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. Disclaimer I may receive a small affiliate commission on some products which help me continue to run the site – usually these are very small and come directly from the product supplier out of their advertising budget.It costs me thousands of dollars per year to produce content, register and host the site as well as publish articles and podcasts, so these commissions help to offset the high cost of running the site.
Remember to always do your own research to make sure if a product or service is suitable for your needs. The information I provide is of a general nature only and does not constitute financial advice.
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;
SelfWealth is an Australian online discount broker which is CHESS sponsored. Being CHESS sponsored is a massive thing, which means you own the shares not them (unlike some other dodgy investment products out there).
SelfWealth has rock bottom prices with a flat $9.50 trades, which makes it one of the cheapest brokers around and provides what I think is industry leading service. It covers all the basics of what you need and even provides interest on its linked cash trading account which is run through ANZ bank. It is worth noting that most other brokers charge a percentage fee which means that you could be paying hundreds or even thousands in brokerage for bigger trades, as opposed to SelfWealth’s flat $9.50 trade. You can use SelfWealth to buy any share listed on the Australian Stock Market (ASX). This includes ETFs for other markets, meaning yes, its possible to own shares in every company in the world through one low cost investment vehicle purchased through SelfWealth.
If your interested about starting a SelfWealth account, or transferring your holdings to Self Wealth, Check out my comprehensive review here. If you want to start up an account and follow my guide on how to purchase shares. If you use the referral code in the article you will score yourself 5 free trades ($47.5 value):
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 $9.50 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.
Superhero is one of the latest Fintech’s to move into the Australian investing market. Offering an industry leading $5 brokerage per trade and a minimum trade amount of only $100 (most conventional brokers have a minimum of $500) makes Superhero officially Australia’s cheapest Brokerage platform – on par with IG and OpenTrader’s lowest brokerage tier, but beating them overall because Superhero is a flat fee for any size trade.
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
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 BonusMoney, which is a site created by Sam and Adam and features a heap of free educational and training content on matched betting, as well as a forum and a heap of free tools and calculators. You don’t even need to register for a free account to get started as lots of their content is openly posted.You can also subscribe to their premium service which gives you access to a mentoring community and unrestricted access to everything on the site including their forums. If you want to check it out you can visit BonusMoney here and score 25% off with coupon ‘CaptainFI’
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’
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 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!
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.
Peer to Peer lending (P2P Lend) platform: Plenti
Plenti is the peer to peer lending platform I use to get a better rate than I otherwise would with a standard high interest online savings account. I put my capital up and set a lending order for a certain rate (within Plenti’s guidelines) which then gets matched to a borrower. I have been using it to get decent returns and will continue to do so as a part of my ‘cash holdings’. Check out my detailed review on Plenti here for more information.
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.
Best Outsourcing (Virtual Assistant) software: Freelancer
It is impossible to do everything myself, so I use Freelancer to find Virtual Assistants and to outsource design and technical work for the website. Its a great program to use 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. 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).
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!
Podcast Hosting: Whooshkaa
Whooshkaa is one of the easiest and simplest podcasting hosting services I have found, and has really helped me grow the Captain FI Financial Independence Podcast. I tried out a few other hosting services but they were either too expensive or I found them clunky to use. Whooshkaa has a really simple dashboard and all I do is upload the sound track and add my title, descriptions and tags and it automatically processes everything so it comes out sounding clean. They have also integrated seamlessly with all of the major streaming services like Spotify, Apple iTunes podcasts and Google podcasts. Check them out if you want to give it a go!
Budget Direct is my pick for the cheapest and best car insurance (in Australia). They are a discount online insurer who are part of the international BHL group, and retail their policies to the underwriters Auto & General Insurance Company limited. Auto & General are a huge international firm administering over 6.8 million policies and $2B worth of annual premiums, with nearly 40 years of expertise.
I saw some mixed reviews online, but certainly not as much hate as some other insurance companies were getting (and its worth noting that pretty much no one goes out of there way to write positive reviews, its only the disgruntled ones). I haven’t had to make a claim, so I guess the proof will be in the pudding if it does ever happen.
Budget Direct have received numerous awards, including Money magazine insurer of the year three years running and a five star rating from Canstar. From what I can see I have a detailed insurance contract and PDS, with rock bottom prices so I am happy with my level of third party property cover.
For more information on cheap car insurance, check out my post here
Investments are a crucial part of FIRE. The following are what I think are the best value and performing shares investment products available. You Can check out the full list of my posts on Investing, or check out my Index Fund ETF and LIC product reviews!
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
- VAS – Australian market index (ASX code: VAS) . Low MER of .1% ($10 per $10,000 invested per year) and owning all those Aussie companies provides recurring juicy dividends and the unique tax advantage of franking credits which is why I own VAS. VAS manages $17B of Australian companies including the big four banks (Commonwealth, Wespact, ANZ and NAB), mining and construction giants BHP group, CSL, as well as telecom Telstra, and consumer staples Woolworths and Wesfarmers.
- 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.
- 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.
Blackrock is an American global investment management corporation based out of New York and is one of the worlds largest investment asset managers, with over (USD) $6.84 Trillion in assets under management as of 2019. They operate globally in over 100 countries, and their largest division is iShares – a group of over 800 exchange traded funds, which is the largest ETF provider in the world, piffing Vanguard for the top spot.
IVV is the iShares by BlackRock total US market, which seeks to track the investment results of large-cap US stocks against the S&P US 500 index. This particular fund is domiciled in Australia (ASX:IVV), and has over (AUS) $3.2 Billion under management in it. Because its domiciled in Australia, Australians wont have to submit any foreign tax forms to the US.
The Top ten holdings are Microsoft, Apple, Amazon, Facebook, Berkshire hathaway, Alphabet (google), JPMorgan Chase, Johnson and Johnson and Visa (which account for 21.57% of the total portfolio) showing its extreme diversification. The Management fee is a ‘black’Rock bottom at .04%, matching the Vanguard fund VTS.
Milton corporation limited (ASX code: MLT) is a Listed Investment Company LIC on the ASX. It is a low cost and high yielding LIC that manages over $3.3B. Milton has consistently churned out dividends to the tune of 5-6% into my bank account since I have held it, along with juicy franking credits. The share price does grow but the main focus is on cash flow, which is really important for me since I don’t really plan to ever sell my shares.
Being a LIC means it has the ability to trade at a discount or premium to its Net Asset Value (NAV) of around $4B, which means you can snag a bargain if its ‘on the nose’ with investors and the share price has dropped. Thank-you Mr Market!
Milton is made up of companies like the index, but it is slightly heavier towards financials, with 10 of its top 20 holdings coming from the financial and banking industries. Of course, this sector has performed marvellously for Australian shareholders – possibly due to the ‘Great Australian Dream’, which might be better named the ‘Great Australian Mortgage’
The Australian Foundation Investment Company (ASX code: AFI) is one of Australia’s oldest Listed Investment Company LICs, being established in 1928. They Manage $7.8B worth of Australian companies with some of their biggest holdings being Commonwealth bank, BHP, CSL and Transurban Group.
Like Milton, AFIC have reliably paid me about 5% in dividends, alongside juicy franking credits. AFIC is also a cash flow or dividend focused investment, and features reinvestment schemes like Dividend Reinvestment Plans (DRP) and Dividend Share Substitution Plans (DSSP) which can be a cost and tax effective scheme explained here.
Argo investments is an old school Australian Listed Investment Company (LIC) which was established way back in the 1940s. That means they have been providing Aussie investors with a reliable income stream for almost 80 years. Argo manages a portfolio of around 100 good quality Aussie’s stocks currently worth over (AUD) $5.3 Billion.
Based on my experience holding Argo investments (ARG) through the ASX, they currently offer a fully franked dividend of 3.9%, which grosses up to 5.6% with the franking credits. Argos 30 September 2019 shareholder NTA & Investment update lists this as 4% and 5.7%, respectively. This is offered with an attractively low management fee MER of .15%, or $15 per $10,000 invested per year, due to Argos internal management structure
BKI (Brickworks) investment company limited is a research driven aussie LIC which invests for the long term on profitable and high yielding companies. They have been listed on the ASX since 2003 after taking over Brickworks investments, and have their portfolio managed by Contact Asset Management.
They manage (AUD) $1.3 Billion split over 50 Aussie companies, and charge an annual MER of .17% or $17 per $10,000 invested. Currently you can buy BKI on a dividend yield of 6.1% (grossed up to 8.8% with franking credits), with a strong history of dividend growth on average of 4.2% over the past 15 years (against inflation 2.4%).
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.
There is a wealth of amazing Fire blogs available online. Too many to go into detail. By far, my absolute favourite and top three are
- 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.
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
The following books are great reads and have had a pretty profound impact on my life. There is some level of irony that after 13 years in the schooling system, 7 years at university and $300K 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 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 three of these topics.
Check out the Captains Library for a comprehensive review and meta analysis of nearly 100 of the best books ranging on a wide variety of finance and personal development topics like;
- Personal Finance
- Decision making
- Behavioural Psychology
- Career and Professional development
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