Podcast | Louise Howard – The Executive

On board today is Louise Howard. Louise has held executive roles in infrastructure projects in the public sector, as well as management and consulting in the private sector. Louise launched her own advisory business called Louise Howard Advisory, where she advises and speaks on infrastructure, development, career mentoring and leadership. She’s 5 years from her FAT Fire goal and has made some very smart money and investing decisions!

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Louise Howard

On board today is Louise Howard, a Sydney-based executive who I met through the FIRE community. Louise is an incredibly talented, dedicated and successful person who has held executive roles in infrastructure projects in the public sector, as well as management and consulting in the private sector.

She recently decided to take a break from her government job and launched her own advisory business called Louise Howard Advisory, where she advises and speaks publicly, all over the world on topics such as infrastructure, development, career mentoring and leadership.

Louise is from a big Italian family and learned some solid financial lessons from her parents who provided a wonderful start for her and her siblings.

Louise lives in a high cost of living area in Sydney, but is a mean negotiator when it comes to her salary, and is passionate about pay equality for women in the workforce.

Louise is 5 years from her FAT Fire goal, has made some very smart money and investing decisions along the way and it was awesome to catch up with her again!

Louise Howard


Episode 63 – Louise Howard – The Executive

“Louise has held numerous leadership roles and enjoys a successful career with over 10 years experience leading large-scale billion-dollar infrastructure projects encompassing civil, rail and electrical works.  Louise has worked in the disciplines of engineering, design, safety, operations and risk, consulting across health, education, transport and power industries – both public and private sector. 

In 2020 she was named one of the Australian Financial Review’s BOSS Young Executives of the Year, as well as a finalist for NSW Public Servant of the Year and was the Winner of the Australian Institute of Health and Safety Young Leader Award. Louise is energised and passionate about empowering people to take control of their lives by enhancing their employment opportunities, recognising their leadership capability and improving their financial literacy.”

Louise Howard – louisehowardadvisory.com

Show Notes


Episode 63 – Louise Howard – The Executive

Louise the Executive

Captain Fi: [00:00:00] Ladies and gentlemen, this is your captain speaking.

G’day, and welcome to another episode of Captain Fire, the financial independence podcast, where I open the cockpit to some of the best and brightest in personal finance, as well as those who have reached or are on their way to financial independence. Before we get started, remember, nothing said here is financial advice, and you should always do your own independent research before making any financial choices.

With that being said, I hope you enjoy the episode and learn something new.[00:01:00]

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On board today is Louise Howard. A Sydney based executive who I met through the FIRE community. Louise is an incredibly talented, dedicated and successful person who has held executive roles in infrastructure projects in the public sector, as well as management and consulting in the private sector.

She recently decided to take a break from her government job and launched her own advisory business called Louise Howard Advisory, where she advises and speaks publicly. All over the world on topics such as infrastructure, development, career mentoring and leadership. Louise, great to catch up again. How you doing?

Louise: I’m great. Captain FI. How are you? Thanks for having me. Yeah, really

Captain Fi: good. I think last time we spoke, we were catching up over a coffee in Sydney. Things are a bit different now. I guess we’ve had a pandemic. I’ve moved to Adelaide, been a lot of life changes. But [00:03:00] I guess the biggest news is I’ve pulled the pin on

Louise: fire.

Yeah, that’s super exciting. And I do love following your journey. . And I was really happy to see that you’ve finally done it.

Captain Fi: Yeah, it was actually a bit of a challenge to finally make the leap, but I’m super glad I did. And now I’m enjoying like this quote unquote semi retirement where I’m running my own online businesses part time.

And so I should say a very warm welcome to the world of business ownership.

Louise: Yes, I’m super excited and it is a little bit. Scary at times, but mostly I am enjoying it. Well, hey, look,

Captain Fi: before we get stuck into the interview could you let the listeners know a little bit more

Louise: about yourself?

Yeah, for sure. So, you introduced me, I have had a couple of different careers and. opportunities in the last kind of 15 years. I’m 36, so not very old chasing FIRE. I’ve got a few more years not as quick as you. But yeah, I’ve got a few more years, maybe five, six to go to fire and I’m [00:04:00] chasing fat fire, which we can talk about a bit later.

But yeah, my dad’s Italian, my mom’s Australian, grew up in Sydney born and bred here. I’ve got lots of siblings, so four siblings, family of five big family, all close. They’re all Sydney based and one of them is in Newcastle. So yeah, that’s really as Italian immigrant.

My father came here with nothing and my mom and dad really built . Their lives and provide a really amazing childhood for us. Which I’m, grateful the more and more I get older about that. Yeah, we just had a really good grounding. We went to public school went to university.

Supported by my parents but really from a young age had really good financial tuition by my parents. They probably didn’t know it at the time, but I see a lot of people now that just didn’t have that opportunity or just didn’t have that education and financial literacy from particularly their parents or the people, their guardians at that age.

And I think it is a real opportunity that’s missed. And I’m very grateful , that I was [00:05:00] happy to receive it at the time. Some tough lessons, but yeah, I’m definitely happy about it now.

Captain Fi: Yeah, our parents are like so influential on our formative years when it comes to our ideas around like finance.

Louise: Oh, incredible. I, I don’t think there is a bigger influence at that time for a good, 15 to 18 years that most of us are living at home. I left home at 19 when I met my husband, so, I’m very thankful for, the lessons that they imparted, which are incredibly similar to the fire community, but just good financial advice.

Reduce your expenses, save, from when I was five, six, seven, save 50 percent of your income. My first job was at 12 refereeing football, soccer for the broader audience and, you knew that you had to save that money. There was not this whole. You get the money and , you spend it on whatever you want.

It was definitely what’s your plan around this little bit of income that you have. So, yeah, like I said, tough sometimes when you’re a kid and you have different ideas or you see shiny things, but super thankful [00:06:00] now for the position that my husband and I’ve got ourselves in, but also for the lessons that I had particularly as a child.

Captain Fi: Yeah, I can tell this is going to be an exceptionally. Great interview because living in Sydney, such a high cost of living area , leaving home at 19. And of course you’ve had this stellar career, which you’ve been incredibly deliberate about advancing and switching streams to command such an incredibly high salary and obviously targeting fat fire.

I think it’s great. So. I guess , to start off I’d love to hear a bit about how you got started in your career and also what strategies you

Louise: use to advance it. Yeah. So I wasn’t that kid that woke up and was like, I want to be a lawyer or I want to be a doctor.

I just wanted to go to university. That was one of the first. Kind of goals that I had I played competitive sport for quite some time, but I just knew , I was surrounded by a lot of talented females and I was just falling short of that. So I worked that out pretty quickly that I thought you’re not going to make a living in this [00:07:00] Louise, but also, female sport 15, 20 years ago was not paying, still not paying where it needs to be, but that’s another Issue, but for me it was university.

So I went to university enrolled in a degree, a health policy degree. It was very broad. It was very general. I wanted to be a physio, but I didn’t get the marks, but that turned out to be in my favor. But through this kind of degree, and I did it for a year. I was like, what are the jobs? What are the actual jobs I’m going to walk out of here?

I’m quite a practical, pragmatic person. And so I really want to know the tangible output that I’m going to get for investing my time, my energy, and obviously paying for university. While I was at home, mom and dad looked after uni fees. So that was about a year and a half. And then once I left the agreement with them was.

You’re going to pick up that bill, which was fine. So it was a mixture of HECS and paying that when I could., so I went from a health policy degree, had a really good tutor at the time. She was an occupational therapist. I said, what do you do? She explained an occupational therapist as an allied health professional.

So enrolled in [00:08:00] OT finished that degree. I absolutely hated it. I just did not enjoy it. I’m not a health person. I wasn’t overly empathetic at the time I faint at the sign of blood or any type of, hospital smell. , people around me who were close to me and just like, how did you even pick this?

Anyway you realize that you make these mistakes and errors. So I went into a private sector workers compensation, which. Australia has a relatively good system, but it’s still, I would say not a amazing industry to work in. Also saw that the ceiling of income, which I was quite motivated by was quite low.

Healthcare in general. I think healthcare people do a phenomenal job, but they are just not paid what they should be paid in comparison to other roles. , so then I had a colleague at the time he was a physio and he said, you know what, we’re going to study, we’re going to get out of here, we’re going to do something.

I want to do a master’s in occupational health and safety. His partner was Canadian and he said, it’s really big in Canada. It’s big here. But you know, I said, it sounds really dry. I really [00:09:00] don’t think this is what I want to do. Anyway, studied it. I did a master’s in 10 months. It almost killed me.

Yeah, I did it quite soon after I finished my first degree, which was also a shock because I didn’t really enjoy university. I enjoyed working and all the way through university of my three degrees, I’ve worked full time. So I’ve always worked 35 to 40 hours and studied full time in my bachelor’s and then part time when I was doing my master’s the last one.

So. And that’s always been fundamental as a kind of lesson for me is I didn’t want to be a poor student. See so many people with large HECS bills coming out four or five years after their degree is completed and they just have no money. And I was like, I just can’t be that person. And I don’t want to do that.

So I got to find a way. So it was really hard. I’m not going to say it was easy, but it definitely set me up. I could buy my first property at 20, just before I was 21. So. That was really beneficial. Then went into health and safety, which I did enjoy. And I still enjoy and it’s highly legislated in Australia and, workers health and safety is [00:10:00] a real priority for workplaces.

Most workplaces in Australia, I liked high risk workplaces. So where there was a real threat of harm to people, because it just felt like I had more purpose in the role. And so I really developed that career for the last kind of 10 to 12 years, quite significantly. While I was midway on a project, then I decided to do my master’s of business, so executive MBA at RMIT , in Victoria.

And yeah, I really enjoyed that. That was the first degree that I thought, Hey, I really am loving this. So finished that over two years, part time. And worked the whole time. , and so had three degrees just by the time I was 30. And that has, what has really supported my career growth really over the span of the last 12 to 15

Captain Fi: A huge focus on education and training. And professional development has been really crucial theme of your

Louise: career so far. And about a hundred thousand I’d say is invested. Just cause I know we like numbers, Captain [00:11:00] Fire, you and I. So over the course of that period of time, so about 10 years, a hundred thousand.

And I’ve done some courses subsequently, which were five or 6, 000. So a mixture of sponsorship, HECS, personal payment, but yeah, I did the round numbers the other day and I was like, Oh, okay. That’s a decent investment.

Captain Fi: But awesome return on capital.

Louise: Oh, for sure.

That was one of the fundamental decision makers as well. Yeah.

Captain Fi: So I guess speaking of careers, what kind of different roles have you worked in and what are you currently

Louise: doing? Yeah. So, previous high risk workplaces. So in energy sector for contractors then moved into the public sector and public sector was quite Foreign to me as I didn’t know anything about it before I entered it.

Transport was where I started railways which I do love now. I’m quite passionate about railways, mass rapid transit global networks and systems that really shape the way, and operate in our global cities. So moved into public sector and grew my career quite significantly there.

Then moved into leadership roles, program management. And then I found [00:12:00] what I really loved was project work. So I worked for an organization called Sydney Metro, which is still functioning and doing quite a good job around building, mass rapid transit systems in the city of Sydney.

There’s one line operational now which was my first mega project, which was incredible seven and a half billion dollars autonomous trains. So no drivers, no guards lower cost of running and another three lines are being commissioned and we’ll hit Sydney in a scattered dates, but they’re all done by, 2030 ish.

So if everything stays on time, so, did different roles in that organization from a project centric role to then program management type roles, focusing on health and safety risk the client’s obligations. under the law around delivering projects in this kind of jurisdiction leading large teams, 50, 100.

My last team was about 150 with a consultancy group of five or 600. So yeah, engineering was the last role that I took around engineering design, which [00:13:00] is incredibly pivotal for mass rapid transit systems. And through that. career, massive exposure to what’s going on in the world. You’re really connected by other mega infrastructure projects in the UK, in Asia, North America, there’s quite a lot of work now.

So yeah, that’s where I really developed a passion for, leading, but also large project work and the advice and the guidance in that space.

Captain Fi: it’s funny. Every time I’m on some new form of public transport. I think whenever I’m traveling, I always send you a message or a picture.

Oh, what do you think of this train? Oh, do you like these ones? no, it’s cool. I I love that just before I left Sydney, they’re an exceptional way to get around. I know it can be a bit expensive, but What’s the one that goes out to the

Louise: the hills.

 Yeah. So the Northwest line. That’s a Sydney metro line. That’s the first line that opened in April or May, 2019. So yeah, , that really connected a whole community that just only really had cars and buses on windsor road.

So, phenomenal [00:14:00] transformation of that environment over the last, five, seven years.

Captain Fi: Yeah. Super easy

Louise: way to get around. And I’m a big train travel fan across the globe. Buses meh, I get a little bit motion sickness sometimes. But it’s easy to jump onto your laptop or read a book or even have a little nap and get to your destination.

I just think it’s a really relaxing way to commute. Yeah,

Captain Fi: well, my partner and I are heading to Japan soon. Oh, thank. And they’re like very famous

Louise: for their, they bullet trains. They’re uber disciplines, so, yeah.

Captain Fi: Hey what do you reckon, Louise? Is that a business trip? On the cards , to Japan?

Louise: I definitely think so. Yeah. For sure. , it’s on my list, so, yeah.

Captain Fi: That’s awesome. So can you tell us a little bit more about what you’re doing currently with your advisory

Louise: and mentorship? . So pretty new venture, but I’m pretty excited about it. So obviously lots of different contacts across the globe and we have a huge lot of infrastructure being built in this country, particularly on the Eastern seaboard and a little bit in the West slowing down in some States, but you know, Queensland is a good example where it’s just going to boom in the next five to seven years because of the Olympics.

But also the [00:15:00] government’s as that are finally spending, in the last five to seven years, particularly in New South Wales, finally spending the volume we need to, really make us a global city, but also connect our state more readily. So Victoria has done the same as well.

Critics will say whether it’s going well or it’s not, but the good thing is that post COVID as well, there’s a lot of money going into infrastructure projects. Construction employs a huge proportion, about 10% of the workforce kind of across Australia and in New South Wales. So it’s a really important industry.

And for me it’s really providing the advice and the expertise that I’ve garnered over the last 10 years delivering successfully, delivering infrastructure projects in a large organization with private organizations and consultancy firms contractors, et cetera. So, yeah, that’s what it’s about.

I also have a few things going on around mentoring. So. Some people have reached out. And so I run a mentoring program public speaking as well. I’m quite happy and passionate [00:16:00] about sharing and insights and sitting on panels, so I do a few of them which is really exciting. Both in Australia and across the globe.

So yeah, there’s a few things and just. Also, something that I see there’s still a gap in the market is, when people are particularly moving into leadership roles, just the significance of that step in your career and how much of an impact you have on others. When you are leaders, we all remember our.

Not favorite leaders or not great bosses. And we also remember our amazing leaders that have supported us and helped us through our careers or mentored us through a difficult time. Or just backed us when maybe we haven’t even backed ourselves. So, helping leaders find their way particularly when maybe they’re doing it.

At the beginning for the first time, I just don’t feel like there’s enough in the market that supports that growth for people because it is a significant step. It’s no longer about doing the work. It’s more now about leading the people.

Captain Fi: Yeah, actually we were just talking[00:17:00] you’re off to, is it

Louise: Saudi Arabia?

Captain Fi: Yeah, that’s exciting. So I guess as a leader,, there is so many different organizational styles, leadership management. Styles you can use as someone you mentioned earlier running a team of, up to 150 plus 600 contractors.

Oh, that’s a lot of people to keep track of. What kind of leaderships and management style have you

Louise: used and found the most success? Yeah. So, you know, And obviously doing a little bit of reading but also getting familiar with my style. It is quite direct overall, but in terms of a leadership style, I think.

Mostly it’s democratic. Like I really rely on my immediate leaders around me to support the decisions and the direction that we are going to take and having everyone on board and doing that together is a much more collegial but also fun and maybe less serious way as well. I find, but also everyone gets a say the other one for me is the servant leadership style, which I never really saw myself as, but actually.[00:18:00]

I do wake up when I was working for my teams and I want the best for them because when they’re performing it’s a reflection of me and it’s a reflection of the organization and how we’re going. I’ve also done stints of work on secondments in different areas around transformational changes.

So going in there, fixing problems, turning teams around, and then. Setting them up so, they have good continuity and bringing another leader in because I was there to fix the problem and then I’ve, done the job and off we go. And creating leaders around me.

I’m big on that. I always need to have a successor nearby or create those people underneath. It’s definitely not about me it’s about the team and the position and how they fit in the organization and giving people a voice. Look, sometimes I can be autocratic at times. I think the last team I had, maybe it’s one in 20, captain’s calls you have to make sometimes, and that’s because of a variety of reasons, politics, organizational strategy decisions. Yeah, the one thing I can definitely say that I’m not is a laissez faire. [00:19:00] I’m definitely a roll my sleeves up kind of leader who likes to get involved but give the space and time to my people for them to get on and do their jobs.

I think for me, it’s really important that. You are hiring intelligent people, and it’s reciprocal the way that learning happens when you’re leading quite often, it’s a lot of top down and there’s not a fair or equitable transfer of knowledge back to the leader. So for me, I quite like being maybe not the smartest in the room leading because I’m a bit of a sponge.

And so, yeah, having. Smart people around me. I think, what am I going to do about telling them their jobs? It’s really for me to provide clarity and direction around where we need to go and what we need to achieve. And they’ll get on as, either the technical leaders or the leaders in their own right, and they’ll forge their own path.

Captain Fi: Yeah. Okay. So really about finding the specialists in your team and really you’re more like decision making prioritizing goals and tasks and then allowing them to, go out and do their role without, I guess, micromanaging

Louise: or getting too much into [00:20:00] what they do. And I love autonomy, right?

That’s really what I thrive on is autonomy. Here’s the goals and the objectives we need to achieve. Go and work it out. If you’ve got leaders, really directing or here’s a to-do list I think particularly at the level that I work at it’s just not effective, and don’t hire smart people if you’re gonna tell ’em what to do.

Captain Fi: you definitely have struck me as someone who’s quite a good decision maker and good at prioritization. So I guess , how do you. , is there a matrix you use or how would you go about prioritizing

Louise: in a professional sense? Yeah, so professionally, I guess I’ve always had an outline of kind of what I want to achieve.

I’m a planner, so that’s what underpins a lot of my prioritization goals and tasks. I personally don’t know how executives or leaders of large teams get up on a Monday morning and go, Oh, what’s on this week. That is just not my style. It fills me with dread and a bit of stress.

So, to manage the workload and to manage how I’m going to achieve things and prioritize people, tasks, and goals. It’s all about planning. So, most of [00:21:00] the time I’ve got what am I doing this week, stretch that out to the month, what I want to achieve in six months.

I generally start with a long term goal and then work backwards. So, professionally it’s underpinned by my FIRE goal, like it’s pretty simple. I challenge most people to say that they, and we know a lot of people Captain FIRE about, would you really want to go to work or derive an income if you didn’t have to, if you had passive income coming through the door.

So, I think most people would say I definitely would not want to get up and go to work. I’m not necessarily of that headspace, but I think I go in ebbs and flows when you’ve had enough of work. You’re like, I just need a break. But I do derive some enjoyment from work. So I think I’ll always do something because I’ve just got too much energy to sit and be retired or early retired.

But in terms of being gainfully employed all the time, I think there’s definitely, that’s underpinned by my fire goal. So, that’s five and a half. Almost, six, five and a half years away. So for me, I work back from that. I’m like, what’s the income strategically? What do I need to [00:22:00] achieve?

What does my career need to look like? All the way down into these really micro tasks around, how am I running my team and am I accessible for my leaders? Do people get enough of me? Am I delivering on time and on budget project, constraints are quite simple, everything’s derived through a budget and a program.

So, there’s no kind of real difficulty in, in working out whether you’re successful or not. But you know, leadership and people management is always a gray area as well around whether if you’re really truly being successful and it is quite a difficult area. So that’s how I derive I’ve got life plans.

That’s really what underpins my goals. And so. I look to a year and then three years and then five years, which is a stretch to my fire goal and then fill in the professional activities that kind of need to facilitate the income. But also the enjoyment, my purpose the brands, the reputations that I’m, either work with or want to be employed by again at some point that’s not, off the table either.

So, yeah, it’s a [00:23:00] little bit of a, a scattered answer, I would say, but. I don’t have a set matrix. It’s just, my brain is very organized and planned as a base. So, it’s easy for me to look at something and be quite decisive. I’ve got pretty strong boundaries around what’s important to me.

My last set of colleagues referred to me as the boundary queen because those things are really important to me. And they’re really my family, inclusive of my husband. My health, I’ve really escalated that in recent time both mentally and physically because you put everyone above you and then you put your workplace and then you start to look at yourself and you might be fourth or fifth or sixth and things just start to suffer as when you get a little bit older.

So that in recent time is a real priority. And so for me, that’s been difficult because I’m like, okay, I’ve got to stop working now. So stop making an income and I’ve got to go and spend an hour and a half working out. I prefer working to be honest, because health and fitness is not really something that I love, but I know it’s super important.

So yeah, and that changes that’s flexible over time.

Captain Fi: [00:24:00] Yeah, no, that makes a lot of sense. And we were talking about this a bit before we started recording, it was just, you have this book I’ve read recently, essentialism Greg McKeown. And he pretty much says exactly the same thing.

It’s almost like you, you could have written this book.

Louise: Yeah, I just, I think you often say, whether it’s Instagram, Tik TOK, whatever platform you’re on. No is a very powerful word. And so if you use it correctly and I think we had this discussion earlier is maybe you’re not popular early on, but you will benefit from being very clear and direct around what’s important to you.

And. Zero, super focused on what you want to achieve professionally, personally, in relationships. So for me, that’s been quite simple. And I think in the last five years, that’s definitely evolved. Particularly when the professional environment has become quite intense at times you just can’t do it all, you just can’t.

So I think it’s important to, have your top five things that you need to protect as a person and those things, travel is super important for my husband [00:25:00] and I and, even when we were constructing our fire number and working out our finances, when we discovered fire we knew that.

We could probably accelerate fire more, but travel was important. So we do have a percentage of my income that goes to travel because it is important to us and it brings us joy. So happy to make those sacrifices. If you’ve perceived sacrifice as a first world sacrifice, let’s be honest but I could definitely scrap that, put that back into the reinvestment basket and, maybe be retired six months or eight months earlier.

You need to have balance in life. And so that’s really important for me.

Captain Fi: absolutely. I think it’s a trap that I fell into with my business here online business with running so many different websites, it becomes tricky because , it’s almost like you have many pots on the stove, nothing to eat.

Yeah. So definitely it’s given me a renewed vigor to just focus on the essentials, like what’s important, what’s moving the needle, what’s important to me and what’s generating results. And yeah, just to simplify and it’s awesome. I think there’s so many [00:26:00] awesome crossovers between like essentialism, stoicism, minimalism.

And the fire movement. And I think at its core, it’s coming down to just what you said before. Like what’s important to you? What’s your top five? What do you value?

Louise: For me, it really started with minimalism, right? That’s what I watched the documentary with the minimalists. They’re a US based couple, not a couple, but two guys.

And they really simplify their life. Yeah. I love them. Love them. So that started everything for me before I even found fire. We just had a critical mass of stuff as you do as a couple. We had a bigger house, we had more stuff. We had lots of bills and I was just like. My income is, increasing quite well, but that lifestyle creep is real.

And if you’re not watching it, it just happens. And so I just had a few kind of light bulb moments where I was like, nah, this is, the, one of my most significant light bulb moments was a 400 a month Telstra bill for Foxtel, phones, internet. And I was like, this is five grand a year.

To one service provider, [00:27:00] and we always had the greatest iPhones and we had all the Foxtel and I’m like, we don’t even have time for ourselves. And 400 bucks direct debit is going out a month. And this was for context, Captain Fi was 2015. So what’s 400 now with inflation?

It’s a lot, everyone. It is a lot. So I was like, nah. This is just getting out of hand. now. I liked my job at the time, but I didn’t love it. I’m not working. So a huge proportion of my income can just pay bills. I was like, there’s gotta be something better. So yeah, so I just started to really look at what was important to us.

Captain Fi: Exactly. And then you pare it down to the essentials and yeah, God, I’m just thinking what did they say? Money doubles every seven or 10

Louise: years. So that’s a lot. That’s 2015. We’re not, seven years, but , that’s, we’re talking at least I reckon 650, 700 a month in.

What telecommunication services now, obviously the world has changed a lot of streaming services and much cheaper data plans and things like that. [00:28:00] So I think the market has moved quite a lot from, a fixed Foxtel box and et cetera, but still, I just still do know lots of people that spend a lot of money on this and I’m just like, guys, challenge it, what are you doing?

Captain Fi: you definitely can. If you’re not mindful about your money, it can just evaporate. There’s another thing in this book that Greg says, I’m probably stuffing the quote up here. But it’s along the lines of, if you don’t actively make a choice, someone else will make the choice for you.

Or like the universe will make the choice for you. And as you’re saying earlier if you’re not prioritizing your health Well, the universe will make the choice for you and your health will suffer. And yeah, like with your budget, like if you’re not actively checking and thinking about what is coming out of the bottom line you’re going to be in

Louise: A sinking boat.

 And you’ve talked to hundreds of people. And for me, it’s around time. If you are not willing to allocate or dedicate time and action to a particular activity, budgeting, health career strategy you will not get a return, you will not see a change even working, when I was working full [00:29:00] time I would block out half a day, whether it be on weekend or during the week, depending on what my weeks would look like and every six months I would do a bill review I just got into that habit.

Review everything, because you get a home and contents policy renewal and all of a sudden it’s up 15 percent and you think, hang on. So if you’re not actively looking for the deals, you’re not actively, looking at what’s going out of your credit card of your direct debit or however you set up your finances.

I say it just drips through your fingers. Your income comes in and you’re just walking and. The income is just dripping away and you don’t see anything tangible from it because it’s just all in these little small micro kind of bills that just all add up and consume all of your income.

So for me, it’s around really being intentional and prioritizing. Same as your career reflection is really important. Every quarter I would sit down and I would write. What I achieved, what I learned, what I need to improve. Because if you don’t do that reflective piece, you can be in a job or a career for 10 years and [00:30:00] go, yeah, what have I done?

And so then when you come to your next career move a promotion, a salary negotiation, you’re just behind the eight ball because you don’t have that in the front of your mind about, Hey, actually I’ve turned up and I’ve done these things and I’ve got something to be proud of and I can do an interview with some confidence, all these things, but it’s about time.

And we all have the same amount of hours and days. So it’s really around how you want to divvy that up and allocate that to what’s important.

Captain Fi: Yeah. It’s our most precious non renewable resource, Time.. I just want to wrap up a couple of questions about your career, cause I think this really some Interesting conversation we had around that.

And then I want to delve into some more nosy personal finance questions.

Louise: That’s okay.

Captain Fi: Well, okay. So I guess have you faced any particular challenges in your career working in

Louise: infrastructure project?

Yeah. I’d say the number one is I’m a female I think most people don’t see a lot of females in projects, infrastructure, engineering [00:31:00] rail construction, you can Google the percentages.

I’m not going to read them off the top of my head, but there’s not a lot of us and there’s particularly not a lot of senior women either. Lots of variabilities around why. But that’s probably been the first one being paid equitably. So I’ve been in teams where I was the leader and I still wasn’t paid the most.

It does happen.

Captain Fi: Even in a public sector,

Louise: public sector, it can happen. Yep. And also when you have mixed models, so you’ve got some contractors coming in who are embedded in your team. You’re on a public sector wage, they’re paid at more of a premium, it happens organically and it.

Kind of sneaks up on you. But you know, you go and do that for 12, 18 months or 24 months, and then you’re like the one who’s the leader, who’s holding all of the accountability and you think, hang on, I I’m not the one that’s the most paid around this table. And so that, again, in the last probably seven or eight years, I’ve become a lot more vocal about.

Pay equity and benefits and opportunities provided to women. It’s something I’m quite passionate about.[00:32:00] Also a particular challenge and there’s a huge lot of literature out there and articles that are written by amazing people, both men and women about the challenges women face in the workplace and how.

Significantly, they are judged whether they are too quiet. They’re timid on one side of the scale or they’re too assertive and they’re too aggressive on the other side of the scale. You find that and women are at fault of this as well, judging other women. There’s not a lot of kind of just average or mediocre women.

 Women are really, and what I mean by that is women, when people say, oh, what do you think of x? Or What do you think of y Most people associate a characteristic of women and go pretty hard on it. Where actually there’s a lot of just average people out there, and if people are turning up and doing their job, then that’s good enough.

I find that women face a particular style. Of criticism around their personal styles and their work [00:33:00] ethics. I don’t really know how women get up, have children, look after a house and do a full time career. That’s still boggles my mind and I have incredible respect for that, particularly given how household chores are still shared in this country.

Now that’s a generalization, but. We still know that the major percentage sits with the female to do. And I don’t have children and I don’t have that additional stress, but I have huge amount of respect for people that can do it because it is really difficult. So, sometimes if they’re, people are turning up to work and they’ve got other things on their mind, we shouldn’t criticize, we should, seek to understand what’s going on in those situations.

So, women I find have. A little bit of the short straw in that space a way around how their style is perceived in environments. And also just opportunities. I find, I’ve had to work three, four, five times harder than my male counterparts to get to the same position. And you can only see that on reflection, Captain Fire.

You don’t see it when it’s happening. You just see it when you maybe are at that, [00:34:00] Peak of the mountain or at the position you feel comfortable in your career. And then you look around and you think, I’ve had to work bloody hard to get here. And that’s not the case across the board.

So, yeah.

Captain Fi: That’s very frustrating. I know from my experience in aviation definitely women are underrepresented. There’s not as many female pilots, but also in other. Aviation positions as well, which I’m like air traffic control especially true engineering maintenance.

 But I would, again, at fear of throwing out generalizations, like I almost say that women make better pilots. It seems to be more like calm decision makers. Good situational awareness.

Louise: Your words, not mine. But yes, , I’m always backing the female in the room.

And I think that’s, just a blind thing that we need to do more of is that, Like men, we’re not all going to be amazing all the time, right? So, let’s have some consideration and some acceptance of that, that average is also just fine. And people are there to do a job and as long as they’re doing their job, then, leave them alone, like back them, [00:35:00] support them and give them the opportunities equally to, their male counterparts.

Yeah, like I’m so excited that I can’t remember now I should have done my research, but around the pay equity or the pay transparency bill from this government has been brought in that I think it’s any business over 50, maybe, or 500, I can’t remember, we’ll have to correct that has to start publishing their pay data, I’m very excited about that.

So that will show us what level of issue we have in this country around that, because while it’s not reported and it’s not seen, you get some different kind of interpretations.

Captain Fi: Yeah. Well, what’s not measured is not tracked, right? I mean, that’s having that conversation around our personal spending.

I think that’s awesome for pay equity. I mean, I’m not sure in the infrastructure world but I know in aviation, So.

When I was a flying instructor had a little bit to do with the women’s pilots association. And one of the ways they’re trying to encourage more females into aviation is with scholarships , for [00:36:00] women young ladies to, learn how to fly. It’s so annoying. Cause you hear all the grumbling from like the old pale male and stale pilots of women getting free pilot training and blah, blah, blah.

And it’s well, man, it’s just one way the industry’s trying to

Louise: actually move forward. And everyone benefits, when women are earning more. And when women are engaged in full time employment in, professional careers, everybody in society is winning. It’s not just a, he versus she situation.

 Women rear the children, they look after the homes. Like this is the traditional. value set of this country at the moment. So the more women are receiving, the better everybody turns out to be. So, Captain Fire, cause I’m a stickler for references the workplace gender equality amendment, closing the gender pay gap bill 2023 passed parliament, and that means from early 2024, the gender pay gaps of employers with a hundred or more workers will be published.

So, when people are, I would say named and shamed, cause I [00:37:00] think that’s, what’s going to happen here. They’re going to be forced in some action because people are also going to look at employers and go, hang on, you’re not an employer of choice, you’re significantly underpaying, 50 percent of the workforce in some respects.

So yeah, just thought I’d give that a shout out cause that’s really important.

Captain Fi: That’ll be brilliant. Especially for more information about negotiating pay rises and like that’ll help

Louise: everyone. Yeah. Something I would say that I’m a specialist in averaging 22 percent every time I go to the table to negotiate a pay rise, Captain Fi.

Ooh, that’s from when I was a graduate. That’s fantastic. That’s my favorite number actually.

Captain Fi: I think we need to like. I’m going to hire you to go into bat, like I reckon if I was going in for a job interview, I’d be like, excuse me, I’ve got my emotional support, you will have to do all of negotiating through

Louise: my favorite thing to do, to be honest, favorite thing.

And I, I really reject public sector, private sector, I’m not worth that much. I’m not, it’s you know what, if you position yourself correctly, you do have to be awesome. Don’t get me [00:38:00] wrong. Don’t be a slacker and think you’re going to roll up and get 20 percent out of your boss.

That’s not happening. People, you’ve got to put in the work and position yourself in the environment, but. Yeah. From when I was a graduate my dad is a great negotiator. So shout out to my dad. Cause he taught me a lot of what I know. He wants 10 percent discount on everything, even his Woolies supermarket shopping.

So negotiating is in my blood and yeah I worked it out. I sat down about a year ago and thought, what is my average here? And so that’s the average. So that is not the median. That is the average. So sometimes it’s a bit higher and sometimes a bit lower, but the average is 22%. At every job change.

It’s phenomenal.

Captain Fi: Look, I must admit, it’s something that I’ve shyed away from. It can make me feel a bit uncomfortable. Makes

Louise: everyone feel uncomfortable. No one likes talking about money. It drives me up the wall because I’m like, that’s what we’re going to the workplace for. That is an underpinning requirement of why we go to work is income.

Captain Fi: Yeah, so I’ve had to even with the business negotiating advertising, affiliate contracts yeah, it can be difficult, so I tend to try and do my research, focus on the numbers, [00:39:00] and, obviously, you can put a clear proposition forward and try and have something that’s going to benefit both parties but so I’ve recently ordered a few books, and I know I should be getting these from my library, but So it’s one of the little luxury I afford myself is shopping for books.

And so I’ve ordered Never Split the Difference and Getting to Yes. They’re the two negotiation books which I’ve been, , recommended so many times and I finally just went out and got them. Do you have any other resources about negotiation that you’ve

Louise: used? Probably not actually, no, it’s from when I was a graduate. So that’s not helpful to the listeners. But in terms of negotiation, I’ve got a couple of career books that I really love the first 90 days sets you up. That is by. Michael, I think I’ve written it down the first 90 days.

I’ll grab the author career coach mentor. The first 90 days sets you up in any new role. So new role, new organization, mini promotion new leadership. It’s just around how to. Assess the environment. It’s American based. There’s a few things for Australians that probably don’t [00:40:00] translate as well.

But yeah, that’s one of my favorite career books that has done well. Michael B. Watkins is the author. Really renowned author. So yeah, so not so much in negotiation. But also what I would say is know your numbers, audience. If you don’t know your numbers before you go into a negotiation, then you’re already at behind the eight ball.

And what I mean by that is Your personal living circumstances, what do you need out of this next promotion and this role that’s going to support that income to achieve your goals, your financial goals. I think when you start to frame things in like that, decisions become a little bit clearer as well.

I know lots of people that move for five or six grand. And I think the effort required in just changing organizations, changing teams, like it takes a good three to six months of real effort and energy to make your mark in a new space and a new role organization, whatnot. So five grand, that’s not cutting it.

Anyone doesn’t even matter if you’re a graduate, like that’s a lot. If you quantify the [00:41:00] change and how much energy it’s going to take, but also then cost of living inflation you can come up with a number that, is your baseline that also starts to narrow your search. It also gets you to become more direct around talking to recruiters and , interviewers in, in organizations, and also you’re not caught out going for jobs that are not even close to where you want to be.

Captain Fi: Yes. I think I much prefer the the 50 to 80 to a hundred thousand dollar pay rises that

Louise: that you’ve been securing. I said 22%. I didn’t disclose how much it was, but

Captain Fi: 22%. So look, speaking of which , I’d love to ask some of the personal finance questions if we can spill some of the tea. For sure. For sure. . Awesome. So the first one is, what are the different sources of

Louise: income that you have? Yeah, So previously did my new consultancy, but that’s tracking at where I’m going to be anyway for my existing income, cause I would not be taking a backward step, particularly when I’m pursuing this FIRE journey and the FAT FIRE version.

So my public service salary do you want numbers, Captain FIRE? Are we right with that? Oh, look,

Captain Fi: yeah, if you’re prepared to share them, [00:42:00] yeah, but , only if you’re comfortable.

Louise: Yeah, so I’ll give you just ballpark figures. So, public service salaries, 300k plus. That’s been fairly consistent for a while.

Rental property income about 50k. That’s before expenses. So, I just gave round numbers. Shared dividends About 5k that we’ve got some through super. So I co contribute to my husband’s super fund cause it’s a bit older than me, so makes sense tax wise. But as people who are tracking fire super is important for me, but I max out the contribution every year because of my income, but I’m not going to get that money until 65.

So putting extra money in my super is not a strategy for me. Hence why I, what’s the term? Captain fire sacrifice or move over my kind of that spousal benefit that I can put in my husband’s super,

Captain Fi: I’m sorry. . Is that like the spousal?

Louise: Yes, that’s right. Yeah. I don’t know if it’s co contribution.

I think you can give up to 80 percent of your super to your spouse. Maybe it is called co contribution. I don’t know. We should maybe be a bit more astute with these titles. Everyone. Sorry. All these words. But yeah, so [00:43:00] I, I donate give 80 percent of my super to my husband’s super fund because his balance is lower, but also we can access that sooner.

So that helps with our fire journey. So yeah, and then I started obviously the consultancy, which will track it similar if not more, we’ve got more opportunity for growth as well, I’m not stuck on a single salary. And I’ve got various means of income through that, whether it’s infrastructure consultancy.

Career mentoring, public speaking. So, when you start to play in a few different sandpits, as I like to see it, you’ve got more opportunity to earn. And then my husband and I starting a side hustle. We’re a bit slow to go, but we’ve done a few already because we love travel and I love travel planning.

So, we’ve started up our Instagram um, which is been there travels and basically just we travel about eight to 10 weeks a year. We try to anyway. So just helping people not necessarily to do it on a budget because everyone’s budget’s different when they’re traveling, but just, travel hacks, but planning a great itinerary to maximize your time because, annual leave [00:44:00] days or time off away from the workplace for me , has always been so precious and important.

You really want to maximize that, get a mixture of relaxed downtime, seeing the world. If you’re an adrenaline junkie doing those types of things. So, travel planning is a service that I’m going to start offering through Instagram once I get my act together. So if you hit the page now, you won’t see too much, a logo and a few things, but yeah, stay tuned for that.

It’s a couple of things on the go.

Captain Fi: Jeez. I want to go holidaying with you because it sounds like you’ll do all the hard work and there’ll be an awesome holiday. And I’ll just get to like passively

Louise: go on with it. That’s really what happens really. Whether it’s family members or friends who I plan trips with, they literally send me their budget what outcomes and where they want to get to.

And I send them back in 24 hours. Where they should go and what they should do. I’m a big foodie. So food is really important on holidays for me. So making sure restaurant reservations and things. So yeah, you book at all, but we provide the guidance and the plan. And also, that kind of connectivity in between getting to places as well is not always the easiest thing to do [00:45:00] depending on where you go, but we only offer advice.

Hence the name Been There Travels. So we only offer advice where we’ve. Actually being on the ground, they’re not, Oh yeah, I think that’s a really nice place to go and let me do some research and I’ll read some articles and I’ll book an itinerary for you. We’ll plan an itinerary. , we have to have been there to really give you the most authentic, genuine experience, I feel.

Captain Fi: Yeah, no, that makes a lot of sense. And I think especially with Google’s webmaster guidelines and they’re talking about this concept of , EAT, experience, authority, expertise, and trust, , you need to know the information, you need to know the topic.

And, people that are just like spinning bullshit or

Louise: using AI, chat, GPT to write a travel itinerary. Don’t get me wrong. There is good, need. And I think validity in those things. But I think you can’t get past a genuine experience. You just can’t.

Captain Fi: Yeah, that’s the real deal.

We will get back to the show in a moment, but for now, I wanna ask you a question. Do you have a side hustle? And if you do, is it scalable? My side hustle is building and running websites a [00:46:00] form of digital real estate. Now, it might sound tricky to make money online, but really they’re just small online businesses that have low overheads, high margins, and which you can easily scale by outsourcing.

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So obviously travel is a big part of your budget, but what is your monthly

Louise: expenses? Yeah. So monthly expenses I’ve done them in the last few months. And so to live, so what I consider living is our home. We’ve got running water, we’ve got electricity, like the real bare essentials.

We’ve got food. So my husband’s a vegetarian. That is a super quick way. And cheaper way to get to [00:48:00] fire. Let me tell you. So I eat a little bit of meat, but don’t regularly shop for it. So it’s eating, drinking and espresso pods. That’s a core thing. My husband uses a Italian cafeteria with ground coffee.

We do like our kind of Italian. Origin stuff. So that stuff, basically you don’t have to go leave the house. Everything is looked after. Internet access, electricity, utilities, all that. That number is a $39 020. Fan bloody tastic. And That is in Sydney. And yeah, we have a two bedroom. Two bathroom apartment on the North shore in Sydney’s North shore.

We don’t have a mortgage, so that is not in that because we don’t have it. We got rid of it, which is amazing. We have some investment mortgages, but yeah, in terms of that costs, we don’t have children, childcare. So, I know cost of living is. Incredibly difficult for some households because of those expenses.

But, we’re fortunate and we’ve made choices in our life and that’s the number that we’re at on top of that is what I call our splurge. So I had a great dinner last night out at a nice restaurant with an expensive bottle of wine. [00:49:00] My husband and I get about 500 each a month for that.

So that’s 12 grand a year. Some would say that’s excessive. Some would say not, but basically how I work it out in my brain is if everything stops tomorrow, Captain Fi, I can get rid of that and we’re still okay. That’s just the extras. So that’s coffees out, lunches out. It mainly goes on food, which is outrageous when you think about it.

12 grand experiences. So if we go to the movies, I take my nephews to a show that comes out of that travel. It’s 30 grand a year, that fluctuates. Sometimes we spend more, sometimes we spend less. Obviously COVID, we really saved a lot. So instead of spending that like in the subsequent years, we just invested it.

So we just made those decisions. And then the other one, which I think was really key for me to pull out was gifts and giving, cause I think we are in a fortunate position. We have worked really hard to get here, but I think giving back is really important. Now, whether that’s donations buying gifts.

So that’s outlining birthdays, Christmases, ad hoc [00:50:00] flowers for someone that’s not feeling well, or is having a bad time. That’s really important to me. I get a lot of joy out of that. And that’s 7, 550. Just that was the last financial year we spent on gifts.

Captain Fi: Wow. That’s incredible. I think congratulations, being on top of your budget like that isn’t, is 88,

Louise: 500.

Captain Fi: from what you mentioned earlier with the income versus the expenses, like you’re um, earning multiples. Then your cost of living, which is really, that’s the key to building wealth. Isn’t it? It’s living below your means and consistently investing. So how do you keep these costs down Louise?

What’s your strategy?

Louise: Yeah. So I definitely do. Like I talked about just earlier about like the bill review. I do that every six months or when there’s a change in circumstances. So I just. Did it and I’m about to do it, finish it in the next couple of days because of moving into consultancy, obviously things change.

You take on different costs as well with insurances and website hosting and things like that. So there’s a few different things there. And so they’re [00:51:00] classed as, business costs, not in those numbers. But for me, it’s just being diligent automating. So, you definitely got me onto that. Cause I was much more hands on with my money around moving money around.

And so I just have a percentage breakdown when the income would come in every month, cause I got paid monthly. It just went out into the requisite buckets and I would do that by myself. I still do a little bit of that, but all bills and everything are automated. I was always worried about direct debits because I didn’t have control, slight control freak with money.

So I’ve let go of that, which is great. And now things come in and they reconciled and I look on the credit card and I have a look and I’m much more into. The automation part of that now. So, that’s definitely helped in the last couple of years around that, but you know, I do love earning money and I do love spending money and I do love seeing our personal net worth grow.

So it is a passion of mine. I know it’s not a passion of everyone’s, not really a passion of my husband. He likes to keep abreast of things, but. Does he love the numbers like I do? No, he doesn’t. And I know some people are like that. So, [00:52:00] yeah, I guess it’s taking deliberate time out to focus on that.

And also, like I said, some days you don’t have a great day at work and you think, what am I doing all this for? It’s really good. To get your head space into what are my goals and objectives here? And what am I actually achieving? And some weeks in some months, we don’t save as much as we think we could, or there’s something happens.

Cause there’s always something that happens. That’s the other thing around finance world. You can have a plan but it can always be interrupted by random changes and medical expenses and whatnot. So. I think that is really key is just being on top of those. I find it also calms me knowing all of this and reduces any type of anxiety around where are we going?

What are we doing? If an emergency happens, how would we deal with it? Having, emergency funds, et cetera. So yeah,

Captain Fi: it definitely gives a huge peace of mind and I feel a lot. Like more secure. And I guess that’s a perfect segue into emergency funds, right. And insurance. So, I mean, what [00:53:00] kind of an emergency fund do

Louise: you keep it?

 Probably too much, but it is offsetting our current investment mortgages, like five and a half percent, which is a little bit crazy. So I feel like it’s not too bad, but it’s about a hundred grand. I do like to have cash on hand. I’m not going to lie. Like we also have 15 K micro investing account in Raiz which is the break glass.

I always say if we had not a dollar to our name, I could break that glass and get that 15 K out as in a couple of days. But the strategy there is to keep it. And I just add. every month. And that’s I would say the emergency account. So 15, 000 is what’s that if 39 is the number it’s about just under six months of just like pure living basic which is comfortable.

That’s what, our plan is around making sure we’re comfortable., I think that’s probably having a hundred K cash is probably like I can easily just put it on the mortgage, but it’s sitting in an offset account and it’s there if we need some, liquidity or something.

But yeah, I just pile that up. And then until we get to the mortgage closure, which we’re almost at for one of our [00:54:00] investment properties, it’ll go on there and see you later. Another investment mortgage, yeah,

Captain Fi: fantastic. So, with the emergency fund being about six months expenses. Do you then have is that your income protection? Is that like a six month?

Louise: Wage. Yeah, so income protection and, because the good thing about public service or any time of tenure, ’cause I was 10 years, any type of tenure in a job you build up kind of sick leave and things.

So I was using that as also as the buffer. But I do have income protection policy, so it’s 80% of my take home income which is still there. My wage. I also, and that kicks in 60 days. So I was like, yeah, 60 days is comfortable. That’s fine. That dramatically reduces your premium. It’s also just a five year policy, which keeps it cheap because I was like, you know what, I’m going to fire in five years.

Like we’ve got enough. So if I just received that income for five years. We’re going to be okay. I don’t need one to 65 because that then again, really increases your premium. I’ve also got a trauma policy for 200 K because I thought, if I get cancer, I’ll have an accident. Yeah. I wouldn’t mind a nice bonus of 200 [00:55:00] K to deal with maybe the difficulty that I’d be going through personally around the health situation.

And then I’ve got life insurance for 2 million. And that’s really peace of mind for my husband. So, obviously he’ll be very sad if something happened to me, but he’s got plenty of money to live, pay off the remaining debt, which is about six 80, not eight 700. And he’s still got plenty of money to invest and derive more income, to get to the fat FI number that we were planning for if I wasn’t around.

This was really put in place by financial advisor. Like I really wanted to get this organized. I was quite paranoid about it. And I got sorted in the last couple of years, which I’m really thankful for. And, out of pocket and it’s a tax deductions about 450. The way it’s structured.

So yeah, if you don’t have this organized and you have a family or you’re single, I think really anyone needs to have something in place particularly if they’ve got liabilities and mortgage requirements, because you never know, you’ve been through personal, but also family illness that, is suddenly just is dropped upon you.

You don’t have a lot of time for thinking and planning when you’re in [00:56:00] it. So do it when you’ve got time.

Captain Fi: Yeah, absolutely. It’s the last thing you want to be thinking of. What I think is really clever about the way you’ve structured your insurances, though, I like how you’ve looked at your goal for FIRE and you haven’t just blindly taken the first deal on the table and over insured.

So, I think that’s really cool. So, is that something that the financial advisor? Prompted you with, or is that something

Louise: that you took the lead on?? Yeah, so definitely me, because when you go to financial advisors, they’re obviously looking at 65. And our financial advisor is very good in terms of, he’s Louise, I know that you want to fire, but you still will need to look at when you are at 65, because you’re still going to live well beyond that.

So it was a good balance. Actually, I was definitely pursuing, this is all we need because. Who wants to pay more insurance premiums if they don’t have to, because I’m obviously very diligent about where our expenses are going. And again, what’s that kind of return or protection that we’re buying? Saying that Captain Fi, I’ve had insurance quotes for an obscene amount of money.

I’m talking four or five, [00:57:00] 6, 000 a year on my income. Which what’s the word, which are they go up per inflation as well. So they track as. The cost of living, which is fine. And it goes until I’m 65 beautiful policies if you ever needed them. But if I’m 36, if I’m going to be paying that for 30 years, 30 times five grand, there’s 150 K I’m going to back myself, to have that money.

And I’ve got evidence of that. So that’s why I really shopped around and we also shopped around for a financial advisor for a good year. And we spoke to the top of the market. The average Joe’s, people provided free of charge at banks. It’s a minefield really.

I still don’t think that’s clear or well done in Australia, but we’re really happy with our financial advice. And it’s really a handy thing to have. When you just want to suss something out or you even if you’ve got good financial literacy, I found it was like, Oh, they know the tax structures really well, or how to, minimize.

Or maximize your growth because I’m risk averse around debt. I have some challenging conversations around what that would look like as well. So, [00:58:00] yeah, you got to do what’s comfortable for you. But I think having a professional kind of in your corner that you trust and, is good value for money, I think is also something worthwhile for people to think about.

Oh, a hundred

Captain Fi: percent. And , you just don’t know what you don’t know. And sometimes those blind spots especially, if it could be something around like insurance or, you

Louise: know, you can really, how to get it sorted, I just found it really difficult. And I’m on top of what I would call our life admin, but yeah, insurances and super and the taxation concessions around super and the management and access.

That was really good because I can read about it, but to realize it and make it practical for me, I was struggling. So, thankful for my financial advisor in that space.

Captain Fi: Yeah, a hundred percent. I’ve I’ve had some crap financial advisors, but I’ve also had some really good ones.

 There’s some people doing some like scaled financial advice like Vince Scully he’s pretty good. Yeah, recently spoke to Andy Darroch up in in Sydney as well. Yeah,

Louise: there’s some good operators. Like any industry, there’s going to be rubbish and there’s going to be amazing.

And I just like the ones, I really got on with the ones that [00:59:00] listened, that are interested in what you want to achieve. I know that’s probably should be in all of their ethos, but it just doesn’t come through sometimes. I also struggled and I think some people will find this because we started out investing in property particularly bank financial advisors they didn’t want a bar of it. .

They said, no, we can’t advise on that. Yeah. We can only advise on managed funds. And I was like so basically 80 percent of my wealth, you can’t advise on. That’s really not helpful. So just trying to find that balance because we, as I’m definitely interested in share investing ETFs, et cetera.

That’s where we’re pursuing that a lot harder now. But it’s not what started our, growth in our wealth. So, and it’s not what we felt comfortable with. We felt comfortable with property cause we feel like we know it. We feel like we’re doing a good job. Getting our returns.

So yeah, that was interesting as well, where some doors were just even shut because we didn’t have the right mix for them. So,

Captain Fi: Yeah. They have some advisors can be limited by whatever’s on the approved product. I think there’s probably some people out there that might say, Oh, that’s more about the bank

Louise: pushing.

Of [01:00:00] course. Don’t you think it’s ironic when good financial advice is about diversification? I think it’s it’s just flies in the face of what they’re set up to do. I’m like, you want me to diversify my risk, my portfolio, yet you can only advise on one type of asset. I’m like, okay. I found it was an interesting journey.

I’m glad it’s over now and I’m glad we’ve settled on where we’re at.

Captain Fi: Yeah, well, I guess like it’s a good example to like in any like tender process, right? Like I know when I’m looking at a particular product, we’re looking at buying a TV at the moment. And one of the things I want to, get three different quotes, actually that’s a really good segue, Louise, into what do you guys choose to

Louise: invest in? So yeah, property that has been our number one and then now super via my husband’s super fund and then ETFs. And obviously we have some micro investing in Raiz

so yeah it’s pretty simple to be honest. So, in terms of asset and it’s Australian property and they’re in Sydney and Melbourne. We have , a few properties between those states.

Captain Fi: [01:01:00] Yeah, it’s a good split. And we’ve seen in the FI movement a bit of a transition where some people, they start out with property and they want to realize some of the capital gains.

They end up moving those into, I guess, assets where they’re able to cash flow. So, so, some people end up selling an investment property and buying a bunch of ETFs. Is that something that you guys are looking at or are you going to be

Louise: holding? Holding, we’re always Buy and Hold where, yeah, I think, just the, as transaction costs, CGT stamp duty.

I just think, it’s difficult to recoup all of that when you’re chopping and changing. I think the, and I hear, I see a lot of horror stories around property management and things. Touch wood, we’re pretty happy with what we’ve got. Surprisingly for people, we choose apartments.

We don’t choose houses. I think people will be shocked about that, but the yields are good. The capital growth, I wasn’t chasing because the buy and hold is a strategy. We want passive income. We want rents to live off. As well as dividends at the beginning kind of our investment journey or when we started to,[01:02:00] obviously make the decision to buy a property and the volatility in the share market always scared me.

I always would be like, if Donald Trump sneezes, like half of that, Tesla share could go. That scares me because it’s a lack of control. Obviously I’ve matured a little bit more in my approach. But yeah, property, , bricks and mortar. I think Italian immigrant, my dad’s an Italian immigrant they love bricks and mortar. So I just think again what you grow up with is what, my husband’s family’s definitely in share market. They don’t have property. So, we’ve got a good balance between us now and definitely much more focused. But yeah, touch wood.

We haven’t had nothing, but. Good tenants, relatively good property management and the yields have been all right. COVID was difficult, not going to lie, but interest rates were low. So, that’s relative. When interest rates are higher, I think property looks a little bit more difficult for people to enter.

But yeah how long is a piece of string around how to get into property and when to get in and, It’s going to be right for you if it’s right for you. So I think do your research buyers agents are really handy as some really good. I think I really [01:03:00] like the, I think it’s the property podcast.

I think I sent to you that I really like, and I got a lot of info. Property couch was when we were looking for different types of assets and it’s a numbers game, Captain FI, you don’t walk into a property and go. I really love the aspect here. It’s is the yield. where I need to be. Are the expenses stable?

Is the rental return or the rental demand in this area in a good position? It’s all numbers. If you’re using your heart to buy an investment property, you’re already behind.

Captain Fi: Yes. I can definitely agree with that. I’ve had a, I guess say like the property development I did was a bit tricky, but it was definitely first and foremost, an investment rather than somewhere to live.

And so it was nice to be able to Fall back and think, okay, these are the numbers. This is why we’re doing it. This is the yield. And, we were fortunate in that it worked out. But yeah, it’s definitely not for everybody.

Louise: Yeah, for sure. And, we just had a run of air conditioning, broken dishwasher change, and you’re like.

Oh, my goodness, that’s like a, 50 or 80 percent drop in our [01:04:00] rent this month. When I, sometimes when you get a couple of those at one time, cause when it rains, it pours, as you think, Oh, should I just sell all this and put it into an ETF? And then I don’t have to worry. But you know, for me, while I’ve got the income that I’ve got the negative gearing aspect of property has been really useful.

Captain Fi: Yeah, that makes sense. I was half saying you might be heavily invested in infrastructure

Louise: funds there, Louise. No, I enjoy the work, but no, again, volatility. And I also like what I know and I know domestic housing, so I’ll stick with that.

Captain Fi: Yeah. No, that’s great. Invest in what you know.

So you’ve mentioned fat fire is the goal. So what’s the goal? Is there a particular number or passive income figure

Louise: that you’re aiming? Yeah. So 120 grand a year is for me is the fat fire. As you can see, like as our current living, like with our splurge, our travel, which 30 grand gifts, generosity sitting at about 88, 90 now.

So give us another 30 buffer. That’s for me, the fat fire where you could still have some [01:05:00] savings. You don’t really have to draw down on your investments or you have to sell them down to, to keep living. That’s not something I’m really interested in saying that die with zero. The book is on my list to read and maybe might change the way I look at things.

But yeah we’ll see. But yeah, I think for me age 42 two and a bit million at 4 percent drawdown, that’s, it gets me 80 K that’s where I can go. Yeah, we can retire. We’re okay. And we’re probably a bit closer to that now. Just with, how rents go and we’re really.

Turbocharging kind of investments through super and shares in the next kind of five years. And I think with the gains that I’m seeing, that will be quicker than what I’m predicting. But then you’ve got to fight inflation as well, which is a little bit crazy. So, 80 K is the base passively which I think is comfortable, but for us to be super comfortable, have nice travel experiences, still be generous.

Me not fretting that’s 120 K. So that’s, three million at 4%. That’s my fat

Captain Fi: fire number. Yeah. That’s awesome. And so I guess, travel is a big [01:06:00] priority for your husband and you. So I mean, what’s that early retirement going to look like for you?

Louise: So I’m getting a little bit of a taste of it now, consulting like, yes, it’s busy, but you have freedom and flexibility.

So for me, it’s there’s never an alarm clock. That’s really what retirement means for me. But I am super energetic at times. So sitting around and becoming a sloth on the lounge, watching Netflix is I can do it for a little while, but I can’t do it continuously. So for me, I really want to have a board career, so a portfolio of directorships for different type of companies and businesses in Australia, non for profit sporting organizations.

I think the Australian Institute of Company Directors suggests four to five. I’m on a couple of boards now and I really enjoy it. So they’re paid directorships you, you can obtain similar to how you build your career once you finish maybe full time work. So that’s what I’m seeking in my early forties is those types of roles where, you know, in terms of a time allocation, it’s probably, a meeting [01:07:00] once a month or every second month for between three and six hours, depending on the governance structure of the organization papers, reading papers, a hundred papers, a hundred pages to 500 pages, depending on the organization, making strategic decisions with the management team.

Those types of things. That’s what I’m interested in. , so I think I’ll always derive some level of income, Captain Fire, because it’s just the way I’m programmed, but I also enjoy working and contributing to organizations and my brain needs to be active, I don’t really have, gardening hobbies and I obviously, like to the letter, I don’t have any of those types of hobbies. I was a big sports player early on, but through injury, I gave it up. So, health and fitness now more in becoming, when I’ve got more time for that but you know, doing the work I enjoy working. So, types of work, selective types of work, and this is all work optional, right?

I love that term because you talk to people about retiring in your forties and immediately the questions I’ve had are, what are you going to do with yourself and You’re not going to like that. You’re going to get really bored. And I’m like no it’s, work [01:08:00] optional.

So if I wake up at 42 and I’m still in a great career job or my consultancy is booming, whatever I’m deciding to do, and I’m loving it, then you know what? I’m not pulling the pin on the fire, but you know, and you’ve had those times and obviously came to your decision where you’re just like, okay, I’m done.

I need a six or 12 months break, or I actually don’t want to work in a workplace anymore. I’m going to pull the fire pin. And so that’s what that means for me.

Captain Fi: Yeah. How exciting. I I’m super pumped for you with the consultancy I’m really excited to see how it pans out. And I think it’s going to be pretty successful.

So I reckon you’re going to have a lot of fun doing this and yeah, , that work optional. Because I mean, I like, I’ve had fun working on the website stuff part time and I absolutely, I’m loving podcasting. I love blogging. It’s like a creative outlet and you get to meet all these really interesting people having this conversation right now.

It’s like the highlight of my day. So. I think you’re going to find that maybe you’ll be having too much

Louise: fun. They say, you’re having fun when you’re working, then you’re not really working. So, I could [01:09:00] talk about this stuff all day. Like it’s it doesn’t feel like work at all.

And working at numbers, helping people out, doing strategic planning for a project or I love it. So yeah, let’s just fingers crossed and, off we go.

Captain Fi: Oh, Louise, I don’t know if you can hear this in the background, but I’ve got a family of magpies that are sitting on the fence by my window and they’re pleading for food.

I normally feed them at lunchtime and they’re telling me, Captain Fire, you need to wrap this interview up because Louise has got a

Louise: party. I’ve got

Captain Fi: party, so yeah. So look, just wrapping up, I gotta ask these questions to everyone. And obviously on the journey to fire, if we can look towards successful people who have path founded for us and we can emulate those, it’s gonna save us so much time and hassle For sure.

And you are someone who’s really gone and pioneered that path, so I’m really interested to hear about what. Some of your favorite resources, books, blogs, or podcasts that you might have used on your journey that you found to be

Louise: Really cool. So [01:10:00] it started for me, as I said with the minimalist.

com that’s their website. It’s about owning less and being , more deliberate and prioritizing what’s important to you. And it’s really don’t keep up with the Joneses. Right. Cause let’s be honest, the Joneses have probably got a giant 2 million Sydney mortgage and they can’t, pay their bills.

So forget that and focus on what’s important to you and simplify your life. That’s really what the lesson for me out of that is, only, we don’t need 17 pairs of jeans, Captain FI we don’t need that. And the more stuff you have, the bigger, the place you need the more the bills associated with these, like all of these things.

And , on my income and the way my husband and I have built our wealth, we can afford these types of homes and luxuries. We just choose not. So, they are deliberate choices. You don’t have to do those things. So , I still , live by this today. If I buy something, something’s going out of the house.

That’s just standard. If I’m only buying a new shirt, if I’m replacing a shirt some of my underwear, I’d say I’d probably, holding onto it a bit too long, but I, buy new stuff and it goes. [01:11:00] I’m just pretty structured about that. Captain Fi and Aussie Firebug were my first experiences with fire.

So shout out to you guys for all the amazing stuff that you produce. I really love the Aussie Firebug starting the. Tracking the net worth. That was a revelation for me. It was like, again, a very simple concept. That’s, pretty easy to implement, but doing it just provides the continued momentum that I think when people look at a fire goal and think, Oh my God, 10 years or 12 years, and you just some months or some years, you don’t feel like you’re making the gains that maybe you’ve planned for, but when you actually add everything up,

I find it quite satisfying but also then gives you opportunities to focus on, okay, what could we do better or what needs to change to maybe get us back on track. So yeah, your content, Aussie Firebug, I love reading his blog every month about what he’s doing. That’s been really useful. I like Australian based content.

There’s some American stuff like Save My Cents that I follow, but it’s American focused. So they talk about Roth [01:12:00] 401k again, the equivalence of super. So some of it’s really useful in terms of lessons. And I just also like different cultural contexts. It’s not always applicable. The other thing I really love is the property couch.

I’ve been listening to them for quite a while. I go on and off that depending on whether property is a thing for us, but I do like to keep in touch with what the market’s doing, given that we have a few properties. The other one, the new one is my millennial money. And I do love that cause I got my millennial career, my millennial money, and I just find that’s easy, well constructed resource.

That’s accessible, Instagram, Facebook. Yeah and really simple and snappy. And I’ve also been an early adopter and big fan of both Raiz micro investing platform and Pearler which is the automated share platform, which you’re a big fan of as well. So they’re my go to things right now.

If someone says, what are you doing or how have you evolved this journey? I’m also cognizant to not overload. Because when you overload your head is spinning and I think [01:13:00] sometimes some of us can just absorb too much knowledge and then maybe Oh, how do we apply this? Or I’ve just got too much in my head and it distracts us from maybe our goals or our strategies.

Captain Fi: well, I guess, well, here’s a perfect example then Louise, if we could distill all of the things that you’ve learned so far on your fire journey and just give them three simple Actionable pieces of advice for pursuing FIRE.

Louise: What would you say? Okay, first one, reduce your expenses.

Everyone goes, oh, I’m living at the base level, I can’t reduce anything. Challenge, reduce your expenses. Look at everything, interrogate whether you need something, because the needs are quite little. Water, utilities, food shelter. So, interrogate. And for me, sometimes Captain Fi, I’ve seen people properly turn their financial situations around in 12 to 18 months.

Everyone thinks these are long journeys. When you get the rhythm, when you get your system, your structure, you’re talking about 12 to 18 months to be paying bad debt down, advancing your wealth [01:14:00] feeling in control, not having anxiety or avoidance behaviors around your money. So for me, that. And expenses are the root of all that, right?

Cause that’s, what’s going out the door. The next one is optimize your savings rates. So again, basic information, you can get this anywhere. You will even need to earn more money if that’s a possibility side hustle, go and get that raise look at a different career path study. But the money that’s coming in.

Again, with those expenses reduced, the optimization of that savings rate. So we have really tried from the get go. Now we haven’t always achieved it. It got to as low as 30%, but we really, 50 percent is like the gold standard for me. 50 percent of your income. So yeah, and my, just again, for full transparency, my husband is retired.

So. He doesn’t derive an income only from some of our investments. So it is my income and kind of what I spelled out earlier on. That’s it. So for me, optimize your savings rate, really focus on that. And then the last point, which I think for maybe millennials, 20 something year [01:15:00] olds I sound a bit old when I say that, but you know, 20 to 45, even 50 is delay the need for instant gratification.

I’m having this conversation with you. We’re doing our own thing. We’re enjoying our life. We’ve got, a fairly good, significant chunk of wealth. And we’re in our thirties. So, you don’t have to miss out on life to get the fire, but I would say you do need to pump the brakes on buying.

Nice shiny things every five minutes to get some joy or happiness from it because you start to delay these things and in the need of seeking instant gratification, your time will come and you will be living free in your thirties and forties when everyone is still on the nine to five hamster wheel.

Captain Fi: Very well said. I mean, do you know what’s a really funny thing as well is if I really want something I like I usually wait, at first I was like, I’ll wait a week or I’ll wait a couple of weeks and these days I’m usually like I’ll wait a couple of months until if I actually want it.

And half the time I end up going I don’t even want that thing anyway. And so, yeah, it’s a great [01:16:00] little experiment to see where you actually

Louise: need it. Like I do need a work laptop at the moment. I still haven’t got one. Now I could go out and put it on my Visa or my Amex or get points, but I’m like, okay, let’s just see.

I’m, using my setup at home. Maybe this will work for a while rather than just jumping into decisions. I don’t have the latest iPhone. I generally get them off Gumtree or Facebook marketplace. We have my parents old couch, which was a couple of years old because they downsized.

That’s for me when I talk about this stuff or I interact with friends, colleagues on our sort of income, people would expect me to roll down, to Harvey Norman or freedom and spend four or five grand on a new couch if we wanted a couch. So it’s just those little things that all add up over time where you just make those decisions about what you want to spend your money on.

Captain Fi: Yeah. And it’s compounding and ultimately compounds to financial independence.

Louise: That’s it. And that is the goal. And you’re doing it, you’re living it, loving it. And I’m excited to get there, not too distant future.

Captain Fi: Yeah. [01:17:00] It’s awesome. And I think. I think you’re

Louise: closer than you think.

I think I just like to have a bit more padding, I think.

Captain Fi: Yeah. Hey, look, I’ve had an awesome time chatting today. Thank you so much for your time. If people want to find out a bit more about you or get in touch, where can we find you? So

Louise: LouiseHowardAdvisory. com you can flick me an inquiry on there or via my LinkedIn profile.

I do love LinkedIn. It’s my favorite kind of. networking tool. So just send me a message or connect on there. I never really shy away from not connecting with people. I’m a pretty open book in that space. So, yeah, they’re kind of the two. And just if anyone’s interested in some travel planning, there’ll be some content coming in the next three or four weeks on Been There Travels on Instagram.

Captain Fi: Awesome. Look, I’ll have links in the show notes to Louise’s website her LinkedIn and her travel on Instagram. Anyone wants to check that definitely recommend looking her up and getting in touch. Louise is a brilliant person. Very clever. And I always love our chats. And she’s really big on LinkedIn.

[01:18:00] So I see you’ve got a huge profile there, which I think that’s a, when you have a big career, that’s a career move. Awesome. Louise, thanks so much for your time. I look forward to catching up in the not too distant.

Louise: future Thanks, captain FI Talk soon.

Captain Fi: Thanks for listening to another episode of the Captain FY Financial Independence Podcast. To read the transcript or check out the show notes, head over to www.captainfy.com for all the details. If you have a question for the captain, make sure to get in touch. You might even make it on the airwaves. You can reach me online through the Captain Fire contact form or get in touch through the socials.

I’m active on Facebook and Instagram as well as a number of online finance and investing forums. And finally, remember the information presented on the show and the links provided are for [01:19:00] general information purposes only. They should not be taken as constituting professional financial advice. You should always do your own research when making any financial decisions and make sure it’s appropriate for your personal circumstance.

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