Meanwhile in Australia... we chat to Jimmy Rees


Comedian Jimmy Rees hasn't been idle in lockdown. Instead, he's been having a lot of fun - he's been "The Guy Who Decides" online personality and the star of Meanwhile in Australia, Byron Bay, Brighton.

He's also written a book, in collaboration with Gumtree, called Ollie and the Spectral Spectacles. The online platform approached Rees with the idea after finding that two out of three parents wanted their children to learn about money, but most didn't know where to start.

Rees is well known from his time on the ABC Kids series Giggle and Hoot. He has a six-year-old son, Lenny (plus younger twins), and creating a book was the perfect way for Rees to get his son to read along and learn about financial literacy. The book is available on Gumtree as a free download.

jimmy rees meanwhile in australia giggle and hoot

What was your first job?

It was at a newsagency stacking shelves with magazines etc, and later the front counter. When I finished school I worked in a bar and bistro. I was keen on working full time consistently. I was a duty manager working eight- to 10-hour days.

My first job in entertainment was on ABC Kids show Giggle and Hoot.

What's the best money advice you've ever received?

It's a tough one because I think it's having a goal. I think back to when I was earning a full-time wage at the pub. What was I doing with the money? I had a goal to move out of home.

The advice is that if you have a goal you can work towards it, and if you don't have a goal you feel you can just spend it. I set myself a target of earning a certain amount a week, then saving a target.

What's the best investment decision you've made?

Investing in myself gives me the tools and knowledge to do what I'm doing now. I've invested in equipment, tools and time and spent money on different elements of the job I do now, which is making content and being my own boss.

And that's paying off. I knew I wanted to up the values of my production. The software made it look better, and I invested more time in myself because I had nothing to do last year.

What's the worst investment decision you've made?

I think timing-wise we had a little bit of money at one stage and we invested in a property. We could afford it and it would stretch us a little bit, but it wasn't the right time. We had other things we hadn't expected (the twins). It could have been a great investment, but it wasn't the right time.

What is your favourite thing to splurge on?

I love to splurge on tech things, a new phone, a half-decent camera, a lens.

If you had $10,000 where would you invest it?

I would invest more in myself. The next step would be to get personnel to help - someone to hold the camera or edit videos - to ramp up the production. I'm doing sponsored things and comedy stuff and that keeps the channel growing and the sponsored aspect is reward for that.

What would you do if you only had $50 left in the bank?

I would try and stretch that money to support my family as long as I could. I don't know how that works because feeding my family costs $300-plus each week. I would be dialling back everything and working hard to make money.

Is there anything that's funny about money for you?

My friends and I dabbled in cryptocurrency years ago because Bitcoin went to $700 and we wanted to find the next one. Four of us each invested $150, sent money to Transylvania and we didn't expect anything in return.

That's funny as well - what do people expect when it's Octopus or Dogecoin? Does anyone believe we'll be trading dog coins every day?

There were new coins and the $150 we invested turned into $35,000 and we cashed in some of it; we lost some because we didn't know how to get it out.

Do you intend to leave an inheritance?

Definitely. As you get older it's something you think about, and I would like to have a nest egg 
for the kids.

Would you like to see any changes in the way people look at money post-COVID?

I think it's been an eye-opener for a lot of people. It was an interesting time because I had to start from scratch a bit and that turned around quite quickly.

I'm grateful it happened fast, but I think there was a moment when we thought we'd dial down our spending. We had a buffer that was draining quickly, but it changed our budget and how much we spend, what we need and what we don't need.

And maybe to the detriment of some businesses out there, we don't need a lot of things. For three months we put our mortgage payments on hold because we weren't sure of money. It opened our eyes to the fact that the cost of living is expensive, but if you take a break for a second from doing extra things then you can be happy and content with less.

Finish this sentence: money makes ...

you comfortable but also makes you kind of stressed.

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Julia Newbould was editor-at-large and later managing editor of Money from November 2019 to February 2022. She was previously editor of Financial Planning and Super Review magazines; managing editor at InvestorInfo and at Morningstar Australia. Julia co-authored The Joy of Money, a book on women and personal finance. She holds a Bachelor of Economics from the University of Sydney where she serves on the alumni council.