Real money talk: Johnson

By Jessica Sier 11 March 2020 5 min read

This post is based on an interview we conducted with Johnson in October 2018.

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.

Name: Johnson

Age? 28 and 3/4.

Where do you live?

Newtown, Sydney.

What is your current net worth?

About $50k.

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

About half in super and the rest in savings accounts, Raiz, and Spaceship Voyager.

Any debts? (including HELP from Uni)

Yup, I have about $40,000 of student debt owing – it’s super fun.

When did you first start thinking about money? What prompted you?

I first started thinking about money when I was about 12 and really wanted a Nokia cell phone so I could play snake and listen to ringtones over and over again.

What was your first job?

When I was 14, I decided I wanted to go on my High School French class’s bi-annual trip to France (when I would be 16). My parents said that I needed to pay half the cost so I got a job stocking the biscuit and cracker aisle at the supermarket.

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

At the supermarket it was NZD$6.00 per hour pre-tax as I was under the age that they legally had to pay a minimum wage to. I think I worked 14 hours a week and got about $70 for it. It took a long time to save for that trip but it was worth it?

My pay didn’t progress at the supermarket. But my pay did progress over time - first when I was old enough for the minimum wage, then when I was at uni, then when I was a grad etc. My first salary as a graduate policy analyst was $45k.

What knowledge and tools do you use in your job?

I work in policy so a bunch of stuff? Knowledge of policy processes and policy development; knowledge of markets, politics, governmental and legislative processes. Knowledge of the law and the legal system. Analytical and communication skills. How and when to advocate on issues and who to talk to.

How do you learn new information for your job?

The quickest way is usually to figure out who the expert is / who knows it already and to talk to them about it.

Do you feel like you are compensated fairly?

I do.

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

More engagement with stakeholders and industry. More meetings and work outside of the office.

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

At my current job I am probably more motivated by what others think of my efforts. But in the sense that I’m usually thinking about what I can do or where I can go next, I would say I am motivated equally by both of those things.  

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

A large veggie garden with chickens in it; a nice kitchen with polished wooden floors; a room that I can do crafty things in; a standard poodle named Jacuzzi; a griffon-bruxellois called…Sweetie?; lots of windows; a view of something. And ultimately: the time, flexibility, and stability to enjoy these things without too much worry.

What would make you think your life was a failure?

I don’t know, writing for the Daily Telegraph?

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

I will take forever to research and purchase expensive things like technology, holidays and so on. But I’m pretty good at spending all my money on wine and food every weekend.

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

Be yourself! Don’t sweat the small stuff. Live, love, and laugh. Exercise. Carpe Diem. Live every day as if it were your last. Blow bubbles. Fly a kite. Sing like nobody is listening. Dance like everybody is watching. Learn to Juggle. Go to clown school. Become a clown who is also a successful pop musician. Branch out into the film industry and make a highly-anticipated screen debut. Start a sexy tech company. B R E A T H E. Sell your old junk. Start an Etsy store. Mood board.

How is your work-life balance?

Balanced as.

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

Not unless you count small amounts of interest?

How much do you spend per year?


Do you have a budget?

Not really. At the moment I am saving, so I have a set amount that I plan to save every week, and I know how much rent / student loan / groceries cost so it allows me to plan. I guess that’s a kind of budget, but without an end-goal sum or whatever in mind.

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

At the moment I am contracting so earn a higher rate than I would otherwise – so I’m able to save about three times as much as I was at my previous permanent salaried job.

What is your favourite thing to spend money on?

White wine.

How do you invest?

Basically and with minimum effort. I use Raiz and Spaceship and that’s about it.

What has been your best investment?

I would have to say my university education or my SodaStream. It’s a close call.

What has been your worst investment?

It occurred during an embarrassing foray into cryptocurrencies.

What's been your overall return?

Continued rewarding employment and an unlimited supply of sparkling water.

How are you building wealth?

I save money every week and try to set achievable goals. I put the money I don’t spend on bottled sparkling water in a jar.

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

Lack of knowledge and motivation to learn more about money and investment. An addiction to white wine and lotto tickets. To be honest, I’m not actively addressing these roadblocks, but I do plan on learning more in the future.

Do you have a target net worth you want?


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

Probably about a year ago, for no particular reason except for the constant crushing societal pressure.

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

Learn to play the piano.

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

No regrets.

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

Use Spaceship and similar products. Set up automatic recurring payments – you won’t miss the money if you never see it in your current account. If your bank lets you do roundups, those are handy too.

What do you want to do in your retirement?

Successful pop musician.

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

Very vague worries – but I think I am addressing them somewhat with superannuation, savings etc.

How are you learning about building wealth?

I read the Spaceship newsletter. It’s amazing and the writer is fantastic.

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

I sponsor a girl called Christine. She lives with her granny in Uganda, her favourite colour is yellow, and she hates maths.

I make one-off donations to different things fairly regularly.

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: Johnson