You can’t do everything yourself, which is a lesson I learnt in my Financial Independence journey. This is my list of recommended resources and products which have helped me on my Financial Independence journey, and which could probably help you, too.
I won’t talk about a product or business unless I know what I am talking about, use them personally or know they are the real McKoy. If this is the case, I will provide you with information, an awesome sign up bonus or deal, or just a link for you to do your own research.
Investments are a crucial part of FIRE. The following is what I invest in. You can check out the full list of my posts on Investing, or check out my Index Fund ETF and LIC product reviews to see my thoughts on other ETFs, LICs and index funds. Be aware that I have slightly tweaked my investment strategies over the years, and currently (as of June 2023) I am predominantly investing in shares ETFs using the three fund split of A200, VTS and VEU. As always, you can check my net wealth updates to see exactly what I am invested in. I also invest in property, and online business (websites).
Vanguard is one of the worlds most well known and trusted investment companies founded by American John Bogle. Vanguard is the worlds largest provider of mutual funds, and the worlds second largest provider of ETFs. Vanguard offers a number of ETFs, but the ETFs I particularly like due to their ultra low fees (Management Expense Ratio’s or MER) and awesome performance at consistently providing me market index returns
- Vanguard VEU – FTSE All world index minus the USA market (ASX code: VEU) . Diversification at the low price of a .11% MER ($11 per $10,000 invested per year). Owning VEU provides diversification into a $55B fund which owns some of the worlds largest companies such as Christian Dior, Nestle, Volkswagen, Toyota, BP, Shell, Samsung. I don’t know about you but my family, friends and I use products from all of those companies every day, which is why I own VEU.
- Vanguard VTS – USA total market index (ASX code: VTS). Ultra low MER of .04% ($4 per $10,000 invested per year). The US makes up some 40% of the total world market and this ETF allows you to own a slice of $1.7B of well known brands like Alphabet (Google), Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Berkshire Hathaway, Visa, Exxon Mobil and Microsoft for an ultra low cost ($4 is less than half of the brokerage cost of even buying the ETF!), which is why I own VTS.
Betashares is an Australian Investment company that manages over $8B over a range of over ETFs.
- Betashares A200 ETF (ASX code: A200) is their equivalent product to Vanguards VAS (although it tracks a slightly different index, the top 200 Australian companies as opposed to the top 300). A200 has an amazingly low Management Expense Ratio of .07%, which means it only costs you $7 per $10,000 you have invested per year. A200 is a relatively new product, and only has $610M under management but its had solid performance so far with a rock bottom fees which is why I hold it.
My residential joint venture property development investment was a stressful but ultimately profitable journey in learning how to successfully manage the subdivision of residential land and build multiple properties from the ground up – we purchased land, subdivided, and built two modest duplexes on a fairly small property in a regional east coast town.
Currently I have the IP mortgaged with two (split) loans and have a 5.85% Interest rate, and with the property tenanted and the mortgage the way it is makes it slightly negatively geared – although with depreciation and claiming expenses at the EOFY I would get some tax back – but not heaps considering I am on a 21% tax bracket in early (semi) retirement, so its would actually be closer to neutral after all is said and done.
Online business (websites)
I have a small business that runs a website portfolio of 16 content sites that make money from display Advertising through managed ad networks such as Adsense, Ezoic and Mediavine, and affiliate programs such as Amazon Associates and other direct affiliate deals. I’ve written a pretty detailed article here about how to make money online.
Does this mean those lurkers in Reddit and other internet trolls are correct and that I am a scam, and not doing FIRE as I haven’t “really retired” ? Sure! I like to think of it as Semi-Retirement anyway, because we all need something productive to work on thats fun to do. FIRE is more about the FI and less about the RE, but as I have always said, RE has many different versions (Retire Early vs Redirect Effort, Recreational Enoyment, Redirect Energy…Retire… Eventually?)
I have a small investment into Bitcoin (BTC) and Ethereum (ETH) which is sitting at about a -28% capital loss. I am happy to continue holding, and adding small amounts to grow this over time as I beleive the assymetric risk adjusted return could be worth it (yes it may go to zero, but it may also be a 100 bagger)
- Total invested to date: $5056
- Current Valuation $3615
- Current loss = -$1441
Sharesight provide a completely FREE portfolio management service if you have under 10 shares. The Good news is, through owning a couple of index fund ETF and LICs you can diversify your portfolio across the entire globe and still comfortably fit under the limit. For those wanting to own more than 10 shares, my first thought is you should probably re-think what your doing, but Sharesight offer a paid service too which will cater to you (remember that a dollar saved is more than a dollar earned, though!). Captain FI readers can get the bonus sign up offer below
To invest you need a broker. The broker takes your share order and purchases it on your behalf. Online discount brokers will often provide you with a customer interface via a website and a smartphone / tablet application, as well as a cash account that you can transfer money into which lets you purchase shares. My pick for the three best share trading platforms at the moment in Australia are;
Pearler, founded in 2018, fills the niche role of a share trading and stock brokerage platform for those on the path to Financial Independence with its cheap trades and FI investing features. Pearler’s crowning ‘Pearl’ in my mind, is its Autoinvest feature. This lets you automatically invest in shares (such as the ETFs and LICs we know and love) so you can put your investing on auto pilot and cruise toward Financial Independence stress free. Check out the review to see how I am using Pearler to invest
Be sure to check out the following reviews on brokers that offer online trading to buy Australian and international shares. As always, make sure you are fully educated before making a choice on any particular one.
Big 4 banks
- CommSec Share trading [this is who I started out investing with]
- NAB Trade
- ANZ Trade
- Westpac Trade
Fintechs and smaller banks
- Pearler [This is who I currently invest through]
- CMC Markets
- IG MarketsGroup
- SpaceShip – A pooled investor micro-investing app
- Raiz Invest – An awesome tool that lets you ’round-up’ your purchases to the nearest whole amount and invest the difference
- CommSec Pocket – CommBank’s response to micro-investing tools
- Stake – A cool investing tool that lets you shop for more than 3,500 American shares and ETFs with zero brokerage fees
- Pearler Micro – Pearlers Micro investing tool that lets you invest into 8 ETF based funds using Auto invest and roundups.
UP Bank is an innovative Australian digital bank that offers entirely digital, cloud based personal banking through the Up mobile application. Because of this, and their strong focus on technology and rapid development, they are often categorized as a ‘neobank”. With over 200,000 customers, Up bank is targeted at a millennial audience and has had two years of proven functionality with outstanding reviews, winning Up several industry rewards such as ‘Digital disruptor of the year’ and ‘Best digital bank’.
The best bank account is always going to be a discount online bank. This will vary from country to country, but in Australia, hands down its got to be ING bank.
ING bank offer a competitive savings interest rate on your linked emergency savings, and a fee free every day transaction account if you deposit your salary (of more than $1000 per month) into your transaction account and make more than 5 transactions a month. Online transactions like bank transfers don’t count, but if you can pay for something online using your card details it does.
Also, if you cant meet the $1000 monthly income, you can just juggle money back and forth from a different savings account as your not penalised for transferring out of the accounts.
ING doesn’t charge any ATM fees EVER (they reimburse you if any payment system charges you a fee), and gives you the best exchange rate for international transactions. They have a great website and offer a secure mobile app.
If you want $25 dollars for free when you sign up for an account (you need to deposit $1000 and make 5 transactions using your ING everyday account card) you can use this promo code: FKQ674
Expense tracking software
Tracking your expenses is the key to Financial Independence, and the only true way to know what your spendng
WeMoney is an Aussie money management app with a variety of useful functions for someone on the path to Financial Independence. You can use the app to budget, link your bank account or cards to fully track your expenses, and you can even use it to check your credit score, history, inquiries or any potential negative events (important to know about if you ever need to apply for a mortgage). WeMoney also has a growing community forum which is basically like instagram for finance (and they even have their own FI/RE group which is trending). Currently WeMoney is completely free to use, and in the future they might operate on a ‘Freemium’ business model (introducing a paid premium subscription option but keeping a free version as a lead generator).
Pocketsmith is a great tool to track your spending, and we all know is the first step to Financial Independence! Check out my detailed review here
Pocketsmith is the best budgeting and expense tracking software and since switching from manually documenting my spending on my iPhone notes and transcribing to excel spreadsheets to pocketsmith, I have found I have a lot more time.
It is less stressful, and the PocketSmith system integrates into my bank so my purchases automatically show up. They haven’t done anything dodgy with me like targeted advertising, and best yet they are a ‘local’ start up from just across the Tasman in New Zealand!
I was highly suspicious and very dubious of matched betting or ‘Dutching’ when I first came across it, but I have learned that it is the same concept of ‘counting cards’ at the casino or credit card stoozing / churning. Basically you are ‘Playing with FIRE’ here (but we all love doing that right?) – Bookies and online gambling sites offer bonus bets or matches to try and get customers to gamble more frequently, because well we all know that in the long run the house always wins, right?
Well not anymore! Matched betting is effectively betting on both sides in order to extract your bonus (free) bets from the Bookies. You use a betting exchange like betfair to place your lay bet, and it overall easier to do by placing your back and lay bets in a proportion determined by a matched betting calculator. You wont make millions, but I have interviewed dozens of people now who have used this sneaky little side hustle to make an attractive side income. How much you earn depends on how much capital you have to play with (bet with), how much time you are willing to invest signing up with different bookies for bonuses how ultimately just much you actually care about doing this. Beginners can probably make up to $50 per hour IMO
If you think you might have an addictive personality or have had issues with gambling in the past, please stay well away from this side hustle, as it could potentially drag you back down into the weeds.
You can check out my review of BonusBank, which is a site that was Developed by Aussies David and Nico. They bucked the system, and between full time work and getting banned from countless online betting sites they somehow found time to create this tool. They provide a subscription service with all the tools you need to make actual money by casually placing ‘stacked’ or ‘Dutched’ bets. If you want to join up you can check out BonusBank here and score 20% off with coupon ‘CaptainFI’
Making Money Online – websites
To make money online with websites, all you need to do is build a functioning site, produce content to get traffic and then monetise it. To distill the process down into 10 steps;
- Figure out what your goals are and choose a niche – eg Travel, Automotive or Parenting
- Develop a business plan: what is your business idea, what does your site do, and how will it work?
- Register a domain name and choose a hosting service. – BlueHost3 make it easy to get started, and can do both for you. There are a few other hosting providers out there, so make sure to do your own research, but BlueHost are good for a ‘cookie cutter’ first approach.
- Build your website – I highly recommend you use WordPress4 (get BlueHost to install WordPress4 onto your sites back end cPanel)
- Create your content
- SEO your content – Keywords, Content and Links (there are a number of online tools to help with this)
- Create a social media platform – promote your site, share your articles and engage with your community
- Regularly post new content – post new content to your website (and also share this on social media) – Google knows if you stop
- Register for Google Analytics – Analyse your website traffic – optimise your traffic and content to maximise your traffic
- Monetise the site – in accordance with your business plan. Usually Google Adsense is the first way people make money online with Google.
Many sites make their money online with Google Adsense, but they can be monetised from a variety of ways as explored earlier in the introduction. One of the most popular, other than Google AdSense, is by using affiliate marketing such as the Amazon associates program. This is where you review or recommend products and provide a link to where your audience can buy them on amazon and receive around 4% sales commission.
Website training provider – eBusiness Institute
My prefferred training partners for website and online business training are Matt and Liz Raad from the eBusiness Institute.
In exchange for a mention on the blog, they offered to give out some free training on websites and digital business, and this online course material is provided for CaptainFI readers through the link in the review. This will hopefully accelerate you in your website development skills to help diversify your income into this lucrative side hustle – which has now fully replaced my full-time flying income!
You can access it through this custom link for Captain FI readers. There is no commitment to sign up to anything, but you can get an idea about what kind of training they offer and whether it might suit you – they offer a number of different specific training packages depending on what your objectives are, and the training is mostly time spent watching videos. For example, they have ab-initio beginner courses, right through to advanced training. I actually cover everything I have learned and what you can expect from them in my detailed eBusiness Institute review.
Web hosting provider: BlueHost
If you have ever thought about starting your own blog, a website for your business, or just wanted to play around with your very own website, then you will know you need to find a web hosting service to host your website. BlueHost make it incredibly easy to get started, along with extremely competitive pricing for hosting services. Check out the link below to start learning more about how you can use BlueHost web hosting.
Outsourcing (Virtual Assistant) software
It is impossible to do everything myself, so I outsource to find Virtual Assistants and to outsource design and technical work for the website. Its works well and I truly believe it helps give people in less fortunate countries a leg up by providing job opportunities and income that is much higher than what they might find locally. I have been impressed with the quality, timeliness, professional and courteous nature of every freelancer I have hired.
Upwork is a great platform to find outsourcers – especially writers, which is what I mainly use it for for my content sites.
There is a great rating system (kind of like Uber) with feedback so you can choose who you hire based on previous feedback. You can start a project for as little as $10, and can pay as much as you want. Click the image to get a $25 sign up credit – enough to fully fund two projects (like designing a logo for example). I have used freelancer for most of my graphic design and technical work.
Podcast Hosting: Anchor by Spotify
Whooshkaa Used to be awesome – however it recently got bought out by Spotify and closed down so they could aquire their users! Sad panda! Alas, I migrated the CaptainFI podcast over to Anchor (spotify’s podcast hosting platform) and its pretty good, but lacks some of the really cool features of Whooshkaa.
Audio transciption services: Otter ai
I subscribe to the Otter AI application which is an program that uses Artificial Intelligence to transcribe your audio notes. I am exploring the functionality to transcribe the poddy for those that are hearing impaired or who simply prefer to read.
So far Otter is actually super easy to use and I even used it to transcribe some of my uni lectures so I could read them when I was flying (I have to keep my ears listening out on the radios to make sure I don’t miss any transmissions meant for me!).
I have spent WAY too much time chatting to the team at Otter and they have been pretty helpful explaining how it all works. If you want to check it out you can use a free version which is more than adequate for most peoples needs, and the team at Otter even provided a sign up bonus link for Captain FI readers which gives you a free 1 month premium pass! Make sure if you are a student to sign up using your student email as they provide a 50% student discount.
Internet Security – Virtual Private Network (VPN): NordVPN
NordVPN is a Virtual Private Network (VPN) provider that lets you securely and safely browse the internet. By using NordVPN, your Internet Service Provider does not know your ‘Geo-cache’ settings and can’t collect and sell your broswer history logs – yes thats correct, ISPs collect and sell your internet histories – mainly to advertising agencies to help develop tailor made advertising content specifically designed to get you to buy. But no more!
NordVPN keeps your data private using military grade double encryption servers to help keep you on the path to Financial Independence. By keeping your data (and passwords) private you keep your computer and mobile device more secure, protecting yourself from dangerous websites (and annoying ads). It would be a bloody shame to have your bank account, brokerage account or P2P accounts emptied out after all your hard work due to poor online security
Further, VPNs allow me to ‘geo-hack’ subscription services like Netflix, so I can access content that inst location locked – meaning I can binge the best of US TV shows from here in Sydney. But its not just Netflix, NordVPN unblocks all major streaming Services: HBO HO, Amazon Prime, Pandora, Disney+, Hulu, YouTube and BBC iPlayer!
To learn more, check out my detailed article of ‘Why you should consider using a VPN‘ and review of NordVPN.
Recommended reading – The Captain’s Library
There is some level of irony that after 13 years in the schooling system, 7 years at university and $350,000 of vocational training, some of the most important things I have learned have come from these books which were either given to me, rented free from a library or bought second hand under $10.
To me, wealth is a combination of life factors. This includes not only money, but your health, knowledge and relationships. Money is a small part of wealth which provides you with more freedom and choice. Accordingly, the books which I have learned profound lessons from cover all of these topics and help build your knowledge base, financial and social literacy.
Check out the full list in the Captains Library for a comprehensive review and meta analysis of hundreds of the best books ranging on a wide variety of finance and personal development topics like;
- Personal Finance
- Financial Independence
- Decision making
- Behavioural Psychology
- Career and Professional development
As well as see what my current reading list looks like. Of course, there is one book you should start with, regardless of who you are or your financial background. It is an easy read, and packed full of useful financial tips…
The Barefoot Investor
The Barefoot Investor is written by Scott Pape and is a great, no-nonsense financial literacy book aimed at educating people to be better with their money.
Does the barefoot investor work? Read on here, or if you want to read my 6 page summary of the book, check out the dedicated article here.
Scott was initially a financial journalist and commentator for the media, working for both newspaper and TV shows. He finally ‘went rougue’ and quit his job to pursue his dream of helping others achieve financial literacy and freedom. The Barefoot Investor book was his way to do this, which contains his simple 9 ‘Barefoot steps’.
Scott Pape is pretty fiscally conservative, and provides straight forward advice on how to manage your money. I loved some of the scripts he provides you which you can literally read out to insurance companies, banks and other service providers to negotiate a better deal. By following the script I cut my phone bill in half, and got a 20% discount on my car insurance, all in under an hour.
- Step 1 – Schedule a montly finance meeting with your significant other
- Step 2 – Set up your buckets (organise your bank accounts)
- Step 3 – Domino your debts (you shouldn’t have any!)
- Step 4 – Buy your home (if you must…)
- Step 5 – Increase your retirement savings to 15% of your income
- Step 6 – Boost your Mojo (emergency savings) to 3 months living costs
- Step 7 – Pay down your home loan as fast as possible
- Step 8 – Boost your retirement savings
- Step 9 – Leave a legacy
One thing I don’t necessarily agree with though is Scott’s idea that you need to buy a house. This isn’t a priority for many of us, and I personally love the flexibility that ‘Rent-vesting’ (renting and investing) provides me. Due to the inflated house pricing in Australia (the median house price in Sydney is over 20x the average take home net salary) I can rent a luxurious apartment which would just be ludicrous to buy due to its low returns. I also don’t necessarily agree with his idea of retiring debt, because I can get better returns investing my money than what the banks actually charge me. But his target audience is more the general working class population not FIRE enthusiasts 😉
Where to get it
There are now thousands and thousands of the barefoot investor floating around. In true barefoot style, you should borrow this from the library or just borrow your mates copy. If your too embarrassed, you can buy it on Amazon here.
Addition: If you liked his first book, he has written a second book called Barefoot for Families which is aimed at financial literacy for children and helping families pass on good money habits to the next generation. I am reading through a copy which I ‘Splurged’ for on Amazon here
Finance Blogs – the best Financial Independence and Personal Finance websites
There is a wealth of amazing information available online, and you can read my full reading list of finance blogs here, which covers hundreds of personal finance, financial independence, investing and retirement publishers and content creators.
By far, my absolute favourite for a top three pick would have to be;
- Mr Money Moustache
- The Mad FIentist
- The Aussie Firebug
Mr Money Moustache
Mr Money Moustache started his highly successful personal finance blog in 2011 which has grown into almost a cult following of ‘Moustachians’ which promote the virtues of financial independence. Mr Money Moustache details the journey of software engineer Peter who was able to retire in 2005 aged thirty through hard work, frugality and savvy investing.
You can check out his blog at mrmoneymustache.com that is packed full of great advice, amazing stories and cold hard facts. I’ve learned a lot from MMM, especially the satisfaction behind being frugal and how delayed gratification leads to much greater success.
The Mad FIentist
The Mad FIentist, or Mad ‘Financial Independence’ Scientist was launched in 2012 by blogger and software engineer Brandon which followed his journey to financial independence through investing. Brandon AKA the Mad FIentist was able to retire from workforce in 2016 age 34.
His blog the Mad FIentist provides an amazing inspiration and a load of free practical tools such as calculators, portfolio managers and travel hacking comparison tools, as well as a wealth of research topics on investing, tax minimisation, as well as the general psychology of investing and FIRE specifically.
I love reading his blogs and listening to the podcasts whilst driving, and I’ve picked up a load of useful lessons and strategies from him.
The Aussie Firebug
The Aussie Firebug is one of my all time favourite financial independence blogs. The Aussie Firebug was started by Australian software engineer Matt in 2015 in which he blogged about his pathway to financial independence.
The Aussie Firebug started his investing journey with a foray into property investment, and has since refocused his efforts into index funds in a manner similar to Mr Money Moustache and the Mad FIentist.
His website aussiefirebug.com is a great wealth of resources and features informative and entertaining podcast interviews. The Aussie fire bug also provides useful step by step guides which really resonated with me, as we have come to a number of independent conclusions and use many of the same products.
Best finance podcasts – Personal Finance, Financial Independence, Money and Investing
There are some really awesome finance and investing podcasts out there, run by very talented hosts, and here are some of what I think are the best finance podcasts in Australia and from all over the world. These are my current listens, and I would recommend you check out them all out and see if you resonate and enjoy them.
Let me know if you have any favorites so I can check them out, and if they are good enough, they might even end up on this list!
Here are my three favourite podcasts to listen to, but make sure to check out my list to find over 50 awesome podcasters to check out
Captain FI Financial Independence Podcast
Shameless plug hey! The CaptainFI podcast has now been running since 2019, with monthly updates from some of the best and brightest in personal finance, as well as those who have reached or are on their way to Financial Independence! Check it out right here on this blog, spotify, apple podcasts, google podcast or any good streaming service really. Whilst its not the biggest or best podcast out there, I love recording and producing it and you can get a lot of value from it for free!
The Aussie Firebug Podcast
The Aussie Firebug is hands down my all time favourite of the FIRE and financial independence podcasters. The Aussie Firebug was started by Australian software engineer Matt in 2015 in which he blogged about his pathway to financial independence.
His website aussiefirebug.com is a great wealth of resources and features informative articles and entertaining podcast interviews. The Aussie fire bug also provides useful step by step guides which really resonated with me, as we have come to a number of independent conclusions and use many of the same tools on our journey to FIRE.
AFB has a strong community engagement and also runs dedicated ‘Ask Firebug Friday’ blogs where he interacts directly with his followers. His blogs are fun to read and its clear that the Aussie Firebug has a great sense of humour, is hard working and is just generally pretty down to earth Aussie. His style of writing clearly resonates with younger Australians
Mad FIentist Podcast
The Mad FIentist, or Mad ‘Financial Independence’ Scientist was launched in 2012 by American blogger and software engineer Brandon. The Mad FIentist details Brandon’s journey to financial independence through investing in predominantly index fund ETFs, but also through his website buisness and credit card comparison tool which has provided a fantastic source of passive income. Brandon AKA the Mad FIentist was able to retire from workforce in 2016 age 34.
His blog the Mad FIentist provides an amazing inspiration and a load of free practical tools such as calculators, portfolio managers and travel hacking comparison tools. He also offers as a wealth of free research on topics spanning investing, tax minimisation, as well as the general psychology of investing and FIRE specifically. He opens up and is very raw and genuine about his own experiences chasing FIRE, especially talking about his own mental head-space and I think he should be commended and respected for that.
I love reading his blogs but some of his best work are the podcasts. These are pretty long, and packed full of great information. I love re-listening to the podcasts whilst driving, and I’ve picked up a load of useful lessons and strategies from him, sometimes on the third or fourth listen.
I have previously used Budget Direct for my car insurance, but the prices just kept going up.I joked that maybe they spent too much on advertising. Anyway, it appears budget direct are no longer a ‘no frills’ budget type insurance and have just become a mainstream insurance reseller with clever marketing. Since moving to Adelaide, South Australia, I recently switched to the RAA and have managed to save over 30% on my yearly premium!
For more information on cheap car insurance, check out my post here
Credit card Hacking
Don’t let the name fool you, credit card hacking or stoozing as its otherwise known is not about stealing anyone’s credentials – its about taking advantage of massive sign up bonuses and cash back offers! Some cards offer an incredible amount of frequent flyer miles or points which you can exchange for real flights (of course you still have to pay a small booking or ‘tax’ fee) but the real value here is in upgrading flights. You can even use points to pay for products or gift cards.
I am not an expert on this topic at all, but the two places I get my information are Pointhacks.com.au and richmondsavers.com
Accomodation – AirBnB
Air BnB is hands down the easiest way I have found to find accommodation whilst travelling. I always get a great deal that’s cheaper than hotels, which encourages me to holiday more. I also like that you can get something that is much more unique and personal than the generic overpriced hotel. I have met some amazing people and had some really cool experiences through AirBnB, like staying in a fully decked out luxury two story shipping container home right on the beach