Today’s article is an interview with a fellow Aussie content creator – Leigh from Family Finance.
Leigh has been on the path to financial independence for about five years. One of her main motivations for reaching FI was that she thought she hated her job as a teacher. However, she recently had some pretty big realisations about her relationship with work that changed how she approaches financial independence and her job. In this interview, Leigh shares what caused her mindset shift and how her plans have changed.
Who is Family Finance?
Family Finance is a popular Youtube channel focused on personal finance and reaching financial independence as a family.
Leigh, a 30-something mum from Brisbane, Australia, is the creator behind Family Finance. She posts fantastic, super transparent videos about her family’s path to FI. Leigh and her husband are not high-income earners and didn’t know about FI until about five years ago. Leigh loves a good spreadsheet and is also interested in alternative FIRE strategies.
In this interview, we discuss
- Leigh’s FI journey to date
- Her big realisation about work and financial independence
- Why Leigh thought she hated her job as a teacher
- The family’s FI strategy and plans for the future
- What Leigh teaches her kids about money and FIRE
Let’s get started!
Q1: Please tell us a little about yourself, your family, and what motivated you to pursue financial independence when you first started.
I’m Leigh from Family Finance. I make YouTube videos about personal finance and our financial independence journey. I’m a wife and mum to two young boys, aged 3 and 6. We live in Brisbane, Australia.
I work part-time as a teacher, and my husband is self-employed as an electrician. It wasn’t until we had our first son and I was on reduced pay that I thought we should get our finances sorted out. I wanted to see how long I could stay on maternity leave and, if I were to go back to work, how many days I needed to work. It’s funny because I’ve since learnt that the time for us to sort our finances out would have been much more impactful when we were both earning full-time wages.
I’m an ‘all or nothing type’ personality, so once I read my first personal finance book, I became obsessed and eventually discovered financial independence through the Aussie Firebug. I was excited about the concept, but I initially thought that we had left it too late to begin our FI journey. Then I learned about using a two-phase approach with our Superannuation balances. This was exciting to realise that financial independence was achievable for us, and then as per my personality type, I became obsessed.
Q2: What has your FIRE journey been like so far?
We’ve been on our FIRE journey for the past five years. In that time, we doubled our income. We are averaging a savings rate of 40% (sometimes more) and continually look at ways to reduce our expenses. I remembered when we first started out, our goal was a 20% savings rate, so it blows my mind how far we have come.
Q3: You recently had some pretty big realisations about your job and your relationship with work in general. Tell us more!
Yes, I’ve had some pretty big realizations about our FIRE journey lately. I would put this down to two moments.
The first was when I read “Die with Zero” by Bill Perkins. I realised that maybe we didn’t need to save as much as we are and that some of that money should be spent on experiences now when they will be most beneficial rather than when we are much older and probably too old to appreciate them.
The other moment was when my teaching partner was on leave, and I ended up working full-time for two weeks. To my shock and surprise, I absolutely loved it! I thought I hated my job, I thought I didn’t want to work, but in those two weeks, I was the happiest I had ever been.
I put this mainly down to the improvement in my mental health and the feeling that I had found myself again. I was back to being me, this amazing teacher that I knew I was. I felt more connected to my co-workers, I was even happier to see my husband and boys at the end of the day, and I was doing much less work at home as I was able to get it done while I was at work.
Since then, I’ve been working extra casual days and will consider full-time work once my youngest starts school. I am excited about that. This means that we can slow down our FIRE journey; there’s no need to rush, especially if I choose to continue to work.
Q4: What do you think is the reason you thought you hated your job and tried to stay on maternity leave as long as possible?
I think the reason why I thought I hated my job and didn’t want to go back after maternity leave was that I actually just needed a little break and time away from it. Teaching is a really rewarding career but super draining. So next time I’m feeling that way, I might look into taking a mini-retirement instead.
Q5: You recently described your approach to FI as a mix of several FI strategies. Can you tell us a bit more about how you combine these different approaches?
Flamingo FI fits in nicely with our new FIRE journey. My husband still wants to retire early. Once we reach our Flamingo FI number, he can do that. In that time, I will work just to cover expenses while our portfolio compounds in the background.
I think we are a little Slow FI now in the sense that there is no set date when we will both stop working. We can slow down the journey a bit and make it as enjoyable as possible. This means we can spend a little more money without the pressure to save.
We might also end up a little Barista FI when my husband stops working and I continue to work. The investments would cover his income, and I would work to cover the rest of the expenses.
Q6: Is there anything you wish you had known when you first started out on your financial journey that you know now?
I wish I had known about index investing before purchasing individual stocks. This also delayed my start to investing because there was so much analysis paralysis as to what individual stocks I should buy.
Q7: What are your plans for yourself and your family over the next 10-15 years?
I would like to be fully ‘work optional’, meaning we will be in a position to choose to work or not. If I do continue to work, I would like to travel most school holidays with my husband and two boys. We also talk about living overseas for six months or so, but that’s at least five years away. The cost of that would definitely delay our FIRE plans but would be so worth it.
Q8: You are a teacher. What will you teach your boys about money and financial independence?
Hopefully, I will be able to teach them about the value of their money and making purposeful choices when spending it.
I want to teach them about financial independence through our own journey but also their own. I’ve been investing their birthday and Christmas money, and at the moment, they have about $2000 invested each. When they are old enough for pocket money, I would like them to ‘live off’ the dividends of this money. At the moment, that would be a bit over $1 per week. I hope this process will show them how compound interest works and that it’s like a money printing machine. The more they put in, the more they get out, and that $1 a week will soon become $5 a week and so on.
Thanks so much for sharing your story, Leigh!
One thing I really like about Family Finance is how honest and transparent Leigh’s videos are. She is very open when it comes to speaking about her thoughts, and she is not afraid to change her mind and explore new options. I think this really shone through in the interview as well.
I have often said that I truly believe 99% of people in the FI community don’t want to stop working. However, most of them don’t like their jobs and dream of trying something new and/or want to work in a part-time capacity. Leigh’s story is a little different. She realised that she a) didn’t hate her job as a teacher and b) is actually happier working full-time. What a fantastic realisation.
All Leigh probably needed was a decent break. It’s great she realised this now and can make changes in her life. Otherwise, she might have ended up chasing FIRE for another few years to realise it doesn’t deliver the outcome she was hoping for (this happens a lot!). What we can all learn from Leigh’s experience is the importance of questioning the real ‘why’ behind our ‘why of FI’.
Leigh often talks about alternative FIRE strategies in her videos. These kinds of strategies sometimes get mocked in the more mainstream FIRE groups, but at the end of the day, they are the tools that will allow Leigh to custom-design her life and financial plan moving forward. She doesn’t want to stop working, so the standard “fast lane” path to FI isn’t the right approach for her. She can easily afford to slow down her journey a little and spend some extra time and money travelling with her family.
If you enjoyed this interview, I encourage you to check out the Family Finance YouTube channel Leigh also runs an Instagram account. You can find out more about her recent mindset shift in this video.
What do you think about Leigh’s realisation and wish to return to work full-time?