Aussie Firebug

Financial Independence Retire Early

My Story

G’Day!

I’m an Australian in my mid late twenty’s and my goal in life is to become Financially Independent and Retire Early (F.I.R.E). But what exactly does FIRE mean? Well, I’m sure you can figure out the retire early bit (my favourite part). As for financial independence, one definition defines it as:

‘Having sufficient personal wealth to live, without having to work actively for basic necessities. For financially independent people, their assets generate income that is greater than their expenses.’ 

FI basically means that you have income producing assets that generate enough money for you to live off…forever. This in turn gives you the option to retire early (RE) and do whatever the hell you want! Pretty sweet right? I definitely think so. In fact, my whole mindset has changed to achieving this goal. But before we venture any further I’d like to rewind to the start of my journey many years ago

Early life

I have always been responsible with my money even from an early age. I accredit this attribute to my parents but particularly to my father. Being a typical WOG he was a tight arse. And I hated it. When I was young and needed new footy boots, off to the store with Dad I would go. Back from the store I would come with the no brand, pov, ugly football boots that I would be embarrassed to wear to training the following week. I can now appreciate how utterly ridiculous children’s football boots and clothes, in general, are priced. Especially when you consider that I would be growing out of them in less than a year. Nevertheless, this does not cross your mind when you’re a child and all you care about is having the coolest shit possible to show off to all your friends. Dad taught me that smart people saved their money and only suckers parted ways with theirs. Whenever I would buy ANYTHING he would ask me how much I paid for it. No matter how much of a bargain I got on the item the response was always the same. “Ripped off”. It was sort of like when Darryl Kerrigan would ask he son “How much does he want for it?” and the response would always be the same “Tell him he’s dreaming”. It was almost like spending money on anything other than a necessity was being ripped off. I would later realise how true this was.

Observations

I have always had an interest in money and wealth. I’m not sure where it comes from but I took notice of it from an early age. When visiting friends who lived it really nice houses I would always be interested in what their parents do for a living. When I would watch a reality TV show some of these people would be living in multimillion-dollar mansions. I would be less interested in the main ‘stars’ and wanted to know more about their parents and how they obtained these enormous fortunes, often resulting in me reading their wiki page for hours. The connection I made early on was that most of my ‘rich’ friends parents didn’t have normal jobs. They either owned businesses, land, real estate, shares or did something that wasn’t your average 9-5 day job. There were the few that held high positions in companies but even then it seemed that the wealthiest people owned things that made them money.

Lightbulb Moment

If you live in Australia you might be aware that we have a love affair with real-estate. God forbid you move to Melbourne and start renting because that is wasting your money. What you need to do is buy a house and ‘set yourself up’. I was too engraved in this mantra. I knew that smart people bought investment properties and I wanted to be smart! So when I had saved up enough money for a deposit I bought my first Investment Property in 2013. Towards the end of that year, I started to think to myself  ‘Shit. You actually have this massive debt to your name and 90% of the reason you bought it was because you were told it was a clever move. You need to actually figure out yourself if that was true.’ So I set out to discover as much as I could about investing in real estate and not too far into the journey I discovered the term financial independence. I believe it was from Robert Kiyosaki’s famous book ‘Rich Dad, Poor Dad’ which is not specifically about real-estate investing. I remember reading a section of the book that roughly said all you have to do to reach FI is to keep buying assets that make you money. It will be slow at the start but thanks to the powers of compounding interest the more you buy the more you make and the easier it is to buy again. You eventually have so much money flowing in from the assets that you can live off the stream of income. MIND BLOWN. It seemed so simple. Just buy things that make money, that’s all there is to it. Buy enough of those things (assets) and voila you’re finically independent!

I had my doubts, I didn’t think what they were describing in these books was really possible. I mean really? You’re telling me that if I save my money each paycheck, invest said money, eventually, I would not have to go to work 5 times and week?  I must have read somewhere between 15-20 books in 6 months (which is a lot for me). I started to subscribe to online blogs of people who had already reached FIRE. I went to seminars in Melbourne on the weekends to meet people who had achieved financial independence. Anything I could get ahold of to do with FIRE I would absorb it. I BECAME OBSESSED. The light bulb went off in my head and I was now desperate to achieving this goal. Now I have to admit, I don’t actually mind my job. I actually quite enjoy it. But I HATE having to be there for 38 hours each week. It’s not the work, it’s the time I feel I am forced to give up. My precious time that I can never get back. And as I eventually move up the ladder of adulthood that precious time is continuingly taken away from me. It seems like I don’t have enough at the moment, what happens when I take on more responsibility at work and move up in my career? Move out with my partner? What about KIDS? Yikes!

This blog is going to track my journey from $0 net worth to FIRE with detailed information and analysis on saving $$$, investing, mindset, struggles and anything else that is relevant to reaching FIRE.

 

23 Comments

  1. Alicia

    Finally a FI blogger who speaks my language 🙂 I’m 19 years old trying to set up for the path of FI, would be cool to meet more like minded Melbournians

    Reply
    • Aussie Firebug

      Cool that you’re starting at such a young age.

      Yeah it would be great if there was a meet up or something like that.

      Reply
  2. tom

    hey mate
    great blog!

    any tips or advice getting started with Investment properties? ive read RDPD but want to know how to really get cashflow +ve properties here in Oz

    cheers
    tom

    Reply
    • Aussie Firebug

      Hi Tom,

      Thanks for the kind comment.

      Yeah RDPD doesn’t really explain how to do anything lol, more mindset. Still a great book.

      There are plenty of cash flow properties here in Aus, you just need to know where to look. You can almost certainly rule out Sydney or Melbourne unless you got a cracking deal. Most are in countries towns or bigger regional hubs.

      Do you read any real estate mags? They have some good stats at the back of them that gives the median rent yield for the suburb. If you’re purely looking at cash flow properties, this is not a bad place to start although I would be wary of mining towns.

      Email me if you want to know more.

      Cheers

      Reply
  3. Fred

    Hey!
    Love the podcasts! Even though the quality sucks.
    Keep up the good work 🙂

    Reply
    • Aussie Firebug

      Thanks Fred.

      LOL love the honesty. I working on the quality 😉

      Reply
  4. Jon

    Good to find a fellow Aussie on the path, started a few years ago have been following a few US guys, looking forward to reading about your journey and Aussie strategies!

    Reply
    • Aussie Firebug

      Thanks Jon

      Reply
  5. Sush

    Great to read your blog. Quite refreshing and detailed. May I ask how did u start with the ETFs and which product/company you use? I am looking at any financial vehicles which allows me to put a few $$$ (less than $500) every month to begin with and get on the compounding interest bandwagon.

    Reply
    • Aussie Firebug

      Hi Sush,

      Thanks for your kind words about my blog.

      I use Commsec when buying ETFs. There is a difference between buying ETFs through an online broker like commsec and directly through the managed fund like Vanguard. There are pros and cons for both sides. I’m actually doing a wrtie up now about how to purchase ETFs so stay tuned 🙂

      Reply
  6. Elliot

    Hey do you mind sharing your age, would like to know how I am travelling on the journey to FIRE, cheers!

    Reply
    • Aussie Firebug

      I turned 28 two months ago Elliot.

      Reply
  7. Nikki

    So glad I came across your site! You’re a year younger than me but if I could get to where you are in ten years time that would still be awesome. I can’t find a search button on your site so could you tell me, what are your thoughts on cryptocurrencies? Is it a good idea to invest a small percentage of your portfolio in it? Thanks

    Reply
    • Aussie Firebug

      Hi Nikki,

      A search bar is coming! Currently doing a site make over.

      Ahh crypto’s. Certainly a hot topic at the moment. Me and a few friends bought some bitcoins earlier this year for a bit of fun ($100 worth) to actually see what it’s like to buy, transfer and sell. I can definitely see the attraction with bitcoin and the blockchain technology.

      But it’s way too early to tell if it’s going to pan out. Even if crypto currencies do become mainstream. It might not be bitcoin that is the gold standard by then. Look at what bitcoin cash is doing right now, it may overtake bitcoin but who knows.

      Bit of a gamble if you ask me.

      Reply
  8. Mark

    Love the idea but thinking it’s a bit late for me – 45. Any tips or advice for those further down the track. Not all is lost though. I do own a portfolio with ETFs and paying down the home loan is a priority. Work, to be blunt, is stressful and unfulfilling. I don’t mind work per se, it’s just that I’d prefer my work to be something I actually enjoy and look forward to.

    Reply
    • Aussie Firebug

      45 is still young Mark!

      Just keep plugging away and stick to the basics.

      1. Spend less than you earn.
      2. Invest the surplus or pay down debt
      3. Wait

      That’s it!

      The fact that you’re even aware of these things at 45 puts you miles in front of others who don’t even know who their Super is with until they hit 60.

      Good luck mate

      Reply
    • Barry

      You merely need pure 10 years of sacrifice. I started late in my career, first decent job at age 30 and little money. Rented a small room paying little and close to work. Worked hard, overtime etc. Scrooge for first 5 years, I took every dollar as gold because I understood the power of compounding. Post 5 years, start to go easier on finances.

      Invested from day one. Fortunately it was 2008/2009 on wards. Bought a mixture of shares and Aussie properties. Had a like minded partner, so it was a breeze. Retired age 38. Partner works 1 to 2 times a week. 2 kids. Net worth 2 million including Super.

      It all starts from the ability to save.

      Strategy:
      1. Will only buy property as a Permanent place of residence (PPOR). (Can’t recommend NSW/MEL at the moment. Though might consider Perth especially if you are living in it. Concentration RISK is the number one problem with property. Perth is not NSW/MEL as Perth does not have well diversified industries.
      2. Shares diversified ETF: VAS/VGS/VGE or VDHG (once liquidity improves in a year or two)
      3. I do not recommend VEU/VTS combo due to (a) decease estate taxes if assets becomes huge in future but also that if (b) I’m not mistaken (you only get a 15% tax offset, with USA domiciled funds, i.e. if you do not pay tax to the ATO (e.g. below 20k tax free threshold), that 15% tax offset is a waste, hence effectively you are paying 30% tax on dividends. This becomes a huge issue with a million dollar portfolio and FIRE.

      BUT might consider a mix of IHVV and VTS when cape ratio is reasonable again. There isn’t a low cost S&p500 aus domiciled fund that is also low cost and high liquidity.

      Also it is easier to rebalance with VGS with your defensive assets including gold (<10%).

      3. Make use of Shillers CAPE ratio for risk mitigation. There is an article somewhere I've read by Wade D Pfau.
      Title: Long Term Investors and Valuation-based asset allocation.

      I'm adopting the 20%-100% equity allocation. Gives you best sharp, sortino ratios.
      In other words, in year 2018, an overvalued environment i.e. USA shares, Ex USA shares are still highly correlated to USA shares hence we can't ignore it.

      Hence I have gradually cut down on equity exposure without incurring too much CGT. The aim is between 20-50% equity exposure when values are expensive. and up to 100% when cheap.

      Risk to me is maximum draw down. I can't tolerate a 50% draw down yet I want a similar return if not better than a 100% fixed equity exposure. Shiller's cape helps to slash that max draw down by half yet with similar returns if not better.

      Read a few financial planning articles supporting the use of cape ratio especially in the risk zones prior and post retirement. Once you attain FIRE, shillers cape and dollar cost avg, and rebalancing are all risk mitigating strategies that can not be ignored.

      If you have not faced a 2008 GFC like crisis, you will never know your risk profile till you've faced one. Cape ratio will help in this case until you have determine your risk profile.

      After all, a 100% equity exposure for at least 20 years or more will likely give you the best outcome. NEVER less than 20% RISKY exposure in any circumstances in your investment portfolio. Most bull runs happens in a frothy environment (overvaluation). However, value investors generally lose out in bull runs, but their aim is to be greedy during undervaluation.

      Disclaimer: Sold PPOR recently, now living in my investment property (may sell it and rent). 163k equity exposure. (Zero USA exposure, rest mix between AUS, Europe and Asia).

      Lots of cash (not a good idea). But as Warren B. says" its a call option without an expiry date". If Warren Buffett and Seth Klarman can hold lots of cash, why can't I ?…..

      Minimal exposure to bonds, but will gradually buy some in a year or two.

      I'm just glad I still can get a 2.8 to 3% return on my online savings account.

      Reply
      • Mahesh

        Nice work!! Barry. I should gain some knowledge on the cape you are talking about..

        Reply
  9. Jim

    Nice work mate, love the site. Im on a similar journey to you, similar net worth and looking for Fi. Good luck!

    Reply
    • Aussie Firebug

      Thanks Jim 👍

      Reply
  10. peter smith

    hi Aussie firebug.

    been looking for ages to find the right investment but never can find, then I discovered your blog, and I was thinking you could help me, I have 4 investment props all on interest only and 500k sitting in a 2.8 % account, I want the money to work harder but have little knowledge of doing this, would love to stop work but need help to live off what I’ve got.
    my name is peter, 50 years old and 100k in super, own my home.

    was looking at vanguard investments, don’t fully understand them though
    if you can help it would be much appreciated, thank you

    Reply
  11. Kishore

    Just curious about when did you start and how long it’s takes you to get to your present net worth. I have a 18 y.o son and want to help him on this journey too. Cheers

    Reply

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