Captain FI is a frugal personal finance blogger. His own tips, tricks, experiences towards FIRE (financial independence retire early) and progress shown on his website captainfi.com 

Not too mention, an actual pilot!

We first began following Captain on our own IG account the first day we became interested in sharing our own journey. His insight into the frugal living and FIRE movement has been a big help to us in our own journey. As well as sharing advice on investing with us. We recently had the opportunity to interview him and gain some more insight to share with our readers! 

Please leave a comment below or message us if you are able to take anything away from this wonderful interview. You can also find a plethora of information on captain fi’s blog!   

Tell us a little about yourself, What is your marital status? Do you have kids/family? How did you first become interested in personal finance? How did you learn about finances and at what age did you “get it”? 

Hey there! Single bloke, 29, no kids and living in an apartment in Sydney. I have a big family that is spread out all over Australia and throughout the Asia/Pacific area, as well as Europe (UK mostly). I guess I got serious about personal finance after qualifying as a pilot and all of a sudden having disposable income. Previously I had lived very frugally so I could direct as much money into my flight training as possible – between flying and uni the tuition bill was around $340,000 to date… so I would say I ‘got it’ from a pretty young age – growing up in a large household with a single parent meant we were always very good at scrimping and ‘making ends meet’.

Despite living in one of the most expensive cities in the world, I manage an average savings rate around 80% through practicing mindfulness, minimalism, self-sufficiency and sometimes just good old fashioned discipline!

I’ve hit my ‘lean’ FIRE number, which is the amount of investments I needed to allow me to reach Financial Independence Retire and Early on a bit of a ‘tight budget’ while living the single life. However, I want to raise a big family, and my current estimate is I am only about a third of the way to reaching ‘Family’ FIRE where I can devote my time to raising a family on a farm of my own.

I’m continuing to fly, save, invest and diversify my investments in order to increase my passive income toward ‘Family’ FIRE and decrease my overall portfolio risk. I am on track to achieve this updated work optional ‘Family FIRE’ lifestyle and financial goal by 30 – but like anything – I am trying to focus on enjoying the journey rather than obsess on the destination

Sydney to FIRE

How do you think differently than the average person when it comes to money? 

I like to think about expenses in terms of passive income, time and opportunity cost, for example – if I spend this $100, that means I would need $2500 invested to cover that expense each year (4% rule), or I would have to work for about an hour. Similarly, that $100 would likely produce a return each year of around $10, or let me comfortably increase my annual spending by $4 (again, 4% rule).

I try to focus my spending on things that I enjoy, but also on ways to increase my income such as developing online business so that I can support a high savings rate and build passive income – which can be reinvested in ETFs and property to produce more passive income to finally reach a ‘fat fire’ or ‘family fire’ figure.

I also hate waste – this might be the engineer in me coming out. Why on earth would I spend $100 for a bottle of wine at a restaurant, when I can buy the same bottle for $30 at a liquor store – or why would I pay $200 for a meal when I could cook an amazing 5 course meal for two at home for a fifth of the cost? When you look at spending and enjoyment, there are just so much better ways to maximise your enjoyment than throwing your money away on overpriced services.

How has understanding money better helped you reach your financial goals? 

Absolutely. Watching the hidden secrets of money on youtube was a big eye opener about money v currency, and really reinforced the only way to get ahead in this entire ‘fake money’ game was to invest and grow passive income faster than inflation.

Being more knowledgeable in regards to personal finance, has this improved your lifestyle? Do you still live relatively frugally? 

I have always been a fairly frugal person, I just tend to value things like being outdoors, building things, gardening, riding my bike. I am fairly active.

Don’t get me wrong, I love a bottle of champagne and the odd luxury item here or there, but ‘stuff’ doesnt really bring me happiness. I value more quality time and relationships with people, and doing fun stuff getting the heart rate up and exploring the world.

What’s your best personal finance tip? 

Track your expenses in order to reduce your cost of living. You think you know where your money is going, but you don’t. No one does. That’s the pervasive trick with modern commerce. Its insidious, monthly payments lurk in the background and impulse purchases add up over time. Track your expenses and know exactly where your money is going, because that way you’re ‘plugging the holes in the leaking ship’ and you can shave your cost of living.

expense trackto FIRE

What is a recent purchase or decision you made that saved you money and how did you do it?  

I consider being frugal to include buying a high quality or luxury item that will last long, and then looking after it. It just makes good sense, economically and environmentally. For example I have worn the same pair of $900 leather boots for… nearly 10 years now. I have recently got them resoled for $200 – is it an expensive purchase – yes, however is it cheaper than buying a new pair of inferior boots each year – also yes.

Also prevents extra stuff ending up in landfill, so its all around a better idea to purchase quality and purchase once.  

What are some resources and/or strategies you use to help you better yourself financially?  Do you have any favourite money tools and resources you recommend (books, podcasts, apps etc)? 

First up, investing regularly into a broad market, low fee index fund is the strategy I use. Whilst simultaneously keeping a low cost of living so I can maximise those investments.

Secondly I spend my time productively either working on my side hustles like contract flying, reading, writing, working out or building businesses – so my hobbies tend to produce money rather than cost money.

As for tools and resources – So many to mention. First up the FIRE community – there are many awesome bloggers and podcasters like Mr Money Mustache, The MadFIentist, Aussie Firebug, Strong Money Australia and many many more.

I have written up a reading list on my blog (https://captainfi.com/best-investing-books) for anyone wanting to see what is in my library. Also trialling a few expense tracking apps and software too which are cool, but less useful for someone like me who is established on their journey – maybe better suited those just starting their journey.

I list a heap of the tools and resources I use on my blog if anyone is interested in seeing specifically what they are (https://captainfi.com/resources/)

Do you have any advice for someone just beginning their saving money journey/ FIRE journey? 

Don’t be discouraged because it feels so bloody hard when you’re starting out. Everyone can invest, and you don’t need a certain income to start – just start, even if that means using a micro investing app or just doing a $500 investment on a conventional online broker. As Charlie Munger (Warren Buffets Chum) put it – “that first $100K is a bitch!”.

You just need to start gradually building up your snowball and incrementally working on change in your life. Make a few small changes each week to improve your finances, whether that is cutting your cost of living, boosting your income by negotiating a raise or starting a side hustle, or investing money into low fee, broad market index funds. And you gradually increase your savings rate, net worth and passive income over time. Don’t compare yourself to established bloggers like me who have been working for years and years on this – we all have our individual journeys.

What has been your investment strategy/philosophy? What are the best and worst investments you’ve made? 

Currently: Index funds, regular purchase of low cost index funds and LICs. Split between A200 / VTS / VEU which is Australian, US and global (ex US) markets. I also currently hold MLT, and keep an eye out for AFI, BKI and ARG which are my personal picks for the Aussie LICs.

Previously I had a membership with the barefoot blueprint and motley fool and thought I could use them to pick stocks, which was a terrible investment. I made some outstanding returns, quadrupling some investments, but also losing a lot too.

Overall, not only did I underperform a simple market index, I wasted hundreds of my hours stressing over it, as well as with complex spreadsheets and tax accounting. Making lots of money for my brokers. Never again.

Now I just do index funds and use sharesight to manage all the accounting and I have effectively ‘bought back’ my time and peace of mind when it comes to investing.

I also started an AirBnb business before COVID and lost thousands. I also am working on a property development which is incredibly stressful. Just keep it simple, low cost index funds. If you want a property, probably don’t do a development.

What content do you like to share on Instagram and your blog most and why? 

My blog is basically documenting my journey to financial independence, where I talk about what financial decisions I am making and it’s really centred on my monthly net worth updates and choices.

I talk about decisions I make regarding spending, investing and side hustles, and increasingly I am starting to do reviews on financial products or tools that I like or use (currently like sharesight, selfwealth, ING and upbank).

I also like to share a heap of random stuff on Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/captain_fi) and Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/TheCaptainFI/).

On the social media I post updates about the blog, net worth updates and just general life updates – which typically covers what I am doing, tips and tricks on how I am saving money, whenever I make an investment what the details are – that kind of stuff.

Sometimes I post abbreviated reviews that I do on companies in the finance space – brokers, Index fund providers, specific index funds, lenders or budgeting tools. Nothing too groundbreaking or exciting. I’m finding it a really great way to connect with the community and network

FIRE

Another interview we did earlier this year!