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: Tom from Remember to Water.
- Tell us a little bit about yourself.
Age: Mid to late 30’s
Job: I work as an operational risk advisor for a large financial institution
Background: I have lived in Australia for all my life, as has my partner. We both enjoy finance and both work in finance.
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 have always enjoyed writing, and have started a couple of other blogs before. This one was sort of heading along the same trajectory (i.e.: death) until I decided to give it a real go. I wish there was a specific thing that made me move from “give it time when I can” to making a choice to put time into it, but there wasn’t any one moment.
3. What are your financial goals? Are you aiming for FIRE or something else?
I would love to have enough passive income to pay all my bills to allow me to consider alternative (hopefully more enjoyable) work. I don’t hate my job, but there are definitely aspects I would be happy to remove. If basic needs are taken care of, there is less pressure on the finance side of things. Whether that is a good thing for any endeavours or not is another question, as having some pressure to make money could be a very good and motivating thing.
4. What has been your financial journey? Did you start with a pile of debt? How have your finances progressed throughout the years?
I have always enjoyed saving and having the ability to do what I wanted without money being a restriction. My parents taught me to save and I have been saving and investing (and learning along the way) ever since. The only real debt I have ever had was my mortgage, which has been paid off for a couple of years now. The GFC was probably a bit of a defining moment in my financial journey, as it was just before then that I decided to move a much larger portion of my savings into the sharemarket. I learnt some good lessons from that, even though they were expensive.
5. Do you advocate shares or property to build financial independence? Or both? Why?
Both, and more. Diversification means you may never hit it out of the park, but also means you should never find yourself lying in a gutter. If you can’t afford to diversify in the sharemarket directly you don’t get a discount (or bonus) for taking more risk. That is why things like managed funds, listed investment companies, and index funds exist. Thankfully the same is starting to be true for more direct property investment (in addition to listed property trusts like BWP Trust). I am also a fan of bonds, and wish we had a more established peer to peer lending landscape, as none of the current players in the Australian market tick my boxes.
6. What is your personal investing strategy? Have you ever changed or reconsidered your strategy? Why?
A few things:
- save more than I spend
- put as much as I can into super
- create a large pile of money/savings
- use that pile of money to buy shares, bonds, p2p lending, investment property (one day) to increase my return (and risk)
7. What do you think the biggest challenge is for Australians seeking financial independence?
This is a good question.
- In general for all Australians, I think I would have to say themselves. Most people put money, finance, saving and investing at a lower priority than need to for what I consider minimal financial independence.
- For those who have put the idea of financial independence toward the top of the priority list, I think the biggest challenge is the cost of housing/a mortgage. A primary residence is a place people want to enjoy. However it is also typically people’s largest asset. Unfortunately it is a non-income producing asset. So people need to decide whether they put their money into their loan and try to pay it off faster, or into other investments. I am sure many people will have their own biggest challenges, but I know that this was mine (and a number of friends).
8. Who has inspired you the most in your journey toward financial independence?
I think it would have to be my partner. Again there was no one big BOOM moment, but constantly being there and willing/wanting to talk finances makes a huge difference whenever things get hard.
9. Which do you think is more powerful: frugality or higher earnings? Why?
Higher earnings. You can only frugal your way down to spending $0, but you can earn your way up as high as your ability will take you. If you are earning $100k then you can frugal your way up to a maximum of $100k in savings. If you earn more you can earn your way well past $200k. In reality however, they both work hand in hand.
10. Has there been anything about becoming a blogger that you didn’t expect (good or bad)?
The fact that three skills are required, not just two. Firstly you need to have an interest in finances. Secondly you need to have an ability to write. Both of those two were skills I already had well enough (although I am sure my writing could use some work). The third skill required for what I wanted, was the ability to drive traffic to my site and monetise it (I hope to one day earn enough from the site to pay for the hosting). At the moment I am failing at number three.
11. What do you plan to do in retirement (whether early or on time)?
I am not entirely sure, but mostly the fun parts of work. Having the ability to work on things I believe are fun or beneficial over what is financially best.
12. What’s your biggest splurge?
Probably my home office. It is definitely more of a want than a need, and we could easily change the type of house we need.
13. How do you think the Australian financial blogger community can grow? Do you think something like Fincon is viable over here?
Not an overly dramatic answer, but step by step. People who are interested will find it and join in to the degree they are comfortable. Making it more easily accessible to young people is also a good step, but that takes it more into the education realm than finance blogging.
14. Do people in your real life know about your blog? If so, what do they think? If not, why not?
Only my close family and friends know. I want to keep my work life and my blog seperate. My employer has very strict guidelines around what can be said publicly by employees, so if I am not able to be identified as an employee then I do not need to worry about breaching those guidelines.
15. What’s your number one piece of advice for those interested in financial independence?
Take small steps, but keep taking them. You will get further and learn more with many small steps than a giant leap, and a thousand small steps will get you further than any single leap will.
Thanks so much for being our next interviewee Tom! 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?
Great to e-meet you through your interview, Tom! I particularly liked your line. “Diversification means you may never hit it out of the park, but also means you should never find yourself lying in a gutter.”
I agree that Australians don’t give enough priority to their finances. It is great that we have the superannuation scheme, though I suspect too many people rely too heavily on it, thinking that they’ll be fine with only that in place. Not so for many people with inadequate balances, especially from career breaks! I hope that we in the Australian finance blogging community can help get the word out about ways to ensure a good retirement (at any age) beyond merely using superannuation.