Mrs. Money here. So I believe there are a lot of people out there like me. Mid-career professionals, earning in the mid-income bracket, travelling, owning a car, enjoying an active social life, purchasing things as you want them. Some months being able to set aside some money, others, perhaps not. Investing in financial products your friends or family advise you to get but that you never really understood, getting some health insurance. Perhaps some of you have already bought a property on your own, or with the help of family.
But… not quite having a plan. Not really thinking about retirement beyond EPF savings and dividends from unit trust. Counting on insurance to kick in in the event of a health crisis. Hoping that your property will appreciate in the long-term. Trying to put together a budget for expenses, (but not really succeeding). Or perhaps not really thinking about financial future at all, and just assuming that you will be able (and willing) to keep working and being in this rat race for the next 30, 40, 50 years.
Sounds like you? Well, that was me too.
Then things changed, particularly after I met Mr. Money. On one of our early trips together to Cherating beach on the East Coast of Malaysia, cocktails in hand, watching the waves roll in, I asked Mr. Money what his goal in life was. What he thought his purpose was on earth. Those kind of big existential questions. I was expecting an equally big response like the one I gave him (saving the world or something along those lines). Instead this is what he said:
“I want to lead an ordinary life.”
“I want to make enough money so I can be financially independent. I want to be able to live my life without ever thinking about money again.”
Needless to say, coming from the non-profit world where my goal in life was not to make money, but rather to try to make the world a better place and right all of wrongs of the evil capitalists, his response truly baffled me. To be honest, I had a fleeting moment where I wondered if I was dating a greedy, money-thirsty cyborg, causing all the problems in the world I was trying to fix.
But as we unpacked that, I began to understand where he was coming from. And that started the wheels in my head turning. What if I could make enough money that I never HAD to take a crappy job just to pay the bills? Or never needed to do work that I wasn’t deeply passionate about? Or being able to just take off and travel as much as I wanted? Or just spend time with family? Start a cool passion project? Knowing how impactful money is in the non-profit world, and how difficult it is to fundraise, what if I could earn enough to actually give it to causes that I care about, and make an impact in a totally new way?
This was the start of the paradigm shift for me. I think this moment arrives in different ways for everyone in the FI community – for some, its a moment at work, when they are slogging away at their desk at midnight, health and relationships deteriorating, where they wake up and think “I’m not getting paid enough to sell my life to this damn company who will replace me in a week if I drop dead”. For others, it may be a personal crisis, or maybe starting a family and a desire to spend more time with their children instead of with their bosses. It could be as simple as reading a blog post on FI, like some of the ones written by Mr. Money Moustache. Whatever it is, when that moment comes, one can never go back to previous states of blissful (stressful?) ignorance.
But I quickly realized my biggest barrier – my belief system around money.
This is something that I wanted to do a deep dive into, as I think it isn’t spoken about nearly enough in the FI space. And that is how our beliefs around money, has direct consequences into our ability to make and grow money.
How do you even begin the journey to FI when you don’t even believe you can (or should) be wealthy? How do you go from barely being able to save, to being able to invest and slowly begin to grow your wealth?
I’ll cover how I shifted my belief system around this, as well as my process in developing financial literacy to get to a FI mindset in Part 2 of this post, coming up shortly!