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: Kara from The Flawed Consumer.
- Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I’m 32, married, with 2 fur kids and live in Brisbane. I have an environmental science and law background and work in the environmental conservation space. I moved to Brisbane seven years ago from the country for work. Whilst I am now happy in the city, ultimately I’d love to get back to the country at some stage for the open space, peace and quiet.
[AWP Note: Since we did this interview, the Flawed Consumer and her wife have welcomed their first child! Congratulations to them both and you can read their exciting announcement here.]
- How did you get into blogging about personal finance? Was there someone (another blogger perhaps) or something that inspired you to start blogging?
Just after my 30th birthday, I discovered Mr Money Moustache’s blog by accident and had a financial epiphany. I was so inspired by his alternative, mindful approach to life and finance that I decided to change my entire approach to finance and started blogging to track my progress, keep me motivated, and help prevent others from making the same financial mistakes I had in my 20’s.
- What are your financial goals? Are you aiming for FIRE or something else?
We have a lot of financial goals! We’re ticking them off one-by-one. However, ultimately, financial independence and the option to retire early if we want, is our overarching goal.
- What has been your financial journey? Did you start with a pile of debt? How have your finances progressed throughout the years?
Our financial clean up journey started just under two years ago. When we started we had around $15 000 in loan and credit card debt, a $500k mortgage, about $90 000 in HECs debts, minimal savings and a whole bunch of stuff.
Although this isn’t too bad in the grand scheme of debt in Australia, we were living paycheck to paycheck and had no way (other than credit) to put out any financial fires if they occurred.
Over the last two years, we’ve paid off our car loan and credit card in full, increased our savings percentage from about 5% to around 30%, and therefore increased our net wealth by about 275%.
Through our journey so far, we’ve been able to give Lifestyle Creep the flick and a live a more frugal, but fulfilled, lifestyle that includes regular travel and getaways.
- Do you advocate shares or property to build financial independence? Or both? Why?
I advocate whatever works for you! But, for myself, I’m more focused on diversified ETF portfolios and high-interest banking. We have no intention to buy any investment properties at this stage.
- What is your personal investing strategy? Have you ever changed or reconsidered your strategy? Why?
My personal investing strategy is all about diversification. Any investing I do is split between cash, bonds, Australian and international shares and spread widely across many companies within each of those options.
Whenever I’ve had people complain to me about how shares are a load of crap and waste of money, a lack of diversification has been the issue in each case.
- What do you think the biggest challenge is for Australians seeking financial independence?
Financial education. As a nation, I think we’re pretty financially illiterate. We learn bugger all about money in school… And, what we do learn has traditionally been influenced by one of the Big 4 banks. I hope now that the Royal Commission into banking has highlighted the problems with banks in our schools, that independent financial education programs become more prominent and kids can be taught about the dangers of credit from a young age.
Additionally, like any developed society, we have a “keeping up with the Jones'” problem. Our society is still quite heavily influenced by elitism in many ways. This often leads to people wanting luxury items to look and feel successful. However, these items often can’t be afforded and people end up in significant debt as a result.
- Who has inspired you the most in your journey toward financial independence?
That’s a tough question. I think I’ve been most inspired by my own childhood. A lack of money in our family and the stress it caused, has been my primary motivator for pursuing financial independence.
I have a really happy marriage and want to keep it that way. As I’ve seen the impact of financial stress on relationships during my childhood, I am motivated to do what I can to make finances not stressful for my own family.
- Which do you think is more powerful: frugality or higher earnings? Why?
Frugality hands down. You could earn $300 000 a year, but spend the lot of it. Whereas frugality, regardless of your income, will help maximise your finances.
Of course, higher earnings and frugality is the goal, as the cost of living inhibits the ability to get ahead for low income earners, despite how frugal they may be. But, from my experience, frugality is a way of life and a very effective financial management mechanism.
- Has there been anything about becoming a blogger that you didn’t expect (good or bad)?
Lot’s of things! The amount of time it takes is one bad thing… At times, I’ve worked just as many hours per week on the blog, than I have in my full-time job. I did not expect that when I started.
The unexpected good things have been how much I enjoy it and the feeling I get when I receive feedback saying that I’ve helped someone to make a change for the better.
- What do you plan to do in retirement (whether early or on time)?
Spend more quality time with those that matter most. Additionally, I want to travel, learn, grow and have time for entrepreneurial pursuits.
- What’s your biggest splurge?
Good quality craft beer and travel. We love to explore the world… We just wish it didn’t cost so much. But, we’re getting better and better at travelling for less.
- How do you think the Australian financial blogger community can grow? Do you think something like Fincon is viable over here?
I would love an Australian version of FinCon! I get so jealous of US bloggers at FinCon time. I think an Australian and NZ combined FinCon would be great. Between the two Countries, I think a convention could be viable.
In terms of how to grow the community, I’m not sure. Finances just seems to be more of a taboo topic here than it is in the US, which makes it hard for our community to grow. But, with poor wage growth, growing debt issues, etc, Australians are starting to turn to platforms such as blogs and podcasts more and more for self-help information.
I do think an Australian version of Rockstar Finance’s forums would be really helpful for connecting us all and helping us to grow as a community.
- Do people in your real life know about your blog? If so, what do they think? If not, why not?
I’ve kept it mostly anonymous and a secret from friends and family, as it just feels weird for me to be open about it as I hate drawing attention to myself. But, over time, I’ve let friends and family who I think might find it helpful know about it.
My overall intent for the blog was to help others to avoid making the same financial mistakes I did in my 20’s. So, it just didn’t seem right to keep it a secret from those I care about most who may need some help and guidance.
- What’s your number one piece of advice for those interested in financial independence?
Be your own person! So many people spend all their money on stuff that doesn’t really matter to them because they think that’s just what you do.
I refer to this a lot on my blog as the ‘mindless sheep mentality’. Rather than doing things just because society prescribes it, I encourage everyone to figure out what really matters to them in life and then channel their efforts (financial and otherwise) towards achieving that.
Thanks so much for being our next interviewee Kara! 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?