Real money talk: Frank

By Jessica Sier 28 May 2019 5 min read

This post is based on an interview we conducted with Frank in March 2019.

Real Money Talk is our series where we interview Australians from all walks of life about their personal finances. The views expressed are those of the interviewees, based on their experiences with money, and as such are not necessarily representative of Spaceship's views.

We have changed the name of the interviewee for their privacy.


Name: Frank

Age: 26

Where do you live: Newcastle

Please tell us a bit about yourself.

I live in Newcastle, do disability support work, and am working on opening my own business. My fascination with zombie movies and considering how I’d survive if the systems started falling apart is really what got me started with investing.

What is your current net worth?

Savings: $26,000 + $1,000 cash

Super: $7,000

Debt: Nil

Stocks and bonds: About $28,000

Gold bullion: About $3,000 worth

How did you accumulate your net worth?

When I started working, I found great achievement in growing my bank account. That was my motivation. I was always very frugal and tried to be as strict as possible. Since then, I’ve moved into other kinds of investments. I always try to have a mix, in case things collapse. I also live very frugally and prioritise my investments.


Tell us a bit about your career:

Before I went to Los Angeles, I was acting. When I came back to Australia, I started working at Pizza Hut, and just enjoyed growing my bank account. I really didn’t want to keep working for the rest of my life. I didn’t want to do what everyone else was doing, especially watching the U.S. housing market crash. I decided to be in as little or no debt as possible for my whole life.

Right now I run my own business and I also do disability support work. Between them, I make about $360 a week. Not counting dividends, which are reinvested automatically. My expenses come to about $350 a week.

What advice do you have for people who want to earn more money?

First off, control your spending. Figure out where your money is going before you look to make more. Use your money efficiently. Lower expenses, then raise income. Otherwise, lifestyle creep will come in.


What is your savings rate? And how has it changed over time?

At the moment, nothing really, which I’m not too happy about. But the intention right now is opening the business. I usually try to save at least 60% of my wage.

Do you have a budget?

I’m extremely frugal as is. Over the course of about two months, I tracked all my expenses and identified things which cost more than they should and have managed to lower them.

How much do you spend per year?

Health insurance: $360

Phone plan: $290

Internet: $320

Water: $300

Electricity: $572

Groceries: $2,600

Rent: $120/week, about to go down to $95.

Transport: $900, including rego/car expenses etc.

Incidentals (including bucks party, unexpected social events, random costs): $6,820

Total per week: $355/week.

How is your work-life balance?

Fantastic. I am thoroughly enjoying working on my business and the disability support work is far easier than when I’ve done it in the past.

What is your favourite thing to spend money on?

I don’t. Putting it into my investments with the idea of buying a house in the future.


What has been your best investment?

On an off chance, a friend told me about Ethereum, the cryptocurrency, years ago. I put in about $75 which ended up netting me around $4,000.

What has been your worst investment?

Currently, the worst is medicinal marijuana stocks. But I don’t see it as a large failure, as I indexed it, and there are 1 or 2 that are doing very well and around 10 that are doing terrible. I’m waiting for it to get legalised and when the price jumps, I’ll sell.

What's been your overall return?

Not sure, roughly 5 or 6%? Not including dividends. Maybe somewhere between 7.5-8% p.a.

What are your main roadblocks? And how are you addressing them?

Literally how much income I have. But that's a personal choice because I’m sacrificing income now for more down the road.

Do you have a target net worth you want?

The goal is to buy a house outright. I don’t want to pay off a loan for 40 years.

When did you make your first significant behavioural shift towards wealth building?

I honestly think it was when a dumb zombie survival book got me thinking about looking after myself and supporting myself. I think it’s so dumb, but it really is what started me on the path of financial independence.

If you could start again, would you have done anything differently? (Advice for younger self)

Yes and no. I’m quite happy with my path. The only thing I could’ve done is worked more, really, to invest more, but I don’t really want to do that. I’m happy with my lifestyle.

What mistakes have you made along the way that others can learn from?

Just some dumb things with the stock market. I had no clue what I was doing, and nobody knew what I was doing. I just went for it and I made a few mistakes, like spending $100 extra because I misplaced a decimal place. But every mistake is the cost of learning.  

Do you have any worries about retirement? If so, how are you planning to address them?

No, I’ve got a pretty solid plan out to retirement with my partner.  

How are you learning about building wealth? Is it from family, books, forced to learn as wealth grew, etc.?

When I was 19, I started educating myself. I was interested in the world falling apart, watching lots of zombie movies. But it pushed me onto a much more financially stable path. From that, I’ve always kept different levels of securities. I always have cash on hand. If the economy crashes, I’ve also got metals in place in case cash becomes worthless.

After that, I always have six months’ worth of living expenses (at least $10,000). Right now it’s higher because I’m looking into opening my own gym, so I’ve got more than usual. Once I've got my grand in cash, metals, cash in the bank... I’ve got about 12 months’ [worth] of living expenses.

Everything else goes into stocks and bonds, especially index funds, because I think it’s very safe. I wanted to get into the housing market but I knew I was nowhere near, so I looked for something with similar returns and risk.

Do you give to charity? If you do, what percent of time/money do you give?

Yes, once a year we donate to Do It In A Dress. It’s like $50, not that much.

Words by
Jessica Sier Right Chevron

Jessica Sier is a financial journalist. Prior to that she led content at Spaceship and was a reporter at the AFR where she discovered that breaking down financial jargon was a public good.

Real money talk: Frank