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ASIC Crush Independent Content Creators & the End of Ask Firebug Fridays

ASIC Crush Independent Content Creators & the End of Ask Firebug Fridays


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After much thought and consideration, I’ve decided to end my ‘Ask Firebug Fridays’ segment after the announcement from Australia’s financial services regulator.

On the 21st of March 2022, ASIC (Australian Securities and Investments Commission) published new guidelines for ‘Discussing financial products and services online‘.

These new guidelines have major implications for content creators in the FIRE and personal finance communities.

This is why I wanted to share my thoughts and opinions on these new guidelines and what they mean for AFB moving forward.

What?

In a nutshell, ASIC is cracking down on unlicensed creators who they think are giving financial advice or are seen to be ‘influencing’ their audience.

Their definitions and examples for what constitutes ‘influencing’ are clear as mud.

asic.gov.au

They don’t even give a clear answer to what defines an influencer either, having followers ‘In the thousands’ apparently 🤷‍♂️.

But who’s an official follower anyway? Someone who listens to one episode of your podcast or YouTube video? An email subscriber? A Twitter follower?

You’re probably thinking they’re only targeting people giving specific or dangerous advice right?

Well, you’re in for a rude shock.

ASIC official speaking to afr.com

We can’t even discuss our own investment decisions or strategies apparently 🤔.

It gets worse.

afr.com

So… discussing financial products online such as “shares” or “ETFs” without a licence is now illegal…

WE CAN’T EVEN TALK ABOUT ETFS?!

🚩🚩🚩🚩🚩🚩🚩🚩🚩🚩🚩🚩🚩🚩🚩🚩🚩🚩🚩🚩

This is kinda a big deal.

Stopping people from discussing ETFs is starting to drift into the totalitarian type of conversation. And I don’t say that lightly, but a government that restricts people’s right to discuss certain financial products under the guise of ‘it’s for your own good’ starts to remind me of that book that George Orwell once wrote.

Maybe you’re not worried about these specific new guidelines, but it’s the precedence that they set that should cause alarm. No one cares about anything until it impacts them.

What would you say if one day ASIC released guidelines prohibiting unlicenced parents from talking about money and investing with their children?

That’s perhaps hyperbole, but these new guidelines are one step closer to that dystopian future.

My other issue is there are so many questions and definitions that have been deliberatively left unanswered or are so vague that no meaningful conclusion can be drawn… but let’s move on.

Why?

Let’s give ASIC the benefit of the doubt and say these new guidelines were introduced to protect investors.

This is a good thing!

If an investor loses money after receiving bad advice from an AFS (Australian Financial Services) licenced professional, theoretically they should have a pathway to recoup some of those losses.

If an investor loses money after receiving bad advice from someone on TikTok… bad luck.

AFS licensees have to adhere to a set of minimum requirements which provide important protections for investors if something goes wrong (aka a lot of expensive insurance).

With the explosion of online financial content in the last few years, it makes sense for ASIC to take a closer look at what’s going on. Most content creators are producing honest/useful stuff, but I have to admit that there’s been a trend of creators clearly making content primarily for monetary benefits.

You know what I’m talking about. Creating content for the hell of creating content to make sure their channel stays fresh in the algorithm. Releasing rehashed stuff every second day basically repeating what they’ve already said 100 times.

If content creators are receiving a monetary benefit, there will always be some bias no matter what.

“Show me the incentive and I will show you the outcome”

– Charlie Munger

I love this quote and it’s highly applicable to this situation.

Content creators that make money from affiliates and/or sponsors will always have a conflict of interest no matter how small.

And this applies to me too guys. I try my best to be as unbiased as I can but we all have some sort of bias no matter what (sometimes at the subconscious level)! This is especially true when you’re getting kickbacks.

I think the ‘why’ behind ASIC’s new guidelines is fair enough and makes a lot of sense viewed from this angle.

Having said all that…the way ASIC has chosen to crack down on these bad actors is heavy-handed at best, and oppressive at worst.

How?

ASIC’s solution to regulate an influx of online financial content creators is to make them pay for a licence (which can cost tens of thousands of dollars a year) or threaten litigation to the tune of $1M+ dollars in fines and up to 5 years in jail… 🙃

asic.gov.au

To say that this is harsh would be putting it lightly.

To put that into perspective, Australian gangster Mick Gatto has served less jail time than the maximum sentence ASIC can dish out…

A financial content creator might serve more jail time for talking about ETFs, than Mick Gatto… 🤔

I’m starting to think we’re losing the plot here?

Lazy Policy Personified

Let’s recap so far.

ASIC’s solution to a few bad apples within a thriving community of online financial content creators is an all-encompassing blanket rule that will crush independent media.

It’s sorta like dropping a nuclear bomb to get rid of an ant nest in the backyard.

Overkill doesn’t even come close to what these new guidelines are and the only people who are going to be left standing are the big media corporations that can afford to pay the licence fee which can be as high as $30K a year.

Here’s an idea. Why didn’t ASIC just come out and say that anyone who monetises online financial content needs to hold an AFS licence?

It’s a lot more specific and tangible and would weed out people who are only in it for the money pretty bloody quickly.

But no. In typical government fashion, the corporate watchdog releases new guidelines that are so vague and light on details that 99% of online financial content creators are caught in the crosshairs.

I understand resourcing constraints and ASIC doesn’t have the time to monitor everyone and everything but surely there’s a happy middle ground.

A few bad apples shouldn’t ruin it for everyone.

Is The Cure Worse Than The Disease?

The public opinion of the financial sector has been in tatters ever since the royal commission in 2017.

ASIC released a report in 2019 titled: Financial Advice: What consumers really think which found that 49% of those who were surveyed didn’t get advice because they thought advisers were more interested in making money for themselves. On the other hand, 35% didn’t get advice because the costs were too high.

ASIC Report

ASIC Report

 

A lot of people are being priced out of financial advice and even more, don’t trust financial planners. The data backs this up time and time again.

I’m not saying regulation is a bad thing, but I think these new guidelines are doing more harm than good.

The truth of the matter is that legislators have made the costs of offering financial advice so high, that the people who need it the most can rarely afford it.

Who should we be prioritising?

The 22-year-old that’s just finished her marketing degree and is trying to make some good financial decisions for the future?

Or the 64-year-old multimillionaire Boomer who owns 7 investment properties?

Why do the legislators think online financial content creators are so popular?

We’re filling a gap in the market that has been created largely because of overregulation.

Some regulation is needed, but these new guidelines are going to wipe out good education material that helps bridge the gap between “I don’t know anything at all” to “I feel confident discussing my financial future with a professional”.

That’s where we content creators thrive! We make stuff relatable and give personality to what can otherwise be a dry topic.

Casualties

One of my favourite podcasts ‘FIRE & Chill’ decided to shut down in April because of these new guidelines.

This is a podcast that averages 4.8/5 on 284 ratings on iTunes and has conservatively helped 10’s thousands of Australians with financial literacy.

iTunes Ratings

Here were two guys making relatable content, for free, that had great reviews.

Another victim of these new guidelines was John Palmer from the very popular YouTube channel ‘INVEST for the future’. John spoke about investing fundamentals drawing from his decades of experience and never charged any money for his videos.

John Palmer decided to shut down because of the new guidelines

“I know everybody would still like the videos to be there, but I just can’t afford to take the risk”

-John Palmer

The Family Finance YouTube Channel

Family Finance is another creator that had to delete a bunch of content. She now can no longer give an opinion on financial products 👎

lifelongshuffle.com

The Lifelong Shuffle blog is another one that has gone into hibernation because of the new guidelines.

 

I could go on and on showing other examples of great content creators that have been impacted by the new guidelines but I think you get the point.

The new guidelines are inadvertently snagging 99% of fantastic freely available Australian-specific resources.

Below is an AFR article titled ‘These young investors don’t want ‘finfluencers’ to go‘ which tells us what we already know. Many young investors don’t trust the financial industry and are looking for alternatives.

afr.com

As I’ve previously mentioned, 49% of Aussies don’t get advice because they think they’re being ripped off and 35% think it’s too expensive.

You’d think that ASIC would be putting more time and energy into ‘cracking down’ or improving the professional industry where the public has clearly lost trust?

Yet, ASIC is targeting online financial content creators who have amazing repour within their communities that don’t charge a dime.

I want to repeat this point because it’s important.

Many young people have lost faith and can’t afford advice in the industry that ASIC regulates largely due to over-regulation. Content creators start to fill this void and collectively rack up millions of views, downloads and sessions from a generation hungry for financial knowledge. The numbers don’t lie. If people didn’t like what the content creators were making, they wouldn’t watch, listen or read.

Shouldn’t we want financial education to be accessible for everyone and not just those who can afford it?

More regulation sounds good in theory but the data suggests that it isn’t working.

I have no doubt in my mind that ASIC had the best intentions when they came up with these new guidelines.

But as the old Portuguese proverb goes…

The road to hell is paved with good intentions

Rules for thee but not for me

One of my biggest gripes with this whole fiasco is the hypocrisy.

ASIC’s position is that unlicensed content creators might ‘influence’ investors to make costly decisions yet ASIC themselves are publishing content that’s detrimental to wealth creation.

Case in point, the Moneysmart website.

Moneysmart is a Federal Government website, brought to you by ASIC.

To be fair, they have a lot of great free resources and tools but their advice for financial fees is downright terrible.

Here’s a cracker.

Moneysmart Case Study

Moneysmart presents a case study about a bloke named Rhett who has around $400,000 to invest, including super.

I won’t go into all the details but the important part is what they’ve published as the fees for this case study.

And I want to remind you that the title of this article is ‘Financial advice costs: Pay the right price for the right financial advice’.

Rhett’s total fees for the first year are $14,000 (Moneysmart’s aggregate column is wrong). This is made up of:

  • $7,660 for the financial adviser
  • $3,000 for the investment platform
  • $3,340 for the product issuer which includes full yearly insurance premiums

$14,000 in fees is 3.5% of Rhett’s original investment.

Worst still, this case study estimates investment fees and insurance premiums to be $9,000 (another summing error) per year ongoing perpetually. And $2,000 of that being the fee for financial advice regardless of changes needed to be made or not.

All up that’s an ongoing fee of 2.25%.

90% of people will have no idea if 2.25% is high or low which makes advice from a government-run website like this so insidious.

How on earth is ASIC justifying this content when they know better than most that normalising these fees serves to further line the pockets of advisers and product issuers rather than the investor.

This is a huge problem because so many people are going to read a case study like this, that is backed by the government and just assume that paying an ongoing 2.25% in fees is reasonable.

In fact, this exact case study was posted in the FIRE Facebook group where most of the professional financial advisors also agreed that the case study fees were too high.

Facebook Group

Facebook Group

But as most of us know in the FIRE community, fees play an enormous part in your wealth creation journey.

A great explanation of this can be found here on the PIA website.

How on earth did the responsibility of not being ripped off, fall to a bunch of content creators without any formal education in finance.

It’s almost as if ASIC wants to normalise these fees so AFS licence holders can still profit after paying an arm and leg in regulatory costs impose on them by the very same organisation…

I wonder what would happen if the majority of the population became financially literate and stopped paying these high fees 🤔?

One could speculate that ASICs’ main source of revenue would dry up pretty quickly.

But that’s just speculation of course…

The End of Ask Firebug Fridays (AFF)

These new guidelines have already claimed a few scalps in the FIRE community and AFF will, unfortunately, be added to the list 😢.

I started this FIRE Q&A back in 2018 after getting hundreds of emails from readers each month. I was putting so much time and effort into answering the same questions that I thought a public Q&A podcast would be able to spread the knowledge better.

The AFF segments are clearly in breach of these new guidelines which unfortunately means they will have to be removed.

I’m going to leave the episodes up for the month of July and then remove them from my podcast RSS feed.

If you want to keep an offline copy for yourself, use this link here.

The AFB podcast will be restricted to the interview style format which will focus on the journey, mindset, and life philosophy. I’ll have to tip toe around discussing specific financial products.

We’ll see how it goes.

What Can We Do?

If we want to make real change we need to communicate our message to the legislators that make the rules.

Stephen Jones is the Federal Member for Whitlam and the Minister for Financial Services.

He has real power over how the legislation is written. ASIC merely enforce the law, they don’t make them.

Emailing his office is probably our best bet.

His email address is [email protected] but if you’re on a computer or smartphone, clicking the below link will automatically create an email filling in all the important fields.

CLICK HERE TO EMAIL STEPHEN

Email template

If you’re going to send me an email, here are some key points you might want to include:

  • Introduce yourself and the issue
  • Explain why this issue is important to you
  • Include an ask (suggest a change or alternative)
  • Be passionate and polite
  • Request a follow-up

Wrapping Up

These new guidelines won’t affect me or my family that much. I might have to shut down a part-time hobby I enjoy which is creating content for the Australian FIRE community.

It’s the next generation that I’m worried about.

I can tell you right now that if these guidelines were in effect back in 2015 I would have never bothered creating AFB at all.

There’s a bunch of teenagers growing up right now that will become interested in their financial future in the next couple of years.

Who are they going to relate to?

It sure as hell isn’t going to be a middle-aged Aussie Firebug that’s hopefully blogging about the perils of raising children by that point.

The next generation of Australian financial content creators will most likely never appear because of these guidelines.

The finance industry will keep trucking along and there will be some bigger financial media corporations getting around but it won’t be the same as the independent grassroots movement over the last 10 years.

Maybe we’ll look back and say that the last decade was the golden age of free-flowing information driven by a small bunch of enthusiastic finance nerds on the Internet…

 

As always,

Spark that 🔥

10 Lessons I’ve Learned from 10 Years Pursuing Financial Independence

10 Lessons I’ve Learned from 10 Years Pursuing Financial Independence


Reflection time.

I started full-time work at the end of 2011 and discovered the concept of financial independence (FI) sometime in 2012 after reading Rich Dad Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki.

That book (and the concept of FI) changed my life.

It wasn’t until a year after reading that book that I stumbled across Mr Money Mustache and the FIRE movement, which again, changed my life.

10 years. That’s how long I’ve been chipping away at this goal. And a lot can change ya know. My mindset, goals, strategy, desires, priorities have all shifted throughout the last decade. I’ve been thinking a lot about the lessons I’ve learned throughout the journey. What worked? What didn’t? What’s the point of it all?

Let’s get it.

 

1. The ultimate goal is to be happy. Never lose sight of this

We’re starting this list with the most important lesson.

It’s a bit philosophical but it’s really important and it sets the tone for everything we do. Have you ever asked yourself the following question and really mulled it over?

“What do I want in life?”

Now, there are going to be thousands of different answers to that questions depending on who you’re speaking to but the common denominator will always be the same… a desire to feel joy/to be happy.

Going snowboarding is pretty obvious. That’s fun as hell! But going to the gym 3 times a week and lifting heavy shit is… less obvious. One involves instant gratification whereas the other is delayed by a series of uncomfortable painful sessions.

The driver and end result for both activities is still the same. To be happy.

This driver for happiness is behind nearly everything we do. But figuring out what sort of life is going to be fulfilling and bring us purpose is a personal journey. The sooner you identify the key drivers of your happiness, the quicker you can start to plan out your ideal life.

I know life sometimes feels really complicated and stressful but at the end of the day, we’re still just another animal on Earth whose needs and desires haven’t changed that much over the ~50,000 years we’ve been roaming around.

In 1943 an American psychologist called Abraham Maslow published a paper called “A Theory of Human Motivation” which included the now very famous Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs

This hierarchy of needs is universal and transcends generations.

A spice merchant in Ancient Egypt 3100 BC would still need to cover each level on the pyramid (pun intended).

Start from the bottom and work your way up and don’t skip over the physiological needs either.

You’d be surprised how many people would feel 10X better by just getting a decent amount of sleep each night and eating the right foods.

How FIRE plays a part in helping you achieve a level of happiness can be explained better in lesson 2.

 

2. Find your why of FI

One of the biggest mistakes I have personally made and that I see all the time is people thinking that reaching financial independence will make them happy.

Spoiler alert. It doesn’t.

You need to find your ‘why’. Why do you want to reach FI? What will reaching FI mean for you? How will it make you happy?

Speaking from personal experience, FIRE resonated with me because whilst I quite enjoyed my job, I resented the fact that I was ‘stuck’ there 5 days a week. I didn’t like that feeling. And before I knew that FIRE was even a thing, I thought I was going to be in the cubicle for 40+ years 🤮

FIRE for me was about gaining more of the most precious resource we all have. Our time!

Free time is crucial for satisfying the top level of Maslow’s pyramid.

Money is just a man-made abstraction that doesn’t have any intrinsic value. We can leverage money to create more time and freedom in our lives. The most important part is knowing how to use this extra time and freedom to enrich our lives. Having a rock-solid ‘why of FI’ will help tremendously throughout your journey.

 

3. Master behaviours, not spreadsheets

This lesson took me many years to learn but it’s a goodie.

At the start of my journey, I was really attracted to the math and statistical side of FIRE. I loved reading about the Mad Fientist’s tax strategies (even though they were US based), MMM’s shockingly simple math behind early retirement and how the trinity study modelled over 80 years of data to come up with the 4% rule.

I used to seriously whip out the calculator on my phone at all hours of the night to crunch some number because I was obsessing over a 0.07% difference in management fees lol 😅.

But the further down the FIRE rabbit hole I traverse, the more I realise that spreadsheets, modelling and the math behind money management all meant diddly squat if your emotions and psychological makeup are not equipped to stay the course throughout your journey.

I’m not saying the numbers don’t matter, because they most definitely do. But our behaviours matter more.

“Financial success is not a hard science. It’s a soft skill, where how you behave is more important than what you know”

– Morgan Housel

There’s a great story that illustrates this point perfectly. In the intro of one of my favourite books, ‘The Psychology of Money’ by Morgan Housel. Morgan compares the stark contrast between an American Janitor called Ronald Read with a Harvard-educated Merrill Lynch executive named Richard Fuscone.

From his wiki page:

Ronald James Read (October 23, 1921 – June 2, 2014) was an American philanthropist, investor, janitor, and gas station attendant. Read grew up in Dummerston, Vermont, in an impoverished farming household. He walked or hitchhiked 6.4 km daily to his high school and was the first high school graduate in his family.

Read repaired cars at a gas station for 25 years and was a janitor at JCPenny for 17 years. He purchased a 2 bedroom house for $12K in 1959 and lived there for the rest of his life.

Friends of Read have been on record saying that he didn’t really get up to much. Some said his hobby was wood chopping and he lived a very low key life.

Read died in 2014 at the ripe old age of 92 which is where the plot thickens… Read made international news when he left over $6,000,000 (USD) to his local hospital and library. He also left over $2,000,000 to his stepkids too 🤯.

Read’s friends were dumbfounded. Where did he get all that money from?

Friends and family went looking for answers but they discovered there was no secret.

No lottery wins.

No hidden inheritance.

No hidden high paying secret spy job that he’d been keeping under wraps.

Read simply spent less than he earned and invested the rest in blue-chip stocks. The power of compound interest over decades did its thing and his low-income modest lifestyle managed to create a snowball worth more than $8M (USD) 🤯🤯🤯.

Ronald Read

Richard Fuscone was in the news a few months before the passing of Ronald Read for very different reasons.

Fuscone is basically the polar opposite of Read.

To say he’s well educated is putting it lightly. Check this out for a resume

I mean damn! That’s some serious alumni. And for those who don’t know, the University of Chicago offers one of the most prestigious MBA programs in the world. We’re talking about the upper echelon of prestigious education here.

Fuscone was a high flying executive who retired in his 40’s to pursue philanthropy and was once included in a “40 under 40” list of successful businesspeople. Fuscone got into financial difficulty in the mid-2000s after he borrowed heavily to expand his 18,000-square foot home that had 11 bathrooms, two elevators, two pools, seven garages, and cost more than $90,000 a month to maintain.

Then the 2008 financial crisis hit.

High levels of debt coupled with illiquid assets left Fuscone bankrupt.

A few months before Ronald Read passed and left his fortune to charity, Richard Fuscone’s home was sold in a foreclosure auction for 75% less than an insurance company figured it was worth… ouch!

Ronald Read was patient, Richard Fuscone was greedy. That’s all it took to overcome the enormous education and experience gap between the two.

So what’s the moral of the story?

It’s not about how smart you are, it’s about how you behave.

 

4. Getting wealthy is simple. Don’t overthink it

“Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.”
– Confucius

Almost every single wealth-building strategy can be boiled down to three steps:

  1. Spend less than you earn
  2. Invest the surplus
  3. Wait

That’s it… seriously.

Now there’s an absolute chasm between ‘get rich quick’ schemes and long term investing but those three principles hold true 99% of the time. How you invest and what you invest in doesn’t particularly matter. As long as you’re outpacing inflation and have strong conviction in your investments you should be moving towards financial independence.

Fidelity Investments is a multinational financial services corporation based in Boston, Massachusetts. An interesting discovery was made when a customer account audit revealed that the best investors in their database were either dead or inactive.

How could that possibly be?

How could someone that’s not adjusting their portfolio to the macro and micro economic news, outperform savvy investors with all the latest up to date data at their fingertips?

Well, it turns out that when it comes to investing… less is more.

Which is very unintuitive and goes against basic logic.

See the thing is, almost no one can beat the market over the long term. But people (myself included) constantly fall for the trap of trying to add complex financial instruments to somehow gain an advantage over ‘unsophisticated’ investors. I’ve always been raised that you need to put in the effort to reap a reward. You have to work hard to get anything in life worth having. This is true for most things… just not when it comes to investing.

I created and now invest through a trust fund because I associated its complexity and mystic with higher returns.

I thought I needed to do something different. I needed to outwork others to have a good return.

Choosing an ordinary index fund and adding to it each month without doing anything else just felt…lazy lol. I had all this pent up excitement after discovering FIRE and I wanted to channel this energy into the journey. I wanted to work my ass off so I could reach FI as quickly as possible and I felt like boring lazy index investing is only for people who aren’t willing to put in the work. It’s taken me years to accept that not only is this approach perfectly fine, but it’s also statically the most optimal choice most investors can make.

Keeping it simple also frees you up to concentrate on what’s really important in life which ties into the first lesson, to be happy.

Complexity has the potential to steal your most precious resources; time and energy.

Money is the slave that works for us, not the other way around.

 

5. What’s measured is managed

If I could give only one tip to anyone looking to be better with their money, it would be to start tracking your expenses.

That’s it.

You don’t even have to do anything else. I promise you that you’ll save money and optimise your expenses within the very first session. You might think that you know what you spend money on but I’ll bet the house that the first time you analyse three months of expenses, you’ll be surprised.

This lesson falls under the umbrella of Lesson 3 ‘Master behaviour, not spreadsheets’. It’s been well documented that keeping track of any metric and reviewing it regularly has a psychological effect on humans that can help us improve a focus area.

If a sprinter wants to be faster, they’ll keep a record of how fast they run.

If a presidential candidate wants to become the president, they’ll record and analyse poll data with their team.

If Tesla wants to design self-driving cars, they’ll create, test and record different algorithms continuously and keep track of what did and didn’t work.

I think you get the idea.

What’s measured is managed!

And if you’re not measuring the most fundamental aspect of FIRE, you won’t be able to manage it effectively. Plenty of people can still reach FI without ever tracking their expenses but I know first-hand that measuring how much you’re spending and what your spending it on has a lot of positive psychological effects.

Some of the positives of tracking are:

  • You regularly review where your precious dollars are being allocated to each month. Think back to lesson 1. ‘The ultimate goal is to be happy’. Is the stuff you’re buying ultimately making you happy?
  • You can accurately calculate your current FIRE number? Guessing how much you spend each year to maintain your current lifestyle can create stress and anxiety when the time comes to retire. You’ll second guess yourself. Even though things can and will change throughout your life, if you’ve been tracking your expenses for a few years you’ll have a much better idea of what size portfolio you’ll need to retire.
  • It’s super easy to trim the fat. Unused memberships and subscription services can sometimes fly under the radar. Reviewing expenses bring this wastage front and centre.

But be warned… overdoing this area can actually have negative consequences.

I used to be one of the worlds biggest tightasses (still pretty tight compared to most ‘normal’ people haha) but what I’ve found through the last decade of managing money is that the majority of people will find great success if they focus on the big four areas.

  1. Housing
  2. Transport
  3. Food/drinks (including alcohol)
  4. Holidays

Try to optimise these big areas and don’t kill yourself for paying for a haircut.

I’d say that the top one (housing) is probably the most important. Buying a huge house at a young age can stunt your wealth creation potential. Spending 50+% of your paycheck on rent has the same effect. You want to get your snowball up and running asap and let the compound interest do the heavy lifting over many years/decades.

If you optimise those big four areas to a point where you’re living a great life whilst having a decent savings rate it’s only a matter of time before you hit FIRE 🎉.

Ultimately, this lesson is super effective at improving your behaviours when it comes to money management.

 

6. Income potential is often overlooked

Over the last decade, I’ve met and spoken to a lot of people who have reached financial independence and there seems to be a common theme.

  1. They are good savers
  2. They have a higher than average income

The funny thing is that a lot of these people are actually below average investors. I heard all sorts of stories about how they might have lost money on a development, got swindled by a pyramid scheme or lost it all on a speculative stock. Yet they seem to reach FI decades earlier than most after eventually figuring out some form of investment that works for them.

The bulk of their wealth comes from a healthy savings rate powered by a high income.

For the first 7 or so years on my journey towards FI, I focussed solely on saving a whole lot of money and investing it in both real estate and stocks.

It wasn’t until I moved overseas in 2019 and more than doubled my hourly rate did I truly appreciate the power of earning more money.

I mean it’s pretty obvious, isn’t it?

The more you earn the more you can save and reach FI quicker. But for some reason, I always prioritised saving more and reading the same investing strategies over and over again making little tweaks here and there.

Having a high savings rate is really important. I reckon we managed to optimise our expenses after 1 or two years at most. After that, it’s pretty much been on autopilot. We have a pretty good idea about what brings us joy and where our dollars go.

I’ve spent way too long (especially at the start) obsessing over the ‘investing’ part of the FIRE equation. There are soooooooo many articles, videos, books, podcasts etc. that dive into all sorts of whizz-bang investing strategies that it can be confusing as hell.

It’s sorta like when you go to the Cheesecake Factory. Their menu is so bloody big and confusing that it can be overwhelming. I’ll try to read absolutely everything because I don’t want to order a meal and then have food envy because something better was further down the menu 😂. This is what’s known as analysis paralysis and a lot of people can fall prey to it (it personally took me years of reading about the stock market before taking the plunge).

It’s natural to feel like you need to know absolutely everything before dropping your money into the markets. But the truth is that we all make mistakes and the most basic concept of investing is buying things (real estate, stocks, precious metals, bonds etc.) that make you money. Don’t stress too much about building the perfect portfolio because I’m telling you it doesn’t exist.

Index investing appeals to so many people because it’s passive, diversified, low cost and provides a great return with little effort. Don’t overthink it. Work out a portfolio that you have strong conviction in and one that will allow you to sleep at night. Save your money and keep adding to the portfolio regularly.

If you still have time and energy to commit to FIRE after your expenses are under control and you’re happy with your investing strategy, I’d seriously start to look to increase your income.

High savings + high income + below-average investments

is better than

High savings + below-average income + above-average investments

Obviously, it does depend on how epic your investment returns are but generally the above is true from what I’ve personally experienced and seen over the last decade.

There are heaps of ways you can increase your income. I wrote about a few of them in this article here.

 

7. Compound interest takes years to notice

I learnt about the power of compound interest pretty early. There’s that famous story about two colleagues that’s told 100 different ways but it always illustrates the same point. Investing early and taking advantage of compound interest pays off in the long run.

This little graphic is one example.

Image Source: Mark Catanzaro

 

I’d like to think most people in the FIRE community have come across this (or something similar) before.

But most people (myself included) have a hard time truly appreciating the magnitude of compound interest and it doesn’t start to feel real until you’re near the end of your journey. There’s something about exponential growth that makes it difficult to grasp from an emotional point of view even when we understand the math. I think it has to do with most other things in life being linear. We do basic arithmetic almost every day in our lives but I don’t know anyone who can compute exponential growth without a calculator.

If we need half a dozen eggs for a recipe and know we already have 2 at home, that’s a simple subtraction problem that’s easy to think about on the fly and makes sense. If we choose to buy a car worth $10K instead of $15K. That’s an obvious savings of $5K which makes it easy to immediately appreciate on the spot.

But it’s hard sometimes to come to grips with putting away large sums of money now so the future you in 10-30 years can live a better life.

Here’s one of my favourite examples of exponential growth that you can play with your friends.

The story of the monthly coins. 

If I gave you $1 each day in the month of January, how much money would you have at the end of the month?

Most people would be quick to shout $31 right.

But suppose I gave you $1 on the first day of January and double it every day until the end of the month ($2 on the second day, $4 on the third and so on), without cheating, try to have a guess in your head how much money you would have at the end of the month.

Take a few seconds to think about it and keep a mental note.

….

….

….

The answer is $2.1 billion dollars. That’s a billion… with a B 😱

Try this example with your friends to see what number they guess. 99% of the time they won’t get anywhere near the correct answer.

I use the example to illustrate the point that compound interest is not intuitive to grasp and it really only starts to take off in the later years. Speaking from experience, I really noticed compound interest once we had around $400K+ invested and our FIRE number is $1.25M for context.

Before that, it feels like you’re doing all the heavy lifting yourself through savings (which is pretty much what’s happening).

But boy oh boy it’s an amazing feeling when the freight train starts to pick up steam and suddenly your investments are making more money than you can save each month. After that, there’s no stopping it and you’ll feel like you’re almost cheating as you race towards the finish line.

 

8. Most people are really after semi-retirement

Every single financially independent person I’ve ever met, read about or listened to still ‘works’ and makes money outside their investments one way or another.

I’ve added talking marks to the letter ‘work’ because it’s not really traditional work but people can get really anal when it comes to the word retire. I’ve always interpreted RE (retire early) part of FIRE as the moment you quit your cubicle/wage slave job and pursue meaningful work that brings you purpose.

But this can be confusing because not everyone has something they’re super passionate about. There’s a large portion of the community that really likes the social aspect and comradery of their normal day job but just want a little bit more free time in the week to get stuff done and enjoy life.

Based on the emails I’ve been receiving for the last 7 or so years I’ve come to the following conclusion. Most people in the FIRE community are really just looking to work 2-3 days a week and maintain their current lifestyle with some passive income to cover the rest/set them up for retirement in their golden years.

And as someone who is currently only working 3 days a week, I must say that I’m becoming more convinced that semi-retirement is the sweet spot for the bulk of the community too.

Full financial independence is great and it’s what we should be aiming for later on in life, but building up a portfolio that kicks off enough passive income to free up one or two days a week can have astonishing results.

And the best part about compound interest is that the momentum you build up early on in the journey only gets stronger and can carry you all the way to full fledge FI without you needing to add to your portfolio after a certain point.

This concept is known as Coast FI or Flamingo FI and the end result is the same. Full financial independence.

But if you drop down to semi-retirement during your journey you’ll obviously not have as much money to contribute to your portfolio and won’t reach FI as fast.

Traditional FIRE. Source:moneyflamingo.com

Coast FI. Source:moneyflamingo.com

If you want to know more about coast FIRE I’d highly recommend you check out this article at the money flamingo blog (Aussie specific too!).

The odds of someone never working and making any sort of income outside of their portfolio ever again after reaching FIRE is incredibly low. I’ve been saying this for a few years now but the 4% rule is over-conservative in my book. Putting aside the fact that the author of the 4% rule has increased it to 5%, any additional income after you’ve reached FI completely blows out the modelling.

Let me give an example.

Our FIRE number is $1.25M which will generate $50K per year based on the 4% rule.

Let’s assume that we get to the $1.25M, declare FIRE but decide to both work 1 day a week for 8 hours at $30 an hour.

Would you believe that our combined take-home income would be ~$25K a year? That’s half of what we need to bloody live on!

The portfolio could easily cover the rest and here’s the amazing part. Because we wouldn’t need to be drawing down 4% of the portfolio, it could compound away for longer at the higher amount.

Here’s what half of the portfolio ($625K), if left alone, could potentially grow to given an 8% return after 10 years.

~$1.35M is more than our original FIRE number!

And it’s really important to realise that we only worked one 8 hour day at $30 an hour in this example. You could imagine how dramatic the modelling changes if you worked an extra day or charged a higher hourly rate.

There are two main points here.

  1. You’re almost certainly going to be earning money post FIRE
  2. The 4% assume no extra income ever. This is extremely unlikely if you reach FIRE in your 20’s, 30’s, 40’s or even maybe 50’s.

 

9. Find your ‘enough’

Joseph Heller, an important and funny writer
now dead,
and I were at a party given by a billionaire
on Shelter Island.
I said, “Joe, how does it make you feel
to know that our host only yesterday
may have made more money
than your novel ‘Catch-22’
has earned in its entire history?”
And Joe said, “I’ve got something he can never have.”
And I said, “What on earth could that be, Joe?”
And Joe said, “The knowledge that I’ve got enough.”

— A poem for The New Yorker in May of 2005 by Kurt Vonnegut

I honestly think there’s something in our DNA as humans to always want more.

It has to be some sort of evolutionary trait right.

Imagine two homo sapiens coming across an enormous fruit tree bearing 50 ripe Apples.

The first human decides to only eat enough to be full and then leaves.

The second human gorges themselves and then picks and carries as many as they can hold back to camp with no consideration of others.

Which personality traits do you think has the better chance of surviving and passing on their genes to the next generation? As unfortunate as it is, selfishness is rewarded in the animal kingdom. I know it’s hard to imagine with all our fancy pants technology and civilisation, but we’re not actually that far removed from our prehistoric ancestors and evolution hasn’t yet caught up to deal with the current situation we find ourselves in.

Most of us are hard-wired to always want more. 

But you’ll never become FI if your desires and wants continue to increase forever.

Think back to lesson one “The goal is to be happy”.

If you desire something and you don’t have it, this usually results in a feeling of unhappiness. And there are only two ways to fix it.

  1. You work hard and get what you want.
  2. You find happiness elsewhere and stop wanting it.

Depending on how exorbitant your wants and desires are, option 1 could mean many decades climbing the corporate ladder working 70+ hours weeks to fund your:

  • 3,000sq m Toorak mansion
  • 6 beds, 5 bathroom holiday house in Byron Bay
  • 5 cars
  • 3 jet ski’s
  • And so on

Now I don’t want to be judgemental here. If you really want all those things and think the work required is worth it. Sweet. Go for it. Everyone is different.

But if you’re reading this article, odds are that you’re more attracted to the idea of living a simple yet great life that prioritises freedom, autonomy, health, relationships and ultimately happiness.

Figuring out what your ‘enough’ is takes a long time. This is partly because our wants and desires evolve as we get older and our circumstances change.

I for example, never really put too much value in travelling before 2019. I’d been on a few trips here and there and whilst it was good fun, I used to think that international travel was insanely expensive and overrated. Travelling around the world and living in the UK for 2 years completely changed my outlook on a lot of things and broadened my horizons. I now consider travelling to be part of our lifestyle and something we will need to factor into our numbers.

And even though I think a little bit of lifestyle inflation is perfectly normal and healthy, you’ll never have peace of mind until you discover your ‘enough’.

If you don’t figure it out, you’ll always be wanting more.

 

10. We’re all dealt a different hand in the game of life

There’s a quote that I can’t seem to find that loosely goes like this.

A CEO was perfectly happy with their $1M bonus until they found out a competitor CEO received $100 more

Comparisons. We’re all guilty of making them.

And the messed up part is sometimes we were happy until we see what someone else has.

It happens all the time and is part of the reason I’ve disconnected all of my social media accounts.

Practising the art of gratitude can be really helpful to remind yourself of all the great things in your life. But we’re humans and I’ve fallen victim to unrealistic comparisons a bunch of times. It’s perfectly natural to stumble across someone who you may have gone to school with and be jealous of the life they’re living now.

What I’ve come to realise after hearing from literally thousands of Aussies on their way to FI is that there can be a gigantic gap between peers within the same cohort. I’m talking about the advantages and disadvantages between two people who on surface value seem to be pretty equal.

There’s a great book called Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell that explains just how incredible one little advantage early on in someone’s life can completely change their trajectory.

Did you know that 40% of the best hockey players in Canada are born between January and March?

This is no coincidence. It turns out that in minor league hockey, children are grouped by birth year and players born in January are, on average, bigger and taller than December-born players.

This seemingly unimportant attribute gives players born in the first months of the year a head start that turns into a lifelong advantage.

That one little leg up can have the following flow-on effects:

  • They are bigger and stronger than their peers which makes hockey easy for them
  • They are noticed by coaches and identified as a good player. Extra coaching or special treatment may be given
  • They will most likely be chosen to represent their squad team which means more playing time against a higher level of competition and access to better coaching
  • They continue to get extra playing time against elite competition with the best coaches in the country year after year

These sorts of advantages happen all the time and compound throughout one’s life.

The same is equally true for disadvantages.

But it’s really hard to know what cards a person has been dealt even if you know them quite well. And it’s almost impossible when reading a stranger’s blog or listening to a guest on a podcast.

The goal of FI is a mastery of money that’s a personal journey.

A little bit of healthy competition can be good but never feel inadequate when you come across someone similar who seems to have it all figured out. They may have been dealt two aces.

The reverse is also true.

We have no idea what has happened in someone’s life that has influenced the position they’re in now.

In summary, compete against the person in the mirror.

Wake up each day trying to be a better version of yourself.

Because…

“Comparison Is the Thief of Joy”

— Theodore Roosevelt


 

That’s a wrap! 10 the biggest lessons I’ve learned over the past 10 years pursuing FI!

I’d love to know what was your favourite lessons in the comment section below 🙂

As always,

Spark that 🔥

FIRE Survey Results 2021

FIRE Survey Results 2021

Welcome back to the second annual Aussie FIRE survey results!

In case you missed last years results, you can grab them here.

It’s an honour to be able to run the largest FIRE surveys in Australia. This year’s survey has a focus on time intelligence and being able to track the progress of participants for future analysis which was the most requested feature from the Facebook community group (other than Super which I somehow missed last year 🙈). This identifier can’t be used until next year but I’m already really excited to track the progress of the cohort over time and there is some really cool analysis that can be done with the introduction of this data point.

This project took some time to put together and a major shout out to Sandra for building the extremely cool showcase site below.

This year’s survey goal was to get 1,056 submissions which give the dataset statistical significance (95% (industry standard) confidence level with a 3% margin of error of the community). I used the sample size formula found in statical modelling to come up with 1,056 as the number to aim for. If you’re interested in the math behind the modelling, you can check out this site that I used.

I’m so happy to report that the survey had 1,298 submissions across 21 countries 🤯🏌️‍♂️

I was originally assuming a community size of 100,000 but because we got so many submissions, this dataset should actually be accurate assuming over 1M+ community size (don’t ask me how statistics works) which is very promising because I doubt very much that the Australian FIRE community is anywhere near 1M!

The results are broken up into six sections:

  1. Firebug Profile
  2. Super
  3. Investing
  4. Miscellaneous
  5. FIRE Dashboard (interactive dashboard using the data from the survey)
  6. Methodology

LINK TO SURVEY SITE

Feel free to download the anonymized results of the survey here under the Open Database License (ODbL). I really look forward to seeing what you find—if you share on social media, make sure you tag me and I’ll give it a shout out!

Enjoy!

Aussie Firebug

Methodology


This report is based on a survey of 1,298 Firebugs from 21 countries around the world.

      • The survey was fielded from February 8th to March 15th 2021.
      • Unfortunately, there wasn’t a timed component in the dataset which means I could not qualify responses. Google forms don’t have timed settings. I might look into new software next year
      • Respondents were recruited primarily through channels owned/ran by aussiefirebug.com which included: Aussie FIRE Discussion Facebook group, Aussie Firebug Twitter Account and Aussie Firebug Blog
      • All income figures are based on AUD. I’ll add a note to next years survey to make sure international submissions know this
      • Net worth figures are in AUD
      • Some visuals do not always take into consideration all the answers due to visual issues. There were 86 distinct values for banks for example. Reducing that to a top 10 is more visually appealing. You can always download the entire dataset if you want to know all the submissions
Matched Betting Feedback

Matched Betting Feedback

Disclaimer: 

Matched betting is not for everyone. If you have an addictive personality or have had a gambling problem in the past, close the page right now. This is an advanced strategy that is susceptible to human error which could cost you a lot of money. 

 

Earlier this year I published a podcast to chat about a peculiar way to make money online that I’d never heard of… matched betting.

If you want to learn more about how matched betting works go listen to the podcast. In today’s article, I wanted to highlight some of the feedback I’ve received since that episode and clear up issues that arose from it. It’s been a good 6 months since that pod and I felt like that episode needed a follow up because many of you out there have reached out and there were a few keys things missing from that initial discussion that really needs to be brought to attention.

 

The Blow Back

I received some criticisms for the matched betting podcast from both my audience and other online forums.

I want to address some of the main criticisms.

 

Matched betting is a scam and doesn’t work

This is just straight-up wrong. You’ll see in the feedback below that people are using this technique with success. It’s not perfect and there are things that can go wrong. But to say it doesn’t work is no different from someone saying that the stock market is a scam because they lost money.

 

AFB didn’t highlight the negatives of matched betting well enough

Guilty.

This was probably the one criticism that, upon reflection, was not addressed well enough at all. We did speak about human error in the pod but after listening back to it a few times, we (Nico and I) could have spent more time on it and highlighted the traps and pitfalls. You can lose money if you don’t execute correctly and there are plenty of points where you could make a mistake.

The other major negative that we didn’t touch on at all is matched betting could be considered a gateway into gambling and/or re-traping a person who’s already had gambling issues. I have updated my resources page and that podcast to highlight this more but in hindsight, gambling is a major issue Australia is facing in general and I dropped the ball here.

If you’re reading this right now and are thinking about trying matched betting please please please stop and think if this advanced side hustle will cause you more damage than it’s worth. If you’ve had issues gambling with anything at all in the past, skip this. If you’ve got an addictive personality, skip this.

I’d even go as far as to say that this technique is only really suited for people who are good at learning something new. Because if you make a mistake, it can cost you a lot of money. And mistakes can and are made by pretty switched on people all the time.

 

AFB made more money through his affiliate relationship with Bonusbank than he did actually using matched betting

Guilty again.

But I don’t see the issue even though I know there will always be people who don’t like affiliate relationships.

Fair enough.

I ended up making a touch over $2K from matched betting but received a lot more through affiliates from that podcast. I can’t give the exact dollar figures or details of the contract because that’s against the terms and conditions (although you’re free to speculate using my 18/19 income review), but know this:

Matched betting, regardless of whether you used my affiliate or not is a legitimate and legal strategy for Australians to make some extra money on the side.

 

Once you have exhausted the sign-up bonuses, matched betting isn’t worth it

This is such a strange criticism.

Like… so what?

If you’ve got the time to put into learning how matched betting works, going after the low hanging fruit makes the most sense to me. If you feel like the time to reward ratio is off after that, cool, stop doing it.

If done right, you should have made a nice little tax free profit. How is that a negative?

I was extremely time poor when I tried matched betting earlier this year so it wasn’t worth it for me to continue after that. And I’d rather spend my time on other projects (AFB being one of them) than to do matched betting right now, but not everyone is like this. There’s plenty of people who have the time and an internet connection that can continue to make money online (a tad harder mind you) through matched betting. Examples of this are below.

 

Although I didn’t cover everything, those were the main ones that kept coming up in one form or another.

 

The Good

Ok, now the good stuff.

I can’t describe how happy it makes me feel when I receive positive feedback from readers. It’s been a decent chunk of time since I published the podcast and I’ve reached out to my audience through emails and the Australian FIRE Facebook Group to get some feedback from their experience.

Below are just a tiny per cent of emails I received that was positive (I couldn’t publish all of them).

*I’ve removed names for privacy reasons

 

Profit: >$11K. Continued past the signup bonuses

I signed up to Bonusbank after hearing your podcast. I’d always enjoyed a punt but had backed off quite significantly in recent years as I’ve been saving to retire early. It’s nice to have a team or a horse to cheer for again in each game and race again now.

I’d had prior experience using betfair to lay bets which helped immensely. Some of the people I’ve introduced to the site have not been able to get their heads around laying on betfair and have stopped matched betting thinking it’s too difficult.

When I first started it was football season so I did a lot of betting on the NRL and AFL, it was quick and very simple. Would take me 15 mins per week and I was making around $250 per week in profit on average. That lasted for a few months before some of the lesser-known bookies banned me (Bluebet, Palmerbet). This had little impact as their promos were few and far between. Then I lost Ladbrokes and Sportsbet a few weeks later. They both had amazing sport promos and after that my winnings dropped to $100 a week on average. Then I decided to give racing promos a go, these are much more difficult and the markets change quickly. Often by the time you use the bonusbank calculators the odds have changed and you’ve missed the boat. After a few weeks of using the calculators I got an idea of roughly what they’d say so just started using estimates to put the lay bets on. That made it much quicker and although you can get a slightly better or worse result on a race it seems to even out over the course of many hundred bets in the past 6 months. Once I got the hang of race betting my winnings increased dramatically to around $500 per week and over the spring carnival when there were many additional promos around I was routinely making $1,000 per week. Time invested was around 5-6 hours per week to get this level of winnings.

It’s important to put “Mug bets” on to keep your accounts alive. These are bets on non promotional markets that make it look less like you are matched betting. Pointsbet seem to offer the best promos but are quick to ban, my account is more than 6 months old and still going strong due to mug bets. You can often put several hundered dollars of mug bets on an have it only cost you $5 in losses. Obviously this is a tiny amount compared to what you are winning so well worthwhile. I have accounts left at only 3 major bookies now after losing Bet Easy today. I’ll still make $300-$400 per week I’d imagine from those accounts as long as they last.

Total profit now is over $11k. Biggest challenge is funding betfair. My total balance across the accounts is $21k so I’ve needed to lock up $10k of my own money in the past 6 months to keep rolling. Many people may not be able to afford to do this.

Interesting enough I’m always putting money into betfair – meaning my bookie bets are winning regularly. I’d be up $18k if I just bet with the bookies and never laid a horse on betfair. This would be stressful though as there are times I’d have lost several thousand in a day if I hadn’t laid.

I am starting a trial of non matched betting now as I believe I’ve identified a pattern in horses that have betfair odds close to the bookie odds that win enough to make it profitable. I’ll be starting with $5 per race though rather than $50 per race I’ve been betting to manage downside risk whilst I trial the idea.

Next I’ve got a friend who is opening some accounts for me to play with, will probably take it slower and use it to top up my cash flow when needed. Just bet a little to pay for a game of golf, a carton of beer each week etc rather than going hard at it again. Would be nice to see if I could keep those accounts open for years and just slowly milk them.

Thanks for the amazing podcasts – I commute a 6 hour round trip once per week and it’s always great when I see a new podcast from you pop up before I get in the car.

Cheers

Profit: $3K from the sign up bonuses

Hi Matt,

I’m a really big fan of your blog/podcast. I cannot thank you enough for providing such high quality Australian FIRE content.

Anyways, onto my personal thoughts about matched betting.

For me, the matched betting podcast couldn’t have come at a better time. Due to my partner taking on a 6-month work contract at short notice earlier this year, I had to move my work from Sydney to Newcastle during this time. Since I run my own services business (locum health practitioner), I initially didn’t have many contacts in the area and hence didn’t have too much work lined up in the first month. I was, on average, working about 2-3 days a week.

It was during this time that I listened to the podcast and decided to give matched betting a shot as I had more free time on my hands. I signed up to the free 1 month trial at BonusBank, made multiple betting accounts under my own name as well as my partner’s and just did all the sign up bonuses. I made just under $3000 tax free and that was with some mistakes on my end (inputting the wrong numbers into the back/lay calculator). It was enough for me to make up for the shortage of work/income I had during the month and only took about 15 hours of my time. Most of this time was spent learning how it all worked, signing up to the various bookies and doing ID/bank account verifications.

There was also a weird sense of productivity that came about when I was watching sports and also matched betting. I remember enjoying a NBA playoff game knowing that no matter what the outcome would be, I would be pocketing a few hundred dollars. It definitely reduced the guilt of me sleeping in on a day off to watch the playoffs.

After the sign up bonuses, matched betting gets much more complex and the effort/hours required is significantly higher especially if you wanted to sustain it as a steady side income. Also, most bookies tend to pick up when you’re matched betting and I have been banned from quite a few of them. Luckily, by this point, my usual work picked up again and I didn’t feel that the increased effort/time involved with matched betting (beyond just the simple sign up bonuses) yielded enough income for me to continue.

Overall, it worked out well for me and I’m very thankful for you publishing the podcast. I feel most people should give it a try as it’s effectively just free money with very little effort especially if you just do the sign up bonuses. However, they should also be wary that errors can cause some huge losses if they’re not careful.

As a side note, despite matched betting being the main subject of the podcast, I think we can take a step back and look at the bigger picture. I viewed the episode as offering one of many ways to make a “side income”, which I’m sure some FIRE enthusiasts would definitely consider to accelerate their journey. Perhaps this can be the first in a new series of podcasts which focus on how various people create and sustain “side incomes” or “side hustles” (just to add to your already long list of things to do). Or perhaps, we as your audience could simply view the episode as a story about how the guest found his own unconventional path to FIRE through turning his own niche skills into a profitable business model, which I’m sure of us in the FIRE community will find interesting and perhaps even inspiring.

Nonetheless, I love your podcast/blog and thanks again for the amazing content (sorry for the long e-mail).
All the best

Profit: $14K knew nothing about matched betting beforehand

Hi Matt,

I have probably made the most money out of all your listeners from Matched betting. I knew nothing about matched betting before your podcast and joined bonus bank and started matched betting about 1 week after your podcast. So far I have made 14k profit after taking off all costs like bonus bank monthly fee and cost of a separate device I got to use for matched betting.

I could have made more money but lost about 1k worth with some silly mistakes. My overall profit got boosted due to me getting access to one of my family member accounts about 2 months back as well. Most of my profit is made in the last 3 months once I got the hang of racing promos and took advantages of all those spring racing offers. I have lost most of my own bookies but still got 80% bookies on my family member accounts so hopefully I can make a bit more money before calling it quit.

My end goal is to make 20k profit and my grand plan is to invest all the profit I made from matched betting to an ETF or LIC I don’t currently have in my portfolio currently(most likely argo) and turn on DRP and just watch this part of my portfolio grow over the next decade or so.

Thanks a lot to you for doing this podcast as well as putting lot of quality content on your blog. I have learnt a lot from your blog posts and podcasts.

Thanks

Profit: $4.2K but was promo banned from nearly every bookie

Hi Aussie Firebug,

Just wanted to reach out and say thanks for all the great financial tips and inspiration over the last couple of years, particularly for getting me on to matched betting. I’ve made $4200 in the last couple of months and counting – that’ll go straight to buying LICs!

I managed to get promo banned from nearly every bookie in Australia in the process though so I’m gonna wrap it up now that footy season is over.

Keep up the good work and good luck in the race to FIRE!

Profit: $5K in three months. Money was in the horses but the time commitment was too much in the end

Hey Matt,

Hope UK is treating you well?

Matched betting. The first time I heard the term was on your podcast with Nico. My initial thoughts were this is s bit left of centre and suspicious. Nico however, came across as down to earth and genuine enough to spark my interest to explore further.

I read bonusbank in detail and researched more from other sources which all appeared to align. I decided to give it a crack. Chucking in $500+ into betfair was a bit scary initially but this soon was eased when I started to see the concept working.

I quickly learned that after sign up bonuses, the money is in horses. As experienced by everyone, horses were initially daunting however, if you stick at it you’ll grasp the concept and then go on to perfect it, which is what I did.

I started off making roughly $50 a week to quickly smashing up to $500 per week. I became more proficient in doing the betting on my phone and not requiring calculators to figure out the correct lays etc. This was great as I was able to access mid day promos whilest at work and then convert the bonuses on weekends. My biggest day was making x17 $50 bonus bets across multiple bookies in one day which roughly worked out to $600 after conversion. How crazy is that?

The main negative that I experienced with all this is time required. All the best promos are on Saturdays with all main races happening then and to access majority of them you have to devote most of your day to it. This was exciting initially however, quickly weaned. Over time I was doing less and less focused Saturdays and mainly doing few races on my phone whilst out and about. This was a bit annoying to my partner and anti social as we would be enjoying the days activity but I quickly had to pull out my phone to put a bet on. She loved it though when we would cover whole days expenses in a couple of bets!

The other negative is getting promo banned. There is plenty of tales on bonus bank forum and chat of how people try and prevent getting gubbed however, I saw majority of them required even more time to properly play the game. They may work but were not guaranteed. I did get gubbed by three bookies so far but there is still plenty of fish in the sea.

Overall, in a period of approx. three month I made $5,000. I was very happy with this! I could have made more if I tried harder but have been losing interest slowly over time mainly because of time required on the weekends which I was unwilling to sell.

Nico and his team have done a fabulous job in setting up the site and all the calculators. They are always there to answer any questions and I love how Nico is always on chat on Saturday mornings going through the race line ups with everyone and celebrating their achievements.

I have no negative comments to say about bonusbank or your decision to associat with them The concept and idea was nothing short of genius. It’s sad to see you’ve copped some criticism but as with anything there will always be people who see the glass half empty and want to critique others for their failures. The main issue I would see turning people off, as highlighted by Nico in his podcast, is human error. It’s very easy to make mistakes especially with horses and people may rather blame the system then themselves. This can be learned and mistakes minimized.

Thank you for bringing light to matched betting and for everything you do. I’ve said it before but it has to be said again, you’ve done a fabulous job with your blog and podcast! Be proud and I look forward to reading and listening to more of your content.

Enjoy the UK winter and if you can, visit Ireland and Scotland. Beautiful places!

Profit: $1K. Avoid if you’re bad at maths

Hey Matt,

Sue here. I tried it after your podcast. I live in Vic so not all sign up bonuses were allowed. Still made $1000 easy off the experience. Quit after all bonuses were used up. I would advise people who are bad with math to avoid it, it takes a bit to wrap your head around what’s going on with your money. Mistakes can be made and can be costly even with the help of the bonus bets website. I had a good experience and thanks for introducing me to it.

 

The Bad

A lot of the negative emails I received were from people who made human error mistakes and lost money. Or they only made <$200 and were angry (lolwut?). I’ve tried to include the more serious and unique ones below. As a percentage, I roughly received one negative email for every 20 positive.

Potential identity theft 

I tried out match betting and decided it wasn’t for me. I did find that while trying to close my accounts, Betfair asked me for a selfie holding my driver’s license as confirmation of my identity. Two weeks later my identity was used to open a Sportsbet account and a CBA transaction account.

The only reason this was discovered was the CBA sent a bank card to my address.
Both accounts were flagged by Sportsbet and CBA as potentially fraudulent before I received the card, but it still cost me almost a full day between dealing with CBA, Sportsbet and advising other agencies (Betfair didn’t seem particularly concerned that they were the most recent company to have my details, IDCARE, notifying the credit score agencies, and making a report to ACORN takes time).

I can’t say that I can recommend match betting after my experience, but I do acknowledge that identity theft isn’t unique to their industry, and far from the only source of it occurring. My issue stemmed from trying to close my accounts rather than the use of them.

Thanks for all the work you do with the blog and keep up the fantastic work!

Cheers

Profit: $6.5K but impacted re-financing application

I have been match betting since Feb this year and have made $6500 so far. I have two mates that have been doing it for about 3 years and they would be about 20k up in total.

One of the issues is that match betting is that sign up bonuses have legally stopped so where I could get a $500 sign up bonus then convert it to $375 risk free these opportunities are limited. Also the agencies are on to people betting like this and they are quick to ban you off there promos that are required for this type of betting. Basically now I have only two agencies left to bet with. It probably makes it easier for people who are actually interested in sports and horse racing as I have been, otherwise it would be dead boring. But even if I only ever make this amount, who wouldn’t take 6.5 K free cash?

Other thing that people may need to be wary of as you have to shuffle money around at times, I recently applied to re finance my loan to a lower rate, but was knocked back even though I wanted to borrow only $200 k against a house worth 480 K and have a holiday house worth 350K that is owned outright plus 75K in shares!!! So people should consider this before getting into it.

Profit: $2.5 not worth the time

Hi

I jumped on the matched betting bandwagon after your podcast. As it was right about the time that the welcome bonuses were drying up, I joined a whole heap of bookies all at once and had a lot of bonuses to work through in a short space of time. I found it pretty easy to get the hang of, I settled for some lower returns due to the time constraints, made a few mistakes not reading the T&C properly on some of the bets.

Once I had used all of my bonus bets, I found that the time involved vs the payout just not worth it to me. I tried as many different techniques as I could but it seems that horse racing is about the only way to continue beyond the initial profits and it was too time-consuming and less set and forget. Plus you are competing with all the other software users to jump on the horses once they hit the sweet spot so you don’t have long to get on board. I found the assorted matched betting websites quite helpful and there were lots of good how to guides.

All in all I enjoyed it and made about $2500 but have cashed out of all my accounts now. But thanks to your podcast as I had never heard of it before that.

Cheers

Profit: $430 BB software is good but not worth the time and effort. Better to spend it on another side hustle

Hey Matt,

I gave matched betting a go with bonus bank after your podcast and made ~$500 from converting signup bonuses into cash and then extracting it which was about ~$430 after a couple months of bonus bank fees to use their calculators…

My honest feedback is that the site is really well set up, tutorials are fantastic and calculators work brilliantly.

However, the time and effort involved to extract a pretty small return in my view was just really not worth the effort – plenty of other side hustles or optimisation efforts you can make for a far greater return. I was based in NSW too which I think was one of the more restrictive states…

I gave up after the signup bonuses as they were supposed to be the low hanging fruit… I can totally see that if you are living in south east asia or something with all the time in the world on your hands and a cost of living <$50 a day or something that it isn’t a bad idea to play around with for a bit of extra cash… however if you are working full time, optimising your investments, living your life and looking for a high value side hustle – this isn’t it.

Hope that’s useful mate. Love your work – keep it up!

 

Some Stats

A few months after the podcast was released I worked with Nico to survey some of the members that had signed up with BB to see what results they were getting.

We surveyed a total of 66 people and found the following

The ‘count’ is how many people recorded their matched betting profits.

The splits are broken down like so (in ascending order of count)

  • $1000 – $2500 – 39.3%
  • $500 – $1,000 – 23%
  • $2500 – $5,000 – 21.3%
  • $250 – $500 – 9.8%
  • $5,000+ – 4.9%
  • $0 – $250 – 1.6%

Nearly 40% of people made between $1,000 – $2,500!

These stats were only after a few months as well. After I posted in the Australian FIRE Facebook Group I was swamped with emails, mostly positive but some negative.

I went through a heap and roughly added up the figures and calculated that my audience has made in excess of $100K through matched betting. Probably a lot more considering most people can’t be bothered with surveys and responding to my emails 😅. I can’t take the credit for that as many had been doing it for years and there are many factors involved but still.

To think that my podcast could have collectively helped that many people is mind-boggling to me. I’d imagine that these numbers are absolute pittance compared to someone like the Peter Thornhill or the Barefoot Investor. It’d be impossible to measure but could you imagine if we knew how much money Thornhill or Pape has not only saved people but also helped them make through investing/debt recycling/side hustles etc. It could honestly be in the $100M+ mark… maybe even >$1B.

Conclusion

And now we finally come to the big question.

Is matched betting worth it…

And like most things in life… it depends.

It’s been a good chunk of time since the original matched betting pod and after reading 100+ emails (not even kidding) from my audiences I’ve come to the following conclusions.

Matched betting:

  • Dangerous for some individuals who are susceptible to gambling or have an addictive personality – Don’t try
  • Risky for people who have a hard time understanding a new concept that involves maths – Don’t try
  • Time intensive after the signup bonuses. Effort/reward ratio wears off for some
  • Depending on how aggressive you are, you may need to float a very large amount of cash in your betting accounts, this involves risk
  • You can be banned from the bookies and have your account closed. If you’re someone who extrapolates entertainment through these types of accounts, separate from matched betting, you could be banned permanently
  • The low hanging fruit of the signup bonuses is relatively easy money for people who execute the technique correctly
  • The longer-term income is in the horses. It requires a lot more effort but depending on circumstances, you may deem this effort to still be worth it and it can provide a nice little tax-free side income

If there’s one thing you take away from today’s article let it be this.

Matched betting works… for the right person 

People have a negative experience with matched betting when applying the technique incorrectly. It’s complex and mistakes can be made.

But I still stand by my original conclusion.

Matched betting, when done right, is a valid form of income for any Aussie on the path to FIRE. I, like many others, went after the low hanging fruit and was richer for it. But the required time commitment after that wasn’t worth it for me personally. That’s not to say it won’t be for you, however:

 

Never Stop Learning

I’d expect nothing less from the astute Australian FIRE community to meet, what I’d consider to be a relatively unknown technique, with scepticism and caution. I myself even ignored matched betting a few times before taking a closer look.

But what I don’t want to happen is that we, as a community, don’t allow ourselves to be open to new ideas and techniques that can help us along the journey. Some of the best ideas I know of were discovered by reading about different and weird strategies others were using to save/make money like CC points, debt recycling, trusts, credit card tarting/stoozing etc.

Hell, for the majority of my life even the stock market was seen to be no more than a casino.

My point is that whilst we should be sceptical we can’t shut ourselves off completely to new ideas and be forever stuck in the echo chamber of ‘Vanguard ETFs everything else is a scam or not as good’.

I think a major part of the FIRE culture is looking for legal ways to ‘hack’ the system and being really clever by thinking outside the box.

I’m always interested in new strategies and techniques and from what I gathered by a whole bunch of emails, most of you guys out there are too!

If you’ve got an unconventional way to make money on the side I’d love to hear about below in the comments 👇

Spark that 🔥

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