It’s true what they say. Each year goes by faster than the last.
Unfortunately, I can confirm this is still the case when you’re no longer in full-time employment!
While 2020 was no exception here, it threw us a few more curveballs than your average year.
In this update, I’ll share what the Strong Money household has been up to in 2020 and how we’re enjoying our fourth year of freedom.
We’ve been very lucky in WA regarding the virus outbreak this year. Our lockdown was short and mild. But that didn’t stop the complete nutjobs from panic-buying everything in sight like the world was ending.
My stubborn nature meant that I refused to play that game, casually buying whatever we needed as per normal. The sick and irritating irony is that people were panic-buying… because other people were panic-buying! Which obviously lead to ever-increasing fear and desperation.
People complained about it, yet were participating themselves. They felt compelled to engage in the same ridiculous behaviour as everyone else, out of fear they might miss out on something.
Almost nobody stood back and thought about how ridiculous it all was. “We should buy more now in case there isn’t any here next time.”
Never mind the fact that this is exactly what caused shelves to become empty in the first place! We created a self-induced shortage!
I remember staring at the madness one day, and having three emotions. Wanting to laugh at the stupidity of it all. Wanting to pull my hair out in frustration. And the urge to start punching people to wake them up.
Anyway! With a stroke of luck, the shops were stocked up just in time, so I didn’t have to start using old shirts to wipe 😉 In Perth, life has been more or less back to normal for a while now.
Mrs SMA‘s part-time employer got her setup to work from home, which lasted for around two months. I feel for the people who lost jobs through no fault of their own, and the small businesses who are hurting.
We haven’t been able to visit family which we were both planning to do this year. But with WA opening its border, we’ll be doing visits pretty soon.
All in all, our household was mostly unaffected. And in global terms, we’re incredibly lucky.
This year we went for another road trip and explored a few places in WA we hadn’t seen before. As with our other trips, we rented pet-friendly houses so our dog could come along.
The places we visited were Busselton, Margaret River and Augusta, staying a few days in each. All beautiful places in South West WA.
Busselton was probably our favourite. A gorgeous little city/big town of 15,000-20,000 people only 2.5 hours from Perth. Very, very liveable. A good place to retire perhaps 😉
We did a few cave tours – Lake Cave and Jewel Cave – which were fascinating and awe-inspiring. And we contributed handsomely to the local economies, by visiting countless cafes, bakeries, a brewery, chocolate factory and more.
Here’s a few happy-snaps (which you might remember from my article: how to travel and enjoy time off without killing your savings)…
This year we continued doing the odd work day with Friends of Yellagonga Regional Park, spending time planting trees and weeding. Just to prove I’m still capable of mild physical labour!
Some of the areas we’ve planted previously are growing nicely. It’s great to see improvement and know that you helped, even just a little.
In addition, I’m spending quite a bit of time on the local turtles. This year we’ve been more active in helping them nest in our yard, and then protecting those nests where possible. In 6-9 months, when the baby turtles hatch, we should now be able to get more of them into the lake, with less eaten by crows or run over.
From roughly September to December, we see the lady turtles looking for somewhere to lay their eggs…
And then from March to June the babies come out and try to make their way to the lake. These baby long-neck turtles are extremely small. Their shells are about the size of a 50c coin.
I also like to pick up rubbish on a semi-regular basis when we’re out for walks, just to keep the area clean and reduce pollution going into the lake. And while I mostly enjoy this (despite sometimes cursing the people who left the litter), one day I was seething with rage.
Apparently, some dickhead decided to just park the car and proceed to dump a pile of unwanted shit onto the ground and then leave. It was like a bogan car had vomited a week’s worth of rubbish. Water bottles, alcohol cans, cigarette packets, packaging, takeaway containers and random crap like receipts and bits of plastic.
Is it bad to wish death on someone? I don’t care. People like that need not exist.
(I just realised, this is the second ‘anger’ episode in this post. Maybe I should see someone about that, haha)
On a brighter note, Mrs SMA has joined a new community garden just a short walk from our house. So she’s been helping there each week as they get the garden established. Later, it’s going to be used partly as a sensory learning experience for children with disabilities.
A big thanks to all of you for reading the blog during 2020! While it’s great this site reaches more people each year, I get the most satisfaction from the wonderful emails and feedback that come from you, the readers 🙂
When I started writing I was a little worried about running out of ideas. But as time goes on, I keep adding more notes in my phone than I’m using, so it’s now a matter of trying to decide what to write.
Yes, that’s my sophisticated method for drafting ideas. Something pops into my head, I whip out my phone and make a note. Right now, there are probably over 100 ideas in there. Many are probably rubbish, but some will be useful!
Also, I know my writing has been slightly less frequent now that Pat and I are doing the podcast. While I may do more from time to time, one piece of content each week feels like the right amount to send out. Otherwise, what is this – a job?
But I’d also like to carve out time for something else: writing a book. Some of you have mentioned this in the past and my answer was something like, “when the blog gets too big and messy I’ll consider it.”
We’re probably at that point now. I love the idea of trying to distil all my thoughts on financial independence down into an enjoyable and actionable book. In practice though, I fully expect the project to be an absolute nightmare and for it to almost kill me!
From what I’ve read, writing a high quality book tends to take 18-24 months, from first word to finished product. So, this torturous task will begin at the start of 2021.
To be honest, the reason I’m sharing this is so you can hold me accountable. I’ll be forced to follow through. Otherwise, my superhuman ability to procrastinate will continue to win out 😛
The FIRE and Chill podcast has exceeded our modest expectations. Pat and I are enjoying this new activity and the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. So again thanks for your support!
We’ve been running for around 7 months and the podcast has notched up 100,000 downloads. That’s probably peanuts compared to some others out there, but pretty good for our little niche!
While it’s definitely not my strong suit, I think my speaking ability is starting to get better. That said, there’s plenty of room for practice and improvement.
Australia just experienced its first recession in about 30 years. This was my first time going through it as an adult and as an investor, not to mention as an early retiree.
On one hand, this should have been a terrible experience. The market crashed, dividends fell heavily, and the economy looked in awful shape. But in practice, it wasn’t that bad.
Our investments produced lower income than in the previous year, most notably our Aussie index fund. But as we’re still transitioning from property to shares, we were actually buying shares during the turmoil. Because of this, I don’t expect our income to change that much over the current 12 months. We’re also earning some part time income and have plenty of cash in the bank.
The next property sale will probably be in about two years. Our cash will easily last until then and I’m expecting a decent period ahead for Perth/Brisbane property. See how it goes!
Lifestyle and other stuff…
For those wondering, we’re still renting for now. Three years in and it’s been a relatively stress-free ride. We just signed another 12 month lease at the same rent. That was probably a good move, considering how hard it is to find rentals in Perth at the moment!
Around our birthdays in Feb/March we treated ourselves to another NBL game. The seats were fantastic and the game went into overtime, AGAIN! Some of you might remember the same thing happening last year. How lucky is that? Value for money or what!?
I also donated blood a few times in 2020, after seeing a story about how much is needed just to keep up with demand. The experience was actually pretty good! Staff at my local donation centre are so nice, it only takes around 15 minutes, and you even get food and drink afterwards!
This is definitely something that feels worthwhile and I plan to keep doing it. Apparently, with each blood donation you can save up to 3 lives. That’s pretty awesome.
Mrs SMA has been even busier in the garden this year, expanding and diversifying her portfolio of plants. And that’s been paying dividends in the form of a steadily increasing stream of fresh produce 😉
Some current holdings include: lemongrass, kale, spinach, chives, capsicum, chilli, onion, garlic, and many potted fruit trees which are tantalisingly close to reaching production stage.
Another investing-like side note: the bigger a plant or tree becomes, the more valuable it is if you decide to sell. Interesting, no?
In general, our year has been great. We’re all healthy and experiencing many happy times. Our dog stayed out of trouble again with no unplanned trips to the vet.
Of course, we’re still doing our normal stuff like lots of walks, reading, bike rides, random trips out for lunch and so on.
While there are many things I care about or find fascinating (writing, animals, health, investing etc.), I can’t imagine working on any of them full-time. Because then I don’t really have time for other things. And when I feel restricted or time-poor, I start feeling depressed.
Like most things, it could be a difference of personality. But I honestly think working part-time (on whatever you choose) is probably the best lifestyle there is. It leaves lots of time for other things, giving you a well-rounded and enjoyable week with very little stress. That’s surely the best fit for mental and physical health.
2020 was a strange and eventful year to say the least! We’re lucky to come through the other side in a better place than could have been expected.
I appreciate you following the blog and my ramblings on the podcast – I hope you’re getting something out of it. Wishing you a Merry Christmas for the coming week!
But first, let me know, how has your 2020 been? Share your thoughts in the comments below…