Real money talk: Gavin

By Bryna Howes 10 September 2019 4 min read

This post is based on an interview we conducted with Gavin in August 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: Gavin

Age: 39

Where do you live? Sydney, Inner West.

Please tell us a bit about yourself.

I’m an artist and an art teacher. I’ve lived all over Australia, but I’ve been in Sydney for the last seven or eight years.

What is your current net worth?

Not sure.

How does it break down?

Savings: $45,000

Super: $35,000

Debt: None

Assets: This is a bit hard to say really. I live and work in a warehouse that’s filled with stuff. To a lot of people, it’s probably junk, but to me it’s a huge part of my creativity and process, and that’s where my income comes from. How do you put a value on “scrap metal that ended up giving me an idea that I used for a $20,000 commission?” I also have some stocks which are now worth $30,000.

I’m technically a freelancer so I don’t have tax withheld; I just pay my tax bill at the end of the financial year.

How did you accumulate your net worth?

Just trying not to spend all my money at once! When I was younger, I liked playing the pokies a bit and shouting everyone drinks when I had money. I still like doing that, but not beyond what I can afford. One of my uncles, who never got married and never had kids, died when I was a teenager, so I got a bit of cash from him, and I also inherited the stocks. I can’t remember how much they were worth when I inherited them, but they’ve been growing slowly since then.


Tell us a bit about your career:

I studied fine arts at uni. I don’t think it really taught me all that much about how to be an artist, but it definitely allowed me to learn how to use different tools and learn about methods I would’ve had a harder time learning on my own.

At first, I always kept side jobs, like in hospitality or labour, but I’ve been a full-time artist since I was somewhere in my late 20s.

I always knew art was my thing, I’m into big industrial sculpture and paintings. I teach art classes and run a sketch club for extra cash but for the most part I work on commissions or my own stuff.

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

Not really. I pocket about $160 on average from sketch groups that I run twice a week. From teaching classes, courses, and workshops, on average I make another $1,000 in a month.

Sometimes more, sometimes less. I have to manage my money carefully because I’ll usually get a big chunk from selling art, then it’ll be a couple months while I make the next few things — and hope to god someone wants to buy them!

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

Do what you love, but make sure you innovate. Do it bigger, better, different. There’s space in the world to chase what you love but you have to differentiate yourself from everyone else. Especially creatives. Be memorable.


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

It’s not regular, never has been.

Do you have a budget?

I live off about $700 a week, with $400 of that for rent, but I claim some of it as my living space is also my workshop. I don’t spend much on other stuff. If I’m really tight for cash, I try to hire out my space for events. I spend probably $1,000 a month on art supplies.

How much do you spend per year?

God knows. Slightly less than I make, hopefully!

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

Pretty casually but I don’t need much. My materials are often very cheap or free because a lot of it comes from scrap yards.

How is your work-life balance?

It’s great. My work is tiring but also recharges my batteries. I take a break whenever I need it. You have to do that when you’re a creative.

What is your favourite thing to spend money on?

Art supplies and craft beers.


How do you invest?

The stocks I inherited.

What's been your overall return?

Well, the $30,000 of stocks, because I didn’t buy them myself! So that’s 100% return. Or more since I put in $0… maths is not my strong suit.

How are you building wealth?

Putting money aside in my savings, putting money in my super every time I sell something.

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

Well, banks won’t give me a loan. I’m self-employed and an artist! Being an artist, it’s linear, but also not as linear as other careers. I don’t know, it’s the only thing I’ve ever done properly so I can’t compare. I’ve definitely gotten better at networking and marketing myself over time, as well as improving my technical skills and developing my ideas into proper artworks.

Do you have a target net worth you want?


If you could start again, what would you do differently?

Honestly, nothing. Everything is a learning experience.

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

Not really. As I mentioned, I put money in my super. Art isn’t really something you have to retire from. We artists are like wine; we usually get better with age. Or die tragically young, but I’m not that young anymore, so I think I’ve passed that safely.

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


Words by
Bryna Howes Right Chevron

Bryna Howes is the Head of Content at Spaceship. She's equally obsessive about cinnamon donuts and scouring the web for great reads.

Real money talk: Gavin