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: J from Hey, It’s Just Money.
- Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I’m in my mid-30’s and I used to work in the financial industry until I moved here about 10 years ago. I still work in a related field but at least I no longer work from 9-9, I now go home at 5! Ha! I’m originally from Asia but I now call Melbourne home.
2. How did you get into blogging about personal finance? Was there someone (another blogger perhaps) or something that inspired you to start blogging?
One bored day in 2014, I stumbled upon Michelle’s blog, Making Sense of Cents. I’ve always been a blogger but I never knew personal finance blogging was a thing. I was fascinated and was immediately hooked. At that time, I was in the middle of organising my finances – it was a transition period, when I went from sharing what I earned to suddenly having everything to myself. I wanted to make sure I use all of it the right way. Like most people in this community, I wanted to be accountable and at the same time, I wanted to connect with like-minded people.
3. What are your financial goals? Are you aiming for FIRE or something else?
I chose the blog name Hey, It’s Just Money not because I don’t care about money but because I used to worry about it all the time. I thought if I see this phrase all the time, I will be constantly reminded and my mindset will eventually change. My ultimate priority has always been reducing financial (and overall) stress. I wanted to organise my finances in a way that I will have enough to not worry about falling short when something unplanned for happens. Although I have other financial goals, this remains the primary one.
4. What has been your financial journey? Did you start with a pile of debt? How have your finances progressed throughout the years?
My money story is a bit different from the majority. I never had commercial or student debts. I also wouldn’t say I struggled growing up, but my family had some financial issues that started during my teenage years. You can read about it here.
This issue has affected me financially and mentally (refer to #3), but things are a lot better now. My personal finances have improved constantly through the years and I also worry a lot less about money.
5. Do you advocate shares or property to build financial independence? Or both? Why?
If family or friends ask me, I’d recommend shares first because that’s what I have experience with. I like investing in share because you don’t need a lot of capital to begin with. You can start with $500, or less, with platforms like Acorns. There is no maintenance work to do, except maybe for research, which can be a lot to take in sometimes.
I honestly never though about houses – for myself or as an investment – because I moved around a lot since I was 16. This was true until I met my boyfriend because he’s always wanted one. We know people who went down the property investment path and were successful, so we started looking into this option as well. We see the pros of owning a property and making passive income off it, but we don’t have the experience to talk about it and promote it to others.
6. What is your personal investing strategy? Have you ever changed or reconsidered your strategy? Why?
When I started investing, I bought LIC and ETF shares. That was my strategy until last August, when we decided to update it. We opened a Vanguard retail fund after discussing how it might be easier to maintain and keep up with even though it costs a bit more in terms of management fees. We also bought a couple of defensive shares on top of our existing holdings. Our plan is to top up the retail fund every pay day (fortnight) and to buy more shares quarterly. We’ll reinvest all dividends when DRP is available. We also put some money in on Ratesetter as an experiment. We’re going to reinvest all earnings there but we haven’t discussed the additional investment bit of it.
7. What do you think the biggest challenge is for Australians seeking financial independence?
Our high cost of living. My boyfriend even jokes about moving to America so we can have nice things that aren’t too expensive.
8. Who has inspired you the most in your journey toward financial independence?
There is no one in my family who has retired early but my grandma did pretty well with her finances. She worked until she was able even though she didn’t have to, but by the time she retired, she’s already been around the world and has helped so many people, financially and otherwise. She also has a good chunk of retirement fund and is now living comfortably back home without worrying about money.
9. Which do you think is more powerful: frugality or higher earnings? Why?
Frugality first and then higher earnings. I know that others say that there is no limit for higher earnings while in frugality, you can only cut out as much in expenses, but I believe you have to start with training yourself to be frugal and develop that habit. Higher earnings will mean nothing if you succumb to lifestyle inflation and if you can’t control your spending.
10. Has there been anything about becoming a blogger that you didn’t expect (good or bad)?
I always write about this and I will be forever grateful for it – the support of the community is really something. I didn’t expect strangers to be cheering me on throughout this journey. I didn’t only gain readers, I gained friends.
On the downside, it’s burnout. When I first started, I posted weekly and tried to keep up with that pace, while doing a hundred other things on the side. Eventually, it was no longer fun for me and I thought about quitting a few times. I stepped away for a bit and realised I started writing for the readers rather than for myself. Luckily, I was able to regroup and I’m having fun again!
11. What do you plan to do in retirement (whether early or on time)?
Chase waterfalls! Seriously. We like waterfalls and we usually plan our road trips around them. We also want to visit as many National Parks as we can around Australia. I guess, like other PF bloggers, we want to travel and also do social work. Of course, there’s fishing and knitting, too!
12. What’s your biggest splurge?
Probably my car. I bought one before I started dating my boyfriend (it’s with my brother now). We also bought a new TV this year, after our old, pre-loved one died.
13. How do you think the Australian financial blogger community can grow? Do you think something like Fincon is viable over here?
Continue connecting to other bloggers and support new ones. Promoting other bloggers like what you’re doing in this series is a great idea, too. Thanks for doing this! I’m not sure if we’re ready for Fincon yet, but I think a few groups are already doing meetups, which will probably lead to something bigger in the future.
14. Do people in your real life know about your blog? If so, what do they think? If not, why not?
My boyfriend, my brothers and a few friends know about it. They are indifferent about it. My boyfriend is supportive and he’s happy that I connect with other people who like to talk money. I don’t think any of them read it. My brothers and my friends don’t like talking about money and the few times I encouraged them, they weren’t keen, so that’s that.
15. What’s your number one piece of advice for those interested in financial independence?
Set your priorities and remember them. If you know the term financial independence, I assume you’ve already read through thousands of posts on how to save money and side hustles and investing. These things are easy to learn and practice but in this journey, it’s also easy to get distracted — especially if you’re rolling in the savings and see that you have more extra money than you’ve ever had. The temptation to be swayed and do something else will always be there. Be patient and always remember your why.
Thanks so much for being our next interviewee J! 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?
Love the answer to question 9!
Couldn’t agree more.
Sounds like you’ve had a similar path to me in arriving at your current investment strategy in question #6. I started out picking individual shares nearly a decade ago, then bought into LICs and later Vanguard ETFs on the Australian share market. As of the last six months, I am investing any new money into a Vanguard retail index fund – Vanguard Diversified High Growth Index Fund, to be specific. I love being able to Bpay small amounts ($100+) on a regular basis and take advantage of dollar cost averaging, reducing temptation to time the market buying ETFs myself and needing to wait to have accumulated larger savings before buying (to reduce the brokerage fee costs). I’m all about keeping things as simple as possible these days, to focus on life and fun instead!
I can relate to burnout as a downside to blogging. I was overwhelmed with everything I had to learn to start blogging; add to that a stressful full time job … but you are right in that the online personal finance community is so wonderfully supportive. All the best!