5 most impactful ways to invest in yourself (that wont cost you a fortune) – Episode 29

Right now you’re listening to this podcast, or reading the blog article.


You’re curious, and have a thirst for knowledge.  You want to learn new things.  You want to improve yourself.

We usually think of investment as being a financial thing.  But investing in yourself – your skills, knowledge, and health, can be just as important and impactful.  And just like a financial investment, diversification pays.

In past Financial Autonomy episodes we’ve looked at investing in the share market, buying or starting a business, getting debt under control, and various other topics that tend to have dollars and cents as a core element.

And whilst the money side of things is unquestionably important in you attaining Financial Autonomy, there are other essential ingredients required for you to achieve success.  Motivation, health, happiness, self-awareness, creativity.

There is a lot on the net about self-improvement and investing in yourself – I’ve spent hours reading it to research for this article.  So what I’m going to share with you today is the 5 ideas I’ve been able to identify that will have the greatest impact in you reaching your Financial Autonomy goals.

  1. The starting point must be your health. It’s no good achieving Financial Autonomy at age 50 say, only to drop dead 6 months later.There’s 2 elements to investing in your health – activity and food.On the activity front, the important thing is to start.  If you’re currently doing very little physical activity, start by taking regular walks.  Build up the distance over time.  Perhaps you could extend that to jogging.  There are podcasts available based on the couch to 5k approach that I know people have found useful.

    If you already have some level of fitness, think about setting yourself a new challenge.  Last summer I set myself the challenge of completing a triathlon.  Swimming has never been my thing, so I had to put quite a bit of time into training for that component of the event.  The funny thing was, when the tri season ended and I focused back on running, I found my running had improved, even though I hadn’t given it much focus over the summer.

    When thinking about the activity component of health, just remember the “R” in the SMART goals acronym – realistic.  The surest way to side-step success in this area is to set some crazy high goal, that you quickly become discouraged by, and you defeat yourself before you make any progress.  Start small.

    The second component to investing in your health is food.  As important as activity and exercise is, if you head down to KFC for a post work-out feast, you’re probably not going to maximise the health benefits of your exercise.  I’m not a nutritionist, so I can’t give you any particular guidance on what you should and shouldn’t be eating, but just reflect on your eating habits and consider whether this is an area worthy of investing some of your time to research and improve.

2. Get your creative juices flowing! For many of us, creativity seems to die when we leave primary school.  But it doesn’t have to.  Indeed as technology like self-driving vehicles and AI eliminate many of the traditional jobs in our economy, the ability to think creatively takes on far more value and importance.

Pick up some blank paper and a grey lead pencil and have a go at drawing that tree in your back yard.  Is there a musical instrument floating around the house that you could teach yourself to play.  If there isn’t a YouTube video showing you how, I’ll eat my shoe.

How about expanding your cooking repertoire?  There’s no shortage of cooking shows to give you ideas.  Many years ago my wife and I made a new year’s pledge to cook something we’d never cooked before, once a week.  We subscribed to one of the monthly cooking magazines, and so that was the main source of inspiration each week.  There were 2 or 3 weeks during the year where we didn’t achieve our goal, mainly due to the very reasonable excuse of our first child being born.  But there were several other weeks where we tried 2 new recipes, so over the course of the year we felt we’d ticked the goal well and truly off.

And it’s paid long term dividends.  Once you learn basic cooking skills, and what goes with what, you gain the ability to ad-lib.  Substitute what you have in the cupboard for what the recipe is asking for.  Cooking skills can also help with your health goals, and be good for the household budget.

How about learning a new language?  There are great podcasts around.  I’m currently having a go (pretty unsuccessfully so far) at Coffee Break French, interestingly enough taught by two Scottish people.

Perhaps writing is your thing.  Short stories, a novel, or poetry. Worst case, no one reads it but you.  Make a start, have a go.  Only good things can flow.

3. Expand your knowledge in an area you are already good at.

Professionally we operate in a competitive world.  I make my living providing financial planning advice.  But there are many financial planners in the world.  So just being competent isn’t enough.  I need to be an expert.  Over the 17 years that I’ve been providing advice to clients I’ve become an expert in Self Managed Super – I even wrote a text book on it.  And in recent years I’ve pulled the treads together to become an expert on Financial Autonomy.

The reason I’m able to get articles published in quality brands like the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, is because of that expertise.  It’s also the reason I was nominated as 1 of the top 3 Certified Financial Planners in Australia this year.

So when we’re talking about the most impactful ways that you can invest in yourself, moving up the ladder from competent to an expert must to be right up the list.

So what professional development opportunities are there for you?  If you’re an employee, many employers will have staff development budgets.  Make sure you get your share.  Is there a conference you could attend, any short courses you could enrol in, webinars or books to read?  Maybe you even take it up a notch and go for a Masters or Phd, though this a significant investment not to be taken lightly.

How much could your income rise if you became the expert in your sector?
4. Build your team.

I heard a great quote last week from Dr Susan Carland, most well-known as being the wife of TV host Waleed Aly, though unquestionably an intellectual powerhouse in her own right.  She observed “you can do anything, but you can’t do everything”.

What are your key strengths?  What are you really good at?  How can you focus more of your time and energy on those things, and get others to do things that a) you’re not strong on, b) don’t especially enjoy, and c) someone else could do better or more quickly than you?

Whether it’s a business coach if you are self-employed, a personal trainer for a fitness goal, a cleaner or a gardener for your home, or a financial planner to maximise your financial opportunities.

Sure, you could try and do it all yourself, but is that really going to deliver the best result?


5. Perhaps linked to building your team, is finding time for yourself.

Value your time.  You’ll only live this day once.  Your kids will only be this age once.  Busy does not equal success.

Find time to read a book or listen to a podcast.  And not just about topics in your professional life.  Use your time to broaden your perspectives, get fresh ideas, and take on new knowledge.

Take a break and relax.  Our mental health is so easy to overlook, yet so fundamental our well-being.  Go for a walk, watch some TV, or go to the footy.  You’re not slacking off – you’re achieving balance in your life that will enable you to be far more effective when you then devote your time and energy your income generating activities.

Finally try to incorporate some travel into your life.  It could be as simple as a camping trip a few hours drive from home.  Travel recharges your batteries, expands your perspective, and deepens your relationships with your travel companions.  It provides life long memories that are impossible to attach a financial value to.

Well, that’s it for the top 5 most impactful ways to invest in yourself.  Investing in yourself can definitely help you make progress in your Financial Autonomy goals.  It can also make you happier – you’re more challenged, more fulfilled, and more connected with those around you.

How to make money with Amazon – Episode 28

With Amazon now in Australia, we talk to John Cavandivish from FBA Frontiers on how to make a side hustle by becoming an Amazon seller.

Before starting his Amazon Europe journey, John had zero experience with running an online business. After university, he joined the corporate world in London but rapidly realized that it was not for him.

After launching his first Amazon brand in 2014, John was soon able to quit his job to travel the world and network with other successful Amazon sellers from around the globe. Today, he’s generating 6 figures of revenue per month from over a dozen products in Europe. John’s experience led him to develop a specific, step-by-step system to find success with every product launched.

John developed FBA Frontiers because so many sellers he met had great businesses on Amazon.com, but had completely dismissed Europe. He’s since made it his mission to help sellers overcome the barriers to entry in the EU and find success by bringing their products into Europe.

In this episode we cover:

  • What is Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA)?
  • The territories in which Amazon operate and how the fees are calculated
  • Getting started as an Amazon seller
  • The low risk business model as an Amazon Seller
  • How to find the right products
  • The profit margin you need to
  • The importance of having an ad spend on Amazon when launching
  • How Amazon ranks products
  • The lifecycle of the product
  • The benefits of doing a niche product
  • What you need to for branding when getting you
  • The minimum quantities you need to get started
  • Things to consider when FBA starts in Australia and the first mover advantage locals have
  • What the future holds for Amazon

Links mentioned in this Episode

FBA Frontiers Course

Jungle Scout

Attaining financial independence doesn’t need to be hard – Episode 27

In the interview I did with Adam Murray in episode 20, he spoke about how he reduced his expenses in a significant way when he worked through his employment transition and gap year.  And you might recall, he found living on less made him more happy, not less.

Another key element in your financial independence plan is to have a financial buffer, an emergency fund, to get you through the unexpected.  Perhaps you already have this, but if not, you want to build this up.  Everyone’s needs are different, but you’re likely to need $2,000 to $10,000 in there to make you secure.  This assumes you’ve got appropriate insurances in place.

Once you have that emergency fund in place, savings can go towards investment.  We’re not going to get into potential investment strategies in this episode, but the key point here is that the goal is to build up some investments, so that in future they can generate passive income for you, to help cover your expenses.  It might be rental property, shares, or if you’re real risk averse, term deposits.  But the key is that whether it’s rent, dividends, or interest, they will all throw off income for you to use, without you having to lift a finger.

Envisage that you determine that you need $40,000 per year to cover expenses.  If you could build up an investment that was capable of throwing off half that each year, then you only need to work in some form of paid employment to earn the other half – $20,000.  You might be able to do that working a few days per week, or doing jobs in the gig economy.  The key is, you’ve gained choice.  You’ve gained financial autonomy at that point.

Expenses are one thing but income is the other side of the ledger.  Your income earning capacity is crucial to achieving financial independence.  In the previous example, where you needed to earn $20,000 to achieve your goal, if you are a well-qualified GP, you could probably earn that working once a fortnight.  Whereas if you are in a low skilled job, you may need to work 3 days per week to get the same result.

So nurture your professional skills and invest in yourself.  This will help you enormously in attaining financial independence.

Whilst thinking about income, is there anything else that you could do to boost your income?  Push hard for a raise.  A side hustle perhaps.  Or chasing a job at a competitor that might pay more.

We’ve spoken about side hustles quite a bit in previous episodes (21 and 22 especially).  This could potentially be a great path towards financial independence.  You are generating income doing something you’re passionate about.  And you can put in as much time and effort as works for you.

What other things might form part of your plan to reach financial independence?  Avoiding credit card and other non-productive debt is likely to be wise.  I’m not someone who believes credit cards are always evil.  For those who can manage them, the consumer protection and rewards benefits they offer can be really valuable.  But if you don’t pay them off each month, the interest you will pay will very quickly outweigh any of the other benefits.  So think about whether your credit card is working for you, or whether you need a change of approach on that front.

Similarly, loans for holidays, furniture, and the like are likely to be costly, and drive you away from reaching financial independence.  If you have these already, then an early focus of your plan might be to clear these debts.

How else could you trim your expenses to make your financial independence goal more attainable?  Usually it’s about simplifying your life.  Maybe changing some habits.  Could you become a better cook so you eat out less?  Would a housemate be a possibility?  On a larger scale, could you downsize or make a tree change?  Perhaps this would reduce your rent or mortgage.  If you’ve got an inner city home with a mortgage, perhaps a move out of town might leave you with a debt free home even, which would make the achievement of financial independence for you that much more reachable.  Episode 6 – Nish’s success story had an example along these lines.

It feels a bit harsh to say, but do you need new friends?  If you surround yourself with people who spend money like it’s water, it’s going to be very tough to rein in your own spending and gain the flexibility and independence that you are trying to achieve.  The type of car you feel the need to own is often a function of the social network that you’re in.  Our friendships and social networks are of course a foundation of our happiness, so I don’t raise this lightly.  But it is certainly worth reflecting on whether you have certain friendships that are detrimental to you achieving your goals and dreams.

Well, I hope that’s given you a kicking off point on your goal to attaining financial independence.  Determine your why, consciously own the goal and commit to it, and develop a plan to get you there over time.

Of course if you want help in developing your plan to achieve financial independence – that’s what I do every day for people.  So visit the Work With Me page on the financialautonomy.com.au web site to learn how we can work together.

Attaining financial independence doesn’t need to be hard.  But you need to take action.  Hopefully today’s episode has started you on that journey.

Don’t forget to grab the free toolkit for this episode.  We’ve got the Budget Tool in there to help you get across your cash flow, the Dream Planner template, 9 tips to combat procrastination, and a piece on how to use the SMART goals methodology.

Important Information:

This information is of a general nature only and has been prepared without taking into account your particular financial needs, circumstances and objectives. While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information, it is not guaranteed. You should obtain professional advice before acting on the information contained in this publication.

Shaun Farrugia – Could a trust structure turbo charge your wealth creation? Episode 26

Following on from Episode 23 on Multi-Phase solutions for Retirement  we are joined today by Shaun Farrugia from Optimised Accounting & Finance to talk all things Trusts.

Check out our free download  Multi-Phase solution for Early Retirement

In this episode we cover:

  • The dummies guide to what exactly a Trust is
  • How it can work as a funnel and the tax flexibility that it allows
  • The two types of people that generally use Trust structures
  • What are franking credits
  • Three case studies of how Shaun clients are using Trust for tax flexibility

Case Studies as mentioned in this episode

Scenario 1:  Couple approaching retirement / early retirement.  (Dramatically reduce tax)

  • Distribute investment / business income to a ‘bucket company’
  • Allows for tax to be paid at the company tax rate – accrues as franking credits
  • Funds pile up and are invested within the company
  • Upon ‘retirement’ dividends can be streamed out with franking credits attached
  • Draw down $13,000 each financial year to remain below the tax free threshold with a tax refund of $5,572 – effectively a zero tax rate
  • Draw down $26,000 each financial year and receive a refund of around $6,800 back – 11% tax rate.

Scenario 2: Young Couple – DINKS / Side Business  (flexibility)

  • Couple both working full time on incomes > $90,000
  •  Have a side business and investments
  • Currently there isn’t much of a tax benefit however couple is looking at having kids in the medium term
  • Wife will take a year off work, and then in the 2nd year the husband will take a year working part-time
  • Trust allows the couple to distribute the income from the side business and investments to whichever member of the couple has the lowest income at the time.

Scenario 3: High Income Earner with a property

  • Client is on the highest tax bracket
  • Purchased a rental property at the coast
  • Client is looking for a tax-break whilst being able to achieve capital growth
  • Wife is entrepreneurial and keen to run an AirBNB
  • Client is time poor and not interested in having a bar of it
  • Property is leased at proper market level rates to a family trust setup by the wife
  • Client receives rent as normal
  • Wife runs business
  • Kicker is adult son in Uni – profit from the Air BNB is effectively tax free.

Links mentioned in this Episode

Optimised Accounting & Finance

Multi-Phase solution for Early Retirement

So what is Bitcoin? Episode 24

In this episode we are joined by ICT professional and cryptocurrency expert Ivan Jasenovic, who describes himself as having his head in the cloud, his soul on the Blockchain, and his heart in decentralized Healthcare.

In this interview we cover:

  • The benefits of Blockchain technology and whether you truly need to understand how Blockchains work
  • The different types of cryptocurrency and examples of when you would look to use each one
  • How bitcoin works and has the same value per unit no matter where you live
  • Whether different cryptocurrency would merge together and their future specialised uses
  • Why reputation is the most valuable thing in this space
  • How cryptocurrency could be used in health and other industries
  • Case studies of Shaun and Jimmy and their experience investing into blockchains
  • How getting hacked increased their blockchain investment
  • The concept of a wallet in the cryptocurrency world
  • How you need to act like ‘the bank of you’
  • The importance of back-ups and password security
  • How a lost hard drive located in landfill is now worth millions
  • The question of regulation and the future of Governments in cryptocurrency
  • The battle between white and black hats

Links mentioned in the show

Email – [email protected]

Sunshine Coast Blockchain  Meetup


Early retirement – the multi-phase approach for Australians – Episode 23


The goal of early retirement is one many Australians aspire too.  And certainly, when thinking about achieving Financial Autonomy, retiring early is very often baked into those goals.

But what is the best way to bring that goal to reality, given the uniqueness of our system – superannuation, franking credits, negative gearing, and means tested Aged Pensions, just to get you started.

The approach I’m going to take you through today is a multi-phase approach that I’ve built specifically for the Australian early retirement landscape.  Its aim is to use the opportunities we have, such as franking credits and superannuation, to get you to early retirement as quickly as possible.

We’ve actually built a special PDF just for this post. I’ve put all of the diagrams in there for you.  You know what they say – a picture tells a thousand words.  And I certainly think visualising this approach is helpful.  So ideally have that in front of you as you consume this episode, but if that’s not practical, then at least download it latter.

Early retirement in Australia – an overview

To survive in our modern world, you need income.  Long gone are the days where we grew all our own food, hunted for our meat, and lived a subsistence life.  So retiring early necessitates solving the problem of how will you generate the income you need to meet your expenses, if you cease being in your current paid employment role.

Let’s start with the helicopter high up in the air.

We all know that in Australia we have the superannuation system to assist in funding our retirement.  Considerable tax concessions are provided to encourage us to build up saving within superannuation.  And then when we retire, we are able to convert our superannuation savings into an income stream, and receive even more generous tax concessions.

Income drawn from superannuation is tax free from age 60 for the majority of people.  Given the tax favoured status superannuation receives, you’d likely be wise to utilise this system to the maximum extent possible to generate your retirement income after you reach age 60.

But what do you do before age 60?  Well if early retirement is your goal, you need to have built up other investments, likely shares and property.  In this pre-60 early retirement phase, you can rely on the income these investments produce, and you perhaps also sell them down progressively to live of the gains and proceeds of the investments, remembering that when you hit 60, you gain access to a new pool of savings – your superannuation.

Okay, so that’s the overview – pre 60 you’re living off investment income, and perhaps also some employment income, and I use that term loosely – it could mean as an employee, but it’s just as likely to be some freelancing work, a short term contract, or as an advisor or consultant.  Even if you’ve left your normal job, there’s a good chance that whatever you find to do with your time, you’ll pick up some income along the way.

Then after age 60, superannuation is the primary solution for your income needs.

The sub phases

Let’s bring the helicopter down a bit lower now.  Within these pre and post 60 phases, I believe you can break things down further.  In the pre-60 phase, I’ve termed these two sub phases the Transition phase and the Investment Income phase.  And in the post 60 phase, that can be split into the Active Retirement phase, and the Feet-up phase.

Imagine that perhaps in your 30’s you’ve decided that early retirement is something that you aspire to.  You crunch your numbers and determine the amount of income that you’d need to afford the early retirement lifestyle that you want.  You could wait until you have enough investments and superannuation that you can live a total life of luxury.  But most people I work with prefer instead to retire earlier, but still earn some income.  I call this the transition phase.  Maybe you back off from 5 days per week to 3.  Remember episode 20 where I interviewed Adam Murray.  He’d cut back to 3 days per week as a paid employee, and actually spread those hours across 4 days.  Then he had time to pursue other projects, and be the father that he wanted to be for his 2 boys.

So during the transition phase, you’re still earning some income, just less than pre-early retirement, and perhaps you’re also earning some investment income.

As you get closer to 60, your investments have grown.  In particular it’s highly likely that you’ve used some borrowings to build the wealth, for example borrowing to buy an investment property, and hopefully somewhere in this pre-60 phase, the debt gets repaid, meaning the rent which was going to loan repayments is now freed up for you to live off.

So the second sub-phase in the pre-age 60 segment is the Investment Income phase.

In the Investment income phase you’ve scaled any paid employment right back, possibly given it away altogether.  You’re primarily living off your dividend and rental income, and perhaps even selling down investments in the knowledge you’ll be turning on the superannuation tap come age 60.

Franking credits will keep your tax down here, and you can plan any capital gains tax events to get you the best possible outcome.  Not anti tax

Now let’s look at the post age 60 sub phases – Active Retirement and Feet-up.  The Active Retirement phase is likely to be from 60 to 70 or 75.  During this phase you’ve slowed down a little but still remain active – traveling and participating fully in your recreation activities like golf or yoga.  As a result your income needs are likely the same as pre 60.

Because you’ve turned age 60 and are retired from the work force, you can now access your super.  And it’s likely that you will turn on an income stream from these savings, given this is the most tax advantageous element of the entire superannuation system.

Thus the bulk of your income in the Active Retirement phase will come from superannuation.  But it’s likely you will still have some investment income coming in as a bit of a top-up.  Perhaps this can pay for the annual overseas trip.

This Active Retirement phase could be an excellent time to realise any significant capital gains liabilities, for example selling a rental property, as your superannuation is a tax free income source so your total taxable income is likely negligible.

The final post age 6o phase is the feet-up phase.  At some point later in life you’re going to have done all of your traveling, and the realities of getting older mean that you slow down.  Expenses tend to reduce, and medical appointments rise.

During this phase the bulk of your investment have been used up, and you’re now living on your superannuation.  Depending on your circumstances, an Age Pension may also come into the frame at some point, which will help in prolonging the life of your superannuation savings.

An early retirement example

So let’s play an early retirement scenario out, so that you can see the how your income need might be meet in each phase.

Imagine we first sit down and develop an early retirement plan for you when you are 34.  We work to that plan, refining as we go along, and by age 45, you’ve built up enough assets to be able to quit the high pressure career that has got you to the position you are now in.

The first phase is the Transition phase.  You’ve still got great contacts in your profession, and so whilst you want to step back from all the stress and travel of your corporate career, you’ve got an opportunity to do some consulting work for one client for a day a week, and another long-time professional friend has asked if you could do some overflow work for them as it comes up.

Your income in the transition phase is therefore generated perhaps 2/3rds from these employment type earnings, and 1/3rd from the dividends from your share portfolio, which until now had been reinvesting all its income.

You have an investment property too, but at the moment there is still debt on this, so the rental income goes entirely towards paying down this debt, and meeting the other bills like council rates and maintenance.

Further on into your early retirement now and you enter the Investment Income phase.  The rental property has been paid off, freeing up the rental income to further meet your expenses.  The 1 day per week consulting gig has finished, but you’re still getting occasional overflow work from your friend.  Your income split perhaps now flips, to be 1/3rd or perhaps even less from employment type income, and the bulk of your income comes from investments – share dividends, rental property income, and the occasional share sale when a lump sum expense comes up.

You reach 60.  You’re in the Active Retirement phase.  You’ve told your friend you don’t wish to do any more overflow work – you don’t have the time!  What with golf 2 days a week, volunteering as the treasurer of the local Rotary club, keeping up with the family, and regular holidays, you’ve got more than enough on your plate.

So now you turn on the superannuation income stream.  You’ve sold down most of your share portfolio by now but you still have the rental property so you have income from that in addition to your super.

You have a great time during this phase, but by age 74, you’ve had a few health issues and are starting to slow down.  You’re still playing seniors golf on a Friday, but you don’t fancy overseas travel any more and are happy to live a bit quieter life.  You’re in the Feet-up phase.

Maybe you sell the investment property around now.  The maintenance is getting a bit of a bother and it’d be nice to have the cash available.

Between the proceeds from the sale of the rental property, and your super, you see out your days without a financial worry in the world.

So what do you think?  A plan you could work towards.  Early Retirement in Australia is possible and I think many people could imagine living out a scenario something like what I’ve just gone through.

The reason most people don’t live that life though is because they never TAKE ACTION.  Don’t let that be you.

Don’t forget to download the guide because the glide path diagrams I’ve put together I think will be super useful to you in seeing how you might be able to retire early in Australia.

Important Information:

This information is of a general nature only and has been prepared without taking into account your particular financial needs, circumstances and objectives. While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information, it is not guaranteed. You should obtain professional advice before acting on the information contained in this publication.

Ruby Lee – Side Hustler and Career Guru – Episode 22

In this next interview episode on the Financial Autonomy Podcast we chat to Ruby Lee the founder of The Careers Emporium and head of HR at Cogent.

In this interview we cover:

  • The benefits of a side hustle in achieving your financial goals
  • The 18 month journey Ruby when through when changing careers
  • Identifying your strengths and knowing when the time is right for a career change
  • How daily journaling helped Ruby gain clarity when dealing with financial and career issues
  • How she turned a new blog of helping people with their careers into a money making side hustle while on maternity leave
  • Why job seekers are now seeking personal branding help
  • The importance of understanding a position gets made redundant, not the person.  Listen to Ep 2 Redundancy – What a Great Opportunity episode
  • Ruby’s tips for starting a blog and building an online community for your side hustle
  • How she juggles balancing her full time job, being a mother and building a successful side hustle.  
  • How automation and programs such as Hootsuite  help her build The Careers Emporium while working full time
  • How a business coach helped her to gain clarity and change her mindset amount monetising The Careers Emporium
  • Current trends in employment and the rise of the contractor/freelance and ‘gig’ economy
  • The rise of partnering between employers and employees
  • How employers are now understanding the need for employees to build personal brands and how that can help both parties.

Links mentioned in the podcast

Adam Murray of Subtle Disruptors – taking control of his life – Episode 20

In my next interview episode on the Financial Autonomy Podcast we chat to Adam Murray from the Subtle Disruptors Podcast.

In this interview we cover:

  • How a difficult personal time highlighted the need for Adam to take some leave from his career and reevaluate his life
  • How the Good Life Project gave him a framework to take a gap year
  • How identifying four key priorities during that gap year has now impacted his life
  • The power of being present in the moment
  • The focus on his health and how it impacted on his four key priorities
  • How he managed financially to take a gap year
  • How living frugally changed him and how it helped to develop a better understanding of what makes him happy
  • How structuring his work around 4 days a week has allowed him to retain focus on his priorities after going back to work
  • His journey towards self employment and his desire to make an impact
  • The importance of designing a life on your own terms and creating a true work life balance
  • Why you can only sacrifice part of your life only for a period of limited time
  • The guests that have made the biggest impact on him as a host of the Subtle Disruptors podcast

Links mentioned in the podcast

Procrastination – 9 tips to combat this number one killer of Financial Autonomy dreams – Episode 17

How hard is it to get started?  I’m sure we’ve all had things that either need to be done, or that we’d like to do, but we put them off – shift them to the bottom of the pile or check out our Facebook feed instead.

Procrastination is evil, and it afflicts us all at some point or another.  When it comes to Financial Autonomy dreams, I think procrastination is quite possibly the number 1 impediment to you moving forward.  So with this in mind, I’ve done some research on strategies to overcome procrastination woes, and today I’m going to share with you the key things I’ve learnt.

When it comes to achieving something great, something worthwhile, taking the first step is often the hardest part.  Perhaps it’s not knowing where to begin.  Or a sense of overwhelm – the goal feels like this huge inflatable ball – impossible to get your arms around and difficult to know where to grab it.

Procrastination does not equal lazy.  It’s likely driven more by fear of uncertainty or failure, or anxiety, which is often closely associated with overwhelm.

But if you’re to make progress on your Financial Autonomy goals, then making a start is essential

I’ve seen quotes and interviews from incredibly successful authors Stephen King and Jodi Piccoult, who both have routines that require them to just sit down and write.  It can always be edited latter, but waiting for the inspiration lightning bolt to strike is not the way achieve anything – just make a start!

A common strategy deployed to overcome procrastination is to break down the thing – the goal, task or whatever – into smaller tasks, and then work through these small tasks one at a time.  I find Trello really helpful for this so you might like to check that out – it’s free for individual users.

Create one column titled “Things to do” and create cards in there for all the components you can think of that need to be done to reach your goal.  Then you create two other columns, one titled “Doing”, and the other “Done”.  Work on one card at a time from the “things to do column, and progressively move them across into the “Done” column.  It really helps clarify your thinking and overcome the sense of overwhelm, and also self reinforces as your see the “Done” column start to fill up – you feel like you’re making progress.

Tip 1 to overcoming procrastination – break the goal down into smaller components and deal with one of them at a time.

Making a start is hard, but let’s say you’ve taken action on the first tip and broken your goals into small actionable pieces.  Another thing you might want to include is a time frame.  When will you get these done?  I personally wouldn’t set time frames for each small item you’ve identified, because before you start working on them, it’s tough to judge how long it will take – inevitably some tasks will take on the fraction of the time you would have guessed, whilst others are like an old woollen jumper your grandma made you – what starts of a as a single lose thread ends up going on and on the more you pull on it.

So don’t set time frames at the individual task level would be my advice, but I think there is value in setting yourself times frames to achieve broader milestones.

Let’s say your goal is to start up a side line business online.  Something to generate some extra income, and potentially even develop into your primary source of income one day if it really took off.

So you break that down into lots of different things that you need to do – register a business name, buy the website address, get a logo designed, etc.  It might be helpful to set yourself a deadline that by the 1st of March, I’ll have my idea to a point where I can start showing people and getting realistic feedback.  A deadline like that provides flexibility around the individual components, but helps you stay the course, and push on when the energy levels flag a bit.

I should add here too that what you don’t want to do is set unrealistic deadlines.  They will just create disappointment and frustration and potentially make you give up on your goal.

Tip 2 – is set realistic time frames to get things done.

Who hasn’t sat at the dinner table as a kids and seem something on the plate that made you want to run and hide – brussel sprouts, parsnip, fish – we’ve all got something.  And what did our wise elder folk advise?  Eat the things you don’t like first – don’t leave it to last.

The same can definitely apply here to you overcoming your procrastination.  What is the ugliest bit that needs to get done if you are to make progress on your Financial Autonomy goals?  Can you tackle that first?

I’ve certainly had instances, and I’d imagine you have too, where there’s some task you’ve been dreading, and so you’ve taken every opportunity to put it off.  But the day comes where it just has to get done.  So I grudgingly get started, and after 10 minutes realise, this isn’t nearly as ugly as I thought it would be.

And with that ugly bit out the way, it’s downhill from here.  You’ve got momentum now.

Tip 3 – can you tackle the worst bit first?

Perfection.  A good thing right?  When it comes to overcoming procrastination, no.  A statement I know is often used in software development, but has broader application, is that perfection is the enemy of progress.

We all want to produce the best that we can, but sometimes striving for perfection can mean nothing gets produced.  Much better to do the best you can within a reasonable time frame, and then improve from their – it’s certainly an approach I’ve taken with this podcast.  I’m always thinking about how I can improve the audio quality, the structure of the program, how I speak – it goes on and on.  The point is, if I didn’t release a single episode until I thought I had these things perfect, there’d never be a Financial Autonomy podcast.

This train of thought aligns with the Lean Start Up methodology that I’ve mentioned in the past around Minimum Viable Product and the Build Measure Learn development cycle.  Rather than procrastinate in not launching your idea because you’re worried it’s not perfect, think instead about how you can get your idea out into the world and test whether it works – then improve from there.  Perfection is perhaps something to be achieved over time, or at least perhaps aspired to over time, rather than a hurdle that needs to be strided over before you can move forward.

And this can be applied quite broadly.  We’re not just thinking about launching a new business idea here.  Perhaps it’s doing your household budget, or planning for early retirement.  Do the best you can, make a start, and then adjust and improve as you go.

Tip 4 – don’t let the aim of achieving perfection prevent you from making a start, rather, aim to adjust and perfect over time.

Ever write yourself up a to-do list either at the start of the day or the night before?  Perhaps you’ve felt a bit frustrated that you didn’t achieve what you’d hope to achieve the day before and so you’ve given yourself a good taking to and today you’re going to kick some gaols.

As you achieve those things on your list, do you cross them out?  I certainly do.  It makes you feel good.  You’re getting somewhere.

This is measuring progress and is a really helpful way to overcome procrastination and make progress on your goals.

Ticking off a list makes you feel good.  It provides a positive feedback loop.

Tip 5 in overcoming your procrastination – measure progress.

Could your environment be holding you back?  When you wre at school, studying for end of year exams, was it better to do it in a quiet place, like perhaps your bedroom, or in the family room with the TV going and people talking all around you?

When you’re looking to put off doing something – procrastinating – distractions are your enemy.  Distractions are an enabler.

“I really need to get my paperwork together to lodge my tax return, but, hang on, what’s that coming up next on TV?  The latest David Attenbourgh documentary of the life cycle of the African dung beetle?

Sounds like something important.

Perhaps I’ll just give that a watch and then I’ll do the tax stuff afterwards”.

If you spend a good portion of your day in front of a computer, this can be an enormous distraction source.  Pop-ups that you’ve receive yet another spam email are not helpful – perhaps you could turn those notifications off.  Is social media your Achilles heel.  Maybe make a rule with yourself that you won’t check it between 9am and 5pm.

We’re all susceptible to distractions, so if this is a factor in your procrastination, think about how you could escape them.

Tip 6 – is your environment enabling your procrastination?

As I mentioned at the start, in preparing for this piece, I did quite a bit of research.  One cause of procrastination that I’d never previously considered was the situation where you feel you need to ask someone else for their wisdom or help.

But you feel uncomfortable asking.

Perhaps you’re worried about interrupting them, and feeling like you’ll look stupid or weak in asking.

So you don’t ask, and that gives you the excuse to put it off – make no progress.

If this is your procrastination road block, then either you need to push past that concern and just ask, or, perhaps more helpfully, figure it out for yourself.  If you get onto Youtube and type “how do I …”, chances are you’ll find 300 videos showing you step by step instructions on whatever it is that you need to know.  If that doesn’t do it, then you could start Googling.  Or perhaps there is someone else you could ask.

Tip 7 in overcoming procrastination is – figure it out for yourself.

If you’ve played a game on your smart phone recently, chances are that in the course of the game you will have been given some sort of badge, or token, or coin.  These are valueless outside of the game, but game makers include them because we humans like rewards.  We like recognition that we are making progress or we have achieved something.

So how about using that same approach to develop your procrastination beating strategy?

Recognise progress and reward yourself.  So for instance, your motivating reward might be “if I can get 3 months in a row where I live within my budget and build up my savings account as planned, I’m going to have a weekend away down at the beach to celebrate”.  Awesome.

Perhaps even you tell someone about the deal you’ve made with yourself, or maybe even invite them along – that would really up the ante.  I’m pretty confident it would help you push past your procrastination barrier.

Tip 8 therefore is, recognise progress and reward yourself.

Finally, if procrastination is something that impacts you, do some self-reflection on what impact procrastination is having on your life, and the circumstances that often lead to procrastination.  This insight might point to a strategy or combination of strategies that can enable you to move forward on your Financial Autonomy dream.

I think I’m more susceptible to procrastination in the afternoon than in the morning.  I’m fresher in the morning, more energy, and therefore possess more of a willingness to push through.

So by having an awareness of this, when I know there’s something I need to work on that I think will be difficult, and where therefore there’s a chance I might be inclined to put it to the bottom of the pile for another day, I’ll make that the first thing I do in the morning.  For me that’s a strategy that works.

I used to have a housemate who had a routine that whenever she got on the phone to have a chat to a friend, she’d light up a cigarette and sit on the back step.  Like most smokers, she had a desire to quit smoking, but of course she procrastinated, in no small part no doubt due to the addictive qualities of nicotine.  But when she did finally decide to quit, she realised that she needed to change her phone catch-up with friends routine.

Tip 9 – think about the circumstances that often lead to you procrastinating.  What can you do to prevent those circumstances from disrupting forward progress?

Well, hopefully that gives you some good ideas to enable you to push through your procrastination barriers.  As always I’ve put together a toolkit for this episode and in that I’ve included a simple list of the 9 tips shared here.  I’ve also included the Dream Planner template, and listing of useful books that includes info on the Lean Start Up that I mentioned earlier, useful websites that includes a link to the Trello software that I also mentioned, and a piece on SMART goals.  So be sure to download that.  Our toolkits are free and hopefully really helpful in you taking impactful actions.

Here’s the 9 tips to help you overcome your procrastination demons:

  1. Break the goal down into smaller components and deal with one of them at a time
  2. Set realistic time frames to get things done
  3. Can you tackle the worst bit first?
  4. Don’t let the aim of achieving perfection prevent you from making a start. Rather, aim to adjust and perfect over time.
  5. Measure progress.
  6. Is your environment enabling your procrastination?
  7. Figure it out for yourself
  8. Recognise progress and reward yourself
  9. Think about the circumstances that often lead to you procrastinating. What can you do to prevent those circumstances from disrupting forward progress?

Getting your debt under control doesn’t need to be difficult – Episode 16

How good would life be if you were debt free? No mortgage payments, or car loans.  No credit cards.  Imagine the weight off your shoulders.  The financial freedom you would gain.  The financial autonomy.

Of course many people, probably most people, achieve debt free status over their working life.  This episode is not for those who have already achieved this milestone.

This episode is for those of you on the journey.  For whom debt obligations comprise a significant portion of your regular income.

We’re going to look at some strategies you might be able to use to get to debt free status quicker.  And that acceleration in clearing your debt brings you closer to whatever your financial autonomy goal is.

For the purposes of this article, I’m going to assume you, the listener or reader has debt, and debt you’d love to see the back of.  Given the title of this post, I’d imagine self-selection should deliver us this outcome.

In the modern era, establishing yourself financially without taking on debt is near impossible.  The only way I could imagine this happening is either if you were fortunate to be born into a wealthy family who bought you a home, or else you never owned anything, perhaps rented your whole life.

Most people I meet will have a mortgage, or if not a mortgage, then at least a loan for a car, with the hope or intention of having a mortgage one day.  Very often there are credit cards as well.  Sometimes there are debts for whitegoods or a holiday.

Debt is not evil.  Borrowing to buy your house is likely to have been a smart investment.  Over time the home’s value rises and you hopefully reduce your debt, so that you build up equity in your home.  One day you will pay off the debt entirely and will have a roof over your head without having to find mortgage or rent payments each month – incredibly liberating.

Debt to fund consumption on the other hand is not so wise, but who hasn’t done it?  Financed the brand new car when a 2 or 3 year old vehicle would have been significantly cheaper and still done the job.  Or come back from holidays with a credit card bill you couldn’t pole vault over.   I’ve been there and I’m assuming you have too.

So how can we get these debts under control and fast forward your journey towards financial autonomy?

Let’s say you decided you needed to lose a few kilo’s.  What’s the first thing you would do?  Would you jump on the bathroom scales and weigh yourself?  That would seem to be a sensible first step.  You need to know your starting point to understand the task ahead – do you need to lose 5 kilograms or 20?  You also want to measure progress.  You want to know if the actions that you are taking, say increasing your exercise, is paying dividends.

So in planning to get your debt under control the first step is to establish where you are now.  I’ll put in the tool-kit for this episode a table you can fill in to help make sure you don’t miss anything.

In putting this together, you’ll get an accurate picture of how much income you need to generate each month to cover your debt repayments, the different interest rates on each loan, and your total loan balance.

It’s also helpful when putting together your list of debts, to establish whether they’re tax deductable or not.  Later, we want to decide which debt to focus on clearing first.  Typically you’d focus on the debt with the highest interest rate, but if it were tax deductable, that could alter the thinking, so it’s useful to know the tax status of each debt.

If you have any debt that is tax deductable, you’ll probably already know about it, but to clarify, tax deductable debt arises when the thing you bought with the money you borrowed, generates taxable income.  The most common example is an investment property.  You borrow to buy the property, and the property then brings in rent.  The rent is taxable, and the interest on the debt associated with buying the property is tax deductable.

Tax deductable debt could just as easily be for buying shares, a business, and in some cases a vehicle where you use it to generate income.

Something that comes up from time to time when ascertaining whether a debt is tax deductable, is which asset the debt is secured against, versus the thing you bought with the money from that debt.

The debt on your home is not tax deductable – your home doesn’t generate any income.  But what if you buy another home, and keep your old place as a rental.  You will borrow against you previous home and use the money to buy the new home.  Now people will often assume that given the debt is against the property that is now a rental, it would be tax deductable, but that is wrong.  Tax deductibility has nothing to do with what asset is used as security.  Tax deductibility is determined by how the money that you borrowed was used.  In this case the money was used buy your new home, something that won’t generate any taxable income, and so the interest on that debt is not tax deductable.

If you’ve got any uncertainty as to whether a debt is tax deductable or not, best to give your accountant a call to clarify.

Anyhow, back to your list of debts and their details.  You’ve now got your starting point.  If you want, you could also write down a list of your assets and their values, and then subtract the total debt value from the total asset value to determine your Net Worth.  For some people, tracking Net Worth can be an empowering way to reinforce the positive progression they are making towards financial independence.

So which debt to focus on first?  Well logic would dictate that you’d start with the most expensive debt.  Let’s assume for the illustration that is a credit card debt.

For the time being we’re going to leave the other debts as they are – just keep paying the repayments as you are.  Our focus will be clearing this credit card.

So the low hanging fruit is to pay more off this debt.  A tax return, a bonus, pay rise or gift.

Next, could this debt be refinanced at a lower interest rate?  This is often termed debt consolidation.  Now approach this with caution.  Debt consolidation can certainly lower your debt costs.  But some people simply use it as a way to take on more debt, so don’t head down this path unless you’re serious about getting your debt under control.

The other potential trap with debt consolidation is the length of the new loan.

Check out this example:

Loan amount for both is $20,000

Loan 1 is at an interest rate of 10%, with a repayment term of 3 years.

Loan 2 has a lower interest rate of 5%, and with a loan term of 10 years.

So which loan results in you paying the least interest?

Loan 1: $6,620 of interest paid by the time the loan is paid off in 3 years.

Loan 2: $12,577 of interest paid by the time the loan is paid off in 10 years.

So the key message here is consider debt consolidation, but be wary of solutions where the loan term is stretched out significantly.  The banks or lenders aren’t your friend.  They survive by making money from you, so if you’re considering debt consolidation, make sure you understand your numbers – get some outside help if you need it.

With credit cards, something you could look for is deals where you can transfer your card from one provider to another where they offer an interest free period on balance transfers, often for 6 or 12 months.  Now again, the credit card provider isn’t your friend.  They’re offering this in the hope you don’t pay off this debt, and they’ll make lots of interest from you at the end of the interest free period.  So be sure to really knuckle down on reducing the debt during the interest free period, and when that period ceases, look around to see if you could shift to another credit card provider with a similar deal.

Okay, so you have your debts listed, and you’ve prioritised them from most expensive to least expensive.  You’re keeping then all up to date, but focusing any extra repayments on the most expensive one first.  Awesome.

Progress too slow for you though?

The steps so far have been fairly painless.  But if you really want to make an impact on your debt, there’s one more thing you’d need to do.

No lasting progress will be made unless you get your budget under control.  The hard reality is that if your debt challenges relate to personal debts like credit cards and car loans, you’re in debt because you’ve been spending more than you’re earning.

You need to recognise and acknowledge that, and then take steps to rectify the situation.  What non-essential expenses can you cut?  Subscriptions for magazines, pay TV, or software.  Memberships to the gym or sporting club – would it be cheaper to just pay when you use the facilities?  Clothing.  Eating out.

After housing, food is likely to be your next largest expense item.  Reducing what you spend eating out is the most obvious way to reduce expenses – bring your lunch from home and just eat at home whenever you can.  When buying your groceries, is there any branded products that could be replaced by no-name equivalents.  Think of other ways to play it smart – you feel like some beef for dinner, but do you really need that Eye Fillet steak?  Rump steak is about half the price and mince around a quarter.  Whole chickens are much cheaper by the kilo than chicken pieces.  Just watch a 3 minute video on Youtube on how to break down a chicken and you’re away.

Think how you could save some extra dollars and then send that money towards your debt.  The more you reduce your debt, the less interest you pay to the bank, which means even more of what you pay each month goes towards reducing the debt, and so your loan reduction strategy just snowballs until one day …. YOU’RE DEBT FREE!!!!

I hope this content has been helpful in getting your debt under control.  Be in touch if you need any assistance.  As with all of the Financial Autonomy posts, there is a free toolkit for you to download to help you take action.  In this one I’ve got the debt table that I mentioned earlier so you can get on top of things debt wise, our Budget Tool and also some useful books and web sites.

Next episode we will be looking at Procrastination, so be sure to subscribe to the podcast to ensure you don’t miss out.