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The Frugal Samurai Interview Series – Dave from Strong Money Australia

Reading Time: 4 Minutes

Hey everyone!

It’s time for another episode of the interview series, in which I showcase other Aussie FIRE bloggers for us to learn more about their journey.

Another illustrious guest today… it’s Dave from Strong Money Australia!

Dave runs a very popular blog over at strongmoneyaustralia.com

Dave from Strong Money Australia

Let’s jump in!

Hey Dave! How old are you and MrsStrongMoney? 

Turned 31 this year, my spouse is quite a bit older than me.  We’ve been together about 10 years or so.

Do you have kids?

Nah I don’t have kids.  We have a bulldog instead, and he’s more than enough work haha!

What area of the country do you live in?

We live in the northern suburbs of Perth, near Lake Joondalup.

What is your current net worth?

I don’t really share this number.  It’s actually fallen a bit since retirement but it’s still around the seven-figure mark.

What are the main assets that make up your net worth and is there any debt that offsets part of these?

At the moment, our net worth (the equity portion) is roughly;
35% Shares
28% Property
18% Super
15% Cash
4% P2P Lending 

INCOME

Did you pursue tertiary education?

None.  I didn’t finish school – dropped out after year 11.

What about your current job?

None.  Although I guess you could count being a blogger as a job?  It is quite time-consuming after all!

How has your income performed over time. What was the starting salary of your first job, how did you grow your income and where are you now?

My first job as an adult paid about 17 bucks per hour and I thought I was raking it in!  Got a new job as a storeman/forklift driver which ended up paying quite a bit more due to weekend work and night shifts built into the salary.

I did quite a bit of overtime for a few years which boosted this further (the highest year being $95k or so).  My best guess is my partner and I both earned around $75k per year on average during our FI journey.

Would you recommend people to pursue the same career path? Would you choose a different job if you could go back? 

Interesting question.  I’d encourage people to follow something they’re interested in (or can tolerate comfortably before reaching FI), while still aiming to make a decent salary.  I have absolutely no idea what job I’d choose next time, given I had no qualifications when starting out.  There’s still nothing that jumps out at me as being an ideal job as I like to have lots of free time.

What’s your work-life balance look like?

Right now there’s a lot more life than there is work, which is exactly what we wanted!  But we both are working part-time – my partner back at her old job and me with the blog.

EXPENSES

What is your household’s annual spending?

At the moment it’s averaging around $40k per year.

Can you break-down the main categories this spending relates to?

About 50% is rent, 15% is food and dining, 7-10% is car and transport.

Do you have a budget? If so, how do you implement it?

No budget.  I do look at the categories from time to time and see if any look a bit bloated and then consider reining it in if possible.  But it’s mostly just deciding to not buy stuff we don’t need and questioning most purchases.

What percentage of your gross income do you save and how has that changed over time?

No longer applies, but on average we saved around 60-70% of our household income during our saving years.

What is your favourite thing to splurge on?

At the moment, it’s probably having a large 4 bedroom house which backs onto a reserve.  But we’re in Perth and this location is relatively unpopular so it’s not very expensive.  Also our dog has cost us many, many thousands of dollars over the years, but I couldn’t care less about that because as most dog lovers know it’s a family member so whatever costs come with that are irrelevant to some extent 🙂

INVEST

What has been your investment strategy/philosophy? 

Initially we focused on accumulating properties, but our focus for the last 5 years has shifted towards buying shares.  The reason is shares are a much more passive way of generating income, offer greater diversification, near-zero expenses and admin and pretty decent cash-flow – especially for Aussie shares.

What has been your best investment?

Probably a house we owned in Melbourne.  We bought and renovated it and made quite decent capital gains before selling it a couple years ago.

What has been your worst investment?

Probably a few stocks that I owned when I first started share investing.  I tried picking stocks as everyone does and lost 50% on a number of them despite being decent businesses.

What’s been your overall return?

No idea actually.  Property has been hit and miss, with the overall result probably not being very good, when the ongoing negative cash-flow is considered.  Shares has been decent until recently!

NET WORTH

How did you accumulate your net worth?

The majority of it came from our high level of saving over a period of many years.

What has been the biggest detractor to your net wealth?

In the last 5 years, we’ve lost quite a bit of equity with Perth’s property downturn.

What are you currently doing to maintain/grow your net worth?

Aiming to not make crap decisions by diversifying our investments and not picking stocks anymore.  Also us working part time is inadvertently helping to avoid having to sell off other properties sooner and hopefully resulting in a slightly better outcome over time.

What money mistakes did you make that we can learn from?

Thinking that picking stocks was going to be easy – it’s not.  Thinking that leveraged property was the best thing since sliced bread – it’s not.

How has MrsStrongMoney contributed to your net worth? 

She helps enormously.  Because she’s not as interested as me in our finances, I consult with her first about everything, so she’s a great sounding board.  Being forced to make the case to her before we make any changes to our investments means that it has to make sense and I have to be able to explain it properly.  If something is complex and hard to explain, that’s not a good sign!

Also, when we met, my partner had much more savings/equity than me, due to being a long-time homeowner.

Do you have a target net worth you are trying to attain for FIRE, will you quit working when you reach this?

We started before FIRE was a term.  Initially we thought we’d like to have $2m or so, just because early on we were still in ‘consumer-mode’ which requires more money to fund luxuries.  We ended up realising we could live a perfectly happy life on much less and that these luxuries would do nothing for us, so we retired on a more modest amount.

What are your retirement plans?

To continue enjoying everyday life (3 years in and it’s going great).  We’ll keep doing our work stuff for as long as it’s enjoyable and stop when it’s not.  For us, it’s just nice to have all this free time and live a slower paced simple life.

Are there any issues in retirement that concern you? If so, how are you planning to address them?

Zero.  We’ll deal with whatever it is when it happens.

MISCELLANEOUS

How was your childhood? Was your family wealthy, middle class or low-income?

I’d say lower middle class.  Never went without anything, but my friends were definitely more ‘middle class’ than I was.

How did you learn about finances and at what age did you “get it”?

I developed an obsession with personal finance and wealth-building when I was around 19-20, after realising that the only way to avoid being one of the consumer-sheep was to become wealthy enough to not have to work.

Who inspired you to excel in life? Who are your heroes?

Wow, good question.  Anyone who is ‘self-made’ is always a source of inspiration.   There wasn’t one example that I looked to, it was probably lots of people.  I just couldn’t accept the standard approach to life, money and retirement.

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

It’s probably opposite in so many ways.  I see it first and foremost as a tool for buying freedom and getting your time back.  They see it as a tool for buying short-term pleasures, thereby giving away their freedom and time.

Do you have any favourite money tools and resources you recommend (books, podcasts, apps etc)?

For FI minded people, Mr Money Mustache is probably my favourite blogger on the topic.  His views really resonate with me on a lot of topics, not just money.

Do you give to charity? Why or why not? If you do, what percent of time/money do you give?

Yes, we do.  It’s still relatively small at the moment, but it’s something we’ll increase over time as our wealth grows.  It’s something I’m really looking forward to actually!  We donate some of our time volunteering with a local conservation group which looks after the large regional park/wetlands here.

What does money mean to you? Should everyone pursue it? 

Money means freedom.  And yes, everyone should pursue it (freedom).  Even if you continue to give up most of your week working after becoming financially independent, you’ll be completely at peace because it’s 100% your choice to continue or not, and you know if anything happens all your bills are still covered and you can stop at a moment’s notice if other things become more important.

Finally, is there any advice you have for The Frugal Samurai readers regarding wealth accumulation?

Focus on the accumulation of wealth for the good it can do, not for its own sake.  Some people focus on wealth for its own sake and typically become consumed by it and are wedded to a job/lifestyle they don’t particularly enjoy, simply because they’re addicted to seeing the numbers increase.

The real power of wealth is the freedom and options it can provide you and your family.  And for the ways it can help causes you care about.  Otherwise, what’s it all for?

~~~

Thanks for the incredible insights Dave! If you want to check out his blog or follow Dave, you can do so at strongmoneyaustralia.com or Twitter @strongmoneyaus

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