Alternatives,  FIRE

The Frugal Samurai Interview Series – Mrs Hack From Sustainable Living

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Hey all, hope we are all having a wonderful weekend. Myself, I’ve been alone these last couple of days as MrsFrugalSamurai had to put in a couple of extra shifts at work.

Bummer… but at least it gives me more time on the blog!

Today’s post is another blogger showcase from the who’s who of Aussie FIRE.

Introducing Mrs Hack from Sustainable Living

Mrs Hack gives us the eco-friendly path to financial freedom, and why not!

If you want to read more about other FIRE bloggers, you can do so here.

Mrs Hack from Sustainable Living

Let’s get started!

Hey Mrs Hack! How old are you and Mr Hack?

40s, happily married.

Do you have and kids, and how old are they?

6 kids: 27, 24, 21, 19, 9, 6, plus 3 grandchildren.

What area of the country do you live in?

NE Victoria.

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

Stocks, bonds, superannuation and home.

INCOME

Did you pursue tertiary education and if yes, what are they?

Whilst I’ve had a variety of jobs, it wasn’t until my 30s that I graduated from university (Masters degree).

What is your current job?

School teacher

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 income has been very up and down with having so many children and one with a health condition. This means I also don’t have much in superannuation (compounded by making poor investment choices with my superannuation).

Since becoming a school teacher my income has improved considerably. Although, a fair whack of my working time is unpaid. Not many people realise that teachers are a paid a salary and all the hours they put into lesson planning on the weekend, writing school reports, overnight stays at school camps, school concerts, information nights etc are all unpaid hours of work.

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

I very much enjoy my job in educating children, however it is a job that can be draining and unless you set boundaries of work hours it can become all consuming. In saying that, with hindsight I wouldn’t have chosen differently.

What tips do you have for others who want to grow their career-related income?

Find something you love and work towards a career in that – cliché, but true.

What’s your work-life balance look like?

I’m big on scheduling my time. For example, every morning before work I study learning Mandarin Chinese for one hour, then do a mini workout at home (sometimes). After work and a family dinner and once the little kids are in bed, I blog for at least 30 minutes in the evening. Then it’s time with my hubby.

Friday evenings are our fun time, and Saturdays are dedicated to the children with things such as pancakes for breakfast, a bike ride, board games etc.

I’m also a huge believer in that if something will take less than five minutes to do, then just do it straight away.

Another area of work-life balance is I’m always looking for efficiencies to reduce the amount of time something will require. When you are as time poor as me you need to work smarter, not harder. For example, I cook a large tray of slice, portion it and freeze it for school/work snacks – enough to last the week for all our family members. (This also means less environmental waste as there is no packaging such as around muesli bars and snacks).

Do you have any sources of income besides your career?

I repeatedly read that wealthy people have multiple streams of income, so I had a look at my own life and was surprised:

  • My job
  • His job
  • Casual work, same job, different workplaces
  • Dividends from stocks and bonds (although these are re-invested)
  • Consultancy work
  • Paid writing gigs
  • The blog
  • Seasonal selling of homemade items
  • Paid surveys
  • Job Spotter (pre-covid)

EXPENSES

What is your family’s annual spending?

We spend around $4,000 p/m, including the mortgage.

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

Our biggest expense is running a home: mortgage, rates, insurance, service bills, this is then followed by food costs.

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

We follow our own version of the Barefoot Investor. Hubby’s wage is divided up the Barefoot Investor way, complete with splurge money and a ‘smile’ account for holiday savings. Even though we live frugally and save and invest, it’s still important to us to have some balance with fun money each week and a decent holiday every year.

Since hubby has had a pay raise we’ve been putting that extra money into our shares account as we are completely satisfied with our current budget.

My wage is invested in the stock market.

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

We are currently saving and investing around 60% of our income. Although this saving rate is improving all the time as we are earning more, receiving dividends and getting Adsense and affiliate payments.

Despite earning more, we’ve been careful to keep our spending unchanged.

What is your favourite thing to splurge on?

I’m not a big spender – it would have to be a chai latte relaxing at a café (when it was possible), buying treats for the family, and recently paying for my Mandarin Chinese study (which is a tax deduction).

INVEST

What has been your investment strategy/philosophy? 

Keep it simple.

What has been your best investment?

Index funds.

What has been your worst financial investment?

My worst financial investment was marrying a man with drug and alcohol addiction problems (previous husband). Admittedly, I did end up with four lovely daughters and was eventually able to break the cycle of domestic violence.

How often do you monitor/review your portfolio?

Hmmm, I do a daily peep via the App. Viewing our portfolio is more out of curiosity and not as an emotional response.

NET WORTH

How did you accumulate your net worth?

Saving and investing.

What has been the biggest contributor to your net wealth?

At this point, it’s Mr Hack’s superannuation fund.

What has been the biggest detractor to your net wealth?

Children, but they are oh so worth it. You can’t put a price on family.

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

It’s very basic. Don’t spend everything we earn and invest on a regular basis.

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

There were a few years when we were on a combined income of around $120K and spent every single dollar, on what, I couldn’t tell you. Sometimes hindsight makes you want to face palm yourself!

How has Mr Hack contributed to your net worth?

For sure. When Mr Hack and I got together I was a single parent with four teenage daughters and had nothing to my name having left a dysfunctional relationship. Mr Hack took a huge gamble shacking up with me and now 10 years later we are still happily married.

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

Our goal is to reach lean FIRE with investment savings of $1M providing approx. $40K p/a in passive income. We’ll live off that until we can access our superannuation funds – this will boost our income quite a bit.

If we get really impatient about reaching FIRE we could always sell the family house, although I don’t see this happening as we are both very much homebodies.

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

We’ll still have teenagers at home when we retire. Is that a problem? Haha!

MISCELLANEOUS 

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

I grew up in a very dysfunctional family as a first generation Australian. Poverty and a lack of food was our norm.

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

My parents taught me what not to do.

Although I was always a saver, when I had my first full-time job at 16 years old I had so much money I didn’t know what to do with it all!

Ultimately, I had to break free from the cycle of domestic violence before I could get ahead. This didn’t happen until my 30s and was triggered by attending university. I suddenly realised how dysfunctional my life was. Up until then I thought it was normal.

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

Apart from the fabulous FIRE community of like-minded people and a small circle of friends, I do believe Mr Hack and myself think differently about money from most people. We have no interest in keeping up with the Joneses or getting sucked into consumerism.

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

  • Barefoot Investor
  • ChooseFI podcast (skip the Americentro episodes)
  • Afford Anything Podcast
  • Aussie Firebug blog
  • Mr Money Mustache blog
  • Atomic Habits book
  • SelfWealth broker
  • Peter Thornhill
  • Warren Buffet quotes

Do you give to charity? 

We give time more than money. We’re involved with the charity HeartKids, and Mr Hack is on the committee of a running club.

However, we always give to the Royal Children’s Hospital appeal and have a sponsored child through World Vision. We also encourage our children to give a percentage of their pocket money to charities of their choosing.

Do you plan to leave an inheritance for your kids? And/or how do you plan to distribute your wealth?

They’ll get an equal share of whatever is left. Although, Mr Hack says he’s living to 150 years old so they may have a long wait (really, they shouldn’t wait anyway, any inheritance should just be the icing on the cake).

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

To me, money means freedom and choice. For Mr Hack it means self-respect.

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

By reducing your spending, you’ll not only save money but you’ll also create less environmental waste. And that’s a win for you, your community and the planet Earth.

Say no to consumerism.

~~~

Great stuff Mrs Hack! And good on you and Mr Hack for making a better life for your kids and each other.

As you can tell, she is a very genuine person, who has a TON of tips to share on savings, investing, KIDS, the environment, heck just life in general.

So make sure you go and check out her various socials via her website, her Twitter and her Facebook

Thanks for reading!

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