The Australian Blogger Interview Series: FIRE by Thirty-Five

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: Lady FIRE from FIRE by Thirty-Five.

  1. Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I’m 26 years old and currently working for one of the Big 4 banks as a Web Developer / User Experience Expert / Wannabe project manager. My team are pretty awesome but my office doesn’t have any windows which really bites.

I grew up in a pretty average nuclear family, 2 parents, brother and a dog. We had a nice 3 bedroom home on a 1/4 acre block. Dad tried unsuccessfully to invest and mum was the type to bring home new clothes every week (at least they were on sale). We holidayed as a family a couple of times, but never left the country.

I think we were a pretty typical middle class family. Enough spare money to invest but somehow we never got ahead. I never thought we had much lifestyle inflation, but looking back we always kept up with tech trends, and dinners got fancier as I got older so I guess we must have succumbed a little bit.

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 kicked off FIRE by Thirty-Five in December 2013. Mr. FIRE was away on a mountain-biking trip and I was home alone. I remember listening to “Sing me to Sleep” (The Emily Browning cover from Suckerpunch) and being filled with this deep gut-wrenching dread. I’d been talking about FIRE for a couple of years and reading the big blogs (starting with MMM as so many people do).

Between the depressing music, feeling like I was running in place on the FIRE treadmill and seeing Gwen from Fiery Millennials writing about how much blogging helped her, I decided to take the plunge. I’d blogged before about board games so I simply kicked off a name domain with a new screen name from the same ol’ platform (Blogger).

3. What are your financial goals? Are you aiming for FIRE or something else?

Absolutely aiming for FIRE!

When I started investing it was simply because I was young and had spare money. I figured investing would lead to having one of those rich snob high flying lifestyles and no money concerns.

Then in 2014 my father retired. He had held down the same job for 30+ years. Some of his co-workers he had known since his late 20’s. During his  short retirement I watched his mental health crumble. After working for so long he didn’t know how to exist without that routine. Barely 3 months after he retired he lost his fight with depression.

I’m not saying that retirement killed him, but he was so institutionalised to the Rat Race and 9 to 5 life that he couldn’t live outside it. I firmly believe that if he was still going to work every day and interacting with his co-workers things might have been different.

I want to get out of the Rat Race before it consumes me, before my entire identity is wrapped up in who I am as an employee and my self-worth is defined by being a breadwinner.

4. What has been your financial journey? Did you start with a pile of debt? How have your finances progressed throughout the years?

Since HECS debts only rise with inflation I don’t consider it a debt that I need to pay attention to unless the laws change. Similarly with the current low rates on mortgages I actually pull money out of my mortgage to invest.

While I don’t judge people for getting into debt, I get crazy frustrated at people who have realised their debt is bad but remain blasé about paying it off.

5. Do you advocate shares or property to build financial independence? Or both? Why?

Both! I love real estate because you can borrow from the banks, leverage your investment and essentially use other peoples money to invest. But the lack of diversity in it scares me, every time Queensland has a storm I panic and check flood maps to see if my investment is literally underwater. It hasn’t happened yet, fingers crossed, knock on wood.

I’m also massively in love with shares and peer-to-peer lending because of the diversity, and because you can automate your investment. It takes months of planning and researching to buy property, but throwing more money into my Vanguard accounts takes me about 15 minutes – and that includes looking up the current price, it’s trend, and checking 3 of my own spreadsheets. On top of that I have automated investments set up that build up my accounts without me looking – I’m really lazy so this suits me just fine!

Yes… Lady FIRE is a crazy chicken lady.

6. What is your personal investing strategy? Have you ever changed or reconsidered your strategy? Why?

I chop and change my strategy all the time. I always read the PDS (I know, it’s boring, but so important) and make sure I have a decent understanding of what I’m getting into. Since blogging I try and make sure I understand something well enough to post about it before I invest.

And then I automate everything I can.

Importantly – let your emotions get involved in your investing! If you think an investment is boring you won’t pay attention to it. If you hate apartments you won’t be a good landlord because you’ll undervalue yourself. Don’t let your emotions rule your investments (Puppies? I love puppies! Can I invest in puppies?) but you need to have a little bit of love and passion for what you invest in – otherwise it becomes a chore that you’ll try and avoid.

7. What do you think the biggest challenge is for Australians seeking financial independence?

First – I swear it’s expensive down here! How can Mr. FIRE and I spend close to $400 on food in a month, but Mr. Tako is spending barely $500 on everything and he’s got kids! And our housing prices are crazy – Gwen from Fiery Millennials bought a 3-family house for $100k, but I spent $340k on my tiny 2-bedder.

On top of that though, I think our biggest issue is a lack of resources. Most of the high reputation FIRE blogs are American and our financial system doesn’t match theirs. They have 401ks, we have superannuation, but we can’t get our super out early. There is no Australian Mad FIentist or Go Curry Cracker! telling me how to hack my tax returns.

8. Who has inspired you the most in your journey toward financial independence?

Well, my Dad’s experience is definitely the stick chasing me out of work. That ‘carrot’ drawing me forward is harder to define. I want to say ‘every FI blogger ever’ – they all have different inspirational pieces of the puzzle. MMM builds things, Mr. 1500 talks about beer, Mr. Crazy Kicks surfs and has hens, the Go Curry Cracker family travels, Mr Tako cooks the most amazing looking Japanese food… Inspiration everywhere!

9. Which do you think is more powerful: frugality or higher earnings? Why?

Frugality – because maths. If I spend $1 less, then I need $25 less invested to retire based on the 4% rule. Whereas if I was to figure out a way to earn $1 extra, I’d need to save the dollar for 25 years (ignoring interest) to get the same effect.

But like every other question you’ve asked me – why can’t we have both!

10. Has there been anything about becoming a blogger that you didn’t expect (good or bad)?

I honestly thought other bloggers would be kind of competitive, and maybe a bit annoyed there was another interloper on their turf, but it’s been the complete opposite. Everyone is super lovely and welcoming, people share tips on blogging and have blog-share groups where they promote each other. It’s wonderful.

I am still waiting for my first grouchy comment / tweet though. That will be fun when it happens.

11. What do you plan to do in retirement (whether early or on time)?

Everything! I want to start by travelling to cheaper countries like Thailand, Ecuador, parts of India, skip over to South America and attend a dies de los muertos festival, see the Mesoamerican pyramids, eat street food… everything! I figured if I spend a few years travelling cheap places I can pull less out of the nest egg in the first few years and let it grow.

After that I want to settle on a big block of land – probably back in Australia but I’m not locking that down – so I can have chickens, ducks, cows, big fluffy dogs, maybe some goats and grow a giant garden. I want to make my own beer and mead, get back into archery and build a rock climbing wall. Mr. FIRE wants to carve out his own mountain biking trails, build a half pipe and skate bowl and a giant foam pit for doing backflips off a bike. We’ll probably unofficially fund our retirement by charging a fiver just to visit our insanely amazing house, haha.

12. What’s your biggest splurge?

Roller Derby! I hand wrote these interview responses during a whirlwind 2-day trip to Queensland to bench for my team, and I flew out again 3 weeks later for another 5 day stint. Aside from the travel derby costs a lot for basic membership dues, safety gear, wheels and very important things like beers at the after party.

It’s my biggest money suck and I could easily save an extra $1,500 – $2,000 a year if I didn’t do it, but FIRE isn’t about stripping all the joy out of your life just to get to the finish line. It’s a crazy long journey and we need to enjoy every step of it.

13. How do you think the Australian financial blogger community can grow? Do you think something like Fincon is viable over here?

I didn’t think we had anyone till I started blogging, but there are lots of us over here. We could totally pull off a FinCon, we just need an organiser (Looking at you AWP 😉 ). We have a huge population and a lot of disenchanted people who feel like saving is impossible, so there is plenty of space for growth.

14. Do people in your real life know about your blog? If so, what do they think? If not, why not?

I hope not! A couple of weeks ago I accidentally posted to my personal Facebook as my blogger persona though – still waiting to see if anything comes of that. The post was up for about half an hour.

The other reasons is that I’m straight out tired of the judgement. When I was in Queensland I pulled out $140 in cash to pay for a taxi (Everyone paid their share once we piled out) and there were scoffs and gasps from everyone saying ‘jeez you’re loaded’ – not really, I just pulled out some cash because we were away for the weekend. Adding that reaction to the number of times I’ve snidely been called cheap and I have no desire to wave my blog in front of my friends and family.

I’m okay with them finding the blog – because it means that they’re open to the ideas of savings and budgeting for a crazy big goal. I just don’t want to risk my relationships trying to break down those barriers. I’ll talk money with anyone who wants to listen, but I’m not forcing it on them.

15. What’s your number one piece of advice for those interested in financial independence?

Start today, practice patience, don’t give up. Celebrate each milestone because this is a crazy long journey. Enjoy the journey because you’re going to be on it for years. There will be days when the finish line looks too far away and you’re ready to give up, so make sure to pat yourself on the back and stay aware of how far you’ve come.

And if you do change you’re mind, that’s okay. Life happens to all of us, and while at 25 you might want Financial Independence, 30 year old you might have discovered a career that you love and could never imagine leaving. Stay flexible. If you do step off the rails, your investments will keep growing without you, so you can always come back.

Thanks so much for being our next interviewee Lady FIRE! 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? 



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2 Responses to The Australian Blogger Interview Series: FIRE by Thirty-Five

  1. I SO agree with the comment that life is expensive here!
    When I still had my first mortgage I’d listen to the Ramsey podcast for motivation and the houses that people were paying off were so darned cheap! I paid 750K for my house and it’s definitely no palace – (even though I call it The Best House in Melbourne on my blog.)
    I’m so sorry to hear about your father – that would be a huge motivation to get off the hamster wheel for sure.

    • LadyFIRE says:

      Life in Australia has a lot of upsides, but housing prices aren’t one of them (or maybe they are.. well, they’re ‘up’ at least)

      Thanks for the kind words. It’s a pretty significant event and years later it’s hard to think about and share.

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