Being a black belt in finance means to have a net worth of a million dollars.

Just like a martial arts dojo, Your Money Geek is a place where we can learn about personal finance and eventually become financial black belts ourselves. In this series, we get to hear the stories of actual millionaires and see what it took for them to get to that level.

Now for the interview:

Table of Contents

What degree black belt are you? (e.g. one million = first degree, two million = second degree).

I guess you would say I am a 5th degree black belt. However, I collect black belts for the journey and experience, rather than to have another belt.

Give us the break down on your current net worth. What is it invested in and do you have any debt?

We don't have any debt. Our assets are spread across the following:

  • Direct shares
  • Direct property (residential)
  • Listed investments
  • Managed funds
  • Private companies and collectables.

Your story

How was your childhood? Was your family wealthy, middle class or low-income?

Supportive childhood. Father was a corporate executive. Mother also worked to support the household. Parents sacrificed to give my brother and I prestigious private schooling.

Where we studied, played sports and rubbed shoulders with the children of the elite and captains of industry. That said school was an empowering experience, bringing with it everyone’s own personal challenges that we were all encouraged to work through.

Did you go to college?

Yes. Initially teachers college. Later I studied economics/commerce and I’m going to enter college again to complete a finance degree.

What is your fighting style? (Career path from first dollar ever made to present).

My journey of a 1000 miles and financial independence began with a single step on my 25th birthday.

Twenty plus years later and 20,000+ hours of studies, certification & professional experience  to this day, I still continue to learn new things, invest in new opportunities and also help others along their journey too.

I've learnt that simply earning more money is not the only ingredient required to become wealthy.

True financial independence requires the blend of simplification, organisation, implementation, perspiration and being held accountable every step along the way.

Action ultimately the DNA of one's success. An inch of action will always deliver you more results than endless miles of intentions”

However prior to this ¼ centaury crisis I was not all that together or focused. In fact I was in a word “lost”.

After finishing high school I was encouraged by my parents to study teaching (they said I had always been comfortable around kids). The truth is my grades were average and teaching had a low university entrance mark. I studied early childhood for 2 ½ years then I flunked out.

As a university dropout, I picked up odd jobs (to not have to face the embarrassment of failure and move back home). I catered, taught swimming, and laboured, anything that paid me so I could survive day to day.

It was at that time I read about being a camp councillor at CAMP USA. They would give me a job for three months, I would experience life overseas (my dream), and I would be provided food and accommodation too. All I needed to do was pay for my flights and some spending money.

I worked triple hard saved up $2,000. Got the job, purchased my ticket ($1,500) and I was off. I also arranged for an Amtrack train from San Diego to Vancouver (Canada) and a 1 year working visa there.

Funny thing is that when I got to summer camp, it was nothing like the sales flyer.

The Camp America I was be sent to, would be Rawhide Ranch  1 ½ hr drive from San Diego and twenty miles north of the Mexican border.

For three months I lived in dust, sweat, the smell of animal, drought conditions, while employed as counsellor to a hundred plus school holidaying kids under twelve years old.

I worked 14hr days alongside Mexican farm labours (who I learnt to admire), British, Irish, Canadian and Americans, and we all ate terrible food.

In short, it was “a character building experience”.

After this “Dude Ranch” experience, and now with $500 to my name, I jumped on the Amtrack to Canada and found myself in Vancouver, accommodated at Jericho Beach backpacker’s hostel. I paid for a month advance (I think I recall) $400 and started calling job offers I found on the pin board marked “work wanted”.

Thankfully I found work pretty much immediately and only the only time I spent at the hostel was to sleep. Not because of the hostel but my roomie was a drunk Irishman who I don’t think had showered or brushed his teeth for over six months.

The work I found was labouring building sea walls, catering at bingo clubs, and also some telemarking before again jumping on a train in search of a job for winter at Whistler/Blackcomb Ski Resort.

Whistler fell through only because of my poor attitude.

I was a snob and getting myself to the other side of the globe only to hang out with a bunch of drunk, ego maniacs just rubbed me the wrong way. I thought I was better than all of them so I headed back to Vancouver.

Fortunately, an opportunity to work for Sprint Canada was offered working at stalls and trade shows.

The money was crap, but I would travel BC and be around Canadians, who in a word are “awesome”. So that’s what I did for the next nine months.

My visa in Canada was soon up after twelve months and I moved back to Australia.

Back home the job market was tight (1996) and I ended up again doing odd jobs and whatever I could find.

I was fortunate to find some casual work at a hotel called Novotel as a bus boy first at the restaurant there. Needing work, when others called in sick, I picked up their shift. “Always say yes” was my motto.

With this new international hotelier experience added to my resume I quickly added catering work for private parties, bar work and found myself working three casual jobs, sixteen hour days.

Over time, casual rates and holiday loading and tips meant I started seeing money going in my bank instead of going out, but I was exhausted.

Looking back for me the most important lesson “attaining freedom” was one of patience, trial and error and simply sucking it up and doing the work.

My goal at twenty five was to achieve financial freedom. To me this was $50,000 passive income per year. At the time I projected this would require $1,000,000 in investable assets paying me 5% income per year.

Based on my savings plan of $200 per week (what I could afford) and reinvesting my returns (based on 7%pa) I calculated that this goal was going to take me my next thirty years.

And that's when I started working seriously to build my business career and eventually become a financial planner.

Would you recommend people to pursue the same career path? Would you choose a different job if you could go back?

Each of our journeys should be unique, just as we are. It is from our diverse experiences and who we are, that inspires those “Ah-ha” moments that resonate with us and motivate us to try something new (which is the journey)

Have you had any side hustles?

I tried multi-level marketing, but selling to my family, friends and colleagues just made me feel creepy and undermining the trust we had built up between us in our relationships.

If you have a spouse, how have they contributed to your net worth?

My spouse is my sparring partner, my motivator, my coach and my support crew.

We are a team that unites and fights “together”.

There will always be differences between what the spectator sees from the sidelines and from within the “dohyo ring”. There are also different views between the “Toshiyori kabu” (sumo coach) and the wrestler.

However we live and train together, hold each other accountable, fight, support each other through the losses and celebrate the wins together as one.

What has been your investment strategy?

Enjoy the plateau. It's perfecting the same thing that opens the door to the unexpected step upwards. Doing so keeps one grounded, humble, patient, and open seeing what is often unseen by others. Think matrix mindset.

Who was your financial sensei? (Most influential person/source of information in your financial life).

As there are stages and seasons in life, so are those who we gravitate to along our journey. Beginning my journey I was a fan of Robert Kyiosaki and Noel Whittaker. Both these were wealth guru’s.

Developing my business career, I leant from Bill Bacharach and Tim Ferris. Both are a combination of life coach and business advisors.

Currently in my career I am gravitating to Jack Bogle and Warren Buffett. Both are investment managers who espouse value in patience, managing ones emotions, awe in the experience of profound insights and egoless lives.

Are you pursuing FIRE (financial independence/retire early)? If so, how much money do you plan to retire on and are you going to quit working for money altogether?

Yes and I write about it here.

When most people first hear of the F.I.R.E. (Financial Independence Retire Early) movement it’s natural to assume the movement is all about money and being free, however, you would be wrong.

In truth, the F.I.R.E. movement is about self-discovery, our authenticity, experiences and our journey towards personal mastery.  The mastery of being able to better define, develop and live our own authenticity and to add value to others.

Mind over matter

Do you think psychology plays a more important role than math with finances?

Absolutely. Our results are simply a reflection of the choices and paths we have internally chosen for ourselves to experience.

The secret of success is making more of the better choices than poor choices in life. And when you make a bad choice knowing how to get yourself back into into an environment where you have less resistance to make better choices.

What was your toughest mental opponent on the path to your black belt?

I'd say I had two tough opponents. The first would be an inner feeling of guilt. I didn't feel like I was worthy to become wealthy.

The second was having the courage to move forward even when I didn't know what the outcome was going to be. Sometimes you just have to do what you can and hope for the best.

There are a lot more financial white belts than black belts out there. How do you think differently than the average person when it comes to money?

Success is not complicated. Whatever success is to you, you simply need to know specifically what you want, know how much it will cost and pay for it.

What does wealth mean to you? Should everyone pursue it?

It’s not for everyone however I believe those who do pursue wealth A.K.A. Financial Independence, have a responsibility to use their wealth to make the world a better place both now and for future generations.

Should people follow their passions or just do something practical?

Start with practical and learn how to do it well. Then practice and through commitment, patience and mastery do it better than others. Then share your knowledge, showing others how they can do it too. Finally collaborate with others and make your (all) something even better, so making life better for all.

Bonus round

What is your weapon of choice? (favorite money tool/app)

Google. Simple hands down the most cost effective, fastest, comprehensive access to information globally. Personally the advancement of technology has allowed me to relocate to Cairns while still servicing my clients across Australia, Asia and Europe. It’s been a life changer.

What has been your favorite way to earn money?

The fact that people pay me to help them better live their ideal life is profoundly humbling. With it come great responsibility, emotional investment, skill and a lifetime of knowledge I have learnt and continue to benefit from learning from others.

Being in the position when together we (my clients and my team) celebrate the evidence that my clients can live their ideal life without financial concern is a profoundly emotional experience and something I aspire to experience as many times as I can in life.

It is the fulfilment of my client’s goals and my career aspiration being a financial planner in knowing we are improving the life of others and in doing so making the world a better place.

What’s your favorite way to use money?

Travel. “Traveling – it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.”  -Ibn Battuta

Travel enriches our souls through new experiences, leaves us in awe of nature’s grandness and beauty. Elevates our understanding through the diversity and richness of different cultures and motivates us to do more in the knowledge of our time being so brief and precious

Every year since 1996 (my 25th birthday) I have worked, saved and invested.

Each year, I have also redeemed a small amount of my investment profits (not earnings or savings) and reinvested it into my travel experiences.

What’s your one piece of money advice to us financial underbelts?

One of the best questions someone has ever asked me was, “If you were  listed on the share market, would you buy your stock?”

I think this question not only holds a mirror up to ourselves, it calls us out, humbles our ego, inspires us to be better and with introspection we realise we already know the answers within, saving ourselves time trying to find them elsewhere.

About the Author

Nathan Clarke

Nathan has been a personal finance writer since early 2018. He and his wife reached a net worth of one hundred thousand at the age of 25 and are on their way to financial independence. His favorite way to make money is selling things on eBay and has grown his eBay business to earn five figures selling part-time. He loves sharing what he learns about finance and any eBay tips he comes across. If you’re interested in becoming an eBay seller, check out his reseller Facebook group.

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