ABOUT JAG (JOHN) AND DONNA LEWIS
- John: Offshore Installation Manager, Woodside Energy
- Donna: Household manager and manages investment portfolio
- Age: 51 & 50
- Family: Two teenage daughters living at home & two sons living independently
- Live: Sunshine Coast, Queensland
- Began investing in residential property: 1999
- Property portfolio value (including principal place of residence): $5.5 million
- Number of houses you own (including principal place of residence): 11 houses
JAG Lewis (a boarding school nickname based on his initials: J.A.G. Lewis) trained as an engineer and worked an on-shore–off-shore roster of four months at sea and two months at home on cruise ships for many years. When he and Donna immigrated to Australia and settled in Perth in 1992, he found it difficult to get used to his first onshore 9-5 job with Lloyds. “I was a ships surveyor and at the time, there wasn’t much shipping activity. It didn’t keep me busy enough and I didn’t like spending so much time in the office. There were also times when I had to work weekends. Our children were young and I spent very little time with them.
They’d be in bed when I left for work in the mornings and when I got home, I would get about an hour of their time before it was their bedtime.” After about 18 months of being a ‘desk jockey’, JAG got a FIFO job with BHP where he worked a four week on/four week off roster. Shortly afterwards, he moved to Woodside Energy where he still works. His roster is three weeks on/three weeks off/ three weeks on/six weeks off. “I love it. There’s plenty of variety and I have freedom. It’s a mix of admin and hands on,” he enthuses. “When I’m on the ship, I’m there to work. The whole environment is about work. It’s not for everyone and it can be hard on relationships. Typically wives find it difficult not having their husbands around for long periods of time and there are divorces.” But for JAG, he not only likes the work, it has been good for the whole family. The roster system has allowed him to spend a lot more time with Donna and their four children. “It’s so much better,” says Donna.
Custodian has helped us set up the right financial structures and shown us the way ahead.
“It was hard at first looking after four little ones. I had to be very organised.
But in a way I was looking after them on my own when he was working for Lloyds. Before we had children, I was used to John working an on-shore– off-shore roster on the cruise ships.
Sometimes I would go with him. It was great fun. Then with the children, we got into a routine and it works well.
They know when Dad’s coming home and look forward to seeing him. He’s around to take them to school and has time for them.” JAG’s job at Woodside has also benefited the family financially.
“Shore-side, my wage was low and we struggled,” explains JAG.
In comparison, he is not only paid a higher salary with Woodside but he also receives an offshore allowance and a living away from home allowance. On top of that, when JAG is working, his meals and accommodation are supplied.
JAG smiles, “Donna manages our money, and she gives me an allowance!” They both laugh. Donna says, “I give him money but he brings most of it home. It’s a dry ship and there’s no smoking so there’s nothing to spend his money on – just a beer at the airport on the way home.”
JAG and Donna bought their first home in the Perth suburb of Rockingham in 1992. “We were starting from scratch. We had no assets when we migrated – just a vintage Jaguar Sovereign car.” They concentrated on paying down their mortgage and later they also bought some land in Two Rocks, north of Perth. When they were nearly mortgage free, they bought their Warnbro home but had to sell their land and take out a mortgage. In 1997, JAG and Donna invested in a property through Defence Housing Australia which was also in Perth.
After five years they sought financial advice – only to be told to ‘bite the bullet’ and sell the under-performing property for a capital loss and invest in shares. They followed that advice, made a $35,000 capital loss and over the following five years they lost money on their share portfolio and had to deal with the stress of constant margin calls.
Two years before quitting their shares, Donna started investigating investment property. She looked outside Perth because it was too expensive. “I started looking at Karratha because that’s where John flies out from,” says Donna.
Karratha is in the Pilbara region of Western Australia where there is iron ore mining, and petroleum and LNG operations off the North West Shelf. This led the Lewises to buying a house in Karratha in 2005, one in Kalgoorlie (gold and nickel mining) in 2006 and another house in Karratha in 2007. With the mining boom, these investments have seen excellent capital growth and yield high rental returns. In fact, these investments have provided a strong foundation to grow their investment portfolio.
In 2007, JAG and Donna attended a Custodian seminar and met their consultant, Wade Curtis. The Lewises say that prior to going to Custodian, they were naive about investing. They wanted to invest but they didn’t know how to do it properly. Donna explains, “We listened to an awful lot of people and they were taking our money but we weren’t getting anywhere. We didn’t have a clear goal and we didn’t know how to do it.” Since becoming Custodians, Donna and JAG have grown their portfolio to ten properties and they have established their own self managed superannuation fund. “Custodian has helped us set up the right financial structures and shown us the way ahead,” says Donna.
JAG adds, “I truly do trust Custodian and feel that I’m not another customer on the end of the phone.
Our new consultant Gary Sparks and his team member Leonie are very personable. Custodian is very client focused and I would recommend anyone looking to test the waters of investing in property to give these guys a call. No pressure just down to earth honesty.”
JAG and Donna now live on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast with their two youngest children (the older two have left home) and they are enjoying life. At 51, JAG continues to enjoy his work and lifestyle and says, “I’ve got a few years of work left in me yet.” He grins and adds, “I keep threatening to retire, but Donna doesn’t want me to!” Donna laughs, “No, I’m really happy with our lifestyle! And now we’re doing the right thing with our investment portfolio, we want to keep doing it while we can. I love property investment. It’s become a real hobby for me. Since meeting our first consultant, Wade Curtis, everything is falling into place. Custodian has enabled us to do what we’re doing and we’re well on our way to financial freedom and independence. We trust them and we are more confident with investing.” JAG says, “I’d say there’d be about 50 per cent of people at my work facility that have investment properties.
Working to pay off the mortgage is a common theme but many stay on because it is a safe work environment with good wages. There are also many young ones who use their money for travel and high living – unfortunately some of them can’t see that they can live well and invest for the future.”
JAG (right) at Keppel Shipyards, Singapore
Now that we’re doing the right thing with our investment portfolio, we want to keep doing it while we can.
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*extract from Custodian Millionaire Case Studies magazine printed in 2012.