Finance Your Budget Turning passion to profit: Graeme Simsion, The Rosie Project

Turning passion to profit: Graeme Simsion, The Rosie Project

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Turning passion into profit has been a lucky by-product of best-selling author Graeme Simsion’s money management strategy.

Released this year, Mr Simsion’s The Rosie Project has featured on international best sellers lists. His success as an author has followed a previous career as the founder of a multi-million dollar IT consultancy.

While he has a clear financial strategy, the author doesn’t actively “try to make more money”.

“I invest in what I want to do – my projects – and in others’ projects (most recently a feature film – The Heckler) that I believe in and perhaps have an artistic stake in,” he says.

“The rewards from these investments are sometimes financial, but that isn’t the prime motivation.”

Instead, Mr Simsion says the benefits are often non-monetary – a film made, a friend’s CD produced or an experience had.

“Some would call that spending. The investment in my education as a writer paid off financially, but my goal was to become a writer, not to become rich.”

He says his worst financial decisions have come from “buying anything – property, shares – just as a financial investment”.

Growing up in New Zealand, Mr Simsion’s family had enough to live comfortably without excessive luxuries, a situation he describes as “pretty typical”.

“We got toys at Christmas and on birthdays, we didn’t eat fancy food and abhorred waste.

“There was not much to learn from or rebel against.  I think the only legacy is a reluctance to throw things out.”

Instead, as a 25-year-old, Mr Simsion enrolled in an MBA to learn the basics of economics and investment.

“One legacy of that was a belief in not wasting my time trying to predict the share market.”

Mr Simsion’s first career was running a multi-mullion dollar information systems consultancy Simsion Bowles and Associates with a speciality in data modelling.

He established his business in 1982 and sold it in 1999 and says starting and selling the consultancy were his two biggest risks.

“I took the first for all the reasons we start businesses: to build something, be independent, make money.

“There were times when I thought I’d lose it all, and maybe my house.

“I sold it, and the livelihood and potential it offered, to pursue my dream of being a screenwriter and then novelist – professions notoriously risky.”

In keeping with his entrepreneurial spirit, Mr Simsion is not averse to risk when it comes to debt.

His approach was originally to “bite of more than you can chew and chew like hell”.

“I raised the deposit for my house in 1989 entirely on credit cards then borrowed the rest. Over 100 per cent geared.

“Now – I’m older – I have a mortgage on my one property investment which is an antique shop, purchased as part of starting a business with my friend Roy Williams who runs Roy’s Antiques.

“[I have] no other debt and I pay my credit cards off monthly (unless it’s the month before the royalties come).”

He says investing in his education, including financing short films when he was learning screenwriting, has been his best investment.

On a personal level, he is financially literate, has an accountant and has a clear financial plan.

“I only budget in the very broadest sense – an overall view of my commitments and expenditure, the income I need to service them, and a strategy for retirement.

“I just need someone to make sure I manage my tax situation legally and effectively.”

Due to the sporadic nature of his new job, his spending and saving happens at the same time – when the money comes in.