Aussie Firebug

Financial Independence Retire Early

Podcast – BetaShares

Podcast – BetaShares



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



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



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



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,, 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 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



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



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 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 A transcript and show notes of this episode can be found on my website at Thanks again for your time, Andrew.

Andrew: Thanks Matt


Podcast – Ms Frugal Ears

Podcast – Ms Frugal Ears



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



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

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 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, 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


Podcast – Pat The Shuffler

Podcast – Pat The Shuffler



Our guest today is Pat from life long Pat’s a 29 year old construction engineer working in Sydney who is planning to retire early within 10 years. Having amassed a net worth of over quarter of a million already, he is well on his way.


In this episode, we talk about:

  • Investing! And in particular franking credits and why Pat is such a fan
  • Extra Super contributions? Should you be adding more to your Super each year?
  • Buying a house in Sydney
  • Explaining FIRE to normal people
  • Reaching FIRE with a partner


Show Notes



Aussie Firebug: Hey guys, welcome to another episode of the Aussie Firebug podcast. Podcast, the financial independence podcast pool Australians where I interview clever people who have already reached on the way to financial independence. Our guest today is Pat from Pat is 29 year old construction engineer, working in Sydney who’s planning to retire early within 10 years. Pat, welcome to the show

Pat: Hey Mat, how are you going on? Yeah thanks for having me on the show.

Aussie Firebug: Yeah, not too bad mate, not too bad. Where does lifelong shuffle originate from mate?

Pat: Well, a few people have asked this question and it’s just kind of my brain child. I was a bit bored at work one day and I was you know, just thinking about…I have to get out of this and I was reading other blogs and I thought, this looks easy enough, I’ll start my own blog and I decided to call it lifelong shuffle. And the story kind of goes back to one of my mates who used to have this kind of really weird dance that he used to do before he would hit on some girls at the bar. We used to call it the Ken Host Shuffle, and for some reason I was just thinking of that on that day and it turned into part of my blog name.

Aussie Firebug: That’s a very funny origin for that name. Does he know about the blog?

Pat: He doesn’t know about the blog, I’m not sure if he knows I copy pasted the name of it on the dance that he used to do.

Aussie Firebug: Wow, the way I looked at it like lifelongshuffle I sort of you know, was a bit of a metaphor for shuffling through life in a particular way which is what you are about you know, looking through the wind of everything like that. That’s funny; it has that story behind it.

Pat: Yeah.

Aussie Firebug: So what was the original shuffle called?

Pat: The Ken Host Shuffle.

Aussie Firebug: The Ken Host Shuffle.

Pat: Ken Host is just a place in kind of out of Sydney where my friend comes from.

Aussie Firebug: Alright you know if you blow up and the blow comes mainstream I might come after you for some royalties so, Ken Host Shuffle royalties maybe; very funny. Did you always want to retire mate? Or was it something that you discovered later in life and you wanted to pursue?

Pat: Yeah I mean, not straight away. You know, when I first started fulltime work, really exciting and really interesting to me and did the university thing for like five and a half years, so kind of all that youthful excitement and energy was, I had it, kind of like everyone else does but after several years of doing that you know I just began to drain on me as it does and I’m in the construction industry of course I must have already mentioned that on the podcast. And it’s just one of those industries which it really kind of screws people down with really long work hours and working weekends and just kind of lots of pressure on the field. And so eventually a kind of desire grew inside of me and there was a tipping point and eventually I kind of went on google one day and I tried to start looking up that early retirement and I came across a few blogs and almost immediately it just kind of all really made sense to me. And it’s like well I’ve kind of always known I didn’t want to work forever, I never really had a detailed plan to get there but once I saw those blogs and I saw other people that had changed it and other people who were trying to do it kind of really cemented the idea in my mind and yeah, it was born really quite quickly.

Aussie Firebug: It’s such a common thing you know that you go online, you know maybe not sure what you are looking for then you come across one of these blogs and all posts and whatever and when you figure out you know people are really doing it, it’s sort of like the light bulb moment. I had that when I read a book but it sound like you read it on a blog. Can you remember which blog you were reading when you figured out like this is a thing and this is what you’re going to try to do?

Pat: Yes, so the very first blog I came across and I had a lot in me that I can’t really remember how I came across it, because it was Bill Carry Creko, with James, I’m not sure if you are familiar.

Aussie Firebug: Yes, I have read some articles before, I don’t follow as much as some others but yes, he’s been very popular.

Pat: Yeah, and to be honest that was one of the only ones I read before I really started my blog and before I kind of did some more detailed research into the ozzy scene. I mean it wasn’t until a bit later before I started kind of well, what other bloggers are out there really started to search, and kind of found them.

Aussie Firebug: Yeah I know that. And is this sound like, you know you mentioned that you always knew that you wanted to not work forever.

Pat: Yes.

Aussie Firebug: Has that been in your mind since you were a kid or was that an influence that you know by your parents or your upbringing or anything like that?

Pat: I don’t think I was influenced by my upbringing, I think it’s, to be honest I don’t think so at all it’s just something that you know when I was at work the concept or idea, a conventional early retirement really appealed to me. When I say conventional I mean five or 10 years early.

Aussie Firebug: Yeah.

Pat: Kind of not retiring at 65 like my father had to and so I started you know, investing my money well before I had the idea of retiring very early and I kind of think that investing that money was kind of a part that conventional early retirement goal. But yeah, it kind of, I really became focused and determined obviously kind of late last year, early this year when my blog was born.

Aussie Firebug: Yeah, who taught you about investing?

Pat: You know Mat, absolutely no one.

Aussie Firebug: At all?

Pat: Yeah, really. I think I’ve read a bit of your blog and you’ve mentioned the same thing you’ve kind of come from a wonk family and you sort of started your culture in investing in real estate and everyone is just like that you know, you have to buy a house, rent money, debt money et cetera and I didn’t go and invest in any real estate but that’s partly because my parents and my extended family would just really sort of anti-kind of securities or anti-equities, that’s you know, for my whole upbringing.

Aussie Firebug: Which actually is the common thing with you know baby boomism you know, it’s always bricks and mortar as a safe bet and you know, anything in the stock market is what I gain into them.

Pat: Yeah, exactly. And I had an uncle that lost big in the stock market and I think my father especially when I was young it kind of sounds like he was exactly like you said, terrified of the stock market. As far as he was concerned it’s just gambling your money which of course we know not to be the case after doing some varied research, yeah.

Aussie Firebug: Yeah, I know that. So just good said of that question, what are you investing in currently?

Pat: Yeah, so I’m kind of almost 100% shares at the moment. Perhaps at any one point I’m not just 100% just because I’m waiting to pile up a bit of money so I can then

Aussie Firebug: Oh yeah, sure.

Pat: More shares in a sort of cost effective manner. But yeah, mostly Australian equities with that kind of a really tiny exposure by what I can tell everyone else’s standard to international equities.

Aussie Firebug: So how much percent would you say is Australian equities?

Pat: I think at the moment it’s 80 to 85% Australian equities.

Aussie Firebug: So what’s the reasoning behind that?

Pat: Well, I’m not sure if you’ve read my Franking Credits article.

Aussie Firebug: I have, great article by the way. I would definitely link that in the show notes, it’s one to definitely read if you are unsure of the Franking Credits.

Pat: Yeah so I actually found that kind of bizarre, well not kind of bizarre like I understand the sort of how everyone wants a lot of diversification to head against a bit of risk from the Australian market not doing so well, but those Franking Credits, you know they literally are like an extra percentage point on your returns and you kind of mentioned to anyone that you’re going to go with this asset, cross with that asset, cross when this one has sort of one percent cost involved, they’d be like , “What are you crazy? You’re going to invest in an asset clause where you are paying one percent higher fees”

Aussie Firebug: Yeah, it’s blasphemy.

Pat: No, yeah exactly. It’s all kind of investing in Australian equities like that kind of what, Wow, I’m getting an extra percentage point of returns per year which of course is gigantic, and it can really speed up the investment process.

Aussie Firebug: Absolutely, so what is the fifty percent international? Do you pick the stocks or are you an ETF investor, I can’t remember on your side if you’ve said it either or…

Pat: Yeah, I’m mostly ETFs and then I kind of have a few Australian stocks which I bought, I’d say kind of not stupidly but against all my better judgment.

Aussie Firebug: I have, I told you that’s safer.

Pat: Well some of those turned out great others they just kind of posting along not doing much so I think all in all if you take all of those stuff that I’ve bought together they kind of just equaling what I get out of my ETFs so yeah, it’s like…

Aussie Firebug: You know, I did the ETF thing as well but you know I think it’s you know, whatever you are comfortable with like it’s whatever blend of shares you’re comfortable with and even I’ve seen some people you know pick and choose their own shares but they sort of stick with the you know, the bigger companies, and companies that are in the ETFs anyway, so really there really is no right or wrong answer, whatever makes you sleep at night really but yeah, you know, if you know what you’re doing and you think you know you can make a good judgement call like you know, I don’t see why not. What ETF, what Australian ETF are you invested in? Venga?

Pat: Yeah, Venga VAS. Yeah, that’s it, that’s my…

Aussie Firebug: I’ve seen that, yeah. That’s a, it’s a common choice you know, you’re like you’re talking about management fee it’s probably hard to, I don’t know if anyone is offering that point zero zero or point zero four percent of the you know, measurement fee out there.

Pat: Yeah, the Australian is point one four I think. It’s the US one that gets that ultra-point zero four.

Aussie Firebug: These two, yeah sorry you are correct, it’s the VTS is the point zero four. Yeah that’s right, still…

Pat: Unbelievable like point zero four

Aussie Firebug: I know that’s just insane. What about the international. You are in cheers or you are going for ETF’s s as well for international?

Pat: Definitely ETF and again VTS is what is at the moment. I am kind of hoping to get into other international ETFs but just kind of cruising at the moment and seeing what my next purchase would be

Aussie Firebug: I mean VTS as well I do like every month. I just go by whatever ratio is you know whatever split is out of my three funds split and I just top up that one. I just do that. But I‘m sort of not of hoping like if the Australian dollar was to decline any further which some people are predicting that it is coming to 90 cents I would go and start leaning towards buying some VTS just because of the fact that it is unhitched against the Australian dollar like if you look at the returns if you had put in some money in 2012 and was parity or was just a little bit over its such a good opportunity that I’ll know what to do for next time you know it gets me that I will I be buying a whole bunch so that when it comes back it is like boom you get that unhitched bonus.

Pat: If you bought US VTS security in 2012 you would be doing very well right now.

Aussie Firebug: Yeah that’s just so good. I lost. Next time you know now that we know we will be prepared for next time.

Pat: Exactly. Back in 2012 I was spending most of my money travelling so

Aussie Firebug: Right, I spend like… I actually went to the states. Can you believe it? It was a once in a life time trip but we spent I am not kidding if you like this is before I truly discovered financial independence. I spent like a good 18 grand or something and I converted it to US it was like a 2months trip but I bought so many things because I knew a whole year that if I was going to buy this wait until I will go to America because it is going to be cheaper. I went to New York and I spend like 4 grand in New York I bought laptops…I got watches clothes everything. I had been holding out for a whole year but because each stand was so good I got all these electronics and everything was so much cheaper I really cleaned up but I thought if I just kept $1000 currency and converted I could have made some money of that but you know you live once I guess

Pat: Exactly

Aussie Firebug: I was going through your blog and you had another interesting article which also I would link into the show notes. You are not a huge fun of Super.

Pat: Not at all. The reason for that is mistrust of government policy over my lifetimes so I am 29 now and before I can access my Super I am looking at something like 30 years or a bit more than 30 years. I just don’t trust that the government will keep all rules the same so that I can access my Super when I want to and cant access it in the same way that people can right now. I much prefer to invest outside of Super.

Aussie Firebug: I don’t add anything extra to Super which I am guessing you are not adding anything extra either so your main fear is that if you start adding extra to super because super can play an important role in early retirement if everything holds up the way it is now but your main concern is that the government with the meddling fingers, you know they have a history of meddling where they shouldn’t be they might change something and you might not have access to it. Is that your main worry?

Pat: Yeah. Essentially and it is not just not having access to it it’s just having access in different sort of ways and what happens to the money when I die, or my beneficiaries die and all those sort of little questions and all those sort rules that can change over the next 30 years.

Aussie Firebug: Do you think that if you are approaching the preservation age there is that much change. Like if you are three years out of the preservation age and you might start to follow some money into super just for those juicy tax savings.

Pat: Well yeah, exactly. As I approach preservation age there is obviously the risk of changes. it completely diminishes as you get closer and closer and so I am not sure exactly when the tipping point will be for me but I imagine somewhere like 10 years before I reach my preservation age I would start to think well it is only two more different governments and two more governments changes before I can access my super so maybe I will just contribute a little bit more now

Aussie Firebug: Sure. There is a few people that I have spoken to on the phone that have the similar mentality as you that they don’t trust the government and that they would rather keep it sort of on the fence. I am on the fence. I am building up my profile on super I am not contributing any extra bit I don’t know if I will because I made a little calculator that sort of you know that calculates how much you need for super how much is inside super to have the quickest way to financial independence in Australia is a two phase system if everything stays the same. Right now you need sort me on the outside you need to sort me on the inside super but when push comes to shove I am not sure if I will actually contribute to super or not so I am on the fence about that. When we are talking like I would need to shave off an extra year or something… is an extra year really that bad to guarantee financial independence. I don’t know, that’s a bridge I will cross when I get to it I guess. You are in Sydney right now aren’t you?

Pat: Yeah I am in Sydney.

Aussie Firebug: You are currently renting with your partner is that right

Pat: Yeah that is correct and we are renting in a sort of share apartment so we live with someone else at the moment and I am kind of a big proponent of share accommodation in these really expensive capital cities so me and my partner practice what we preach in terms of that article and we are sharing.

Aussie Firebug: Awesome. I have also done sharing before as well even in the country where rent is a little cheap but still it half’s your bills so I am definitely a believer in that also. Sorry I am coming to an article which I don’t remember when I read it but you are not very keen on Sydney’s property market which I think is quite understandable it a big crisis at the moment. Do you ever see yourself buying a house in Sydney? You are from Sydney originally like your friends and family are all in Sydney

Pat: Yeah all my friends and family are in Sydney and I was born here and to answer your question I don’t see myself buying a property anywhere in or around Sydney at all, ever. I think I… it’s a little bit more expensive it depends on what you consider Sydney but perhaps go up to the central coast or down to sort of Wollongong area and buy a property there but those are place which I don’t even consider to be Sydney any more. They are places you can even drive to and fro, you spend a day there you might even sleep there because driving back would be too much of an imposition on your body

Aussie Firebug: Yeah so are you planning to retire in Sydney. My question is that are you planning to rent forever?

Pat: No I do want to own a property I have sort of been considering my options. I am not sure exactly where I will retire and obviously a lot of it has to deal with my girlfriend as well where she wants to live and what she is comfortable with but I considered sort of Presbenerio or Sunshine Coasts I haven’t looked too far into it but buying a property is certainly one of my sort of long term aspirations.

Aussie Firebug: Is your partner from Sydney as well

Pat: No, she is from Wollongong actually and yeah she’s moved up to Sydney for work because there is a not a lot of work in her field down in Wollongong.

Aussie Firebug: How is she taking all these financial independence business? Is she on board with it at all?

Pat: Yeah she is actually and I am kind of surprised may be a little bit surprised by it to be honest but she is yeah very supportive right from the beginning and she has a very big part to play in all of my blog posts. When I write something it’s sort of a grammatical mess and verb errors and tense errors and all sorts of stuff but she comes in and cleans up every post after I have written it and it’s been really great

Aussie Firebug: Do you know I had the same deal going on with Mrs. Firebag but she got sick of it towards the end so, I even had a radar that was doing for me which was cool but I had to like every time I did a post I didn’t have to wait for her to log in and check in I always do it myself now and there is heaps of errors but I don’t particularly care about that much.

Pat: Sometimes I feel the same way. Just get them out just don’t worry

Aussie Firebug: Why don’t you take us back to the moment like was there a conversation you had with her explaining what you were trying to achieve and what you envisioned your life to be when you reached financial independence. How did that go?

Pat: This is kind of really awful not because the conversation was hard or anything but I had never did really discussed it with her before I started my blog and I kind of just sprung the blog on her.

Aussie Firebug: Ooh well.

Pat: That’s kind of how she found out.

Aussie Firebug: So you just wrote in a blog post one day and she said what are you doing and you just dropped it on her?

Pat: Yeah, my first blog I don’t know. I was a bit embarrassed to be honest or so unconscious about writing my own blog it’s not something I ever imagined myself doing years ago or when I was a child or anything so when I wrote that first blog post I kind of brought it to her and I was like hey, I have started a blog do you want to read it. That’s when she kind of really found out.

Aussie Firebug: What did she say? How did that conversation go you know? Perhaps like I have seen that you want to retire early and we are not going to be saving for the next ten years does this mean that we are not going to eat. How did that go? I am sure she had 100 questions

Pat: She did have 100 questions but she didn’t ask them straight away she kind of let them on slowly and I think at the very beginning she was just very supportive and really happy and she thought right well I have really missed blog. She thought that was pretty cool and so she was really happy to begin with. Little later on we started feeling out those sorts of issues. Well do we eat out anymore, how much we eat out what we spend our money on? Writing the blog has just been great and getting my thoughts out and her having to read every single one. It is aided in our communication a whole lot and every time I write something new she gets another little insight to how I am thinking about these things but yeah she is enjoying it. To be honest I think I asked her about it one day and she said you know what Pat, not much has changed whatsoever to be honest we spend a little less on eating out and we just think about what we are spending our money on and that’s about it. Otherwise we still enjoy ourselves, we still get out, to be honest we probably even spend more time together now, we do things that we enjoy even more and yeah. I can’t say there have been any negatives whatsoever.

Aussie Firebug: Yeah I know. It’s really funny some people you know, I don’t know if you’ve had to explain to people what you’re doing but if I’ve ever had to explain that you know, some people what I’m doing it, yet still, they are like what so you know you’re going to live you know, on nothing live like a peasant for 10 years and then just live like a peasant for the rest of your life. They’re like, “Nah, it’s not that, it’s not like that.” It’s just like you know the new offering that’s like you know $1800, like when you start caring about that crap, like we happy to use like running out of phone, we don’t need to go out you know three or four times a week, buying clothes isn’t like a huge deal for us. I think heaps of consumer bullshit can be carrier and it can half your bill and then you sort of get to a level where if you’re cutting any more of your spending, then it sort of is impacting your life a bit, like way more than the first 50% you can get. And that sort of way out I mean my partner you know I was at the extreme level for a year or so then, I was a bit too extreme. And she sort of levels me at a bit so we lived a crime life. Like we go out when we want to go out, she buys new shoes if she wants to buy new shoes but there’s always, like she’s very responsible. She was responsible even before she met me and I always have like a little rule you know, we’re going to make sure I like it, I never impulse buy anything, I like think of it before, a few days and if I still want to buy, I just buy. We’re just conscious, we’re conscious of how much we spend and that’s really a bad it, like that’s not even like, we are not like starving ourselves, like some people think. It’s nothing like that.

Pat: It’s really funny like depending on how much you rated stuff sort of read my blog or if you haven’t read it at all yet, you kind of see a general theme of me just trying to explain or trying to express my thoughts that, wait a minute, like, we’re living in Australia where we’re living like these extraordinarily, like rich and opulent lifestyle compared to the rest of the world and compared to history. Like I mean I never go hungry I’m out you know, the other weekend I was at a friend’s party, we’re having a barbeque, I was drinking a nice cold beer, I was socializing and I’m like this whole nut costed me like five to $10 like I’m living like this really fun really comfortable really kind of beautiful Australian life, which is just extraordinarily sort of rich. Any sort of standards that you can make other than just comparing yourself to sort of other ultra-consumers first world country citizens of the year 2017 or the early 2000s, whatever you want to say.

Aussie Firebug: Yeah100% agree even the fact that if you live in Australia that puts you in like the top five percent wealthiest person in the world straight away without even doing anything or just the fact that you are in Australia that even on the minimum wage you are richer than majority of people on the planet. Yet people still complain.

Pat: That’s right and what you said by the way kind of confuses you are like wow you are being like really like a pervert if you are denying yourself of these pleasures and well actually no. Like you said everything I want and more I’ve just like cut away all the bullshit that doesn’t matter and that’s the key. Finding out like really finding out what matters and what doesn’t and when you start cutting away you figure out very quickly that all of this other shit like this external consumer gloss it just doesn’t matter and none of it makes you happier none of it improves your life and any sort of discernable way at all and once you start cutting away all that shit and you kind of de-clutter your life and you really de-clutter you remind and you start living I’d say a much better life because you are focusing on the things that do matter . you are going out for walks you are focusing on your works you are focusing on your relationships and instead of like every week and going to the shopping center and just buying the newest brand name in clothing because you have to look in front of your friends the next time you see them you are going out with your mates and you are kind of both look like buns but you are both running around the bay and you are both happy and yeah it’s amazing when you just cut away all that crap. How much better things become.

Aussie Firebug: Preach, preach it Patty Artist 100% truth you are right there. A minute of truth just dawns you just drop. There is a really cool view, Mr. Money Muztag. I think he was in it. He was talking about it like what makes us happy because at the end of the day I don’t care what you are doing it’s all about happiness. You enjoy being happy 24/7. Everything you do is to be happier even if you have given up your dome, or you are donating money or you are helping other people that is a side effect releasing dolphins and making you feel better about yourself which is a by-product of happiness. Right and Mr. Money Muztag has this video and it’s like the secret to happiness is being there is no secret it’s been here for years. There are certain things that the human being needs like shelter, food, security everything like that like basic human in needs. If you live in Australia odds are you know you are unfortunately harmless or something bad has happened to you. Once you got every basic thing a human being needs covered like at a basic level, you are being fed, you got a house a roof over your head so that beyond that is like a few other things that is needed to make a human being happy like creating relationships and family things like that physical fitness is a big one I mean that’s it, you know what I mean. There was no other, there was no apple mac book back in the stone age but people were surely happy but then there are books of people being happy you know like throughout history when there was no these things. That exist today and they didn’t exist then like it’s the same simple things that matter and so many people grow they look beyond and they think if I get that next promotion or if I am on this money suddenly I am going to be happier. Things like that or if I get that new bag it’s going to make me happier. It won’t make you happy you might get some like a rush of happiness but it deteriorates it’s not the new thing anymore. Then you know you flattered with Mac and campaigns that the new bag or the new Wife and suddenly your things crap it’s like just focus on the basic things like what a human being needs at the most basic level is usually all that you need and there is a little pleasure along the way that make you happier or you know I’ve got nowhere to go makes me so happy you know that is a little bit of new technology but very little, there is a few things I love but there is so much of other stuff they want to started to track my spending’s also I don’t really care about that that can go, the next thing you know you have cut out 30% of your spending just like that.

Pat: you really need to link to Mr. Money’s Muztag video. Have you

Aussie Firebug: have you watched the video I am referring

Pat: Oh yeah I’ve watched it probably ten times

Aussie Firebug: Yeah, that’s right that means it’s awesome.

Pat: The way that he sort of articulates those thoughts and the way expresses them just really hits the nail on the head and it’s really hard to disagree with anything he is saying in that video just because I mean his really precise.

Aussie Firebug: Definitely the link to that video like as he said he can articulate it a lot better than I can but it just hit a nerve with me and I am sure he will hit a nerve with a lot of people it’s like just the basic stuff is where we are human beings, we are just an animal on earth and certain things biological can make us happy and all this other crap is marking in you know 21st century bullshit. With technology advancements it’s now good to have a heater if you feel cold you can turn this heater on and it makes you warm that’s cool. There is so much crap that you just don’t need. We saw that turning off our phones we went off the tangent

Pat: That not off tangent at all I think that’s like really the key to financial independence is finding out what you need and why and what you don’t because all flesh will quickly erode any sort of extra income you get if you let it

Aussie Firebug: I completely agree, absolutely. Why don’t we get back to yourself and on your website there is a goal tracker that sits to the top right of your website and it currently running round about $250000 and how I interpret it is that you need roughly 1.25 million to hit your financial independent number. Is that correct

Pat: Yes. The way I set that target is that I have taken the nominal amounts in ten years’ time to be 1.25 million which is equivalent roughly to 1million and 17 dollars.

Aussie Firebug: Got you. When you reach this number that means that you are financially independent correct

Pat: I think I will actually reach financial independence much sooner that when I hi that number just because I am spending actually far less than the income that that amount of money would produce. I am actually planning for a little bit of lifestyle inflation in terms of the sort of house I want and perhaps a family and that sort of thing.

Aussie Firebug: How much income is that that you planning to get form that at the end

Pat: Todays there was forty thousand a year

Aussie Firebug: That’s for you to be financially independent does that include your partner in that goal.

Pat: It doesn’t actually .it depends on when I think about it. That amount of money is more than enough why believed to sustain me and my partner for the rest of our lives. As I said earlier, a family will need slightly more than, adding my partner into the mix, in my mind and I have discussed with her a couple of times. Looking at around 1.5 or 1.6 million not much more at all

Aussie Firebug: I guess that when you are at that stage the difference is to save one hundred thousand dollars takes years. I mean to save the next one hundred thousand takes less and so on and so on and so on. If you write 1.25 million to add on the next couple of 100000 with the purpose of comparing interest on the markets takes a while in those years and shouldn’t be too far away. Have you got joint finances already or you haven’t tightened this.

Pat: No, we’ve got completely separate finances think they completely try and spare it to each other but as far as bank accounts and investment accounts that is completely separate.

Aussie Firebug: Does she invest herself

Pat: Yes she definitely does. In a lot of ways she is perhaps invested even more impressive way than have because she is five years my junior she is much stronger than I was five years ago.

Aussie Firebug: is that partly due to your nose you are quite fond of her or she is just shown an interest earlier on.

Pat: well she didn’t show interest in investment so much but just in being really good in money manager and not spending all that money and yeah she got a full time job. You know she left University and she had a part job before her bur she never just went out and spend all our money time and I think kind unlike me she just had more money than she could spend in a sort of rational way without kind of feeling completely ridiculous and that’s how I came later on my original couple of 100k. I didn’t really have a goal so can’t spend that much I just spend what I wanted ad then its stopped anything above that was just like what the hell I can’t spend this bloodshed’s that ridiculous I had no desire to.

Aussie Firebug: It is such a bonus isn’t it if your partner good with money, starting of the bar like more and more and it’s just like thank God that I want with someone that was just a reckless spender and that didn’t come out of the woodwork until a few years because I never looked at her bank account at all like the first couple of years when we joined finances last year and sort of like when I say joined finances it just becomes transparent. She has got all separate accounts and I have got mine but I guess the only difference is we invest in the one trust so she will help me out. She would transfer money to me and we will invest together that’s far the only difference but it’s just such a bonus that she wasn’t reckless.

Pat: I think finding someone like that you know isn’t a complete coincidence. Even Stephan told me it’s just my girlfriends name for all of your listeners who don’t know she was originally was attracted to me partly because I wasn’t very materialistic at all and I would just go out and try to shed off a lot of my wealth even though when I met her at least a few months afterwards it was kind of clear that I had quite a lot of money but yeah.. so with you I am sure part of the reason that you were attracted to each other was even if it’s kind of unconscious you are not materialistic you have good money management skills etc. sort of thing

Aussie Firebug: Do you know I have never actually thought about that but it does make sense now that you said it. It maybe subconsciously yes I was attracted to that side and maybe she was as well but yeah maybe that’s what happened. That’s a good sign to think of that I never thought of that one that’s a good one. You said in your blog that you want to retire by 39 and you are 30 still how long, so you are sill 29 now 10 years to go how long do you reckon it’s going to take to get there?

Pat: Since I have had that original target and original post I have gotten a promotion and I have driven my spending down even further and I have really kind of become conscious of everything I am spending I think by the latest calculations me on my own it will take about 6-7 years and if I throw Stephan in to the mix and we’ve that sort of reduced target together which is about 1.5M it will only take us about 5-6 years so yeah it’s been great and getting an extra income obviously helped and we are really driving don those costs it’s just really driving that date forward and it’s so powerful when you can see that date coming forward and you work it all out and you the results of kind of everything you are doing and it’s like yeey I can keep driving these costs down and I can drive my income up in this day. It’s going to be hit even before I realize it.

Aussie Firebug: that’s awesome , from where I am sitting that’s unbelievable and you know for those that are listening in having a partner you might think it might take twice as long, having a partner and you know you have to factor them in as well but it actually doesn’t if they have got a decent enough job. Having a partner could actually save you money because you have got someone else to turn in good money as you are doing even normal money but everything is cut in half like the rent is cut in half , the groceries are cut in half and it’s a lot more efficient living with someone else than having two people living two people living in two separate homes paying two separate rates if you are in the home, two separate gas bills and everything like that it’s a lot more efficient with a partner trust me.

Pat: Yeah two can live almost as keep as one

Aussie Firebug: Absolutely. You can almost do it almost like, yeah there are a few that you are extra but just as is mathematically impossible not to behave as two people as one but it’s very efficient. it’s all surprised like what the hell like huu we are pretty much living off Chris’ pay cheque which is more like the same she was like she is still living off my pay cheque and all those it’s been unbelievable.

Pat: if you don’t have a partner then obviously things are a bit more difficult in terms of reaching that goal but yeah if you do find someone and they are as intense on not working away their entire lives or running that rat rail their entire lives then yeah it just sucks. MI6 is so much better and so much easier. If I could Segway as well

Aussie Firebug: Sure

Pat: Just on topic, I can’t exactly where I read it but perhaps I can find something and link it to. They say something like 70 or the majority of divorces are a result of financial problems and so when your finances are in order and when you’ve got a partner that thinks financially the same as you you’ve kind of eliminated the major cause of most divorces in first world countries so it’s just another way of being financially independent really does drive being happy and yeah that’s sort of quite an important goal for everyone and being happy like we are talking about before with Mr. Money Muztag that it should be the goal of everyone to kind of be as happy as you can and help other people as much as you can and that should make you even happier and that’s just another plus or advantage to kind of achieving this goal.

Aussie Firebug: That’s a really interesting statistic if you could find that article it would make it cross link operative on the show but I have heard that you know that financial stress is a big cause of marriage breaks but I have had that it foes up to 70% but I believe that for sure that like 100% that’s very believable just because I know personally some couples that have gone through hard time because of financial stress, because of arguing about money, because of work related stress, because of they weren’t home enough and wherever and a huge motivation for me to reach financial independence is to have that time back to not worry about money to you know when we eventually have kids to not be even working three days a week would be a drain. I can’t imagine that. Three days a week for ever. I would be happy to do three days a week but eventually I have the option of working null days a week but it is just not in the brain for me to have that option and to achieve that goal and have so much stress lifted off your shoulders so you can go back to what is important in life like we’ve spoken in realities just focus on the important things and just cut off all the rat race bull shit.

Pat: The sort of rat race would steal so much time away from you and even more time than most people realize probably more time than I even realize: going for a full time job ad trying to sort out yout life in these sort of gaps around full time work and as you said get them out of your mind and let them go just having like could you imagine having the kid and actually having the beautiful sort of privilege, the luxury of being able to spend time with your kid which is possibly the saddest thing I have said this whole podcast like so many parents don’t have the luxury of spending time with your children. It’s kind of sad when you think about that but then this goal like just thinking of that sort of thing if I do have children which I do want to eventually just being able to wake up and just not have to race off to work and then get back home when they are tired and they have obviously gone to sleep.

Aussie Firebug: Exactly

Pat: It would be just as you said amazing, just unbelievable. Every day would just be like look I get to spend time with my kids instead of running around and racing around and never seeing them

Aussie Firebug: The saddest thing about being rushing off to work at 4am that’s a fear of mine. I am looking at all these dads working at pretty big office pf 1000 people and there are some people and there are some people working obviously going to work at four I was like are you insane, that’s ludicrous I know like that’s what you do, like if you have a kid you can’t have his time I am like oh my God I definitely … there is no way I will be working full time even if I don’t reach full financial independence when we have a kid I want to work three days a week for sure I have already worked that out so that when I am in my thirties I will be able to take a few days off and if I have to extend my financial date for a couple of more years I don’t care I would work 3 days a week and have that home time and have that sleep time and not sacrifice things, people sacrifice things when money is, whether they need more finances whether they need to work overtime, they need to do this and suddenly they are not going to the gym, they are not doing this, they are not walking the dog, they are not doing the things that make them happy and that is to earn that dollar to be able to live that life and its bad to walk into a thing

Pat: Like you said I have seen this sort of zombie parents who are barely present and that’s just like aah men I hope that doesn’t have to be me one day

Aussie Firebug: Exactly it is a big motivator for me for sure. I know we’ve spoken a little about it before but tell us a little bit about your sweat Part. How long have you been blogging for and what do you hope to achieve with it

Pat: I have been blogging since January this year and in terms of a goal I am not sure really I won’t be creative you know I can get a larger readership but to be honest I am really happy just kind of plugging away writing my blog posts. Some people seem interested a few other people seem quite annoyed at what I write but that \s ok too because it creates a bit of interesting discussion and yeah that’s about I am happy if I don’t get rated for the time being. it does kind of give me a bit of… it is one of this things that I am happy to do right now even though it actually sucks money out of my life to be honest I have definitely spent more just setting up the blog than I will probably make on the blog but just a sort of freedom to create something myself and invest time in something which the primary motivator isn’t just to make a few dollars and has been very empowering and it’s been quite enjoyable and I just have to keep doing that.

Aussie Firebug: Awesome stuff I know with my blog I did it sort of as an accountability thing and making sure my strategies made sense and they weren’t crazy and the response has been awesome like I have had so many people get in contact with me, like solicitors and like seasoned investors that I can meet up with any time and ask questions about and have people critic my strategy and I can have those how are you doing this and you should be doing this and it is awesome and I like passing content and making these podcasts for people to listen to its so much fun and like you said I have put in way more money than I will probably make but it is not about that it is about expressing myself and holding myself accountable really.

Pat: Definitely

Aussie Firebug: So if there is any listeners out there wanting to get in contact with you what’s the best place they can reach you

Pat: The best place is obviously first of all read my website kind of see what I am all about

Aussie Firebug: What is the address to your website?

Pat: its and I am usually pretty responsive in there and I try to answer every comment personally that is posted and I have obviously the privilege of doing that because I don’t have an extremely huge readership so I can keep up with all the comments that re posted. Otherwise I spend quite a bit of time on the FI Australia edit so if you kind of post there and I find what you posted interesting I will be able to respond to it or you can message me I don’t know is it good my username Pat the shuffler on reddit.

Aussie Firebug: Yeah sure. FI Australia is an awesome phone board I always go there myself. And just the lastly, if you had to give one bit of advice for a new shuffler what would it be

Pat: I think the best thing I could say is that you will learn very quickly just like what we were discussing before how much all that other shit just doesn’t matter. All the consumable shit, all the latest gadgets all the fancy clothes all of the fancy hand bags kind of showing of to your friends. Getting the sort of ritual respect coffee everyday like none of it matters at all and its quickly going to deplete you of all your money and eventually you will deplete all of your happiness as well but that none of that stuff really brings you real happiness and it just takes time away from you to really going to find what brings you really happiness in this world. So the best piece of advice I can give is just start cutting things away that don’t matter and you will quickly realize how much they don’t matter

Aussie Firebug: What’s to live by Part what’s to live by you guys if you have enjoyed this podcast and you want me to make more be sure to drop me a comment and ratings on iTunes just search ozzyfirebag on iTunes and you will find I am also SoundCloud at Show notes of this episode can be found on my website at Pat it’s been an ab solute pleasure of mine thanks for coming on the show.

Pat: No worries thanks for having me mate, I was definitely looking forward to it and I always look forward to your next podcast.

Aussie Firebug: Ok… too kind mate

Pat: Bye buddy.


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