Welcome to The Australian Blogger Interview Series.
We noticed the Australian personal finance community growing, mostly through our interactions on Twitter and we wanted to continue to foster this great camaraderie. We’ve reached out to as many Australian personal finance bloggers as we could and asked them to participate in our interview series. If you have any favourite Australian personal finance bloggers, tell us about them in the comments below and we’ll invite them to participate.
Next up: Mrs. ETT from Enough Time To.
- Tell us a little bit about yourself.
Mr. ETT and I are both in our mid-forties, no kids, two cats (pseudo-named Frank and Jelly). We live in the outer suburbs of Sydney, and have done so our whole lives. We both work in health IT, earning the average Australian wage.
2. How did you get into blogging about personal finance? Was there someone (another blogger perhaps) or something that inspired you to start blogging?
I haven’t told this story before, but what got me into blogging about personal finance (eventually), was a dog. I was nerfling around on the Interwebs, looking at dogs (Frank and Jelly say that I was doing the Internet wrong. Surely all anyone ever looks at is pictures of cats?!) Somehow, I came across a series of “interviews” by Frugalhound of Frugalwoods fame. I went down the rabbit warren (so many animal references in this answer) and popped out about 12 months later with the Enough Time To… blog. It’s really more of a personal blog to help me plan our future, but share what I learn along the way.
3. What are your financial goals? Are you aiming for FIRE or something else?
We genuinely feel it is too late for us to be aiming for proper FIRE. We’re in a good financial position, owning our own house with no debt, but we wasted a lot of years after we paid off the mortgage, as we didn’t have a new financial goal. Now we are working towards 2 things. The first is to have enough when we do retire, without having to rely on the aged pension. The current retirement age in Australia is 67. If we manage to set ourselves up so we will have enough, then our second goal is to retire before 67. Even if it is just by a week, we want to be able to say that we did it, and didn’t have to rely on Government support. Of course, the earlier we can retire, the better!
4. What has been your financial journey? Did you start with a pile of debt? How have your finances progressed throughout the years?
I am a natural saver, and Mr. ETT is a natural spender (or were we both products of our environment?). Either way, we’ve always worked to make sure we aren’t in debt. We paid extra off the mortgage from the beginning, and I’ve always insisted we have 50% of a downpayment for any cars/bikes Mr. ETT wants to buy. We also never paid a cent of credit card interest. Now we’ve discovered FIRE, the goal is not to need to take out any more loans for anything. Save and pay cash, baby!
5. Do you advocate shares or property to build financial independence? Or both? Why?
I advocate for doing whatever interests you, and that you are willing to put in the effort to understand. I’ve never owned an investment property, and from a theoretical stand point, I know I am not interested. However, I still feel that strange emotional Australian pull towards it. I may end up sating that with a REIT at some stage.
6. What is your personal investing strategy? Have you ever changed or reconsidered your strategy? Why?
We are just beginning to invest and after reading a whole bunch of PF blogs for over a year, then doing my own research, I have started with a Vanguard fund. That will be our core investment going forward, however it is a little bit set and forget. I have plans to do some satellite investing as well (maybe REITs, maybe shares, maybe peer-to-peer lending, or another new innovation that appears). This will keep me learning and interested, and add a bit more diversification to our portfolio.
7. What do you think the biggest challenge is for Australians seeking financial independence?
I think the field of FI in Australia is still in its infancy, so it’s a challenge to be taken seriously. That’s why we congregate online. Also, the products available in Australia are immature compared to those offered in the US – even Vanguard is behind the times.
8. Who has inspired you the most in your journey toward financial independence?
Yet another first-time confession: I’ve never read MMM, pretty much for the same reason that I’m not into the Marvel/DC universe comics. I like to start new things from the beginning, and when that beginning stretches back into time and would take more of my life to catch up on than I’m willing to give, I look for alternatives. I don’t think I have one single inspiration – I take ideas from a lot of bloggers out there. That’s the beauty of having a community of bloggers – you can take what is relevant to your life at a particular time. Maybe later, someone or something else becomes inspiring. I do love having a core group of Aussie bloggers, though.
9. Which do you think is more powerful: frugality or higher earnings? Why?
In theory, there is a limit to the amount of money you can save by being frugal, whereas the sky is the limit when it comes to earnings. Practically, though, I think it takes a special type of person to be able to realise unlimited earnings. I know it can be done, but if it was that easy, then we’d all be millionaires. So, the most powerful strategy is one that you are capable of realising.
10. Has there been anything about becoming a blogger that you didn’t expect (good or bad)?
How much time it would take up, because I really enjoy both the writing and the management! I know I could be doing a lot more with my blog, but I think I’ve struck the right balance for me at this point in time.
A second unexpected benefit has been improving my communication with Mr. ETT about money and our future plans. Like many couples, we never sat down to specifically talk about money and our future. When I write a blog post, I ask Mr. ETT to read it first. This opens opportunities for conversation (and occasionally some pre-publish edits!). We even sat down for a series of money meetings when we were first planning to invest. That would never have occurred without blogging.
11. What do you plan to do in retirement (whether early or on time)?
This is something we are only just beginning to formulate. We know we want to travel, both overseas, in Australia, and on day trips. I also want to volunteer, and study in some capacity. Mr. ETT would like to do more acting, and possible voice-over work (he is excellent with accents, and a trained actor). We are looking forward to just having the time to deal with all of the day-to-day life stuff, without trying to squeeze it in on the same days as everyone else.
12. What’s your biggest splurge?
Mr. ETT: Motorbike! No, tech! No, expensive clothes/boots/jackets! (OK, I’m being a bit facetious, but Mr. ETT has expensive tastes). For a long time, I made jewellery, so my biggest splurge was sterling silver and handmade lampwork beads. I’m choosing to use my time in other ways at the moment, so really my biggest splurges are books/comics from Humble Bundle.
13. How do you think the Australian financial blogger community can grow? Do you think something like Fincon is viable over here?
I think we grow by getting to know and trust each other, encouraging each other, and sharing each other’s stories and content (hey, AwP, I see what you did there!). If we can establish a friendly space where others who may be hesitant feel safe and welcomed, then why wouldn’t people from all walks of life want to join?
Right now, I feel that we may still be too small for Fincon, however I think we are probably a perfect size to replicate what Huw from Financially Free by Forty is doing in the UK with his FIRE Escapes. Mr. ETT and I are planning on visiting the UK in 2018, and would love to time it with one of Huw’s get-togethers.
14. Do people in your real life know about your blog? If so, what do they think? If not, why not?
No. At the moment, we are an anonymous blog, which I am finding more and more difficult the longer we go on. When we first started, I wasn’t sure how much financial information would be published, or whether I would end up being critical about work/family/friends etc. I think I’ve managed to keep things fairly neutral, though. I’m warming to the idea of sharing it with family. Maybe one day. We have been talking a little about our plans to family, friends and sometimes strangers, which may open the way for disclosure…
15. What’s your number one piece of advice for those interested in financial independence?
Just start. You can’t know everything first. Get yourself a solid grounding but don’t put it off until you become an expert. Learn by doing, just minimise your risks along the way.
Thanks so much for being our next interviewee Mrs. ETT! We look forward to sharing more interviews with you soon!
Do you like the idea of an interview series? Who are your favourite Australian personal finance bloggers?
Loved reading more about Mrs and Mr ETT! Jewellery making? Acting? Who knew! I feel the same way as you about FIRE – it’s not really my goal, I just want to be comfortable. I also just re-read AwP’s Vanguard story from last year – even better the second time around.
Sometimes I focus so much on money and frugality, it’s easy to forget there’s more to our lives. It’s tricky knowing how much to give away, yet still retain some form of anonymity. Glad you enjoyed it, Miss Money Box, thanks!
Great interview Mrs ETT. I have to confess too I have never read MMM. What kind of FIRE blogger am I?!
I know, Cath. It’s like a shameful secret! Glad to have found a fellow non-MMM blogger.
So nice to get a little history of yours Mrs ETT. It is interesting the Aussie pull to own a home and then have an investment property or two. It scares me a little just thinking about it with the property market the way it is. To think in a decade or so $1mln for a home won’t be anything much, even outside of Sydney and Melbourne!
It really doesn’t make sense to me WFT, and yet I can’t shake it. I was bought up believing that you bought your own home. TBH, it’s done us well. I just have to exercise brain over heart when investing.
And yes, a million bucks?! We used to say that in relation to the lotto, it was an unimaginable amount. Soon, as you say, it will be like – you won the lotto. Congrats, here’s a boring suburban house!
Great to get to know you both a little more. It is so much more interesting and easier to relate to blogs when you know a bit about the ‘real’ people behind them
I think it is great you were always good at saving and paying off your mortgage before you even knew about FIRE – you are in such a good position because of those natural habits.
How amazing that looking for that new goal and starting the blog has improved your communication as well.
Thanks, Miss B. I agree – I love learning more about the real people behind the words. When you find similarities, it becomes easier to believe, ‘if they can do it, why can’t I?’
It’s great to know some other details about you guys that you wouldn’t have published on your blog. It’s always nice to see where everyone’s coming from – how different or similar our experiences and plans are. 🙂 The thing I love the most about you guys is your honesty. You know what you want but you also know where you stand. You try your best but you never push way too hard to the point that you sacrifice the things that you value. ‘Retiring early even if it’s only a week earlier’ – this is my favourite. Keep it up and good luck!
Thanks J. You know what? In my heart, I want it all. I want all the time, to have saved up enough to FIRE, and to travel and volunteer and learn. Luckily, I’m pretty logical so my brain steps in and lets me know what we can get done with what we’re willing to (not) do.
The comment about retiring even a week earlier without relying on the Government? I just re-read it, and that is an absolute for me. If we lost everything tomorrow, I would do whatever it takes to still reach that goal.