Melbourne to Manhattan: A Podcast Pause for a City Change

A somewhat emotional episode this week as I sit down to record. After 6 and a half years, and 342 weekly episodes, I’ve decided to take a break from producing the Financial Autonomy podcast. Truthfully, at this point I don’t know if this is the end of the podcast or just a pause. It could be that I’m back in a few months. Perhaps we change things up somehow and Financial Autonomy morphs into something new. I just don’t know right now.

I started this podcast in 2017 with the desire to put myself out there on what I felt was important in money management and wealth creation, gaining choice. My hope was that in putting that message out into the world, in time I’d attract people to our Financial Planning practice who shared this worldview. It took a while but I’m very pleased that this did indeed work.

Why am I taking a break now? There’s a few factors. The most immediate is that my wife and I are about to head off to New York to spend the next two months. Will be working remotely from the Big Apple. As someone who spent their whole working life in the money and finance space, I’ve long dreamt of working in the financial centre of the universe. Mandatory photos in front of the bull statue and under the Wall Street sign will most certainly occur.

A large part of my role is interpreting what is going on in financial markets to help guide our clients’ strategies. Most of the time, the driver of market sentiment comes out of New York. To be on the ground, even if just for a few months, to get a real feel for what people are thinking and what’s driving them, will I think be invaluable. The fact that it happens to coincide with an election year can’t hurt either.

This trip is part of a long held financial autonomy goal of my wife and I. Early retirement is not something either of us are chasing. Instead, we want to enjoy the journey. Our youngest son finished high school last year and now it’s time for us to have an adventure. Our hope is to repeat this annually, a different place each year, until we get sick of it. In this regard, COVID did us a bit of a favour, demonstrating how feasible it is to work remotely. With most of my meetings via Teams these days, it’s of very little consequence whether I’m sitting in our Melbourne office, or in a serviced office in Manhattan.

Of course whilst we’ll be working throughout the trip, we also want to make sure that we have the time to fully take in the city, exploring the museums, parks, bars, restaurants, and historic sites. Buying myself a couple of hours a week through hitting pause on the podcast just makes sense.

But the New York trip isn’t the only reason for the podcast pause. As most of you would know, last year I was fortunate enough to gain the gig as the Ask an Expert columnist across the Fairfax network of newspapers on a Sunday. I’m really enjoying this new challenge, but it takes time.

On top of this, our business has continued to grow strongly, with lots of new clients having joined us in the past few years. My number one responsibility must be to ensure that the clients who are entrusting us to manage their money get the focus and attention that they deserve.

Taking a break from the podcast then, is to some extent me making decisions around prioritising the use of my time. For those of you that I’ve worked with, or have read my book, you’ll know that prioritisation of goals is something that I put a lot of emphasis on, so it’s only reasonable that I should apply that to my own life as well.

Thank you for helping make the Financial Autonomy podcast the huge success that it has been. We’ve had at least 945,000 downloads over the journey, though the stats did reset at one point so I suspect in reality we’ve gone through more than a million. Just quite incredible and not something I would have dreamed of as being possible when we kicked off.

The best part about the podcast is that I’ve had the opportunity to work with so many of you. To learn about the lives of so many people around the country, the challenges they face, and work together to make them more financially secure and gain choice has been a real privilege and something I look forward to doing for many more years to come.

Six and a half years is a long time to work on a single project, especially one that requires a deliverable outcome every single week. What I’ve learned is that there is value in putting yourself out there and sharing what you feel to be important. Over all that time that I’ve produced this podcast, the number of negative comments I’ve had could be counted on one hand. To be sure, something in my nature means that I tend to dwell on the negatives disproportionately to the positives, but with a little bit of distance I can certainly see that the relationships I’ve built through this journey well and truly justify overcoming the fear of exposing yourself to criticism.

I’ve learnt that podcasting is a game of patience. It took about a year before the project lead to our first new client. Audience growth was a slow compounding as well, with little spurts fueled by either me being a guest on another podcast, or having someone on as a guest who had a strong social media presence.

I’ve also learned that you get better by doing, and that it’s better to try and iterate rather than procrastinate in the hope of attaining perfection from day one.

Over time the way I produced the podcasts changed. But throughout, there was always a writing element, at least for the single voice episodes. Unsurprisingly, the more writing that you do, the better you get. Through the podcasts I got the opportunity to write a book, something I never would have thought was on my radar. And fueled by the positive response I got to this, I even wrote a little sci-fi novel which was a tonne of fun. The 20 or so people who read it tell me they really enjoyed it.

These writing experiences led to me writing occasional pieces in the Fairfax papers, and that is ultimately what’s led to me now having a weekly column right around the country. That most definitely was not on my radar when I recorded the first few podcast episodes, but I’m so happy and grateful that it’s unfolded that way.

Whilst the podcast will be on ice, I do intend to continue with the GainingCHOICE weekly e-mail. I haven’t yet figured out how to make that viable long term, as its original reason for existence was to promote the podcast, but I enjoy doing it, and I’m keen to share our experience of working remotely from the other side of the world to those who are interested, so continue to keep an eye in your inbox each Friday morning for updates from me.

Just finally I’d like to say a huge thank you to my partner in crime on this project, my son Ethan, who has edited almost every episode. This has really been a two person project with us both learning as we went along. I couldn’t have done it without Ethan. The fact that we haven’t missed a week in 6 and a half years is a credit to his maturity and work ethic. I’m a very proud and lucky dad, and really want to recognise the key part he’s played in the success of this podcast.