Tell us a little about yourself, kids/family? What made you first become interested in financial Independence?
Hey, I’m Matt of Finding Fi Australia. My wife and I are 29, have been married 6 years, and live in Melbourne’s outer south eastern suburbs.
We love our place, it’s a little town house we have moved in to about 3 years ago, it is surrounded by plenty of park land, is close to schools, shops and not far from public transport. Also, we were lucky enough to buy it and moved out here from the eastern suburbs because property is so damn expensive in Melbourne and it is close to my wife work.
We have 1 beautiful little girl, now 2 years old, who is growing up fast and is full of energy.
A bit About Me
A little titbit about me, when I was younger, I would have said all runners were crazy, and would tell people so if they asked if I run. I always figured ‘why go out running around in circles when it is much more fun playing an actual sport’. However, having grown up a little and having picked up an office job. Sitting around on my butt all day is my norm, so these days I can’t wait to get out and go jogging a few times a week.
I love playing with my daughter who is at the moment a real daddy’s girl, much to my wife’s chagrin. Reading is another pass time of mine, and whenever there is a break, I can be found flipping through something or other on my phone.
When it comes to investing, I have always been interested. Even when young business is something that attracted my attention. My parents tell me I used to say I was going to start a business when I grew up when someone asked what I wanted to be. Though I don’t own a business of my own, I do own plenty of shares in businesses nowadays so I suppose I have partly fulfilled that dream. My first direct exposure to investing was when my grandfather gifted me a small bundle of Telstra shares at age 18.
I was incredibly excited when I started getting small dividend cheques every 6 months. Though I was pretty broke during my early 20s, having moved out of home pretty only a few months after my 20th birthday I still invested when I could, buying individual stocks at the time with no real rhyme or reason to the purchases. Largely my decisions were based on price movement, and I made a few mistakes. It wasn’t until I was married and had started thinking of buying a house and starting a family that I started thinking considering my reasons for investing beyond, ‘I want more money!’.
Where It Began
The Barefoot investor was the first personal finance book I read, and as with many Aussies, and the compound interest table he includes showing an investor age 15 investing $5,000 a year to age 25 to retirement is better off than an investor investing $5,000 investing $5,000 a year from age 25 all the way to retirement had me hooked. Ever since I have been devouring as much personal finance material as I can get my hands on, and am in fact currently studying to change my profession from Insurance Broker to Financial Planner.
How do you think differently than the average person when it comes to FI?
I think I differ from the average person when it comes to finance rather than the FI crowd, when I say that my passion isn’t particularly in stock picking, determining the best performing assets, or ‘getting rich’. Instead, I love the planning, and figuring out a method to reach a set financial goal.
Need a $1,000,000 to retire and have an income of $3,000 a month, well let’s work out how to confidently make that goal a reality.
I am less interested in the thrill ride of stock picking or crypto investing, though am tempted by the thought of meteoric returns. However, the thrill is offset for me by the chance that I ruin, or delaying my journey to financial independence.
How has understanding money better helped you reach your financial goals? What values are most important to you financially?
Changing my understanding of what money is has helped my shape my financial goals. I used to think of money as being a good in itself, were I traded my money for goods or service. Instead, I have learned that money is a representation of value. The Money itself is not important, it is the value that Money can provide in life that is important.
With this this understanding I came to the conclusion that when I work I am not trading my time for money, I am trading my time for the reward of my choice. This change in mindset helped me think constructively about the goals for my money. If I don’t actively select what I am trading my money for then what am I working for in the first place other than survival.
Coming to understand this helped by figure out what I care about, and consider the true cost of creating a life full of things I value.
At the end of the day equating money to the time it frees up for me is an important consideration for me.
Being more knowledgeable in regards to FI, has this improved your lifestyle?
Our lifestyle has become more frugal as a result of learning about FI, however despite becoming more frugal our contentment with life has improved. The change in mindset required to aim for financial independence breads a greater sense of contentment in life I think. When you try and cut back your expenses and go from spending on things that will make you momentarily happy to deliberately spending on things you value, life becomes shaped by the things that are most important to you, or at least that has been my experience.
Overall being content with less and enjoying the little things in life leads to I think a higher level of happiness, as compared to consumeristic culture where you end up running from one high to the next as you purchase more and more stuff for fleeting enjoyment.
What’s your best frugal living tip?
My best frugal living tip is pretty generic, but it is such an important principle it is worth repeating as often as possible.
Pay Yourself First
After we get paid the first thing, we do is put money aside to be invested. We take that money out of contention for spending on other things. That means we have to live on what we have left. We do have a number of ways that we save money however.
I work in the city, and so I catch the train (though work from home arrangements in lockdown have cut down even more on our travel expenses). I cut my own hair, we cook are own meals and we don’t go chasing after brand goods. Those sorts of decisions add up, but we make it easier on ourselves to make those sensible decisions by first putting money away for our future.
What is a recent purchase or decision you made that saved you money and how did you do it?
In the last few months, I put some dedicated time aside to review our Gas and Electricity bills. An interesting service I think, as the product you receive when it comes to gas and electricity is exactly the same no matter which provider is used. We are lucky in Australia that we don’t worry a great deal about power outages or gas shortages, so we can select whether provider we like. So I ran the numbers and determined that our switch from Energy Australia to Tango Energy for Electricity and Red Energy for gas would save us a couple of hundred dollars a year. Plus, there is the benefit that Red Energy is Australian Owned, supporting local business, and Tango Energy is relatively future focused when it comes to renewable energy.
What are some resources and/or strategies you use to help you better yourself financially? Do you have any favourite tools or resources you recommend (books, podcasts, apps)?
I have so many different FI books, podcasts and blogs that I love. I would first note that I find it important to keep reading and learning, because it helps me reinforce my understanding and refocus my attention on what is important.
A few books I particularly love are; Your Money or Your Life and The Little Book of Common-Sense Investing. Podcasts I love include: Rask Australia’s ‘The Australian Finance Podcast’ and FI/RE & Chill with Pat and Dave, both great.
Also if you are looking for an ASX Broker, I can’t go past Pearler, they are on the same page as those of us looking for Financial Independence and have some great calculators to go along with their chess sponsored shares, free ETF brokerage, and cheap general brokerage fees.
Do you have any advice for someone just beginning their FIRE journey?
I’ll go with don’t get ahead of yourself, the excitement I felt when I first started aiming for FIRE was very high, and I rushed to set things up. I’d pick a broker, then switch to a new one as soon as I found something better. I also started buying shares in various companies, before finding ETFs and LICS, then I bought random amounts of those until I learned about diversification. It is good to get started, and I wouldn’t recommend waiting with money on the sidelines. What I would suggest is choosing a strategy, and sticking with it for a while before you jump to something new, as the transaction costs can eat up the progress you make.
“The greatest enemy of a good plan is the dream of a perfect plan.” Stick to the good plan”.John Bogle
Also and importantly I think, the first thing to do will always be to pay off high interest debt if you have it, rather than to start investing. It is next to impossible to expect higher returns in the stock market, or in property than you can expect to see by paying down a 16% or higher credit card fee.
What content do you like to share on Instagram most and why?
I like sharing thought triggering content most of all. Things like the underlying premise of the 4% rule, and the pros and cons of paying a mortgage vs investing, or the impact of investor behaviours on investor results. An investing journey will be unique to each individual, and I think it is helpful to understand the various options and opinions out there, with a focus on the facts so a well-rounded opinion can be formed.
Share with us a story from your FIRE journey so far
Admittedly I have been a little stumped by this question. Not much jumps out to me as an exciting story to tell. So I’ll give a brief overview of the progress. We have been aiming for FI for maybe 4 years now, however we always wanted to buy, before we had kids. So my wife and I as we were getting started spent 6-9 months living with the in-laws while we waited for our House and Land package townhouse to be built.
The in-laws are great so it may not be the difficult time people may imagine. As most of the money would be going to the mortgage, we saved hard but couldn’t invest a great deal. Having moved into our first home we attacked the mortgage for the first 12 months before our little one was born. Being pregnant did cut down our savings options but we got a fair bit ahead of our mortgage during that time.
My wife then took a year of work as my little one was born, dropping down to one income was tough and we had to draw back from our offset savings in that fist, year. Then planning for the coming year my wife as a teacher was going to stay home but pick up emergency teaching through the year.
Well, that was 12 months ago and 2020 really threw a spanner in the works for that, with teachers at home anyway no one needed relief teachers that year. Despite being on 1 income however we did manage to save a few hundred dollars a week, plus we qualified for child support payments that year which came as a lump sum at tax time. We were able to invest near all of that income, so we got ahead. However, this year has seen us really get moving on progress to FI. My wife is back at work and I received a big pay bump so progress is great.
If I can say anything about our journey it is, there have been financially difficult and easy times. But through it all we have held to the goal of FI and been able to put away little bits at a time and continue to make progress.
It reinforces my thinking that no matter your circumstances anyone can aim for FI.