Real money talk: James

By Jessica Sier 19 April 2019 4 min read

This post is based on an interview we conducted with James in April 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: James

Age: 31

Where do you live: Camden

Please tell us a bit about yourself.

I’m a chef at a busy RSL in Campbelltown. I’ve been working there for about three years. I’m filling out this survey because I’m sick of everybody talking about money all the time. I think it turns people into wankers.

What is your current net worth?


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

$17,000 in cash.

Any debts? (including HELP from Uni)


How did you accumulate your net worth?

What? I went to work and spent less than I earned.


Tell us a bit about your career:

I trained as a chef in Campbelltown after I finished high school. And got a job pretty much straight away - working in a busy bistro is pretty easy.

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

I sometimes do private functions and things around town. I organise the produce, menu and I’m the chef onsite on the day. This can make me around $1,000 extra.

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

Concentrate on things that aren’t money. It’s a form of control that turns people into slaves.


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

I just avoid having debt. And I put away $100 or $200 a pay cheque when I decide I need something bigger. I take the savings money out first though.

Do you have a budget?

No - I just refuse to let the bank control what I can and can’t do, so I’ve never had a credit card or a personal loan or anything.

When I run out of money, I either go and do a cash in hand job or I just wait until pay day and eat toast.

How much do you spend per year?

I spend around $500 a week so around $26,000 a year.

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

I’m careful but I don’t care very much. I watch people who are loose their money all the time and it’s disgusting. They are hungry to get more of it and then they just spend it on cars or gambling or alcohol.

How is your work-life balance?

It’s good. I read and watch YouTube a lot.

What is your favourite thing to spend money on?

My favourite thing is to read. But I don’t buy books often, I get them out of the library. I guess spending money on food is the most important though.


How do you invest?

I’m not giving money to corporations so they can pay themselves fat salaries and just make more and more money. Nobody seems to be building things that last, they are just hoping to get through the next company announcement and make the stock price higher.

What has been your best investment?

I invest in my own knowledge and education.

What has been your worst investment?

I once bought a Volvo.

What's been your overall return?

I’m still alive.

How are you building wealth?

I don’t need wealth to survive, I just need less stuff. I am fine tuning how I can live with as little impact and as little stuff as possible.

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

People think you need more stuff than you really do and they measure themselves against each other. Those kinds of attitudes exist everywhere - at my job, with my friends and with my family. That kind of “we need to buy more stuff” attitude is the biggest roadblock in my life. It’s also the biggest roadblock in other people’s lives. They just go to work everyday so they can get money to buy things they don’t even use.

Do you have a target net worth you want?

I am enough. As long as I don’t starve and I can keep learning about things, I don’t need a dollar amount to show I’m worth anything.

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

I guess you mean when did I start disconnecting from money? When I was about 24 I decided I would just begin living minimally.

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

I worried a lot about what people thought of me while I was at school and now it doesn’t bother me at all. I would tell my younger self not to stress about earning money and I would choose not to listen to the teachers who basically told everyone at my school they should become doctors or lawyers or go to uni because if they didn’t they’d be drug addicts. That’s a ridiculous way for teenagers to approach their working lives, forcing themselves into a white collar profession so they don’t ‘fail’.

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

Other people can influence your behaviour a lot. I had a girlfriend for a while who had very different money values to me - ie. she valued it. I would say I didn’t stick to my principles for that relationship because I was trying to impress her.

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

I plan to live really quietly in the bush somewhere with very little interaction with all the consumerism that goes on in the city.

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

One thing I do buy regularly is The Big Issue.

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: James