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.
First up: Dave from Strong Money Australia.
BONUS: Dave is our first interviewee who is already retired!
- Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I’m 31 this year in March, living in Perth with my partner and our beloved British Bulldog 🙂 I’m from country Victoria, but moved to Perth when I was 18 and now happy to call Perth home. I was fortunate enough to leave work 2 years ago after reaching Financial Independence. I worked as a Forklift Driver/Storeman for most of my limited career, but never found it all that exciting!
- How did you get into blogging about personal finance? Was there someone (another blogger perhaps) or something that inspired you to start blogging?
It was actually my friend Lee. I used to tell him all the finance stuff I had learned – investing, markets, personal finance etc. and how I was going to retire super early. He encouraged me to write it down, but I dismissed the idea since it didn’t seem like I had anything new to say. But he kept pushing me and eventually I started writing notes just in case I wanted to do something with it someday. After leaving work I had quite a lot of notes written down and continued to think of more stuff all the time, so a few months later I started the blog and here we are!
- What are your financial goals? Are you aiming for FIRE or something else?
Given we’ve already hit FI, we don’t really have big financial goals these days. Our focus is to slowly sell down the rest of our property portfolio and put the proceeds into shares to fully build out our income stream. Another goal I have come up with recently is to try and increase the amount we donate to charity every year, for as long as possible. That will probably become a bigger focus as I get older and hopefully have more wealth to give with.
- What has been your financial journey? Did you start with a pile of debt? How have your finances progressed throughout the years?
No debt to start with which is a big help. I’ve always been a bit of a saver, even without trying. I started saving properly at age 19 or 20, and ramped it up from there as my income grew and I started doing overtime also. I bought my first property at age 22 and joined up with my partner around the same time who was also into property and had been a long time home owner at that stage, being quite a bit older than me. We were sold on the idea of building wealth to retire early, so we started spending less, saving more, and using the cash savings, combined with some property equity to build a portfolio.
Later on we realised we didn’t need as much wealth as we thought. Around the same time, we also had extra savings but had maxed out our borrowing capacity, so started looking at shares to invest in. Although the markets made little sense to me, investing for dividends seemed to be a much more reliable and common sense strategy. Pretty soon after it dawned on me that if our wealth was put into shares we’d have more than enough income to live a happy and simple life. After a couple of years of investing in shares and continued saving, we pulled the pin on work and started slowly selling down our properties – using some of the money to live on, pay expenses on the remaining properties and putting a bit into shares each month. A process we’ll continue until we’re 0% property and 100% shares.
- Do you advocate shares or property to build financial independence? Or both? Why?
Haha the never-ending argument. Although we chose property initially, I would recommend dividend-paying shares for those wanting Financial Independence as soon as possible. Reasons: Far simpler. No massive transaction costs. No negative cashflow. No maintenance and lumpy unexpected costs. No/little paperwork. Dividends are more reliable than capital growth. A high savings rate means you don’t need leverage to build wealth. No interest rate/debt risk. Dividends grow faster than rents over the long term. Yields are much higher after costs. Franking credits make shares extremely tax effective. Of course, I didn’t know any of this before!
- What is your personal investing strategy? Have you ever changed or reconsidered your strategy? Why?
Our strategy is best described as dividend growth investing – investing in shares for the growing income stream. This can be done using listed investment companies (LICs) or index funds. We changed our focus from property to shares for the reasons above 🙂
- What do you think the biggest challenge is for Australians seeking financial independence?
Good question. Maybe one big hurdle is realigning our priorities and tastes. Learning wants from needs. We’re so used to consuming and spending all the time and it’s hard for many to change that, although entirely possible. Learning to create an enjoyable low cost lifestyle and finding out how to be happy with less is so important. We need to appreciate how good we have it simply by taking a look around the globe and looking at history. This helps you realise you probably only need a fraction of the things in your current spending and the rest is ‘wants’.
- Who has inspired you the most in your journey toward financial independence?
I was always pretty self motivated, but in terms of what’s been the most helpful, it’s probably Mr Money Mustache. He gave me the confidence that it’s possible to live a great life on way less money than is sometimes assumed.
- Which do you think is more powerful: frugality or higher earnings? Why?
For the average Aussie, frugality, no question. The median full time salary in Australia is very generous compared to other countries. The only people I see who say earnings are more important are those who have high spending that they can’t or don’t want to reign in. If you’re on a genuinely low income (under $50k pa) then you can definitely try and get a higher paying job, but the simple fact is the frugal people are the ones who end up with more control and freedom in their lives much sooner than the rest.
- Has there been anything about becoming a blogger that you didn’t expect (good or bad)?
On the positive, the support from readers is amazing. To be honest, it’s surprising how many people enjoy the crap I write. And that positive feedback is what really fuels you to keep going. Since those people genuinely look forward to hearing what you have to say about certain topics, you don’t want to let them down.
- What do you plan to do in retirement (whether early or on time)?
It’s about a simple, healthy and enjoyable lifestyle for us. So we now spend more time outside in nature than before and keep active with walking, bike rides, weight training or gardening. I spend time on the blog – working on posts or replying to emails and comments etc. My partner has now gone back to work 2 days per week because she enjoys it, mostly for the socialising I think! We also do our best to catch up with friends when they’re not busy of course 🙂
- What’s your biggest splurge?
That’s a tough one – we do keep our spending pretty reasonable. It’s probably our house and our dog. We rent a 4 bedroom house across from a massive reserve (completely unnecessary given there’s only 2 of us!). It’s not overly expensive given it’s outer Perth but still it feels pretty luxurious. And our British Bulldog cost a small fortune to buy and the pet insurance is pretty costly, but we’ve actually claimed more than we’ve paid over 5 years since Bulldog’s are sadly notorious for problems.
- How do you think the Australian financial blogger community can grow? Do you think something like Fincon is viable over here?
I certainly hope so! I mean, how cool is it if we can help more and more people every year to realise they can get their lives back so much sooner than age 70?!
- Do people in your real life know about your blog? If so, what do they think? If not, why not?
Yeah they do. My friends enjoy it (I think) – possibly because it means I rant to them less about how much money and therefore years of freedom people piss away!
- What’s your number one piece of advice for those interested in financial independence?
Keep reading whatever blogs resonate with you the most, and keep questioning how much you really need for FI. You may be surprised how little you need to live a satisfying life. The more you want to spend in retirement, the longer you’ll be stuck at work to pay for those future expenses. Get your life back as soon as possible. Then you can approach your life from a position of strength – live a healthy low stress lifestyle, have unlimited free time and find activities, hobbies or work that you love.
Thanks so much for being our next interviewee Dave! 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?