often lug and delay and often it can be almost 12 months or 2 years before you’ve got things sorted. I am three years out now and there is still two properties that we just resolving now. And so what that means is that you got this immediate need for money but your assets are tied up in this joint sort of situation and you sort of can’t get at them for a while. It is really important to still have those investments you do not want to sell them at a bargain basement price just to get rid of them. But by the same token you have immediate things you’ve got legal fees, childcare fees, groceries to pay for. You’ve got quite a lot of things that are happening. So that’s one thing that is quite difficult. The other thing is often unclear exactly at what point of time after you separate do finances become single or become joint. For instance I was quite scared of putting a lot of money into my bank account because you know I might have been saving and saving and saving and he might have been spending, spending and spending. You know you did not agree until 12 months after the divorce so everything is 50 -50 or 60-40 or whatever. So for a while I was keeping cash at home I know it sounds very weird. It sounds very like storing things. I was never really comfortable with that because it was a really bad investment strategy if you look at it on the scheme of things. But in those first couple of months when you are just not sure about things, sometimes that’s you know the only option you’ve got is just to keep physical cash on you because you know that is actually yours. So there is a lot of things in fact we could probably talk a whole podcast about you know managing finances after divorce but, I guess one of the key things is to reestablish that trust as quickly as possible because you can fight and you can fight and you can fight over what might be right but at 500 plus dollars an hour on legal fees you’ve got to ask yourself is it really worth it. You have to take a very pragmatic approach and to try wherever possible to come to an agreement that’s mutually workable. And then just to walk away from the rest and to trust that when you are in a happy place again that you channel abundance and have faith that will happen. It is very much a forward looking strategy rather than looking back about what I have lost, rather what you are gaining.

Aussie Firebug: Absolutely. I think this is such valuable information for anyone going through something like this in their life especially after a break up or a divorce you know and to know what to do next time and to have perspective of someone that’s through it like yourself and I think it is great like you said, 500 dollars an hour for legal fees and you do not want to sell at a loss. I think that is an important thing to note. I always tell people if the cash flow is strong especially I invest in property. I have three properties myself and I also invest in the share market. But with the property I always tell people the lifeblood is the cash flow of the property because if you’ve got great cash flow you know, they keep talking about this bubble in Australia and every newspaper you read is predicting when the bubble is going to burst. And even if it does burst, unless my rent drops by 2/3 my strong cash flow position will keep me through until the recovery phase and eventually hopefully it goes back up in price. So why would I sell in burst, why would I sell at a loss unless I am forced to. Now I understand that there are some people who maybe max on their borrowing capacity and few percent interest rate rises could ruin them and that is a bit different situation. I think it is really cool that you and you ex-husband were smart enough to know that okay we have finished our relationship together but it doesn’t mean that we have financially ruin ourselves or sell at a loss and lose tens of thousands you know, heaps of money and you can work it out and slowly sell off when the time is right and everything like that so kudos to you for going as adults.

Ms Frugal Ears: It is not an easy one. I am sort of in a slightly different phase to most people because I am in a consolidation phase. I did sort of think earlier on it would be best just to keep those properties because in a sense it does make sense. But I guess both of us had the desire that we just wanted to separate things out and go our separate with that as much as possible. You know even though you’ve got a property manager you still have to communicate over those properties and you’ve got to make joint decisions about them. And when you are not in a happy place it gets harder to do that. For instance one of our properties we bought with the intention of developing them, actually two of them we did but one in particular we were half way through a subdivision and you know for a while I thought maybe we just hold on to that together and we continue with the subdivision and maybe we develop it. But then I was kind of like oh hang on that is pretty stressful you are going through a divorce with someone and then you will be building a property with them! Like you know a normal person building a property is quite stressful. I think the pragmatic thing there was that he wanted to buy me out on that one and I went look ok even though perhaps I make more money in the long run it is probably not worth my negative energy so I think we have been very blessed that we’ve been able to talk together about how this, you know it’s not perfect but, nothing is perfect. But we certainly have not made crazy decisions because we have decided to fling mud at each and hate each other.

Aussie Firebug: I think that is the most important thing you need to strike a fine balance I tend to agree it will be pretty hard to go through that with someone that you have just been through a divorce with. But at least you guys you know were on the talking terms and you could settle it without too many losses with slinging the mud. It could have been worse I guess. Now this is the financial independence podcast. Was financial independence a goal of yours and your ex-husbands when you started? We’re you investing before you met him or did you sort of go on that path together?

Ms Frugal Ears: Well we met when we were at university and neither of us had much money, so he had just immigrated to Australia from Taiwan and I was finishing up my studies and had pretty much depleting my savings. Just because I was at the end of that, so no. But when you talk about financial independence do you mean like you know retire by the age of 40 kind of financial independence?

Aussie Firebug: We’ll just say it’s having enough money to choose what you want to be able to do in life not necessarily retiring to just play ball and read books all day but just having that financial security, let us call that, for your investments to generate that passive income. Was that, did you start investing with that goal in mind?

Ms Frugal Ears: Yes and no, I know the issues in our marriage was that we disagreed with this. My philosophy had always been that I wanted to own my own home. And I wanted too own my own home outright and I eventually did with my last property which I just sold and now moved into the city so I now have a mortgage again but it is giving me a different lifestyle. But that was always very important to me to have that sense of home ownership for various reasons; I think it’s just a security thing. And also because I mean I work in government and you would think that would be an incredibly secure job, I guess to the outside public service is always is. But you are very much on the whim of public policy and I’ve seen people suddenly find that there is a new government come it, there is a new government policy. It might be something that they are very strongly opposed to on a moral ground for instance like on the immigration issue or defense issue, but because they have so many debts or they’ve got you know expensive private schools for the kids, they’ve got a big mortgage; they stay in these jobs that they really hate that they feel morally opposed to because they have no choice. Now I have always wanted to be in a position that I don’t have to do a job that goes against my values because of the money, so I want to set myself up, so that if that if something do happen, if there was you know a crazy I don’t know Trump style government in Australia, touch wood, touch wood if something happens around the world right now, they came in and said right now we want you to go and build a wall somewhere. Kick the New Zealanders out or whatever and I thought that was wrong, then I could you know

Aussie Firebug: We are lucky we because we don’t border any country east directly so I think if something you know a Palin style prime minister

Ms Frugal Ears: But anyway something that I was morally opposed I mean this random example then I could say check here is my resignation and it could be fine.

Aussie Firebug: Sure

Ms Frugal Ears: That said I do have some reservations about the whole financial independent retire early moment in a sense because I guess I felt in my marriage that we were so focused, so focused on building up a big portfolio that we went actually living in the now and that just meant we didn’t really sort of went on holidays. We never really went out to restaurants; we never really kind of did a lot of – even go to shows. We’ve been to a few but not a lot because we were really so overstretched, that was always a bit of a struggle. Now it’s okay for 5 years, like 5 years I didn’t mind doing it because I could see that we were growing properly. But after 5 years I sort of asked well why we are doing this. So what, like are we going to wait till we are 80 and then we retire and then you know, you travel the world? You know like, you not, you not fit enough to do much at that stage, in fact last year I took up skiing again which I hadn’t gathered 25 years in doing and there is no way I could have done previously, because you know it is a fairly expensive sport, not wait when I’m 74 years and I’m dead and my kids I just wished the most amazing exhilarating time and you know, I guess right I would say that my goal is one of balance. So I’m still a very aggressive saver and I’m still a very aggressive investor but I don’t want to wait until I am you know too old to enjoy my life before I enjoy my life. I want to have balance, you know I guess the richest man in Babylon which is you know one of the big savings bibles, [00:26:50] dozens are talking about the importance of enjoying your life, because it is a bit like going on a diet where you sit and say you are only going to eat breakfast and water for the rest of your life, I mean what are you going to do, you are going to pig out on chocolate cake. Like you sort of a little imbalanced with that, so I guess my view has changed a little bit, I don’t want to be so much on a fire course and I am waiting for that one day, that magical one day where I’m going to enjoy my life, where I sit on a bench and finally have freedom, I want to be creating that in the now all the time

Aussie Firebug: Yeah great answer and I couldn’t agree with you more. I think when I first, when I first realized financial independence was even a thing I remember reading about it. I thought that I don’t know anyone that does that can’t be a real thing and I started going to some investing forums, some property investment forums and I was meeting people that were you know 45, 50 that were leaving off their property and their income from their property on them. So when I realized there was an actual thing I dedicated so much of my time and energy into that and at the very start you can burn yourself out because I was missing a lot of things, every dollar mattered. Every dollar I spent felt like I was like you know, every 50$ I didn’t put into investing was another day hard to work, was a day that I didn’t get financial independence. And I did that for a couple of years and then me and my partner we joined finances last year and she sort of balances me out because she is pretty frugal for a normal person but I’m on the absolute extreme side of things. We balance each other and I think we strike a fine balance that we are enjoying our life at the moment and like as opposed to how much we spent in the past year. I think it was just over 50,000$ for the whole year which included everything, living costs, eating cost and we went on two holidays. Like it was excessive in my eyes but for her it was quite a lean year but I think half the fun is the challenge of getting there. Are you going to enjoy yourself getting there because I read a lot of its mainly US based bloggers but they say that if you are not enjoying your life, one dollar extra in your bank account to make you fund it like technically make financially independent is not going to improve your life, you need to be happy and then keep investing, keep saving and then one day you will be financially independent. But that won’t change I mean you are not going to wake up with a revelation one day being financially independent. You need to sort of build your life based on frugality but live a happy and meaningful life and enjoy the journey so when you get there you are already in that state of mind and then you have just have the choice okay maybe I like this job, maybe I don’t like it so much anymore I am going to try my hand on something else now and I don’t have to stress and worry about paying off my mortgage or paying grocery bills for my family and stuff like that.

Ms Frugal Ears: Yeah I agree with you, there is the underline issue here about what is money and what is value and if you are not using your money to live a life that is intentional for you and is meaningful for you, it’s just numbers in a bank. It doesn’t mean anything, I mean if you are just living a sort of heathenistic I don’t care about tomorrow or I’m not thinking in a mindful way just spending money left, right and center. That is also not living an intentional life, that’s not respecting yourself, not respecting your money. You’re not thinking critically about what you are hoping to achieve or to live with but you know I think sometimes I had felt that in the frugal sphere there was and it’s probably a little controversial but there tends to be a lot of stay-at-home mums who are frugal and you know I have nothing about peoples life choices. Of deciding whether they work or whether they don’t work but I do wonder sometimes with the controlling relationships whether they have full power over their own money. Whether they have this self-worth and the self-understanding to demand for power of their own money and it sort of almost this subjective depravation of you know rather than thinking with abundance about what can that can attract in my life, it’s like oh I save 5c today.

Aussie Firebug: I am hearing what you are saying and someone posted a thread the other day about you know you almost feel like you’re better than, if you someone spending a lot of money on a new car like for example when you said someone bought you a new car, at one stage of my life I fell into this category myself. You almost feel superior, like that is wasting so much money, they could have invested in it, there are idiots sort of thing but like people they spend their money how they want to spend their money and it is all about balance and you know you do have to live your life. I think there is something to be said about, you know the sacrifices now that you are willing to make so that you do enjoy a better life in the future you know that is definitely true but it is all about balance with a lot of things in life. You know with most things is all about the balance.

Ms Frugal Ears: I hear you; I read a blog post I think in January this year or December. So I had this amazing meal last December, I had this some 7 course seafood devastation with matching jeans and local wines. An amazing meal, unfortunately our restaurant is now closed in Canberra but it was just something to say, it was just one of these memorable meals and I felt almost guilty at this stage like how dare I do this because I am a frugalista, frugalists don’t go and have 7 course sea food crustaceans you know. We are you know, a miserable batch, we make due on foraged wheat which I do often eat. Then I thought about this season, a true story of my life and in this case I was actually invited to that restaurant because I was invited to do a food review. So it was like actually I wasn’t paying a seat at all, I mean in a sense it was to be a bit crass free food. It was actually quite frugal but that is not why I was doing it. I was doing it because I wanted to find out about this restaurant and actually tell a story about it and I’m quite passionate particularly about promoting Canberra as a food destination. But you know then I thought a bit more about it and I thought if I am a frugal person why can’t I enjoy my life? Why can’t I save for that skiing holiday I always wanted to, why can’t I do the things that I always dreamed of, like why should I always have to feel guilty about all these things I mean it’s a valid judgment.

Aussie Firebug: Yeah absolutely and I think some people as well from the outside they don’t quite know you know what the fire crowd is about and the frugal people for that matter. They sometimes think that these people are living of breast sticks and they don’t turn the heater on ever and they are saving every single dollar and they are going to be retired when they are 40 but they haven’t lived a good life. And not about that, it shouldn’t be about that in my eyes. It’s like you just live a sensible life and there is just so much bullshit that you can cut out that cost of a whole bunch of money that doesn’t improve your life whatsoever. A whole bunch of commercialized crap in the world. It is easy to cut it out and you can pay half your bill straight away, and then there is the stuff that’s really important to you that does cost money and that is okay if you have a budget and you’re sticking to it or you are being good in other areas. Splurge, buy that new dress or go to that fancy restaurant, do whatever it is that makes you happy but just, it is all about balance and make sure you’re not being excessive and you know you putting the money where it is being financially responsible.

Ms Frugal Ears: There is so much clutter, there is so much clutter, I think people have these houses that are much bigger than they need filled with stuff that they don’t need and they don’t speak to their kids, don’t speak to their parents. It’s all just clutter.

Aussie Firebug: Do you know when I see those big houses these days; we’ve only been living together, me and my partner for a year, over a year now. But I only moved out of home 2 and half years ago. And before that I was like yeah big house, it is going to be awesome, have like 10 cars whatever like you know dreaming. And now what I think about when I see these huge mansions is how long will it take them to vacuum that house? I am like they better have a maid or something because I am like I could not. I spent a Sunday vacuuming that house and it takes long enough, it is a two bedroom units, it is tiny, it’s like I don’t think I ever want to own a big house. I want to own a nice house that is very, like it has a lot of very good technology in it because I am in IT and I’m also in a government by the way which is just a funny tidbit but you know I would like to have a lot of nice things and you know all up to date with the tech but the size of the house doesn’t bother me. I see these big houses and see people mowing their lawn for the whole Sunday, some people like that I guess it is just not for me.

Ms Frugal Ears: You know I am just going to put it out there maybe that’s just a limited belief. I know I have had a limited belief for a long time too about not being worthy of a big house or not wanting a big house and that perhaps reflects my childhood too where there was a lot of emphasis placed on those sorts of things. And I just acknowledged that’s there and sometimes I need to tell the universe that I’m worthy and should I choose to have a big house it’s okay. Then I downsize to a three bedroom apartment in Canberra where I can now cycle to work and I can now walk to local cafes and restaurants and walk to my kids schools and I’ve drastically slashed my energy bills and you know I am very happy, I spend a lot of time on house work and a lot more time on riding and it’s a very meaningful change to me.

Aussie Firebug: That’s great, now you were speaking about restaurants, you know going out to eat and stuff, do you want to chat to us a little bit about the 50$ a week challenge that you have going

Ms Frugal Ears: Thank you, well this week I actually celebrate one year of living on 50$ a week which is for food and groceries and toiletries. So this is for myself, my two children aged 5 and 7 who are with me probably about 80-90% of the time and then you know I am feeding other people who come and visit and that type of thing. That probably sounds very restrictive but you know I started it a year ago because we were going to move houses at some point, I didn’t know the exact date but you know I sort of had this vague plan of selling and moving. And I knew I had too much in my cupboards and fridge and I sort of went look lets us just stop buying stuff and lets us just try use up some of these. The weird thing is that a year later I probably got just as much food in my fridge and in my freezer and in my cupboards, dramatically I managed to cut down what I throw out. But certainly none of this is starving and it’s really been quite an eye opener because I think sometimes when we shop we buy things out of habit. We have these big trolleys and so then you think you’ve got to fill them up with stuff. And so on average Australians throw one in five shopping bags full of food and this isn’t like bad food. It’s things that just never get opened. And you know the ritual for most Australian families is every weekend you go through your fridge and you throw out stuff.

Aussie Firebug: Such a waste isn’t it?

Ms Frugal Ears: So once you sort of accept that you are not going to starve, I mean I’m overweight. I think most people I know in Australia are overweight, probably not many of us are going to starve you take that as a basic premise and then sort of think how you can use what you’ve got creatively and you accept free food from other people and you know I forage from time to time because I like to do that. I like to eat local and I like to forage. And you think of low cost ways to make things. It’s actually; it’s not as un-achievable as you might think. That said, the provider here is almost 5 foot tall woman who perhaps doesn’t exercise as much as she should be even take up cycling, actually probably don’t need to eat a lot. And I go out a lot whether I am invited to food reviews or work events, social events or someone’s house, you know I think it just happens and I feel a lot of people in Australia are same, probably out once or twice a week and that is not probably factored in your food budget either. But I have young children who are picky eaters, particularly my oldest they don’t eat large amounts of food. If I had say 4 teenage children I would probably need a slightly different budget but definitely it’s achievable and probably my, I mean 50$ is actually, there is a fair bit of slack there. I could probably do it on maybe 40$ if I really tried,

Aussie Firebug: That is unbelievable, 50$!

Ms Frugal Ears: It is quite achievable and I think the big thing too is cleaning products because we spend a fortune on cleaning products and it is one thing that we probably don’t need anyway and that is a big part of it too

Aussie Firebug: That’s absolutely incredible, I know for me and my partner food, the grocery bill is the second most expensive thing that we spent on last financial year it was, so it’s rent, always rent as number one and groceries is second and this kind of worked roughly in my head per week we would roughly spend 150 bucks for two people, 150$ each week and you are absolutely right with the amount of waste the Australian, not that I know about the rest of the world but we chuck out so much stuff in Australia definitely and I used to work for Coles, I worked for Coles for 6 years when I was working part time. And things would come in and it would be like a tiny bit dented or damaged or whatever like perfectly good food and I will be chucking it out and I will be like can I just eat it? And they say no we can’t let you eat, if something happens and you get sick or something you know Coles we would rather chuck something out than or go through a legal battle if something was to happen to you. Which sort of makes sense but like really there is like so much good food that gets chucked into the bin every single night in like probably all around the world and you think about the stage that it took especially meat and poultry stuff like that. You know they raise it, they feed it, water and everything else that goes into making that product for it only to be chucked down the drain is incredible, isn’t it?

Ms Frugal Ears: It is, I’m, I’m not a good vegetarian, I was for 10 years some time ago but I must say I still get upset whenever meat is wasted I mean an animal has given up its life for us, for our nutrition, I just, it’s sad when I have to throw out meat, I actually feel sad about that

Aussie Firebug: Yeah, actually my sister did a mini documentary I guess you’d call it. I think there’s no special name, it was about dumpster divers in Australia and people it was really interesting. It was people who yeah would go to dumpsters and they were like, they would have jobs and stuff they weren’t homeless. They were people that had money and everything but some of them did it out of principle. That is pretty extreme but just to show you can live a perfectly healthy life without actually buying food. Now I am sure not what most of us would do but I feel like it was interesting, it was a pretty good like miniseries about the dumpster divers in Melbourne and stuff like that and I think that was pretty cool

Ms Frugal Ears: Now I have a friend who is a dumpster diver, she might have not been inspired by that documentary, I am not sure it they had a lot of comment in frugal cycles, it is in my blog about that phenomenon, I mean I have been aware of that too because there had been some talk I think any decision from the Tyword gazette which is a US publication which is a bit older now. She’s talked about dumpster diving as well so there has been a move for that in the states. Maybe just because I may be time pressed and I don’t have much time away from my kids, I wouldn’t take my children dumpster diving just because I think for young children it’s probably not really that safe.

Aussie Firebug: I wouldn’t do it myself, it is just interesting.

Ms Frugal Ears: Yeah I know I totally do agree that there must be that principle of avoiding food wastes. So if I was single and had lots of time it’s probably something that I would do. What I do, do however is that I am a member of the buy nothing project which is a Facebook group. There is a number of groups out of Australia and people would regularly be moving house and they would just have things in their cupboards that they don’t want and I always would put up my hand for those things. So in fact last week I picked a half container of grape seed oil and two thirds a bottle of lime juice cordial that I make limes and bitters from. And I had certainly no issues whatsoever from accepting free food or used food from people. I’d rather do that than it goes to waste and most of my friends know that too and so people going on holiday and they’ve got leftovers they give it to me and you know I’d like to think generosity comes from the heart. You know often I’ll cook something and take it to church or have a blogging friend right up the road doing things quite tough, she has a sickness and she doesn’t have a lot of money so sometimes if I’ve got leftover food I drop her off some soup or something. So I think the generosity does come around and it makes people, I accept with gratitude, I don’t accept from a place of neediness, I accept with gratitude and I pass it on.

Aussie Firebug: Sure, so this the 50$ a week challenge, is that something that readers can sign up to or how does it work? You are running a challenge aren’t you on your side?

Ms Frugal Ears: Yes I am running a challenge in September to encourage people to do it and the feedback has been fantastic. I am really excited about it, so people can join by checking it out on my blog which is Miss Frugal Ears on www.msfrugalears.com.

Aussie Firebug: I will put a link on my notes

Ms Frugal Ears: Thank you, or else they can join my, the Facebook group which is frugal dare to millionaire and participate in the conversation about how people are going with that

Aussie Firebug: Very wise also I’ll put that in, great now if you could give one bit of advice to someone who wants to become a little bit more frugal, what is your number one go to advice for someone growing that’s not very frugal or even if they are pretty frugal?

Ms Frugal Ears: This is a good question because people often think like you have a magic talisman. Oh, I need you to fix my life!

Aussie Firebug: I get that a bit as well.

Ms Frugal Ears: Yeah I can imagine I think the number one piece of advice is to record you’re spending. I mean there’s lots of apps you can use on the phone these days and even just having a really old fashioned diary in your handbag or just keep it with you. And every time you spend money on a cup of coffee or you spend money on lunch or you spend money on something you write it down and after a month you look at the amount you’ve spent and you know pretty clear where the money is going and then without having to have a big discussion about what is a want or a need, it really does, if you know you’ve got to write it and track it will make you regulate whether something is important or not.

Aussie Firebug: Do you know that is the exact advice I give to people, that is my go to advice that I give to people as well. I say you record your spending because even if you don’t do anything about it I promise you, you will see something in there record it and you will be like, what the, how do I spend that much money on that like are you serious? It’s, that is the best one, that is my number one go to as well. What do you use to track your spending just out of curiosity?

Ms Frugal Ears: Yeah good question, I used to for a number of years use my diary that I kept in my handbag and I was very happy with a particular credit union that I was with at that time they gave it to me for free every year and I used to hang up for that because it used to cost 2$ to buy an equivalent but I now use an app called good budget. It’s like a proper book envelope kind of app and it is not sophisticated, I think there has been a number of having more bells and whistles. But it is just easy I can do it and I can do it straight away and I don’t have to worry about it. At some point I need to upgrade to a more fancy one but look that just works. I try to use cash wherever possible to and that really helps too because there is something like physical cash that can just pay waving it onto your card and that just really reinforces the fact that you are spending money.

Aussie Firebug: Yeah, I am, I use Pocket-book, well pocket book is the app, the website is pocketbook.com and I like it. It’s funny you say you use cash, I actually always use card. And the only reason I do that is because Pocket book links into your bank account, can link into your bank and read all the transactions. So I tried to do everything on the card so that it can read it whereas if I do it with cash I have to like figure out where I withdrew the cash or if it was safe way or come up with the groceries it automatically categorizes the transactions which is a little bit of a smart in the software and I sort of a re-categorizes to say whatever I spent that cash on, whatever works for you right, like whatever works for you just stick with that.

Ms Frugal Ears: Yeah, exactly, exactly but sometimes the harder you make it to spend money, the less likely you will actually spend it.

Aussie Firebug: Absolutely! Absolutely

Ms Frugal Ears: The easier it is, the faster it goes.

Aussie Firebug: Alright we have reached the end of the podcast; here time has flown, where people are listening and want to get in contact with you, what is like the best place to reach you?

Ms Frugal Ears: The best place to reach me is via my blog Miss Frugal Ears or they can also find me on Facebook also as miss frugal ears or on Instagram as Miss Frugal Ears

Aussie Firebug: And all those we will be in the show notes for the audience convenience, so you’ve enjoyed this podcast and want me to make more make sure you drop me a comment and ratings on iTunes, search Aussie firebug and you will find me, I’m also on www.soundcloud.com/aussie-firebug, sure of for this episode and a transcript will be found on my website, um thank you so much Miss Frugal ears and it has been an absolute pleasure and I hope you enjoyed as much as I did

Ms Frugal Ears: Thank you, most definitely I do feel like someone who is in a more similar page.

Aussie Firebug: Alright, thanks a lot.

Ms Frugal Ears: Thank you! Bye

 

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