How I increased my income at 51 with a perfect side hustle

jigsaw pieces with side hustle and extra income
jigsaw pieces with side hustle and extra income
The principles of reaching Financial Independence and Retiring Early (FIRE) are simple.
The key principle is to spend less than you earn.
Then invest the difference between income and expenses wisely.
That’s it. Simple. But not easy.
It follows then, that the bigger your gap between income and expenses, the more you’ll have to save and invest.
And the more you invest, the quicker you’ll reach financial independence.
So my goal since discovering FIRE at age 47 has been to increase the gap between my income and expenses.
There are two ways of doing this – increase my income and/or reduce my expenses.

Working less to combat burnout

At the time I found FIRE, I was NOT interested in working any more hours at my job. And side hustles? No way! Where would I find the time? I was on the verge of burnout and I could feel the flames getting closer.

So I transitioned to a less stressful role & my income was reduced. It seemed counterintuitive if my aim was to reach FIRE as quickly as I could, seeing I was already starting so late.

But my mental wellbeing was more important. What’s the point of arriving at FIRE, burned out, resentful and not in the mental space to enjoy the accomplishment?

The less stressful role was working fairly well when Covid hit in 2020. My stress levels went back up. Being a frontline health worker and managing other frontline health workers took another toll.

In 2021, I flirted with working 9 days a fortnight or taking a day off every month. But no one, including me, respected those days off. Anytime we were short staffed, I’d end up working.

So in February 2022, I decided to work 4 days a week, every week. Keeping it consistent. There was so much anxiety around this decision.

Initially I had a lot of long service leave and it covered the day off. This meant no loss of income until August when my long service leave entitlements finally came to an end.

I was lucky to pick up some evening shifts at another business for 2 months so that supplemented the 4 day/week income.


Are you READY to TAKE ACTION today?

🔥 practical tips & strategies

🔥 step by step guide

🔥 cut the overwhelm, second guessing & paralysis by analysis

Living on a reduced income

At the very outset, I gave myself until the end of the year to decide if I would want to continue working 4 days a week indefinitely.
I wasn’t sure I could adjust my expenses to survive on the reduced income.
Technically, I’m at Coast FI. I”d calculated that even if I didn’t invest another cent into my superannuation (retirement account), I’d reach FI at 60. Coincidentally, 60 is the age when I can access my superannuation.
But because I want to retire at 55, five years before I can access my superannuation, I have to invest outside of superannuation in order to fund those 5 years.
And this is where the reduced income from working 4 days a week impacted – I could not invest as much as I wanted to plus replenish my emergency fund and save for other goals such as travel.
If I didn’t need to invest outside of superannuation ie if I wanted to retire at 60, the reduced income would be sufficient. But I do really want to retire at 55.

Working less gave me space to heal

I do not regret working 4 days a week, despite having less income for a few months. Not even for a minute.
The extra day off gave me time and space to rest and heal from burnout.
I read and napped on my couch for the first few months. I shopped for groceries and scheduled hair cuts, medical appointments etc on that day. Walking around the neighbourhood in the middle of the day was a novelty. I could help my Dad navigate the aged care system for my Mum and schedule any appointments for home visits on that day.
I also worked on the blog and learned how to create online products to help other late starters start their own FIRE journeys. I enjoyed having time to connect with other online entrepreneurs in Masterminds. So I was learning and building new skills.
As the year was nearing its end, I wasn’t specifically looking for extra work but I was open to opportunities.

The perfect side hustle for me

One of my roles at work is to ensure we follow certain standards as set out in a national program for our industry. Every two years, the business is assessed against these standards. If we pass, we achieve accreditation and all is well.
In November, I came across an email asking for expressions of interest in being an assessor for this national program. The role was advertised as requiring 15 hours per week.
Prior to Covid, assessors visited the businesses and spent up to a day looking at various processes and standards. But since Covid, the assessments moved online.
And this is the aspect that really appealed to me – that I can work from home.
I also figured that I knew the ‘content’ really well, having implemented policies and procedures as per these standards ever since the program started about 20 years ago.
So I replied to the email, expressing my interest in the position.
It was nerve wracking creating a resume. My last job application was 30 years ago!
Anyway, a few weeks later, after one phone call and a video call in which I embarrassingly had technical issues (I couldn’t see their faces but they could see mine), lo and behold, I got the job!
I’ve joined the ‘other side’ 🎉
The funny thing was when I told my colleagues that I got the job as a side gig, they all said it’s the perfect job for me!

I won't lie ... anxiety kicked in

But then self doubts and anxiety crept in.
Will I be able to the job? How can I fit it all in as well as perform at my current job? What if people are not available to take my call on Wednesdays when I have the day off?
What if it gets too hectic and I have to give up another day from my main job? What if they say I can’t keep my car if I go down to 3 days a week? I don’t have enough money yet in my Future Car sinking fund.
And so on and so forth.



In December, I completed an online Lead Auditor course plus another online training session with the company. It was hectic, trying to finish training sessions before Christmas and having family from overseas staying with me at the time.
In January, I started shadowing an experienced assessor – I learned how to do the job while observing how she did it. And had her shadow me while I assessed the first business. Thankfully, I passed!
The new skills I learned while blogging and connecting via Zoom with fellow bloggers in other countries were invaluable. It would have been even more daunting had I not known how to use Zoom.

What does the job entail?

So I’ve been assessing businesses on my own now. I’m happy to report that I’m loving it so far and managing well with the current workload, although it was a slow start in January. I’m grateful they didn’t overwhelm us with a full workload from the start.
Essentially, for each business assigned to me, I have to make 2 phone calls and a video call via Zoom plus assess uploaded ‘evidence’  – the whole process takes place over three weeks.
I understand there is always an element of unpredictability (which keeps the job interesting) within the process. For example, it will take longer to assess the evidence if the evidence is not ‘compliant’.
Or if the person coordinating the program at the business is not available when I ring them for the first call. And I have to take time out in my main job to catch up – which then means I have to stay back to make up the time.
At the moment, I’m using Wednesdays to schedule phone calls and perform Zoom calls while assessing evidence on the weekends or 2 weeknights.
Currently, the assessments take on average 2 hours to complete. My hope is that I can improve and reduce the time I spend per assessment while still doing an excellent job.

Being a subcontractor

The company that has been contracted to conduct assessments subcontracts me to perform the role.
I am assigned businesses to audit every 3 months. I have no idea at this stage how many I’ll get for the year. I was warned that the first six months of the year are much busier than the second half. So there is no guarantee how much I’ll earn from this side gig.
I do know how much I’ll be paid per business. Therefore I can predict how much extra income I’ll receive for the next few months.
I learned how to use Quickbooks to issue invoices. They have a strict timeline so if I want to be paid on time, I have to submit invoices on time.
I opened a business account to keep my money separate. And worked out with my accountant how much to set aside to pay tax and expenses from my gross income. He advised that 35% would be a prudent figure. Working from home will mean I can claim some minimal tax benefits too.
I’ve never been a subcontractor before so all this is part of a new adventure!

How I will allocate the extra income

I will be paid once a month for work completed the previous month.
Looking at my current schedule, the number of businesses assigned to me differ each month. Therefore my income will be different each month.
I will be using percentages to allocate this extra income according to my 2023 goals.
Initially, the extra income will pay for my financial advisor’s fees.
Then I will allocate 30% to investing into my shares portfolio, 30% to my home maintenance sinking fund and 5% to my Invest in Myself sinking fund (essentially my Splurge account which doesn’t get much love).
I will not use this income for living expenses. My current stable income from my main job will continue to take care of living expenses plus saving into other sinking funds as it has done for the past year.

Impact on retirement timeline

I am reluctant to extrapolate and project how much increased income I’ll receive from this side hustle because it is very variable. And therefore I will not speculate on how it will affect my timeline to retirement for now.
There is also the possibility that the role will require travel and being physically at the businesses to conduct face to face assessments in the future. And if this happens, I will have to decide if I can continue doing it in conjunction with my main job.
It is also not passive income. I have to actively invest my time to perform in this job. So, as long as I can cope with the increased workload over time, I’ll be ok. But if I can’t, then I’ll have to decide if I choose to reduce the number of businesses I audit per week or reduce my days further in my main job.
I will say though, that it is the type of job that I can envision myself doing even after I’ve retired from my main job. Especially if I have the flexibility of requesting one or two businesses to audit per week.
So right now, I’ll just enjoy the extra income and put it to good use while I can.

Final thoughts

My overarching goal is to reach financial independence and retire early at 55.
Therefore the more I invest, the quicker I can reach FIRE.
But I was not in a position to increase my income.
Until now.
It’s taken me nearly 5 years of pursuing FIRE and at the age of 51 to significantly increase my income with a perfect side hustle.
Better late than never?!

How have you increased your income?

My Active and Passive Income Streams

A Portrait of a dreamy brunette lady in a white tank top. Dollar notes are falling from the ceiling.
Is this what my income streams should look like?

I had never been concerned about diversifying my income streams.

Until the pandemic hit. And I saw how jobs and livelihoods can disappear, literally overnight.

I will never forget the image of long lines of people queuing outside Centrelink offices on the nightly news, a sight that I’d never associate with Australia, the lucky country.

At that time in 2020, I was just concerned about surviving in my full time job and ensuring we kept up with all the changes in procedures associated with Covid-19. It was a highly stressful time to be in healthcare. It still is. (I wrote about it back in 2020)

Fast forward to 2021. The uncertainty is still with us. The lockdowns. Businesses unable to open and trade. Low vaccination rates (but slowly improving). More infectious Delta strain. And on and on it goes.

getting started checklist

Feeling Overwhelmed?

Use this FREE Checklist to start your journey to Financial Independence

Why do I feel a need to increase my income streams?

It has nothing to do with wanting to be a millionaire! Even though we’ve all heard or read that millionaires have 7 income streams.

Over the last year, my full time job oscillates between periods of intense busyness and boring nothing to do days.

During the intensely busy seasons, as in now when we are in our sixth lockdown and ramping up vaccinations, I am mentally tired and worn down coping with it all. 

(As an aside, it is mentally exhausting listening to why people don’t want to be vaccinated and explaining why they should. And it is challenging to remain upbeat and supportive when working with anxiety all around us. We are all waiting on tenterhooks, praying that we don’t become a Tier 1 site (ie a Covid positive case visits our premises) which means we’ll have to quarantine for 2 weeks. We are back to anxiously watching the daily positive case numbers. And back to split shifts where the day and evening shifts have no contact with each other, including outside work hours)

When we are in the boring I-have-no-idea-what-else-I-can-do-to-look-busy times, I worry that my job is not secure and the business will close down.

It’s a blessing I have a job. And that I can leave the house to work thereby not experience the social isolation during our lockdowns. But it’s a double edged sword.

I am more likely to get Covid from my job. And inadvertently pass it on to others such as my elderly parents. Even though this is somewhat mitigated by all three of us being fully vaccinated, I still don’t want us to get Covid and the possibility of its long term effects. 

Maybe it’s a case of the grass being greener on the other side. But working from home sounds blissful at this stage.

Therefore, increasing my income streams is one of my goals for 2021. Just so I don’t have to depend on my salary so much. And I can dream about working from home some day.

My active income

Without question, my biggest source of income is the salary I earn from my full time job. 

And I would definitely classify it as an active income. I actively trade my time, energy and effort (LOTS OF IT at the moment!) to earn this income.

Because I have also experienced burnt out from working a highly stressful job (pre Covid), I hesitate to launch into side hustles. 

Quite frankly, I don’t want to hustle. I have neither the energy nor the mental headspace to do so.

Therefore I’m not seeking any more active income streams. I don’t want extra shifts or another job in the same industry.

The only other active income stream I have is doing Octopus Group surveys (review). The income is sort of active but it’s not time consuming and I can do it while watching television so I don’t mind it. The income is also miniscule compared to my full time income, haha.

The longer I’m on my FIRE (Financial Independence Retire Early) journey though, the more I’m attracted to the concept of passive income. 

Are you READY to TAKE ACTION today?

🔥 practical tips & strategies

🔥 step by step guide

🔥 cut the overwhelm, second guessing & paralysis by analysis

What is passive income?

I define passive income as income I earn without actively doing something to generate it. Income that I earn while I’m sleeping.

How awesome is that? To have income streaming into my bank account without me having to work for it?

Is that even possible??

Yes and no.

Let me explain.

When you google ‘passive income ideas’, the lists invariably include rent from investment properties, dividends from shares, interest from bank accounts, investing in a business as a silent partner, income from blogging and other online activities such as selling printables, ebooks, affiliate marketing, dropshipping etc

I don’t know about you but a) they either need money to begin with or b) they need a lot of time and effort to generate which doesn’t really shout ‘passive’ income or income that I can make in my sleep.

And herein lies the rub. 

You need MONEY to generate more money.

Or you need to invest a lot of time and effort UPFRONT to generate money later.

So where does that leave me?

I have neither the ready cash to invest in investment properties nor do I want to be a landlord at this stage of my life so rental income is out of the picture. I’m not sure I classify rental income as passive when there is work involved in dealing with tenants, home maintenance, attending body corporate meetings (if owning units/flats) or dealing with agents.

If I don’t have money to invest in rental properties, I certainly don’t have any to invest in someone else’s business as a silent partner.

I have no idea what dropshipping even means … more googling required. And you all know I’m not good at googling!

The interest rate is so low these days that interest from cash in my bank accounts would hardly buy me an extra cappuccino or two. But I wouldn’t knock it back – it is true passive income.

That leaves blogging and dividends from a share portfolio.


Blogging for passive income? Noo ...

Or not yet. 

I can tell you there is NOTHING passive about it right now, haha! I am sure eventually, I can make a profit out of blogging if I try hard enough and work at it long enough. However, I am not currently earning enough to break even. 

It is a creative outlet for me and I do love sharing my message that it is never too late to start your FIRE journey, take control of your money and save for retirement. A big thank you to those of you who have supported this blog by reading and sharing with your friends, purchasing from my affiliate links and Action Plan – I love you all ❤️

Passive income from blogging or selling digital products takes time and a lot of effort upfront. Many things have to work out – how much traffic you get, how much marketing you do, how many products you have to sell, how many affiliate products and services you recommend and so on. It is a huge learning curve, to be sure. I’d love to have the time and energy to fully devote to it. But alas, hello my full time job.

And now to dividends from my share portfolio.

Chart showing dividend income for 9 months of 2021
Dividend income (nearly) 9 month in 2021

Dividends from my share portfolio

I’ve been hanging out on instagram lately (come join me if you’re ever on insta) – and been inspired by all the charts that are posted, in particular dividend income charts.

So as a matter of interest, I decide to chart my dividends. 

And lo and behold! I do have income in the form of dividends from my share portfolio. Now, this is what I call passive income – income that I ‘make’ while sleeping. Income that I didn’t even realise I was getting.

This is because the majority of my dividends are reinvested automatically so I don’t see any cash hitting my bank accounts. Out of sight, out of mind.

That’s the good news.

The ‘bad’ news is that I have to keep investing and growing my portfolio in order to grow this passive income. And that means I need my active income derived from working a full time job.

Until, that is, with compound interest growth, and (fingers crossed), companies continuing to grow despite the pandemic and thus be able to reward investors with dividends.


Pie chart showing income streams in 2021

My 5 income streams in 2021

I have always tracked my spending but never tracked my income. After all, what is there to track besides my salary?

But after discovering I do have some income via dividends, I decide to look at the breakdown of my income streams.

So, I currently have 5 streams of income – a mixture of active and passive income streams. 

The active income streams are from my full time job and doing Octopus Group surveys (affiliate link).

The truly passive income streams are from the interest earned from cash (mainly the emergency fund and my travel sinking fund) sitting in high yield online bank accounts and the dividends earned from my shares portfolio outside of superannuation.

I would classify blogging income as both active and passive – there is still considerable work involved up front before it can generate any passive income.

Right now, a whopping 85.7% of all income is from my full time job followed by dividends at 11.8% This makes dividends my biggest passive income source!

I would love for the above pie chart to look differently in a few years – dividends and blogging income to have increased in comparison to my full time job. 

Now, I just have to come up with a plan to make it happen 🙂

Final thoughts

I have overwhelmingly felt the need to develop extra income streams in 2021 and to decrease my reliance on my full time job.

In particular, I’d love to increase my passive income. 

But as my biggest passive income source is from dividends, I still need my very active income derived from my full time job to invest in my shares portfolio which will then generate more dividends.

I’m looking forward to making money in my sleep 😴. Ah, what dreams I shall have!

Do you have multiple streams of income? What is your source of passive income?

Where can I send your
Monthly FIRE Goals Plan?

By signing up, you’ll also be added to my newsletter

You can unsubscribe any time, I promise.