Signing Off & Summing Up 2018

Someone’s Gotta Do It, Right?

Man that was fast!

2018 is almost over, which is a little scary.  But I also enjoy this time of year, because we can sit back and take stock of how things went, and get re-focused for the following year.

Looking back also helps us recognise any progress we’ve made and the fact that we’re lucky enough to still be here!

I’m thinking about what I want to focus on in 2019 and I’ll get to that in another post.  Today, let’s just recap how 2018 went!

 

That ‘W’ Word

Overall it was a pretty good year for us.

As mentioned a while back, we’re each doing some part-time paid work, which clearly means our retirement is a fraud.

The funny part is, this made us feel like normal people again.  When the topic of “what do you do?” comes up, we didn’t have to freak people out by saying we weren’t working.

It also made us busier of course, but mostly in a positive way.  Luckily we can stop this work at anytime if it’s no longer enjoyable or just want to spend our time doing other things, which is a wonderful feeling.

 

Goals

At the start of the year, I made some non-specific goals for 2018.  More like things I wanted to focus on.

My main focus was being more productive – a.k.a get some shit done.  And it feels like I did that.  But there were also a few other things I wanted to do.  Some of which I got pretty slack with!

Anyway, I want to keep myself accountable.  So let’s take a look at how we did…

 

Blogging

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed blogging this year.  Probably because of all of you!

You, my readers, have provided valuable feedback and encouragement, which gives me energy to keep going.  So thanks for reading, I really appreciate it!

Blogging continues regularly and there’s no shortage of stuff to write about.  In fact, I have the opposite problem – deciding what to write next!

After building a cosy little readership base by the end of last year, this has continued to grow in 2018.

The Strong Money Australia blog had its first Birthday in April!  And shortly after that, I shared what I’ve learned so far.

It was also great to be on the podcast with Aussie Firebug and share my journey to financial independence in detail.

Some of you will have noticed the blog now has a proper logo.  It only took 20 months!  What do you guys think of it?  Do you like it?  Or is it crap?  Come on, you can tell me!

Anyway, I’m very happy with how 2018 went with the blog, and look forward to bringing you heaps of new and hopefully useful content next year!

 

Health & Physical Activity

We did a decent job in this area.  After moving to a rental house last year, we’ve been bike riding a lot more – through the vast parklands close-by and to the local shops.

This has a double benefit of reducing car costs too.

Our walks and weight lifting has suffered of late, with a small injury here and there/a seemingly random increase in business/insert-excuse-here.  Definitely something to improve on going forward.

Lately we also shoot hoops at a small court just down the road, which is good fun for something different.

Our eating habits haven’t been perfect, but who’s is?  Much of our food intake is on auto-pilot with the habit of planning the week ahead and a good grocery strategy.

Finally, as planned, I actually have been helping out in the garden more this year.  We managed to harvest spinach, carrots, kale, beetroot, garlic, zucchini, spring onion, coriander, among others.

In addition, the already-established mandarin tree showered us with a few hundred citrus delights earlier in the year.  Delicious!

 

Reading

Ahh!  This was a huge strike-out!

I barely read any books this year.  Maybe 4 or 5 in total.  A terrible effort!

But the books I did read were pretty damn good.  Here’s the best two…

John Bogle – Little Book of Common Sense Investing

I’m a bit late to the party in reading this.  And I’ve heard Bogle’s writings can be quite dry, but I found it enjoyable and very easy going.

A great outline of how to approach the market as an investor, not a speculator, how costs kill you over the long run, and as strong an argument as you could make against trying to beat the market.

Mark Manson – The Subtle Art of Not Giving A F*ck

Probably the most helpful, entertaining and unexpected life advice I’ve ever read.  So good, I plan to read it again.

Part of the reason I’ve been slack reading other books is I started devouring this guy’s blog.  So instead of picking up a book each morning, I might read one of his old blog posts – some of which are pretty long!

You can find the blog here – markmanson.net

Recently my book reading has improved, but not enough to make up for the rest of the year.  Something to work on in 2019.

 

Investing

Long-time readers will know we’re slowly converting our equity into income by selling off properties.

Nothing was sold this year.  We’ll be selling a property in Melbourne very soon, although in hindsight, we probably should have done it already!

With the cash from the last sale, we purchased shares roughly every month or so.  You can probably guess where this went.  Invested into old favourites like Milton, Argo etc.

We even bought an Aussie index fund (VAS) in recent months – post coming soon.

So we stuck to our strategy regardless of what the market did, and focused on our continually growing ‘annual dividend income’.

Importantly, we ignored the Bitcoin hype, while many were sucked in 12 months ago and got badly burned!

 

Renting

We’ve now been in our rental house for over a year.  Some of you asked that I report back on how we find the experience.

Well, it’s pretty good.  A few things in the house needed fixing, but we didn’t have to foot the bill 🙂

No council rates, no water rates, no strata fees, no insurance and no maintenance costs.  Oh, but we have to make sure it’s extra clean every few months for the inspection, which is fine.

We love the location.  So convenient to walk/ride to the shops, but so tranquil living across from the reserve.  Another lease was signed and we plan to stay here for quite a while.  Let’s see what happens!

Much further down the track, if we still like this area, we’ll likely buy a house here as the prices are affordable.  Our house (or similar) would cost around $450k to buy.

Anyway, the rental experience so far has been a positive one.

 

Trips

Because the stress of early retirement can get a bit much, we also went on a few road-trips to South West WA.

So we loaded up the car, put the dog in the back, and set off on a LONG drive.  Twice.

First up, earlier in the year, was Albany, a 5 hour drive.  Essentially, Albany is a really small city (or big town?) nestled in a harbour.  It’s the oldest settlement in WA – older than Perth!

Albany is full of beautiful old buildings and breathtaking beaches.  The city runs at a slow pace, which I really enjoy, with rich history and an interesting landscape.

One complaint would be that it rained a fair bit!  Personally, I don’t mind that, but Mrs StrongMoney gets a bit sick of it after a while, lol.

Although, we did splash out and rent a house with harbour views which made it better.

Here’s a few snaps…

Beautiful Coastline
Harbour & City Lookout (a bit grey!)
Frugal Housing Anyone?
Wind Power Baby!
Bulldog at the beach!

 

Later in the year, we went to Esperance, where my Mum currently lives.  And it was just as lovely there.  But the drive was a painful 8 hours, plus breaks!

By far my favourite place was Lucky Bay, part of Cape Le Grand National Park.  It was unimaginably gorgeous.  Like when you go somewhere and think “I could just stay in this spot forever”.

Wild Kangaroos nibble at grasses on the edge of the beach, where turquoise water gently washes over the white sand.  These wild animals are unusually accepting of a few humans hanging around, despite the beach seeming like their own private retreat.

Being a skeptic, I had to see it to believe it.  They even ate grass from of our hand as we sat next to them for a short time, until they slowly moved away to continue grazing.

As always, photos don’t do it justice, but here’s some anyway…

Esperance Coast
With Mrs StrongMoney @ Lucky Bay (surprisingly cold)
Lucky Bay Entrance
My New Friend!
Found this handsome fella (or sheila) catching some rays

 

Because we take our dog on trips with us, we use pet-friendly short-term rentals on Airbnb, instead of regular accommodation.  (Get $55 off your first Airbnb stay by using this link to sign up)

 

Gratitude

As always, this is easier said than done.  But on a regular basis I did find myself being more grateful than before, and putting things into perspective more often.

Less things bothered me in 2018 and I felt more at ease in general.  A habit that I’ll do my best to continue.

That’s not to say I’ve transformed into a Monk.  Far from it.  I still get down about random things from time to time.  And then I get pissed off at myself for feeling down – thinking how lucky we are for so many reasons, what possible excuse do we have for not being 100% happy all the time?!  But it doesn’t work like that.  Mark Manson calls this ‘the feedback loop from hell’.

Boy, is it ever!  If you catch yourself in this feedback loop, stop for a minute and realise how silly it is.  Just accept the bad feeling and realise it’ll pass pretty soon.  Feeling bad about feeling bad just makes it feed on itself and multiply.

 

Final Thoughts

Overall, we have a lot to be thankful about in 2018, and broadly speaking, in life.

This blog is no longer an experiment to see if I like it, and to see if you like it (I think a few of you do!).  It’s firmly passed the enjoyment/satisfaction test, and I look forward to bringing you more bloggy-goodness in 2019.

Finally, tell me, how was your year?  I hope you learnt heaps and made progress towards your goals.

What were the best things about 2018 for you?  And what are you grateful for this year?  Please let me know in the comments…

Have an awesome Christmas and holiday period and I’ll see you again in the new year!  Thanks for reading 🙂

 

Note – This blog post contains affiliate links.  I may receive a credit or commission if you make a purchase using these links.

51 comments

  1. Dave, I could read your blog posts every day of the week. They are so well researched and written.
    I have said this before but I will say it again. You need to write a book! Australia is crying out for a good book about investing for everyday Australians. Along the lines of JL Collins “A simple path to wealth”. Maybe this should be your goal for 2019 🙂
    I loved Peter Thornhill’s book too but it is time for something fresh.
    I am not trying to blow smoke up your arse but you really do have a great style of writing.

    1. Well I could read comments like yours every day of the week too lol! That’s very kind of you to say, and much appreciated 🙂

      I’m not sure it’s all worthy of a book to be honest, but I’ll take it on board. Thanks again Starbuck, for reading and for being so encouraging!

  2. Hi Dave
    Have enjoyed reading your posts throughout the year and subsequently have been accumulating MLT, ARG, WHF, AFI, BKI.. However, the market has been consistently dropping and the capital value of all these holdings have fallen anything from 1 to 5% since purchase. Presumably, this is mainly due to the decline in value of the four bank stocks. I am not overly alarmed as long as dividends are maintained which these LICs have a good track record of doing.

    I was interested to note in this current post that you are now accumulating VAS. Is this a better buy in a falling market? I would value your thoughts on how you decide to accumulate VAS vs LICs

    1. Thanks Jon – good stuff.

      It’s not really about banks, the whole market is down almost 15% – lots of growth companies are down over 20% too. The LICs have held up relatively well and is one of the main reasons for me adding VAS to the portfolio. In short, I want to be able to make the most of the market falls like this. The LICs tend to fall slower, and often less than the market, so they trade at a premium. But having the option to buy VAS means you can top up at these prices 10% lower rather than only 5% lower for example. Will do a proper blog post about this soon, but that should give you an idea.

  3. I always look forward to your posts, because I know it’ll be a good one! So glad you plan on keep sharing with us. I love renting in Perth, but I wonder how we’ll feel if the rents boom again?
    I don’t know anything about Logos, mind you, but I’ll vote for not crap anyway. I feel the roo doesn’t really fit in with the STRONG theme going on. I get it though.
    2018 is special for me as it is the start of my FIRE journey. My life has literally done a U-turn to focus on this worthy goal.

    Best wishes to all

    1. Thanks for the feedback. Don’t forget, Kangaroos are pretty damn strong. Seen older male Kangaroos squaring up to one another? Mighty impressive.

      If rents boom we have 4 properties here so that will more than make up for any increase in rent we have to pay at this place. But over the long term rents will most likely track wages growth, at a few percent per annum. So even if rents do jump in the short term, I’ll just accept that over the long term dividend growth should at least keep up, or more likely, outpace rents.

      Congratulations on starting your journey Mateo, your future self will be very pleased with the U-turn!

  4. Dave,

    Congrats on a great year. I only found your blog in the middle of the year but went back and read most posts before that. There was an amazing evolution and development over that time. Though i think that things have become more sophisticated, it has remained incredibly readable and broadly applicable to most like minded people.

    What I love most, is that across this blog and the other Aussie FIRE bloggers a little community has developed around it which I think is remarkable. People are so free and generous in sharing content and ideas.

    The icon – well I am actually an ex West Aussie living east. I think you have made the opposite move. To me the icon just makes me think of North Melbourne Kangaroos – coincidence?? I won’t hold it against you as a gracious supporter of the reigning premiers.

    Best of luck in the new year and may the blog and the community around it keep growing in strength.

    Cheers and thanks!

    1. Cheers SJ. Haha there’s no football connection with the logo – simply there was 2 designs made and that was seemed the most attractive and fit the site better. May have another created later if people don’t like it, but it’s good enough for now. As you probably know I focus on content and don’t worry about the fancy stuff too much 🙂

      The change in the posts is somewhat on purpose – I wanted to keep stuff simple for as long as possible before getting into detail on some things a bit more. Some is simply because I’ve learned more of course, as we all do over time. I appreciate you saying that it’s remained readable and easy to understand, that’s always the goal.

      The FI community is definitely growing and that’s awesome. Hopefully it encourages more people to open their eyes to what’s possible if they only refocus their priorities and make more sensible choices.

      Great to have readers like you who are always willing to be open and share which further adds to the discussion, so thanks for that!

  5. My favourite part of this blog is ‘Because the stress of early retirement can get a bit much, we also went on a few road-trips to South West WA.’
    That sums up what it is all about quite nicely 😂
    Glad you had an awesome year. I’ve certainly enjoyed learning a lot from you
    I look forward to reading more of your blogs in 2019 and beyond.
    A very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to yourself and Mrs SMA 🎄🎅🎁

    1. Hahah thanks very much Miss B 🙂

      I appreciate you stopping by to read these posts. All the best to you and your family and talk to you in 2019!

    1. LOL, well, maybe I’ll take that as a compliment?! I wanted something pretty simple, nothing too fancy, sounds like that’s what I got 😉

  6. Hi Dave, thanks for your great posts this year. I have really enjoyed reading them, and congrats on the new logo. I think it looks great. Look forward to hearing more from you next year. Have a great Christmas.

  7. Sounds like a great year Dave and well done on holding yourself accountable! I can’t remember at what stage this year I discovered your blog but I’ve learned a lot from it and it’s been thoroughly enjoyable! Hope you have a happy and safe Christmas and New Years, looking forward to many more posts in 2019!

    1. Thanks for that AHF! Your blog is pumping out some good stuff also, I’m sure it’s helping heaps of people 🙂 Hope we can both keep the streak going next year. All the best!

  8. Hi Dave,
    Really enjoyed your writing again this year. In particular the fact that you
    • are an Aussie, writing to a community hungry for Aussie personal finance content
    • take the time to acknowledge almost every (maybe every) readers comment, its noted and appreciated and to me shows a sign of respect for your fledgling but growing faithful readers
    • have a great way of explaining things in simple terms to those for whom investing may be a bit mysterious and scary
    • are not afraid to relate to your readers on a personal level by sharing such things as your choice to rent, growing your veggies, bike rides in the nearby park, just the fact that you live in WA etc. It makes you a real person and helps us to relate to and trust you as someone who genuinely seems to want to help people. You would make a great teacher (and you are a great teacher through this blog!)
    So, those are the reasons that I read your blog and look forword to more musings from you next year and hopefully beyond 🙂
    Cheers and Holiday Greetings to you and Mrs SM
    Deborah

    1. Thanks so much for this thoughtful comment Deborah! Glad to hear you’re enjoying the blog and that feedback is really helpful 🙂

      Often hard to decide how much to share and whether people are even into it or not! Lots more (hopefully) simple personal finance/investing stuff to come, mixed in with some personal stuff to keep it light, friendly and relatable.

      I do really appreciate people reading this blog when there’s so much content out there to choose from and we all have limited free time. Thanks again for your kind words and hope you enjoy the festive season 🙂

  9. We love holidaying in wa with our dog too. Congratulations on writing one of the best Ozzy fi blogs mate. Happy Xmas and new year😉

  10. I am a young guy from Melbourne, I find the blog posts very useful!

    My long term plan is taking shape, simply thank you. It is so approachable and genuinely insightful.

  11. Thanks so much Dave – I genuinely look forward to every new post – they are worth the wait.

    I think so pic’s next year of Mrs SMA’s frugal vegetable garden are a must.

    2019 is going to be really interesting as we watch market heading toward being bearish – but wait …. we’ll keep buying up every $5K saved through thick and thin and if things get super gloomy I’ll try and rustle up some more $$$ to take advantage of the situation. The plan does not change.

    Happy Xmas to you and Mrs SMA.

    1. Cheers Phil – I appreciate you saying that, and always enjoy your comments!

      Definitely be interesting to see how the market goes, but it’s great so far – ASX is down I think around 15% at the moment, while dividends have broadly been increasing (from what I’ve seen/read). That sounds just fine to me.

      Will be sure to include some more photos next year – good idea. Thanks for your support during 2018, and hope you enjoy the festive season 🙂

  12. Dave,

    Really enjoyed reading your blogs throughout 2018. I was always reluctant to purchase shares for fear of the market crashing.
    Your blogs have made me think differently about the market and im actually excited when the market is on the slide now. 2018 saw me start a small portfolio mainly in the lics and am already enjoying the fruits of dividend income 😀

    Keep up the great posts and enjoy the new year and all the fun it has to offer

    1. Hey Tas, that’s great to hear. Glad the blog has helped with your fears and that you’re already enjoying some of the benefits 🙂

      All the best for 2019!

  13. Hi Dave,

    Your ability to break down complexity into simplicity is an art form in a world that often does the exact opposite.

    As for the logo, I like it but would vote for a colour change of the bar graph part to green to represent positive growth – might also help distinguish it enough from the Kangaroos in AFL too.

    Cheers,
    Adam

    1. Thanks Adam, that’s very kind!

      Also appreciate the feedback on the logo – might see if I can get it done in green. There’s actually a second logo concept too – it’s a bar chart inside a map of Oz, rather than the Roo. Maybe we’ll do a vote on it. I have no clue with this stuff, just thought it was time to get a bit more professional 😉

  14. Mark Manson’s book is one I’ve read 2 or 3 times in the last couple of months – didn’t pick it up earlier because the title sounded a bit obnoxious, but love the content and messages.

    Nice way to end the year Dave – look forward to more of your good work in 2019!

    Cheers, Frankie

    1. Hey Frankie, that’s understandable. The title actually appealed to me – maybe that’s a little immaturity coming out on my part. But at a time when many people are highly anxious and often seem lost, there’s plenty of good and unusual reminders in there!

      Thanks for your support mate, all the best to you in the new year 🙂

  15. Thanks for all the articles in 2018 Dave and looking forward to all the new 2019 content.

    The logo looks great. Simple and on point and thanks for the Mark Manson mention. I’v been reading up his blog in the past few weeks and he’s got some really good content. I really loved his post about the Real Value of money :
    https://markmanson.net/the-real-value-of-money

    Hope you have a ripper 2019 🙂

    1. My pleasure Paul – thanks for reading and also for the feedback!

      Yep that’s a good one – Mark definitely cuts through some of the crap out there and offers some great perspectives. Have a great NYE and see you in 2019!

  16. Been on holidays, so a bit late… thanks for all your posts this year, I always look forward to your take on things. Thanks also for your help behind the scenes with my first purchase of VAS. I didn’t go the low-cost option in the end because their service sucked, so I’m paying 0.11% every transaction now which is more expensive but still okay.

    Regarding the logo, I reckon replace the ‘roo with a muscly (strong) dude carrying a wad of cash on his shoulders, or something like that. The roo’s not terrible, but it does remind me of North Melbourne who are shit.

    2018 was a good year financially, in that my house is now paid off (I now see it as the ‘bonds’ part of my portfolio) and I’m throwing leftovers into VAS each quarter or so. International shares in my super took a hit, but given I can’t access it till 60 (17 more years) I don’t really mind. Low prices till then (including a massive downturn at some point) would be fine by me.

    2019 will involve me asking to job share so I can work 7 days a fortnight instead of all 10. If this works, I’ll get more time with my kids, more time around my house to work on projects and hopefully my first round of golf in nearly 2 years. Fingers crossed!

    All the best for 2019 Dave, and your loyal legion of fans!

    1. Cheers Chris!

      Great job getting started, the first purchase of many I’m sure. And awesome that your house is paid off!

      I hear you on the roo – what about if it was green as suggested by another commenter? That might be a decent improvement?

      The change in your working arrangement will provide a good bit more freedom – I really hope that works out for you! Thanks for reading mate 🙂

      1. Yeah, a green kanga hopping up piles of cash works for me… but this stuff is very subjective.

        Always a pleasure to read and essentially tap into the collective wisdom of you and your readers. Steepened my learning curve greatly in 2018, so looking forward to more this year!

  17. I like the logo. It looks like you have had a great year. I’m wondering if you are going to do a Goals/Targets post for 2019!

    1. Thanks buddy! Haven’t decided on that, maybe. Don’t want it to be all about me though, I want to give people content that benefits them and they can use!

  18. Hey Dave, I’ve only discovered your page recently and have got to say you’ve done an amazing job ! You certainly have a skill for getting your point across in an easy to understand way. I think the success of books like ‘The Barefoot Investor’ have come down to the fact that he has a skill for writing in a way that most Aussies can understand easily, You have this skill in spades and I agree with previous comments that you should write a book at some stage.
    We’ve recently paid off our house and have started investing in Lic’s such as AFI and MLT so far but will add more as our finances grow. One quick question mate, what are your thoughts on Lic’s such as PAI which gives us exposure to the booming Asian economies ? They seem to pay good dividends that are fully franked also.

    Thanks in advance mate !

    Hope you and your family have a great new year !

    Gavin

    1. Thanks very much Gavin! Glad you like the blog and I appreciate that positive feedback!

      Great job paying off your home, that’s awesome. LICs like that can be okay as a small part of the portfolio but they do have some downsides. Higher risk as the portfolio is more active. Higher fees and performance fees. Dividends come from capital gains in the portfolio, meaning they’re at higher risk of being reduced if Platinum runs out of capital gains, and if franking refunds are abolished then they become pretty tax inefficient – the company will pay plenty of tax as it harvests gains but that won’t pass thru to you as income, which sucks when in retirement mode as we lose the refund for that tax paid.

      One thought is that Australia already has a high exposure to the prosperity of Asian economies through tourism, education and especially mining. So with that in mind I just don’t bother with it. I think PMC is a decent company with Asian exposure (also managed by Platinum), but other than that an emerging markets index (VGE) or Asian index fund (VAE) would do the trick if one was really keen, albeit with much lower dividends. Not advice of course 🙂

      Hope that helps Gavin, thanks for reading!

  19. Hey SMA,

    I originally discovered your blog after listening to your interview with Aussie Firebug. In the time since, you’ve slowly but surely become my favourite finance-related blog. Thanks for everything you do, and I’m really glad to hear you’ll be continuing to write such great content for the foreseeable future.

    Your investing style matches my own perfectly, and your writing style is really easy to consume and is always interesting. There are so many investing blogs out there that focus heavily on capital value investing, so in the past I’ve often wondered if I had the wrong strategy. I guess that means I find your content … reassuring(?) that what I’m doing is viable.

    Each time there is a new contentious topic of the month in the FI community, I look forward to hearing your take on it. And you’re active enough that I usually don’t have to wait long! So thanks again.

    Congratulations on a successful year, I look forward to many more to come.
    Cheers

    1. Hey Nick, thanks so much for your comment! And very kind of you to say it’s your favourite money blog 🙂

      Feedback like this is why I keep doing it – it’s really rewarding to know that people are enjoying it and finding it useful. I appreciate your support and hope you have a great 2019!

  20. Great blog mate. I never miss your posts and you’ve made a very big impact on my investment approach (i.e. LICs and not wasting time with stock picks).

    But I have to be honest. The logo isn’t doing it for me. It looks like a cross between QANTAS and a few lumps of wood pounded into the sand. Why not get someone to whip up a pro logo for you on Freelancer?

    Anyway, my two cents. 🙂

    1. Thanks Scott, glad you’re a regular reader!

      And shame you don’t like the roo – seems we’ve got some mixed opinions on it. Haha I did get it outsourced, on Fiverr! I’d be flat out doing a stick-man logo. But I asked for something simple. It’s being redone in green so that’ll be a small improvement for those who said it reminded them of North Melbourne! Other than that it’s probably gonna stick around for a while. I may look to have a few more options drafted up later and we can do a vote on it 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *