Our Year in Review: Strong Money Adventures in 2019

We’re now into our third year of freedom, since reaching the FI checkered-flag back in 2017.

Time seems like it’s flying by now, just as fast as when we were working full-time!  What’s up with that!?

I mean, we’re not that busy.  We do our best to appreciate the fortunate lives we have, as we enjoy the ultimate, irreplaceable luxury.  Time.

For us, that’s about striking a healthy balance between productivity and downtime.  And when you no longer need to work, that’s not as easy as it seems!  We don’t always get it right, but we tweak as we go.

So today, let’s step back for a minute as I share exactly what we’ve been up to in 2019!

 

Investing

This year was interesting for different Aussie asset classes.  After falling towards the end of last year, the sharemarket was absolutely flying in 2019.  Since January, the ASX 300 returned over 25% including dividends, at the time of writing.

Property markets fell in the first half of the year before the election, coinciding beautifully with our property sale!  To rub salt into the wound, since the Liberal win, the largest markets of Sydney and Melbourne have recovered strongly.

Jokes aside, I’m not really bothered by it.  We’re simply continuing on with our somewhat messy property-to-shares transition strategy.  We continued adding to our share portfolio each month and enjoyed another solid year of dividends!

In a bit of a milestone, our cashflow from investments for FY19 clocked over $20k, which we’re pretty pleased about 🙂

 

Blogging

Writing on this blog continued at a steady pace.  And recently, I’ve started writing more often, rather than cramming a huge blog post into one or two red-eyed days.

I’m surprised at how much I’ve grown to enjoy writing, having never really done it before.  Don’t get me wrong, it does get frustrating.  But on the whole, it’s great!

Honestly, the most satisfying part of writing is getting feedback from readers who say this stuff has helped them, or simply that they enjoy my content.  Then the frustrations take a back seat and the positive vibes fuel more ideas.

This blog grew quite a lot in 2019, and hit 1 million total pageviews since its birth in 2017.  So thanks to all of you for reading, and extra thanks if you’ve shared this blog with friends, family etc.

During 2019, I also caught up for coffee multiple times with a number of local readers, which was great.  Always good to talk to other FI enthusiasts in person, since most of society doesn’t really get us 😉

I’m really looking forward to 2020 and I genuinely expect the FIRE movement to strengthen even more in the next few years.

By the way, I have a ton of juicy content in the works, so make sure you get the goods by subscribing below…

As regular readers know, this blog also took me to Sydney this year, to be part of the Q&A panel at the Sydney premiere of the Playing with FIRE documentary.

Here, I was forced to face my biggest fear of public speaking!  Since it was a chat panel, rather than a solo thing, it was MUCH less terrifying.

The event was lots of fun and the audience was super-engaged, asking some fantastic questions!  Here’s a few clips from the night…

 

Health & Exercise

Health should be a priority for all of us.  Sure, money is great.  And freedom is even better.  But without health, we’ve really got nothing!

In our case, we love taking our dog for a walk every morning.  Well, until the recent 40-degree week-long Perth heatwave that is!

He’s a British Bulldog, so he doesn’t enjoy the heat.  That means more indoor time during the day and in the evenings we’ll play outside and wet him with the hose, which he loves!  Other times, you can find him enjoying the FI lifestyle…

Mrs Strong Money and I go for regular bike rides, enjoying the local regional park.  Most days, we’ll spot groups of Kangaroos, lots of birdlife and sometimes a large monitor lizard.

We didn’t take the 1-hour bike ride around the lake many times this year.  Next year we’ll try and do this a few more times.  Every time we do, we marvel at the beauty of the area and feel great afterwards.

We also make an effort to do some type of resistance training.  Whether it’s bodyweight exercises (which I’ve really taken to recently!) or weights, a few times each week doing strenuous physical things is pure gold, for your health and mental wellbeing.

And on occasion, we also wander down to the local basketball court to shoot some hoops (not that we’re any good!).  The best part is, these life-enhancing activities cost us somewhere close to zero dollars.

 

Update on renting

I mentioned a while back how we started renting.  And I said I’d provide an update, so…

It’s now two years later and overall, we still enjoy renting.  Not having to pay for, well, anything really, is awesome!  No council rates, water rates, repairs, maintenance, insurance etc.

Sure, some consider rent ‘dead money’.  I don’t see it that way.  By investing instead of owning, our money is working harder, with enough cashflow to pay rent, plenty leftover, and no surprise expenses.

While we’ll probably buy a place of our own in the future (likely with cash), right now things are going pretty smoothly.

The plan was to try renting in multiple locations to decide where we want to stay longer term.  But our current area is fantastic for us.  The local shops are comfortable walking/biking distance.  And the nature aspect is heavenly.  Speaking of which…

 

I got a new job!

Okay, so it’s not an actual job.  And it wasn’t offered to me.  It’s just something I started doing.

What is it?  The picture for this post should give you a hint!  I’ve been helping local turtles.  Here’s the story…

This area has a large wetland system with a decent population of long-neck turtles.  During spring, the lady turtles come onto land and find a place to lay their eggs.  And apparently, they go back to the same spot every year!

And the turtles often travel 100+ metres from the water to lay.  Sadly, this means crossing the road.  And because not everyone is careful, some of them get hit by cars.

Why do the turtles do this?  Because they don’t know what a road is!

So, I started monitoring our area and helping them cross the road, back and forth.  Even though it’s unpredictable, luckily large groups often come out to lay on the same day, and usually from 12pm-6pm.  It has something to do with the temperature and weather patterns.

Incredibly, I counted around 160 this year, during October-November.  And a whopping 90 on a single day!  Just in our area covering maybe 500 metres!

On this busy day, it just happened to be absolutely bucketing down with rain, so it wasn’t exactly fun.  But I’m still glad to have done it.  Turtles are just so cool!  Real-life miniature dinosaurs!

A number of the turtles wandered into our garden and layed here last spring, which feels magical to witness.  After 9 months, the hatchlings pop out of the ground (around winter time) and try to make their way to the water.  A few pics…

Anyway, when they hatched I rang the Oblonga Turtle Network to find out what to do.  They told me to carefully help them out of the hole/nest, and warm them up in my hands for a few minutes, because they need warmth for energy.

Then, once they start wriggling around, take them across the road to the lake and place them at the water’s edge.  So I did.  It was an awesome experience!

I felt so privileged to be able to help and watch them swim away.  Off to make their own way in the world.  There must have been about 15 hatchlings or so from our yard that I could find.

To a tiny, newly-born creature, a giant lake must seem like a vast and scary place.  But they don’t procrastinate.  They don’t worry about what might happen.  They just get on with things.  Beautiful.

Related to this, we also joined a local volunteer group, Friends of Yellagonga Regional Park.  The group has work days each month and does tree planting, weeding and other projects to help conserve and protect the quality of the area, for wildlife and people.

We’ve been along to a number of work days so far and we’re really enjoying it.  After learning of the turtle happenings, they now refer to me as ‘The Turtle Guy’.  Haha!

 

Family visits/travel

Last year we did two road-trips to different parts of WA.  This year we did none!

That wasn’t really on purpose.  After the trip at the end of last year, we didn’t fancy doing a trip for a while.

Then we were only really half keen and never got around to choosing a place and doing it, lol.  Next year, we’ll definitely do a trip somewhere, with our dog of course 🙂

Probably also because both of us went interstate for family visits this year, as well as me going to Sydney for an event.  Anyway, it was great to catch up and spend some quality time with my Dad’s side of the family over in Victoria!

And I’m asked this a lot, so I’ll just say it… no I won’t be moving back to Victoria anytime soon.  I really like Perth.  Well, when it’s not bloody 40 degrees that is!

 

Events

During the year we also had a few fun outings.  For our combined birthday celebration (which is only a few days apart), we treated ourselves with tickets to an NBL game.

We ventured to the city to watch Perth Wildcats play the Sydney Kings.  Perth fans (The Red Army) meet in the city, with the cheer squad and band.  Then everyone marches (pun intended) up to the arena about 500 metres away.

It’s pretty cool to be amongst it and gets you excited for the game.  And man, what a game!  About as good as you could ask for.

Perth was shooting pretty poorly during the first half and Sydney had a comfortable lead.  But in the second half, our best player, Bryce Cotton, really turned it on and was scoring left and right.

Then we caught up, scores were level, and the game ended up going into overtime!  That’s damn good value for money, right? 😉

In overtime, the Wildcats took over and Cotton was draining 3-pointers from everywhere.  The game was fantastic, and it’s come a long way in the last few years.  Better stadium, better entertainment, better talent, and just more professional all-round.

The atmosphere was electric and the noise was unbelievable.  I seriously don’t know how the players can concentrate!

 

We also went to an electric car event on the other side of Perth.  Not to buy anything, just to take a look!  There were about 10 different electric cars of various models.  Multiple Teslas, BMW, Nissan, Hyundai, Renault and more.

We were planning to test drive a few just for fun (as it was included as part of the ticket), but the line was just too long!  So instead, we wandered around and had a peek at the vehicles of the future.

Watching them driving around was pretty exciting, even though you can’t hear a god-damn thing!  They make like zero noise.  Which is to be expected I guess, but it’s still very strange at first.

Here are some of the cars and happy snaps of us.  Sadly, the Tesla I had my eye on was ever-so-slightly more expensive than the $12,000 paid for our new car… just add an extra zero 😉

 

Final words

So that’s a few of the things we got up to in 2019.  In many ways, our lives aren’t that different from most people.  We eat, sleep, read, exercise, socialise, work and play.

The main difference is simply the amount of free time we have.  And the lower stress that comes with having a healthy amount of savings and investments behind us.

We’re each enjoying our part-time work, and feel that life has a good balance at the moment.  But as we look ahead to 2020, I can’t help but scan for what we could improve on!

The human mind is a funny thing.  Even when things feel pretty good, we have instinctive motivation to make things even better. 

And because of this, things DO tend to get better over time.  But only if we’re mindful enough to see what’s working and what’s not, then make adjustments.

I hope you had a great 2019, and I wish you all the best for 2020!  Thanks so much for reading.  Have a safe and happy Christmas, and I’ll see you in the new year!

P.S.  If you want reading material for the Christmas break, I just finished writing an ebook:
“The Aussie Guide to Reaching Financial Independence.”  It’s a free download you can read whenever you like!

Click here to get your copy.

33 comments

  1. Have really enjoyed reading your blog this year. Thank you for taking the time to share your experiences and learnings. Looking forward to next year.

      1. Hi Dave
        Thanks for your writings, insight and musings throughout the year(s).

        Please keep them coming and have a great 2020!

  2. We have really enjoyed reading your blog this year. You have a very conversational style of writing that’s easy to read. Thanks for all the time you put into your posts! We’ve definitely recommended your blog.

    All the best for a great Christmas and a wonderful 2020.

  3. Hey Dave!
    A great read, I found your perspective on renting very interesting and you make some obviously true points about not having to pay maintenance, rates etc. Please allow me to make a point about one of the possible downsides of renting. Once as a young family my wife and I were renting. The owner decided that she wanted to return from America with her new husband and occupy the house. We were given 60 days I think from memory to vacate the premises. Through no fault of our own, our lives were disrupted. Moving the family and cleaning up the house for inspection was a weeks work without pay. Associated costs such as changing over power, gas and phone, trailer and truck/trolly hire etc were expenses thrust upon us with little warning and no choice. Having to find another house to live in quickly causes you to take options that are not ideal for various reasons. This being all perfectly legal and above board on the part of the owners gave me an awareness of the power imbalance between the haves and have nots. Now I’m not saying we were hard done by, those are the breaks, that’s how it is. I’m just perhaps playing the devils advocate in pointing out that renting can present some very real inconveniences also. I love your blog Dave, yesterday I even checked that you still had BKI in ur portfolio before buying more BKI shares myself. Thanks so much from James.

    1. Cheers James, and sorry to hear about your experience.

      There is definitely cons to renting. I’d never say it’s all roses, everything has its downsides. I tried to make the case both ways in my post on Rent vs Buy.

      Thanks for being a regular reader 🙂

  4. Sounds like a pretty fantastic year! It’s great to look back and remember the great things you’ve done.
    The turtle job sounds amazing and much more interesting than sitting in an office!
    It was great meeting you this year in Sydney 😊
    All the best for 2020 and beyond. B

    1. Haha yeah the turtle stuff is fun, people must think I’m mad running up and down and carrying them across the road lol.

      Thanks Miss B, was awesome to meet you too, had a great time hanging out!!

  5. Great blog, thanks for sharing, really looking forward to reading more. As someone still shooting for FIRE it is great to read about what life is like once achieved.
    Thanks
    Cindy

  6. Hi Dave , look forward every week to see what is on your mind. Really do appreciate your insights and have encouraged my 3 young people to read your blog plus other young folk at my workplace who are starting out on their work/life journeys. Happy Christmas – look forward to catching your blog in 2020.

    1. Oh Awesome mate, thanks for the feedback! Sitting here wondering if people are enjoying it lol. Hopefully we can get a few more people to see the light 😉

  7. Thanks for the terrific content again this year Dave. I have shared this post around and encouraged others to download your eBook too – its great.

    Looking forward to 2020 and seeing what you and Mrs SMA are up to in the veggie patch and the investing ‘patch’.

  8. Thanks for all your great articles throughout the year Dave, love reading them more than once. Have a merry Christmas to you and your family and a merry Christmas to all of the followers here. May we all be Financially Independent Retire Early, sooner rather than later. 😂

  9. Appreciate very much the insights of two people, and doggy enjoying each other’s company.
    For me personally, thankyou again for helping me through my journey of life.

    1. Thanks very much for continuing to hang out here Andrew. I’m thrilled you’re getting value from the blog!

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