Real money talk: Garth

By Jessica Sier 29 January 2019 7 min read

This post is based on an interview we conducted with Garth in January 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.

Garth runs a gemstone business out of the Gold Coast, but has built and sold many different types of businesses over his colourful career.





Where do you live?

Gold Coast

What is your job now?

I am a gemstone and opal dealer, with an online website.

What is your current net worth?

$10 million.

How does it break down? (shares, real estate, businesses, home, superannuation, etc)


Property portfolios: 50%

Stocklist cost value: 20%

Shares: 5%

Online assets: 25%

Income stream:


Commercial: 19%

Rental: 15%

Online income:

Direct: 9%

Passive: 50%

Share dividends: 2%

Other: 5%

Any debts? (including HELP from Uni)

Zero debts for 10 years now.

When did you first start thinking about money?

When I was in nappies! In those days wash and wear (natural instinct) nappies cost more money but were more comfortable.

What was your first job?

Began working on a poultry farm at 10 years of age.

What was your starting salary and how did it grow from there?

At 10 I was paid adult wages as I put in a lot of effort. For example, one day some cattle escaped, and all the staff went home. But I brought cattle back and from that day on I was on adult wages.

When I was 16, they did a million-dollar deal developing poultry farms in China, but in the end were wiped out. So nothing has changed dealing with China in 40 years!

I learnt the lesson, never trust big talkers in smart suits!

What knowledge and tools do you use in your job?

Gut feeling and instinct. And I always have contrarian views.

I’m always looking for opportunities to build the business and make money. I really enjoy it.

I often joke about having the killer instinct in the killing fields, meaning opportunities come by and you’ve got to grab them, don’t pass them up.

Forget equal anything. No one is equal in reality, some are better than others, simple! Look for the skilled people and learn from them.

How do you learn new information for your job?

I’m not always a good learner and I always make a lot of mistakes. Sometimes the right decisions tread a very fine line. They could have gone either way, been a success or a failure.

Afterwards you might look smart but there was a lot of luck. And many times, the timing or essence of your decision is wrong.

At its heart, business or work can sometimes just come down to timing and lost opportunities.

Do you feel like you are compensated fairly?

Hahaha, I think you should take more than you are worth! As I’ve said, there’s no such thing in life as fair. It’s just winner takes all, and these days the loser really loses.

What would you change about your job, if you could?

No regrets whatsoever. I enjoy my job so much.

When my eyes open in bed I’m in business mode. Ready for stats and to see how much the business made while I slept.

It’s real buzz! Better than drugs!

Are you motivated by your own achievements or by what others think of your efforts?

I don’t give a damn what other people think.

I enjoy my ride so much, I have to aim higher each day, so when I go bed at night my assets and wealth creation are more than in the morning.

No excuses.

Achievements are a real buzz!

What would it take for you to deem your life a success?

Positive people are always successful. Not just in money but in health and family too. They are all just as important as wealth creation.

I enjoy making money, it makes my lifestyle fun and pleasurable. If I don’t enjoy a type of business, I’m out of it. If you enjoy what you do, making money is cool.

Greed is good, it makes me smile, as long as you don’t hurt anyone or the planet.

What would make you think your life was a failure?

Negativity never enters my mind.

If business is a failure, it just means the time is not right and you learn from it. So it’s never really a failure.

Do you make purchase decisions carefully, or are you loose with your money?

You can’t be loose with money.

You need to respect money for the power and enjoyment it gives you.

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

You must do what you enjoy. Learn to budget and set goals.

When I started in business at 24, I was traveling around the country selling goods. I set goals and if I didn’t achieve certain sales, I would not get accommodation for the night.

I only slept in a truck twice.

You should set high goals, always.

How is your work-life balance?

7 overseas trips in the last 2 years, Morocco, Machu Picchu, Angkor Wat, Palawan.

All tourist areas. Work hard, play hard.

Do you have income sources outside of your career? If so, how much do you earn from each and how did you develop them?

In the past, I built business up and sold them on.

In the last 10 years, I’ve expanded by diversifying the business and several money streams come in daily.

Wealth creation is more important than income flow. (Once cash flow is positive.)

How much do you spend per year?

Not much. I have an 8-year-old car, and most travel is business orientated so a tax deduction!

I have 6 pairs of shoes now.

Crazy people buy lunches and coffee each day. I read they spend $200 odd per week!

Lunch and coffee is second prize.

First prize is to stop the money haemorrhage and have $10,000 more in your investment profile each year.

Do you have a budget?

In the past, I did exact budgets.

Even now, I have weekly business budgets. But personally, you can only drink and eat so much.

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

When I started, my goal was to bank $120 for every $100 I made. That’s right, I was never good at arithmetic!

My friends thought I was crazy.

At 24, I started a business with $6,000 and by the end of the year I made over $100,000.  I turned my stock over 34 times per year.

My positive attitude was really a form wealth creation: I set an unachievable goal and I did aim for it with everything I had.

I got 7 days credit for stock I bought so I actually did bank money.

Man, it was a buzz.

What is your favourite thing to spend money on?

Wealth creation long term and Friday night beers!

How do you invest?

Long-term views, strategise, manipulate, take advantage of negative people, world is full of opportunities if you look hard!

What has been your best investment?

Too many, a lot of importing and selling with $26,000 sold for $120,000.

I’m always looking for more good deals to get rolling. I forget my wins and always think about my losses when I buy in.

My dad was into horse racing when I was kid and everyone I heard bragged about how well they did before they went broke!

Once I do good deal, I look for another good clean deal.

What has been your worst investment?

I have a bad memory but I once bought a load of billiard balls in from Taiwan and they weren’t round and wobbled and I had borrowed the $10,000, that was no fun!

Too many to remember but all a learning curve.

What's been your overall return?

Above average, way above over 30 years.

How are you building wealth?

Investment portfolio.

Income from different types of property and business.

Cash flow is king.

I don’t give credit.

Always long-term goals.

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

Roadblocks are opportunities. If it were easy everyone would do it.

So I use roadblocks to strengthen position and strategy.

There is little profit to be made if there are no roadblocks as everyone jumps on board and profit crashes, roadblocks can be helpful in wealth creation.

Do you have a target net worth you want?

Just a little bit more.

I would not risk doubling or nothing.

Even 15-25% is ok now instead of aiming for 100% or more.

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

In my mid 30’s, with my kids at school and university.  Education was a high priority and it was expensive and I realised I wanted a passive income stream. At that time I was still on a one-man income. To make passive income I needed to strategise more, so I did.

If you could start again, what would you do differently? (Advice for younger self)

I never look back. My mind is only focused on the future not the past.

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

Haha, I haven’t got all day here. Go make your own mistakes!

Only take advice from a person if they are worth many times more than you.

If you had to give advice to Spaceship readers about how to build wealth, what would it be?

Double up on your own super if you’re conservative and don’t trust governments in the future.

Turn your hobby into a cash flow business.

What do you want to do in your retirement?

Travel like I do now and start new business concepts, same as now.

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


How did you learn about building wealth?

I read Rich Dad, Poor Dad 30 years ago. It’s more relevant today.

Today people are more influenced by wasteful social websites.

I think this generation has too many dumb people living on social websites which are actually making them poorer than my generation. They are not planning for the future but are wasting time on images of food etc. That’s my opinion!

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

Zero money to charity. I don’t like charities.

Instead I have supported many small business people, but not as charity.

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: Garth