Podcast – Pearler update with cofounder Nic Nicolaides

Captain FI Financial Independence podcast Nic Nicolaides from Pearler

Pearler is an online investment (brokerage) platform built for those on the path to Financial Independence. Since I started investing through Pearler in 2020 a lot has changed, so today’s podcast guest is Nic Nicolaides (one of the original cofounders of Pearler) to give us an update on some of the major changes, and a sneak peek into some of the new features we can expect to see rolled out in Pearler soon!

Pearler Dashboard
CaptainFI’s Pearler Dashboard (October 2022)

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Captain FI Podcast – Pearler 2022 update with Nic

Show notes

Transcript – Pearler 2022 update with Nic

Captain Fi:[00:00:00] Ladies and gentlemen, this is your captain speak. Welcome Award, the Financial Independence Podcast.

Get a, 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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All [00:02:00] right. So a lot has changed from when I first spoke to kurt Walkom, who was one of the three co-founders of Pearler, we talked a bit about the platform. And for those that don’t know, Pearler is an online brokerage platform, which is built specifically for the financial independence community.

It’s got some great features most notably that Auto Invests function, where you can set up some basic ongoing rules and then it just does a few on autopilot. So they also have a bunch of online tools, information calculators as well as some of the most competitive brokerage rates and fees for an Australian broker.

So I recorded the first pod with Kurt not long after Pearl had actually launched. And wanting to know a bit more about it. I actually ended up meeting with him. And so Ta and I, we went out, took a Cessna up, had a bit of a flyer around Sydney Harbor, and then headed out for dinner and drinks. I don’t think I have ever spoken so much about financial independence and investing over [00:03:00] dinner. And I probably learnt more than anyone ever needs to know about brokerage platforms. But it was pretty reassuring and I was happy to switch over to Pearl. . So one of the main reasons I switched was the ability to set investing rules for dollar cost averaging and then basically just let autopilot do its things.

Previously I had let things like media and market movements negatively influence my own investing decisions, and I didn’t even stick to my investing plans or I thought I was a great investor, but I couldn’t even stick to my plans. . Things like holding off over trivial corrections and click bait headlines.

Anyway. Now that I’ve got auto invest configured, I don’t really have to worry so much about the whole behavioral or emotional aspect of investing. So it’s a bit of a game changer and it’s something I’ve extensively used in my aviation career to improve safety and performance. Now the team behind p it’s it’s not just Kurt.

One of the, one of the hardworking people behind the scenes of p is Nick. So he’s one of the original three co-founders and CEO of [00:04:00] Pella. So I’ve been chatting to Nick since. Pretty much day one of creating a pillar account. And he’s always been really helpful and insightful whenever I’ve contacted them for support.

Obviously it was a bit of a lean startup. The three co-founders, Nick, Kurt, and Hayden, basically filling all three roles filling all of the roles together. So in the early days, I think I’d call up with a technical support question or a customer support question. I’m pretty sure it would go to his mobile phone

But Flash forward to today. And they’ve got over 50,000 active users. The team’s obviously expanded a bit to support this growing user base, and, they’re now dedicated teams. So when you call customer support, I don’t think it goes to Nick’s mobile phone anymore. But anyway, look, I’m really excited to find out how it’s all been tracking.

What the new features are from Perla and what’s on the near horizon for the Captain Fire blog. I also just wanna reiterate that whil, I’m interested from the perspective of the blog from a user’s perspective. I haven’t really paid much attention to it all, and I’ve just let auto invests do its thing, [00:05:00] right?

 So this morning I’ve got Nick, so Goodday. Nick, welcome to the show. How you going, mate?

Nick: Good. Thank you. Thank you for having me. Thanks for the,

Captain Fi: Yeah, no dramas man. Obviously I know you’re into surfing. We’ve spoken about that before, but can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

Nick: Yeah, sure.

Apart from my day to night job of working on Perla, I have a very active and vibrant young family. So I’ve got three kids under six. And that’s a large part of my Existence at the moment. And I love it obviously. So my wife Kate and I are very hands on and full on in that capacity.

You mentioned surfing and, maybe I don’t get as much time to do things like that at the moment, but I think I see a light at the end of the tunnel and. That’s a function of maybe a youngest son nearing two, and also maybe on the pearl front, being able to build out a bit more of a corporate and marketing team.

For the moment I’m part pearl apart, dad, and, that’ll evolve back to some balance in the future, hopefully.

Captain Fi: Oh, three kids. I didn’t realize you had , three young ones, mate. I just thought you had the one. But that [00:06:00] must keep you very busy between Pearl staff and having a young family.

Nick: Yeah, it’s good. . But luckily they’re, fairly interested in some things that we, that I like doing. If we’re not at the beach, we’re probably mucking around on a skateboard, on the balcony or something like that. I do get to find ways to make it a bit of me time as well.

But yeah, certainly , it’s a full light at the.

Captain Fi: Yeah. There’s a lot of exciting things going on for Pearl I think since Kurt and I first had a chat. There’s been a bunch of new features like us share trading and all that. What’s been going on and what’s on the cards for Pearl’s near future?

Nick: . So I think. When we’re chatting about this today, we are just on a year of being live outta beta. And so some of the big things that have obviously happened in the year we launched with a really simple platform, right? We launched with Aussie Trading Auto Invest and some social proof kind of triggers and calculators and whatnot.

And since then we’ve done us, we’ve added instant funding. Launched an app, we’ve [00:07:00] created the net wealth dashboard that allows you to link in your bank accounts, and I think they’re the big ones, but there’s been, many iterations based on customer feedback. And so it’s almost to the point now where even for myself, I’m a bit like you.

I try not to spend too much time in the platform and probably check in every six weeks or so, just so I keep my mind fresh. But a lot’s going on and I think the big things though are what’s been happening behind the scenes that are yet to launch. We’re in the process of launching Micro, which is basically the purer experience, just boiled down into a managed investment scheme.

So a really simple trust fund that people can invest in largely the same popular ETFs of the community. They can just do it now in dollars and cents. So that’s been a long time coming and we’re really excited and happy to get that out there. It’s been really well received so far. Then in addition to that, we’ve been working on a couple of things.

So we’re almost there on our little superannuation marketplace. The idea behind that is making it [00:08:00] super easy for people to, one, monitor their super alongside their shares, but two, find a retail super fund low cost that sort of aligns to their values and will help. Roll over their super in the platform.

That’s a key part of what we’ve been trying to move towards. And so I think with Micro and with the super marketplace, all of a sudden we will be this shared trading platform that has managed funds and superannuation all of which are, external products, right?

They’re not polar products. They are. ETFs managed by managers. They are the microfund of ETFs and they’re the Superfund of other retail super funds. So it’s sending us in that direction away from just being this sort of one-dimensional share trading platform to this wealth management platform and that was always where we thought we wanted to go is really exciting to be actually now stepping in that direct.

Captain Fi: Yeah, it’s cool actually. Super, it doesn’t really get a great rat in the whole fire community. But it is an important [00:09:00] part of everyone’s financial independence journey because, unless you plan to die young like , you gonna eventually. Breach preservation age. And if you can focus on the super it means you don’t necessarily need as much in your conventional brokerage.

And there’s a bunch of awesome tools out there that people can use to to do those calculators. Aussie fire bugs got one that you can use on his website as well. So that’s gonna be cool cuz , that’s something that I’ve found particularly there’s not a lot of great information about.

 The best super platform. You know, Comparing things like fees and what’s actually inside, like the actual underlying investments. Sometimes it can be really confusing. . Yeah, I’m keen to see how that eventuates.

Nick: I think the thing for us was, is it’s part of choosing funds, right?

But it’s also probably more from Pearl’s perspective, helping people be really conscious. Of what they’re doing. We are more interested in the behavioral element of, so you’re investing, you’re confidently investing. Are you as confident or are you as on top of your super as you are with your [00:10:00] investing?

If not, why not? Have you considered whether you wanna be doing additional contributions or not? And why have you considered where the money’s going? And it’s more about just bringing those two worlds closer together. And I think one of the challenges of the whole finance industry is those two worlds have been so separate.

And when they’re separate and with super, in the back of your mind, by default you’re not as on top of it not that it’s on the scale of good or bad, but you might not be doing it as well as you’d like to. So that’s just the start of the process for us rather than some kind of mega business aspiration.

Captain Fi: Look, I actually just recently rolled my super over into just one fund.

 I didn’t give it the respects, it really deserved. I just went, Oh, here’s a good place that I can park a bunch of money in index funds.

But I hadn’t really carefully considered the effect of paying multiple fees and I wasn’t getting any insurance where I had it. So was an easy decision. Once I’d done a bit more reading about it to roll it over just into a single fund.

So yeah, I think [00:11:00] having an awareness of your super is important to you. Bang on the money there. Now, so Pearl Micro, so I had a bit of a play around with this recently. I wanted to, do a bit of a review content for the. I thought it was great fun. But I did have a question, which was can we roll over or can we transfer like our per micro balances to just like our regular per accounts?

Is that a thing that you can do?

Nick: So really good question. And it’s A really important topic that’s on our agenda at the moment is to how to join those two worlds a bit better. But the answer is, yeah, yes you can, but it’s going have tax implications or it’s likely to have tax implications.

And the reason for that is it’s not currently possible to do a version of a transfer or InSpec transfer or distribution from a managed investment scheme onto your own. So, What we are thinking about in this space is, okay, how do we create micro as a [00:12:00] accumulator style asset for people whereby if someone needs to take 2, 3, 4 months to get, say a thousand dollars together, how do we help them do that in the market, in the assets they wanna invest in?

And then how do we help them? Seamlessly move that across into their own name where it doesn’t attract ongoing subscription fees, et cetera. And there are two parts to that. One is their personal circumstance and the potential tax implications I mentioned before. And the other is obviously the cost.

So let’s just say we’re looking at the subscription cost that it might take someone to accumulate that. And we’re thinking of ways to offset the cost of then moving it across into brokerage, which is obviously we don’t want people being double charged, but we haven’t yet figured out a way to do it, but it’s certainly something we’re trying to figure out.

Captain Fi: I think, like Pearl Micro and, MicroVest accounts in general seem to be like a great education tool with sort of a much lower entry barrier. People can get some skin in the game. And then , I guess [00:13:00] it is just like a natural progression from MicroVest through to investing in your own HIN.

So it’s great to know that’s on the cards. Now the elephant in the room. All right, so when I switched to Pearl, you guys had, I’m pretty sure you guys had the best brokerage or the lowest brokerage in Australia. Now, I think brokerage does, get a disproportionate amount of attention when it comes to investing headlines and I’m probably guilty of fixating on this a bit much as well.

And I would probably just say that investor behavior, like asset allocation structuring, that’s probably what really changes the needle. And obviously how much you can invest rather than just Trying to incessantly find the cheapest brokerage. Nonetheless it is good to see brokerage across the board dropping on all Australian platforms.

And it’s been dubbed through Race to the Bottom which is what happened in America. So I’m keen to hear what Pearl is doing in response to, this race to the bottom and other platforms like steak, which are, going $3 and then [00:14:00] gamifying brokerage all the way down to, to free brokerage at the moment.

Nick: Yeah. I think, no one’s gonna argue with trying to make things cheaper and, when we think about Perla and trying to incentivize Good behavior is investing more regularly, investing for less, and then holding long term. So anything we can do to make that process smoother, we’re obviously trying to do.

And so there’s a few elements though, right? It’s if you’re not making money off one product, what product are you making money of? Both from a business perspective and also from a consumer like transparency perspective. And. So I’ll come back to that, but transparency and simplicity is really important.

I think for any business and people, knowing where , money is being made of them is really important. It also ties into, to grow a business and become a business that is valuable and help a lot of people, you need to actually make some revenue somewhere. Whether the cost is zero for one product, rest assure there’s someone making money somewhere, right?

And that’s [00:15:00] perfect example is in the states where it might be zero brokerage, but all they’ve really done is shift the brokerage to another part of the value chain where there’s no minimums. And that’s fine cuz over time they became more transparent about that. But Will there be an equivalent of that in Australia?

I guess we’ll see. Perhaps we’re not set up for that just yet. So when we look at actually what’s happening and what Pearl’s doing, right now we’re at $9 50, which for a while was in the middle there at a reasonably cheap price. And yes, the markets moved and I think late last year there was a few moments of truth for us in terms of what would happen.

So a couple of the players in the market, Altogether free for a shorter period of time, right? October through December. There were lots of promotions happening, which is great for consumers, gets a lot more people in interested and it creates a lot of buzz. And for us, at a critical time in our journey where we were looking to make sure we could prove to financial backers that we had a sustainable business, we didn’t have much choice, right?

We couldn’t just [00:16:00] turn our pricing off. And also we couldn’t, combat any of that with marketing because we. Really spend money on marketing yet. So we had to sit there and see what happened and , we’ve come through that period and we’ve continued to grow, which is given us a lot of confidence that what we’re building , has some value to people.

People are willing to pay us something for what we’re doing. And we told people at the time, I think late last year, that we were gonna work on a few things. We were gonna work on getting prices cheaper. Smaller minimums and per micro, which is now launched obviously, and where we’re at today, we’re actually just about to announce new pricing.

So we were nine 50. We’re gonna announce very shortly that the pricing’s gonna be six 50 and if you prepay with per credit, you can get the price to five 50. So it’s not free. But I don’t think anything’s free, and I think it’s not as cheap as some of the others in the market, but hopefully it shows to our customers and investors, first and foremost, that are with us today, that we’re listening and we’re trying our [00:17:00] best.

And hopefully it shows that there’s actually a viable alternative out there to, ultimately pricing that is funded by market so just to summarize, we’re trying, I think we’ve got some pricing that we’re about to launch that’s gonna be competitive, but not the cheapest. And I think once that pricing gets down to that couple of bucks, and you’re not talking huge differences.

It’s really up to people to decide what business they wanna put their money with and why, and what platform helps them the most. And it’s not gonna be pearl in every instance. And we just have to be comfortable with that.

Captain Fi: That’s awesome. I think that’s pretty reasonable brokerage and at the end of the day we’re not really trading every day.

 Most of us in the community are, either making fortnightly, monthly it isn’t a huge drain, but it’s awesome to hear that the prices are coming down.

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You touched on where , you’re not paying brokerage, but you’re paying that somewhere else. And the first thing that come to my mind was okay, so you’re not paying brokerage on international , trades, but for most platforms you are getting tracked with a four x fee which can be significant.

So you also mentioned that Perla has got international investing. So how does that work? So obviously we still paying brokerage on Perla, but how does it relate in terms of the brokerage fees and how does Perla international

investing. [00:19:00]

Nick: So with the new pricing on our Aussie brokerage, we’re gonna make that consistent with us.

So that’s a little bit different to how some of the people in the market are doing it where there’s no brokerage at all. But for us, again, going back to the ideas of simplicity and transparency and consistency, we just thought if there was one price and you knew whether you were buying or selling what you were gonna pay, that would be.

Helpful to people, and if not helpful, at least it would be easy to see. So we do also have the FX element, and because we’ve charged brokerage fee, we’ve obviously made that as cheap as possible. So we’re not really looking to make a huge amount of money on fx. That’s a sort of business that is. A pass through.

It’s not really value add, everyone can do it. And for us, we were much more interested in having just a balance that people could understand. So we put that through a, an institutional FX broker who charges us and we pass most of that cost on. For us, and I think if we’re gonna go through [00:20:00] some comparables, we are gonna be at six 50 or five 50 if you prepay for a US share.

And, the FX on that for us is if we look at bs, which is what most of the people in the market present their pricing in, I think ours at the moment comes out at about 36, 37 bits and some of the other pricing in the market, at 70. 70 bits and above,

Captain Fi: wow. So that’s basically half .

Nick: It is, but it’s not like for because you’ve got brokerage fee and to boil it all down really simply. If you are going to buy and sell and buy and sell and buy and sell, it’s obviously gonna be better to be with one of the others if you are going to accumulate. More meaningful parcels and then go on by pur there’s a clear mathematical point where pur will be cheaper, and it’s probably somewhere between two and three and a half grand, I think.

And so the way we’ve thought about it is, most of our investors are putting most of their money into the Australian market, so that’s really simple. And then for [00:21:00] us, what we are seeing is people are bolting on. Some companies that they really wanna hold. And I think we all could probably guess the big companies that people wanna hold forever, right?

So the reason we structured ours in that way was we go, okay, people might optimize their Australian brokerage and invest in thousand dollar parcels or $2,000 parcels and do that as regularly as they can. And they put that into some really simple ETFs, and that’s what they’re doing on our platform, right?

Something like 70% of the volumes going into ETFs and then. All the while they’re also accumulating a parcel that they might want to go and buy, and I’m just gonna use an example here. They might wanna go and buy Amazon or Alphabet, right? Our idea was if they accumulate that money and they get that into a nice parcel, probably 3, 4, 5 grand, and they go, I’m not gonna dollar cost average into Amazon, right?

I’m just gonna buy some, and then maybe in a little while I’ll buy some more. I’m buying that chunk and I’m gonna let it sit there forever or 10 years or whatever their timeframe. So our thought was very simple. [00:22:00] Give a what off cost. That was really simple and easy to understand, , not try to make all that money on fx.

And then the third part of this equation, which we haven’t talked about is ongoing costs. And there’s no real ex expensive ongoing costs for a lot of the US brokerage accounts in Australia, but there are some. So if you look at all the Ts and Cs, you’ll see a little sort of holding fees here and there potentially.

I can’t speak for all of them, but I know they exist. And they’re not huge, right? They’re not huge. I’m not saying this is a big money spinner, but because we are charging brokerage upfront, our idea was once we’ve charged you, we’re not gonna charge you. So we don’t have that third bucket of cost.

So for someone who’s got that parcel, wants to buy those shares and park it there forever, you’ve paid up front. It’s done. And hopefully it’s as simple as it can be.

Captain Fi: Simplicity is is always good. Kiss principle. I love it. So Nick, you as I found out father of three, now I don’t have any kids yet, but hopefully one day.

So I’m still trying to suss out what. Different options [00:23:00] are available for investing for kids. And I’ve learned that, Again, that’s another thing that Pillar has launched since I first did my research, and that’s the pillar minor accounts. So what is a pillar minor account and how does

it work?

Nick: Yeah. This is actually, I forgot to mention, this was one of the things that we’re actually working on V two of this. So right now you can. Open a minor account and buy chess sponsored shares. And a lot of people, have been doing this. We lodged it in the background and then we were really surprised about how much people wanted to do it.

It’s really quite simple the. Process of setting up the account is almost identical. In terms of paperwork, you need to upload a birth certificate. One of the areas, and this is maybe a little bit granular for this discussion, but I’ll go there anyway, is thinking about the tax implications.

So the government and I think rightly has put in place some protections to make sure people weren’t investing huge amounts of money in their children’s name, just. Create more tax free thresholds for themselves. So one of the [00:24:00] things we get asked most often is, should I put the investment in my child’s tax file number or should I get a tax file number for my child, or should I put it in my own?

And that’s an area where we are trying to come up with some sensible answers. I’m not gonna offer any up here except to say that you can change it along the. and that the ATO actually has some pretty clear guidance on when it’s gonna become more economic to have the tax file number in your child’s name versus your name.

So anyway, to come back to your question, there’s not a lot to it, but what we are working on is something we think is pretty exciting. And that is a more. Standalone version of investing for kids. So what we’ve learned through this process is parents start out wanting to do it and it’s not something necessarily their children interact with, but more and more we’ve seen teenage children trying to interact with Pearl with their parents.

And so what that’s set us on the path to do is try and create almost an offshoot. , and we don’t know what we’re gonna call it yet, [00:25:00] but it’s gonna be a pillar, but it’s gonna be almost an offshoot app. That’s the user experience is completely reimagined for a parent who’s investing alongside their child, right through to a youth investor who’s later teenage years earning their own money and learning about this stuff for the first time.

Really exciting hoping we can launch that in, sometime in the next. May, June type area. And if we look at what’s happened in the market, there’s a lot of investing for kids apps out there. And I would say this without being disparaging or trying to be, a lot of them really seem like investing app had a product and in a way just tried to do the bare minimum to put the word kids on top.

And and so there’s some good products out there. Don’t get me wrong but that’s what sort of inspired us to go, okay, no, let’s not just have a tab in the website where it’s the same thing, which is what we did originally. Let’s really go deep in this and let’s focus on why are parents doing this, how to make it easier to do it for multiple [00:26:00] children.

What are the kids saving for? Is it a gap year? Is it a car? Is it just the home deposit? Even if that’s 15 years away, how do we make that engaging and how do you give that pathway for parents to start engaging with their children as those children grow. Anyway, very excited about it.

Thanks for asking the question,

Captain Fi: It’s cool. Like , I can see pearls really expanding and providing more and more sort of learning resources and tools and calculators and everything. I even heard rumors about a pearl forum. So what’s going on with the Pillar forum?

Are we gonna see that soon? And if so what’s it gonna look like?

Nick: Yeah, hopefully. I think it’s gotten a bit of attention because I think there’s a lot of attention on this whole topic of social media and how people are sharing information about money which we think is equally important and also important to get right.

And. Despite always wanting to try and do the right thing, there are a lot of people out there who don’t. We’ve all gotta be held to the highest standards. You are right. We are working on something of a forum and hopefully it’s gonna come out soon. I think if we just start with looking at what exists [00:27:00] today.

So you’ve got typical forums. Some of them are investing focused and really like the old school. Idea of a stock investing forum, and I think we all know what they look and feel like. Then you’ve got social media where sub communities have grown around investing. This is everything from Reddit to Instagram, all really, on the whole, in the areas that you know, you and we play is it’s positive, it’s helpful. It’s not pump and dump schemes or any of this other stuff. That’s the two ends of the spectrum, right? And in the middle, When you really peel it all back, there’s so much more.

There’s comments under YouTube videos. There’s comments under blocks. There’s all these different weird little facets of people talking about money online, and they’re all disaggregated. No one can track them. There’s probably financial advice being given somewhere. So to bring it back to your question, we’ve been mostly focused on what exists today and can we, in some small way, Be a positive contribution to that space, right?

So [00:28:00] we know that people wanna ask questions, and we know that there’s a range of people from novices to people like yourself to advisors who want to try and be part of that conversation, not to answer the questions necessarily directly as in you should do this, but just because we all live our lives in this, right?

And so I can’t give too much more away except to say, We’re going to try and address some of the kind of wildness to online discussion about money. We’re gonna try and make it transparent and we’re also gonna try and have a values system for verification and, who become thought leaders in the forum.

Linked back to, who is most supported by the community, but also who is actually. Licensed or who is from a product owner To bring transparency. So I guess that all sounds a bit fluffy, but think of a world where you’ve got representatives of ETFs and you’ve got representatives of financial advisors, and you’ve got [00:29:00] representatives of St.

Pearler, you’ve got content creators, you’ve got just real people. Engaging and it’s in a way that is more transparent and helpful and safer legally than anything exists on the internet. That’s our kind of big mission. We don’t know how to solve all of the problems yet, but we’re certainly working on it.

Captain Fi: It does sound exciting. I know when I was, and I wouldn’t go so far as to call myself an expert. Like I feel like I’m learning this as I go along. I am actually doing the a financial. Advice, very basic course at the moment where I can learn the foundations.

And I think as we’re evolving and as we’re getting more clarity from, asic the regulator about what is and isn’t appropriate for online discussions it’s good for a lot of people in this space to be educating themselves on exactly. What the regulations are.

And so one of those is that the RG 1 46 compliance. And so it’s a very basic course, but it just gives you a bit of an overview. More so like I found myself being very focused on, ETFs and ways to minimize [00:30:00] costs. But the rg Of course talks a bit more about, finance holistically.

So looking at some of the blind spots where I haven’t really paid much attention to. But when I’m learning , I’m going out and I’ve used a lot of online resources and yeah, it can be really tricky to sort out the fact from fiction especially when you’ve got this kind of like new sort of murky areas, like crypto and NFTs, it’s really hard to know what’s legitimate information .

And so I think that would be good to see, especially there’s some kind of vetting process and transparency. So it’s not just like the wild west of Reddit where, people just say whatever they want with no fear of retribution.

Nick: Yeah. And I think, what you are doing, which I would say is, good on you probably have multiple choices as to the way your content can go and the fact that you’ve already started doing that.

Shows that there are gonna be people out there that out of all of this attention that the space is getting, who are gonna continue to try and do the right thing. And, that’s what any of us can do, right? Is just try and stick to what we’re doing, make sure we’re looking at the [00:31:00] future and going, Are we gonna be part of solving some of this?

Or are we gonna stick our heads in the sand? And hopefully none of us are gonna be on the wrong side of it, right? But it’s important to get right because social media’s not going. People’s demand for financial literacy is definitely not going anywhere. And I think we’re gonna come into this age of, we talk a lot about climate sustainability.

I think financial sustainability is arguably just as important for people in the coming decades around being. Able to support yourself and I think it’s gonna get harder and so people like yourself creating content, we are hopefully trying to be a positive in that space as well.

And all the other resources, the government resources as well. If we can all come together a little bit more on that stuff. I think we’re all trying to do the right thing and , it can be stressful. It’s been stressful for us to try and do the right thing and keep doing what we want to do.

But all I can say is we’re still trying and hopefully, as we grow and continue to grow with people’s support, we figure out some of this stuff.

Captain Fi: . I think it comes down to like at your core, what are your values and principles? And I guess from [00:32:00] day one, chatting to, yourself and Kurt, I got.

The vibe of pillars not to make cash. Obviously your business and you , needs to be profitable, but the culture of the company and the ethos is all around financial independence and, what is it world without chronic stress?

Something like that. Chronic financial stress.

Nick: So we’ve tried to articulate it many times along the way. I think, , the interesting thing is that if you look at. Pretty much any other industry, right? , there’s some value for money equation and whether it’s consumer or insurance, health, et cetera.

There’s this idea that I’m getting good value for money and in a way, finance companies and the culture around big finance say, and I’m not saying this like that, they’re the evil . Infrastructure of the world and we should all be anti-establishment. I’m saying in a weird way, big finance and certain companies have been able to grow and thrive despite not necessarily being held accountable for what is [00:33:00] value for money for the services they provide.

So pearler is a business we want to grow and we can’t help a lot of people if we’re not a sustainable. , but our mentality is much more of we need to provide value. It needs to be transparent and people need to make the decision for themselves as to whether they wanna do a business with us or not.

So I think the age of big finance companies existing, despite screwing people over is hopefully into its last stages. I’m sure there will be more scandals to come in the world, we’re not a not-for-profit. We are a business, but, We just believe that if you create good products that are valuable to people, they buy them off you.

Just like any other business, you should be able to grow and be successful and do good stuff.

Captain Fi: It’s shocking, isn’t it? Speaking of just insurance, like it seems to be the only business I’m aware of in the world where you actually get penalized for loyalty, where sort of your premiums go up each year.

Whereas if you switch you get a discount usually. It’s crazy .

Nick: Yeah, and like you were talking about super before it’s slightly different, but , I consolidated my super [00:34:00] years and years ago and I was really happy when I did that. But I know that I haven’t done the same with my insurance, so you can’t get it All right.

Captain Fi: Just gotta keep turning up and Yeah. Bit by we’ll fix our finances

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 It’s been awesome to chat about Perla and and I know you’re a busy man these days, [00:35:00] Nick. But I would love to. Ask a couple of quick questions, if I may about just your personal experience with money.

Nick: Sure. Go for it.

Captain Fi: Now, I don’t know, I may have to rethink these segments, but I guess the first one is there anything you wishing knew before you began your career?

Nick: I think my biggest regret is that for probably the first five to 10 years of my career when I was earning way more money than I am now I definitely had a mentality of enjoy it and not worry too much about saving because you’ll always earn more money, and that mentality cost me a lot of money.

I think over the years, sure I had fun. . But if I’d just been slightly more disciplined I would’ve been able to have probably just as much fun and, have really made the most of those high income earning years where I didn’t have dependence and whatnot.

Captain Fi: So working on that work life balance and I guess that Now versus later delayed gratification and investing.

. I guess that leads perfectly into my next question, which is how has your personal investing preferences [00:36:00] changed and how do you invest these days?

Nick: Yeah, so aside from the fact that most of my me net wealth is tied up in Pearl now so in investing is largely something of my day job in that I’m trying to grow my own business, but I’ve probably gone on, quite a typical for some people, but some people I imagine listening to this podcast will be like, shocked by this.

When I first started my career, my intro to investing was definitely the stock tip from a mate, put some of my money that I didn’t really value for the reasons I mentioned earlier into some, crappy stock that I knew nothing about. And then watch the screen whilst I’m supposed to be working is how I started, right?

So terrible but I’m not alone in that. So I can say it and go that was me and I’m not proud of it. But that was me and I don’t even remember the first company I. Is what I would say. So I’m sure I could go and figure it out. It was with com. But that was the start of my investing journey.

And after a little while of stuffing around with things like that, I gave up on that completely. So I went through this process of I would do it and then I would go, this [00:37:00] is a waste of my time and money. I’m gonna stop. I’m just gonna earn money and have a good time. And then I got a little bit, more patient.

In that process and I started putting a little bit of money into companies that I understood and believed in. And I’m not talking about doing fundamental research. , I was no Warren Buffet disciple or anything like that. I bought a dairy company because, My housemate’s girlfriend was lactose tolerant and she really liked this milk.

And it was a small company on the stock exchange at that point. And I was like, Oh, people love this. It’s good for them. I’m gonna buy that company. Went really well, right? But I then sold the shares to fund a holiday, which I don’t regret. It was a good holiday. But the shares went up like 10 or 15 times more after that.

 a finance person I, clearly it’s still in my mind, I still think about those shares I sold and how much they would’ve been worth. So I guess that’s a story in two parts. One, it started off basically gambling. second. It was, Oh, okay, invest in things you understand but don’t invest unless you can kick the money there for long term.

So that’s my little life story of investing. And now, today, obviously we’ve built a business around, [00:38:00] Passively investing in ETFs and my personal experience is a huge factor in how we came to focus on that. Because I look back on my first 10 years and I go, Wow, if I knew this stuff today and I had these principles and I had this supportive community around me, I could be in a vastly different position.

Now, I’ve done okay. It’s not that I wasted all my money, but if I had the idea of financial independence in my twentie, and I had the idea of passive investing and ETFs in my twenties. We all know what the stock market’s done in the last 15 years.

Captain Fi: It’s a pretty powerful story and I don’t think yours is too dissimilar from many people.

I certainly started my investing journey stock picking as well, and just going off recommendations from other people. And yeah, It didn’t work out as good for me as passive investing has. So you talked a bit about your investing journey and your mindset and knowledge changing.

What are some of the biggest positive influences that have been on you? Experiences or books or courses, that kind of stuff?

Nick: I think for me, in a weird way, it’s been not academic elements like [00:39:00] books or courses. I think it’s been my life’s changing, right? I can’t probably point to a book I read or something that gave me that aha moment.

But I can certainly say probably even buying a dog was the start of a process of going, Okay, I need to. More on top of this whole life and money element. And then obviously bought one dog, bought two dogs, which we both still got. And having kids that evolution over the last, 10 years has been what’s driven my current kind of focus on, personal finance, frugality, I think, and not frugality from a deprive myself of things and my wife’s the same, but frugality from a.

Is this the best thing we can do with this money? And does this, sorry to use the term, does this bring us joy? Is this important to us? That’s a bit of a waffly answer. I can’t recommend a book or something, but I can say that, for us it was staying in tune with the fact our lives were changing and that for me is what really gave me that catalyst to.

Do better and think better.

Captain Fi: . I love

it. So [00:40:00] basically, as you got older, you had more responsibilities and you realized you had to be mindful about how you were gonna allocate your resources and time.

Nick: Yeah, and I think the thing I’m grateful for is that I didn’t look back in my mid 30. I’m mid thirties now, right?

I didn’t get to my mid thirties and look back and go, Oh gosh, I’ve got, This family unit now, and I have no idea how to make it sustainable. Together with my wife we evolved our practices along the way. So I think, we’ve come along and we feel quite good about where we’re at in terms of our spending and our budgeting and investing obviously.

But , it’s been a process of evolution rather than an epiphany at.

Captain Fi: , like a natural progression. I feel similar in the, I don’t think I’ve really had any crazy light bulb moments. There were a few awesome books that I read that put me on the right path. But I felt like it’s been an iterative thing.

So every time I will go back to those books or go try and go back to the basics, I feel like I’ll pick up extra tips and stuff as I go along, which is. . [00:41:00] Nick, mate, it’s been an absolute pleasure and now I just wanna finish, it’s a bit of a cruel question, but I love finishing on this one.

 I know we’ve talked a lot about them throughout the episode today, but if you could distill tips for financial independence or, tips for someone who wants to reach financial independence down into your top three what would they be?

So what are your top, three tips if you want to get ahead?

Nick: Really isolate where you are. I’ll use the term wasting money. It’s not the right word, but where you’re wasting money and my definition of wasting money is spending frivolously on stuff that you could take or leave. So cut out those things that aren’t really sustaining, you aren’t changing your life, and also don’t even bring you that much joy, right?

And be left with your version of what’s essential. And that’s gonna be different for everybody. I think once you do that, I’m not someone to focus on hard and fast budgeting and saving rules, but once you really focus on what’s important to you, it becomes a lot easier. Second thing obviously is, I think probably the most important thing, and one thing I focus on is.[00:42:00]

Enjoy your job and do it really well. I’m not one who’s ever had too many side hustles. When I was at uni I had little businesses and things, but I’ve always just focused on my job and tried to do the best I can to make sure I get that promotion, get that bonus, et cetera. And I think, that sort of dovetails into kind of why per exists, but also the third one, right?

So if you can focus on your job and. Focus on the top line, right? And you are not wasting money. Then what’s left over is your ability to enjoy your time. So I actually think the tips for financial independence, my third one is not one around how to get to financial independence, but it’s actually how to live your life with a degree of independence as you are getting there.

So I think the third one’s more of a mentality thing make sure at all stages you’re doing parts of, being sensible, you’re doing parts of hard work. And then the third element is you’re enjoying it because what, for me at least, [00:43:00] I’m not someone who can, give up five years of my life now and basically have no life four, 10 or 15 years of more freedom in the future.

I want to enjoy my time now and enjoy my time in the. , and I just want that to be on a really sustainable spectrum. I’ve never had to answer that question before. , but Hopefully that’s


Captain Fi: No, that’s great, man. I think like sustainability I think is the key because I know that me personally, I’ve been really guilty of Taking it way too far and like literally living off things and, $30 worth of groceries and not spending any money.

Just so that I can invest as much money as possible. And I found probably a more sustainable work life balance and. You don’t need to have a savings rate right up there in the eighties. You can still have quite a meaningful impact to financial independence, even like in the fifties and below.

So it’s about finding the balance that’s right for you and your life,

Nick: And finding the free things to enjoy.

Captain Fi: Oh, yeah. There’s so much free stuff hey, like surfing, once you grab a board, [00:44:00] it’s pretty low cost activity. .

Nick: Yes. Luckily I don’t have this issue, but I, you can go into a vortex, whether it’s surfing or cycling or bouldering or whatever it is you wanna do.

But yeah finding those things that you can enjoy and sustain, I think is, so important. Otherwise, what do we all do it for? .

Captain Fi: I can relate to the vortex. I’ve definitely been sucked into the aviation vortex. I’ve spent more money than I would ever like to admit. In this conversation, ,

Nick: I actually recall you mentioning something to me once about your essential oils vortex as well.

Do you wanna talk about that?

Captain Fi: Okay. Yeah. So , I have spent thousands of dollars on oils. They were recommended to me by my flying instructor because I was having some troubles with sleeping. So I’d be so worked up from flights and I was told, Oh, these things will calm you down.

 I’d spent thousands of dollars on lavender oil and stuff. So . Don’t do that guys. That’s my chip. Don’t buy. Multilevel marketing oils they will not improve your life, but they will make your apartment smell nice.

Nick: They do smell nice.

Captain Fi: They do help you drift off to [00:45:00] sleep. But I think that comes down to science regarding. Memory triggers. So if you associate lavender with sleep, it’s gonna help you get into your sleep routine.

But I don’t believe the mumbo jumbo that there’s some magical chemical inside the. Flan that helps you sleep anyway.

Nick: I think that’s part of the whole, figure out what you need to get through. But we’ve got those oils lying around from home and I do pop ’em in the dispenser thing from time to time and, it does smell good and I enjoy the smell there’s no right or wrong way,

Captain Fi: what

is it? Take time to stop and smell the diffuser. , . Oh geez. All right, mate, , we’ve just hit the magical time. I know you have to go. So thanks again for making time this morning. I know you’re very busy, man. It’s been awesome to hear an update on Pearl and what we’ve got.

In the near future coming out as well. And it’s been great to unpack a little bit about your financial journey as well. Just before we go, where can people get in touch with you or learn more about per. Well,

Nick: Hopefully everything is from pearl.com, a way that we like to engage with people is through our socials as well.

[00:46:00] The team are fairly active on that, so you’re not really getting some sort of agency led approach there. So Pearl HQ was a great way to get to know a little bit about us. It’s a bit raw, it’s a bit refined, but between p.com and p hq you should know everything you need to know about Plar and try and figure out whether you like us or.

Captain Fi: Awesome. So for everyone listening, I’ll have the show notes on the blog as well. So just you scroll down. There’ll be obviously links to everything we’ve spoken about today and the pillar website as well as the transcript. If you wanna brush up and don’t particularly like listening to a whole nother hour again.

Again, thanks so much for your time, Nick. It’s been awesome. I hope you have a wonderful day, mate, and get to enjoy some time with your kids.

Nick: Thanks mate. Thanks everyone

Thanks for listening to another episode of the Captain Fire Financial Independence Podcast. To read the transcript or check out the show notes, head over to www captain fire.com for all the details. If you have a question for the captain, make [00:47:00] sure to get in touch. You might even make it on the AirWave.

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 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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