Money Matters: Making Financial Decisions as a Couple

Hi Money-Makers!

Mrs Money here, with Mr. Money next to me. Yes, it’s both of us! We’re sitting in our favourite cafe eating delicious mini croissants while sipping on our weekend coffee.

We have reached a stage in our blogging where we felt that it was time to share it beyond close friends and family. We also generally tend to get positive feedback from them, so we were looking to get some constructive ideas from a wider base on how we can improve our content and style to benefit more readers. (To all of you reading, please keep the comments and feedback coming!)

Mr. Money is a big fan of Reddit, particularly after seeing a documentary about its founder, Aaron Swartz. He recently discovered an active thread on personal finance in Malaysia, and found it to be a really interesting space to learn about how Malaysians think about money. We decided to put up a post linking our blog, requesting for advice or suggestions for improvement.

We received some excellent feedback, and this post is in response to them. We particularly liked this one:

It’s interesting but imo you aren’t leveraging the biggest niche you guys have in the space. Maintain the current content focus but add in another angle regarding financials with a partner. E.g. combined or joint? Approach to large purchases? How do you handle disagreements? If you never argue, why is that? Pre-planned budget which is the focal point of alignment? Lucking out and finding a partner who literally wants the exact same thing you do etc.”

It made us realize that we never addressed how we approach joint finances and how we think of financial goals as a couple. So here goes!

Photo: Jamie Hodgson/Getty images

Deputy Women, Family and Community Development Minister Hannah Yeoh recently shared that on a yearly basis, financial issues come up tops as the reason marriages end in divorce, with nearly half of the marriages breaking down due to financial problems. Clearly, this is a major issue facing many couples.

We addressed this subject very early on in our relationship. After around 6 months of dating, we decided to get a joint credit card (which was essentially a supplementary credit card from one of Mr. Money’s banks as unmarried couples are not allowed to open joint accounts in Malaysia). We got this because we wanted to share our common expenses such as eating out and travelling, but it lead to some interesting discussions and reflections around how we think about money and expectations in a relationship.

Unlike me, Mr. Money eats out almost every day. When we moved in together, that meant that I ended up eating out more than I usually do. Dining regularly can be an expensive affair when living near the city centre.  Earning much less than Mr. Money, I expected him to take most of the bills, particularly the more expensive ones. Truth be told, part of it was also likely ingrained gender expectations – as the man, there is an expectation for him to be the primary financial provider. Growing up in Europe however, Mr. Money did not share the same views. Instead, he had an expectation of a more equal relationship – which also included the financial aspects. 

After many discussions, and reflection and soul-searching on my part, I realised that a more equal financial relationship was actually in line with my values too. I have a stable job and a decent income, and prided myself for being independent. There was no reason for me to be financially reliant on him or anyone else. We regularly spoke about our views on money and Mr. Money had some really compelling principles that spoke to me: 

  1. There is a strong power dynamic from money that can easily negatively shift the balance in any relationship. The person who is dependent on the other for financial security is inevitably in a weaker position, and will only continue to be so the longer relationship progresses. There are many power dynamics in a relationship and financial power is just one of them – but often a critical one.  
  2. You must always be able to adapt to who you are with. For instance, if you are with a group of friends with all different levels of income, the choice of venue or activity should be based on the capacity of the person with the least financial means so no one feels like there are forced to make decisions that put them outside their financial comfort zone. In essence, everyone at the table must be comfortable and able to take the bill wherever we choose to go.
  3. You should always be able to live within your means and be self-sufficient. Living according to someone else’s lifestyle creates dependency, stifles your ability to be independent and creates expectations of a lifestyle that you may not be able to sustain in the event of changes within and outside the relationship.

This led to a discussion on whether we should be adapting our financial choices based on what I was comfortable with. There were times I felt a pinch splitting the bills and eating at places I wouldn’t normally choose to go to. When I expressed this, Mr. Money also realized that he didn’t need to eat out as often and in some of the more pricey restaurants, and was instead  happy to start making choices that suited my budget. We had a similar discussion about adjusting our budget on travel.

While we have broad guidelines for how we approach joint expenses, it’s not set in stone. Valuing experiences over things, it has become a couple’s tradition for us to take the other for holidays on birthdays and treat the other to meals on occasion – which is always based on our individual budgets and financial capacity.

Another area where we had extensive discussions was around investments. I started exploring the idea of investing in a property prior to even meeting Mr. Money. After around a year and a half of dating, we decided that it would be nice to own and live in a property together (as I moved in with Mr. Money who was living in a property he already owned). Our pooled income also meant that we had a larger budget. Our initial budget was based on equal contribution, however we left some room to increase it if we really liked a property, with Mr. Money agreeing to top up the remainder. The agreement was that the house ownership would be apportioned accordingly. We saw many properties and really liked a few of them enough to consider making an offer. We even met several banks to explore financing options. 

After around 3 months though, Mr. Money started feeling a little uncomfortable at the prospect of owning a second property in Malaysia in view of the fact that property was already the largest part of his portfolio. At the same time, I also began to wonder if it would be better to have my first investment property in my name alone.  We eventually decided that it was a wiser financial decision for both of us for me to proceed to purchase a property alone as originally planned. (interestingly, the first property we saw together and loved, ended up being the property I bought a year later anyway!)

So there you have it. These are some of the main differences in opinions we have had when it comes to spending and investing so far, and ways we resolved it. It’s an ongoing discussion and we’re sure there will be more points where our opinions diverge.  But truth be told, we feel lucky to have found find a partner with similar money philosophies and values. That means that discussions about money have never descended into full-blown arguments. We also recognize that a large part of this is that we are privileged to be relatively financially stable individually.  

At the end of the day, there are many different ways to organize finances as a couple. Not every couple has equal financial footing, or may want to organize their finances fairly equally. The way we are organized it fits our values both individually and as a couple. In our view, the most important thing is that it needs to be an open and honest conversation. It should take place as early as possible, and regularly revisited. Otherwise, unspoken expectations and assumptions fester and only rise to surface when crisis hits, potentially causing a upheaval in your relationship which may have been totally avoidable. 

If you are in a relationship, how do you and your partner think about finances as a couple? We’re really curious about this, so please leave a comment below!

How to Develop a Financial Independence Mindset: My 7 Steps (Part 3)

Hi Money-makers,

In the final part of this 3-part series, I will share the steps I took to begin shifting my mindset from one of lack, scarcity, and guilt, to one where FI was a real possibility.

In Part 1 of this series, I shared how this paradigm shift happened for me, in the windy beaches of Cherating. In Part 2, I talked about identifying and beginning to overcome limiting beliefs that were holding me back from achieving FI.

So Step 1 of the FI journey is really that – identifying and overcoming limiting beliefs.

As I was beginning to overcome these beliefs, I was able to feel more confident and hungry and managed to negotiate higher salaries. I thought the solution must be earning more money, right? Well, that’s part of it. But as I advanced in my career and started earning more, I continued to have this same mindset, and still very little to show at the end of the month – which was frustrating! What was I not getting? I felt that no matter how much I earned, I was still caught in the same cycle.

It slowly dawned upon me that earning more money was only one part of the equation. I needed to have a plan.

Step 2: Set a clear goal

This is simple. Set an ambitious but achievable goal so you can start taking actions that are within your control to reach that goal.

At the early stages, I would set a goal to, say, hit RM5,000, or save enough for a trip, but I would never go beyond a certain ceiling before it went down again (read: excessive travel habits – although I’ve since learned to travel smart).

I realized very quickly that I needed a tangible goal to get me to not dip into my savings account the first chance I had. So I decided buying my first property was a worthy goal to set my sights towards.

Based on my income at the time, I decided I should be able to afford a monthly mortgage for a RM700,000 property – which meant that I had to save around 15% of that (10% deposit + 5% stamp duty, legal fees and other ancillary costs). That was a whopping RM105,000 in cash that I needed to have! Although it was a monumental task, I now had a target..

The only caveat I would issue here is to make sure your goal is related to an investment, instead of a consumption item. At the risk of stating the obvious, setting a goal to buy a car or to go on a nice holiday is not getting you any closer to FI.

Step 3: Start! The power of habits

Ok so you have a guiding star — now you just have to make your way towards it.

The aim at this stage is to develop a sense of control over your finances – which tends not to be the case when you are living paycheck-to-paycheck. At the time I set the goal of buying a property, I had not chanced upon the FI community yet. All I remember thinking was – I need to start investing so my money can grow. But with just a few thousand ringgit, what were my options?

Savings:  Well, first off, start developing a habit of saving more. I tracked my expense using a money app, figured out some expenses I could cut, and the decided to try to cap my monthly expenses. So every month when my salary came in, I would transfer that capped amount into my expense account, and keep the rest in a separate savings account that I opened. Although I inevitably dipped into my savings account for travel and other larger expenses or emergencies, it reversed my thinking so that savings was the default, rather than spending.

Investments: Around the same time, a friend recommended unit trust as a good mid-long-term investment that could help grow my money for a downpayment for a property, so I decided to just dive right in. In hindsight, the returns have not been great after taking into account the fees I have been paying, it instilled a valuable habit of setting aside money monthly and automatizing my investments. Since it was directly debited from my account into my investment account, It was money I never saw and thus, money I never missed. I also signed up for a Private Retirement Scheme, which was also auto-debited from my account.

Unfortunately, after a while, I lost sight of my goal, and lost track of my plan. I decided that it was time for me to move out of my parents home into my own place. I found myself a lovely 1 bedroom rental in Bangsar. While the year I had there was really pure joy, it put a massive dent in my savings. I also took a really amazing (but expensive) trip to Latin America. By the end of the year, I felt almost like I was back at square one.

Enter Mr. Money.

Step 4: Study, experiment, repeat: Begin understanding the power of money

The one thing Mr. Money loves, is money. He loves reading and learning about finances, interest rates, the economy, investments. Although I initially found this terribly dull, after a while, some ideas begin to seep in. He started asking me about my investments, and I realized I knew very little about them. He was shocked that I was just “giving money to the bank” by keeping money in savings account instead of a fixed deposit. I never bothered to read about how much fees I was paying, what interests I was getting out of my investments.

He, on the other hand, has structured his savings and investments almost from Day 1, and is very clear about his path. He is also a minimalist. I always tell people in amusement about how, apart from work clothes, he only owns 4 polo T-shirts and 2 pairs of shorts, 2 jeans and 2 “party-shirts”. His home, which looks like an IKEA showroom, is pristine and tidy, with almost every item serving a purpose. He keeps his life simple, and I really love that about him. Watching him be intentional about his expenses and savings and reading the numerous articles he would send over, made me rethink my choices about what I own and what I purchase, and actually got me slowly (and very reluctantly) interested in money.

On a lazy Sunday, we were chilling at home when he told me about this movement picking up in United States called FIRE (Financial Independence, Retire Early), led by Mr. Money Mustache. We started reading up about him and watching some videos and were totally captivated! Here were a bunch of young Americans, living a simple lifestyle, saving and investing between 50% – 80% of their income over a few years, and managing to actually retire early! Many of them still work, but they don’t have to anymore. It was totally mind-blowing.

So that began the real process of learning for me. I obsessively read articles and listened to podcasts (my favourite is Choose FI, I highly recommend it!). I started hearing about how so many people from all walks of life have chosen this path, and have actually managed to achieve it by just being intentional about how they spend, earn and save.

The big “A-ha!” moment for me came when I realized why all those years ago, I never felt like I could set aside savings despite being able to earn more money. It was all about my expenses! As I earned more, I correspondingly increased my lifestyle and expenses. Although I would always look for a bargain (read how I got this habit from my dad here) and was never into big brands, I was also not really conscious about what I was buying, and whether I needed something in the first place.

I started by looking at all my expenses again, but this time, with the proverbial microscope. I started with my recurring expenses such as my mobile phone, car payments, insurance, internet. I reconsidered clothes, toiletries, gadgets or anything else that I didn’t need. I would always try to ask myself “Do I really need this?” before paying for something. I found that just stopping to ask yourself that question, helps in making smarter purchases. I also did a Marie Kondo, and cleaned out my wardrobe and all my possessions, and really just simplified my life.

I definitely don’t lead a frugal life, but just being more intentional about my expenses and understanding money and my investments better meant that I started making smarter choices, and were important building blocks to creating an FI mindset.

Step 5: Having good role models

Heard of the phrase “You are the average of the 5 people you spend time with”?

For me, that included Mr. Money and the good guys Brad and Jonathan from the Choose FI podcast that I listened to almost daily on the road when I was driving, cooking, or just doing laundry. That’s the beauty of podcasts and Youtube! You can surround yourself with all kinds of people these days – all from the comforts of your living room or your car. Listening to tips, stories and ideas for earning, investing and saving more just ingrained it in my daily thinking and choices.

I also started talking money to friends and family, which can often be seen as a bit of a taboo topic. I would ask them about investments they were making, how they felt about it, and tips of how to make smarter financial choices. I realized when I would start sharing, people are more open to it and actually welcome the opportunity to share advice and learn.

Step 6: The “Why”

Amidst all of this, I was acutely aware that I could fall off the FI bandwagon, so to speak, at any time. I still had many days of eating out unnecessarily and spending on other things without much thought. While home ownership was a worthy goal and helped in developing good financial habits, I was beginning to realize that it was not enough of a long-term motivation. Once I purchased a home, what then?

I realized that I didn’t really have a “why”. Why did I want to earn more money? What would I do with it? What was my motivation? For Mr. Money, financial independence was the security of knowing that he could at any time just leave his job and live a life he wanted, without thinking about whether he had enough. That was a solid long-term vision.

But sometimes this answer doesn’t come to easily either, and it didn’t for me. Sure, it would be nice to be able to take off anytime I wanted and travel the world, but I actually like working. I get so much fulfilment from it, and would be happy to continue to do so for years to come. At the same time, I realized that that’s not really a smart way of thinking, because my situation could change anytime. I may not be able to work, or may be made redundant, or may have a family and my priorities could totally change. Still, I felt like I needed a stronger “why”.

I was listening to a financial independence podcast one day, and the speaker, Grant Sabatier framed this in a different way that I think could help some people think about the “why”. Ask yourself, “What kind of life do I want to lead, and how will money help me get there?” I found that the answer come so much easier to me then because I had something to visualize.

I saw myself living in a beautiful cottage, surrounded by mountains and lakes and trees. Having my own vegetable garden, living sustainably and in connection with nature and people around me. Mr. Money and I having coffee in the garden, eating off our land, going for runs in the forest. Surrounded by family and close friends. Close enough to nature, but also to a city (Mr. Money is more of a city person). I still see myself working on interesting projects related to my field of social impact. Travelling to exotic parts of the world and perhaps even living in different locations for prolonged periods of time. Hahhhhh. Just writing this out makes me so happy.

Lake cottage
If I just visualize this hard enough…

But let’s be honest, this lifestyle is going to need some serious financial planning. It will require not just owning a property, but also having a very steady and substantial stream of passive income to be able to up and leave at any time, travel the world and take care of my health and that of my loved ones.

What’s beautiful about it is that this visualization exercise is that it is something everyone can do, and it can help you start developing those habits that will eventually help you start to lead the kind of life you want to lead. Like eating well, exercising, prioritizing relationships with friends and family, and understanding where your career fits in with everything. These are things I can start doing NOW, as I build up a plan for financial freedom that will hopefully allow me to be able to lead this life.

Ultimately, for me, the life has to come before money in the path to achieving financial independence. I don’t want to scrimp and save and struggle in the years leading up to FI, forgoing my health, important relationships and experiences for the sake of this dream, but when I get there, I realize that everyone hates me, I’m unhealthy and I have the spiritual depth of a stone.

So ask yourself – what is the life I want to lead, so your motivation to earn money has that positive energy behind it. More importantly, so you can start living your life today, in a way that helps you get there down the road.

BONUS Step 7: Increasing your income – the golden side-hustle

So this has been a recent revelation for me, and one that I would really encourage everyone to start thinking about. There’s a limit to how much you can cut your expenses, but there is no limit to how much you can earn.

You can save all you want (and it’s still important that you do), and keep your expenses low, but if you have a low income, it just will take you that much longer to get there.

Although my income had been steadily increasing over the past 5 years or so, I had not learnt to be conscious of my spending at the time. So the additional income didn’t really make a difference to me because I would spend it just as fast as I would make it. However since I started capping my expenses, actively saving and being conscious about spending, earning additional income was really a game-changer for me.

Last year, I decided to leave my full-time job, to take on a part-time job. Apart from the fact that the new position was a really exciting one, I did this for two other reasons: (i) the part-time gig paid me almost as much as my previous full-time job; and (ii) it also gave me an additional 2 days a week to take on other types of work. I also had the opportunity to work full-time for 4 months as a maternity cover. My income almost doubled over a 4 month period. My expenses however, didn’t change. Seeing that money just exponentially grow in my account had a surprising effect on me – I saw it was possible. Following that, I was determined to increase my income with the side hustle as much as I could. I’ve since started doing consultancy work with that additional two days, and that has really boosted my income, and consequently, my savings. 

Even if you are in a full-time job now, but you feel like you have more to offer and would like to see how you can capitalize on your talents and hard work to earn more, I would strongly encourage you to start by just setting that intention first. Start thinking about what unique skills sets you have to offer and starting learning about the market. I will write a separate post about the details of how I developed the side hustle, the challenges of figuring out a charge out rate, and all that other fun stuff soon!

Where to now?

The famed philosopher Alan Watts had the best definition of success that I’ve ever heard. He says “Success, is the progressive realization of a worthy ideal”. I believe I have a worthy ideal; and that I am progressively realizing it. I think this means I am successful! YES!

So that’s the journey so far. It has been one full of mistakes and hard choices and wonderful lessons. I’m still very much on it, but I’m just excited to be able to feel a little bit more in control of my choices and my finances than I was 5 years ago.

Ultimately, it is a process, and importantly, like all else in life, you have to enjoy the path that leads you to the goal in order for the goal to mean anything at all.

Do any of you want to share your tips towards developing a FI mindset? What struggles are you trying to overcome? I want to hear from you!

How to Develop a Financial Independence Mindset: Overcoming Limiting Beliefs (Part 2)

Hi Money-Makers,

Mrs Money here. Over the next few posts, I wanted to share the beginnings of my journey to developing an FI mindset. If you haven’t read Part 1, you can check it out here.

Just a few years ago, I did not believe I would ever be financially independent. Worse still, I associated wealth with negative traits – greed, materialism, inequality – which meant that I never allowed myself to think it was OK to make money. Naturally, that had consequences to how much I was making, and keeping.

In the past few years however, I’ve taken positive steps towards shifting this mindset – and it hasn’t been easy. I had to deal with some ugly truths, ask hard questions, set goals, get frustrated, then try again. It’s very much a journey for me, but I’ve made real progress in shifting how I think about money, and now I believe that it is just a matter of time before I can achieve financial independence. Hoorah!

Before I dive deeper into my process, I have to come clean about some qualities that definitely helped me along in this journey:

I’m cheap

I’ve always been cheap. (Mr. Money lovingly refers to me as cost-conscious, a term which I much prefer). Ever since I can remember, I’ve always felt a deep sense of injustice realizing that I’ve overpaid for something that I could have got for 30% less just across the road, or having to pay for “premium” bottled water  (I truly believe water is a common resource and all I should be paying for is the cost of the waiter’s time to get me the tap water).

I wear this label of being cost-conscious proudly. As a society, we have bought into the idea that excessive consumption or purchasing expensive brands is a sign of wealth and status, and frugality is something to be ashamed of. Countless luxury cars and a closetful of Prada bags later, with little retirement savings and praying that we don’t encounter a medical emergency, the joke is really on you. 

It’s really easy to inculcate this virtue, too (yes, it is a virtue!). Just start by being aware of what you are buying and how much you are paying for them. Have you compared the prices of vegetables in different grocery stores in your area? Do you know when you should buy organic, and when it just doesn’t really matter? If you are buying luxury goods, ask yourself why is this important to you and if its worth it. This habit of questioning and assessing your options and values is like a muscle you can keep building, and will serve you well as you begin making bigger financial decisions. To me, its not about scrimping and being miserable, but rather just being smart with your expenses.  #Costconscious ftw!

I’m a bargain hunter

Secondly, I’m always looking (and asking) for a bargain – which seems to be fairly common amongst Malaysians. But I remember once shopping in Chinatown in New York with an Australian friend, who was mortified by my attempt to negotiate down a $10 pair of gloves. My explanation that this was normal in my country did nothing to alleviate his horror. I got them for $7.

I think I got this from my dad. Since I was a kid, I have vivid memories of my dad asking vendors asking for their “best price”. He would do it with street vendors, in supermarkets or restaurants – it didn’t matter. I watched him use all the tricks of the trade – charm, negotiating down for bulk purchases or minimally faulty items, and planting a disinterested accomplice (usually my sisters or I, as my mom will always give us away). His inclination towards this is unsurprising given that he has a career in negotiation and sales, but as I grew up, my usually shy self found it very easy to just imitate him. His number one tip though — just ask. You never know when you can get it. I have found this to be true time and time again, sometimes in very surprising settings.

So while these helped ensure I was not spending as much as others, I realized early on that I had some damaging believes that were my real barriers to making and growing money.

Limiting Belief #1: “I can never be rich”

This was a deep believe that money is hard to come by, that I will never earn enough, and that being wealthy is only for the few who are able to run successful businesses or work hard in high-income jobs all their lives.

This is a damaging belief for many reasons:

  1. It puts us at a psychological disadvantage at the mercy of money, rather than feeling in control and knowing that money can work for us
  2. It confines us to mediocre-paying jobs instead of driving us to get creative or hustle to find ways to increase our income
  3. This feeling of resignation prevents us from taking the baby-steps needed to save and invest, that are crucial in the path to FI.

My early experiences as a lawyer earning RM3,000 a month and spending RM3,000 a month is an example of how this belief played out. Because I didn’t realize that I had this belief, I continued my lifestyle and hardly had any savings left at the end of the month. I was frustrated and seeing very little money at the end of the month reinforced this belief. The idea of investing and growing my wealth was laughable because, well, I had no money.

Limiting Belief #2: “I should never be rich”

Later on, and to compound the effects of damaging belief #1, I started believing that I should not be wealthy. This may sound odd, but hear me out.

After a few years working as a lawyer, I had a calling towards social justice and human rights work. I left legal practice, and started a career in the non-profit sector, hoping to use my legal skills to improve the rights of marginalized communities.

The non-profit sector globally is notoriously underpaid, and Malaysia is no exception. The story goes like this:

  1. fundraising in the nonprofit world is incredibly challenging, which means that the priority has to be to channel money to the communities you are trying to help, rather than to you, the person working to help them. The belief here is that money is finite.
  2. It is us (the self-sacrificial, bleeding heart nonprofit workers, who were trying to better society) vs. them (the evil, wealthy corporates who were ruining it). Money is therefore evil.

But I was deeply fulfilled in my new career and always told myself that fulfilment is more important than money. However after a while, I began to realize that this was not sustainable career. I needed money. More importantly, I wanted it.

Moving past my limiting beliefs

This growing frustration made me looking inward for answers. I was a fan of Tony Robbins, and he encourages us to start with your story. What is the STORY you are telling yourself about money?

I reflected on this non-profit-bleeding-heart myth. I realized that it effectively instilled a sense of guilt in those working in the sector. You are either Mother Theresa helping people selflessly, or you are a blood-sucking vampire of a human stealing from the poor to feed your lavish lifestyle.

I just couldn’t reconcile the two seemingly conflicting beliefs (wanting to earn money, while at the same time feeling guilty about it) and it was very frustrating. If you believe in the law of attraction, I was also sending out mixed signals to the Universe, effectively stunting any possibility of getting what I want.

A defining experience for me came after watching a Ted Talk. If you are in the non-profit sector, or any sector working on social impact, I recommend that you watch Dan Pallota’sThe Way We Think About Charity is Dead Wrong”. If you have just a minute, watch from Minute 3.00 – 3.50. Game changer.

In short, Dan Pallota argues that there is a bias between the for-profit and non-profit sectors, including the ridiculous reality that corporates are often paid more for encouraging consumerism in our society, while those who are trying hard to fix some of the societies most complex challenges have to struggle financially (he puts this far more eloquently than I just did). And that the solution is that we have to start demanding more of our society at large to understand that it’s our collective responsibility to incentivise bright talents who can do a world of good to raise people in marginalized communities, instead of forcing them (i.e. me) to make career choices based on economic needs that they shouldn’t have to.

Watching this video totally validated my experience as a professional in the non-profit sector.

Around the same time, I decided to look deep and explore the root causes of some limiting beliefs that I had. It hit me one day while meditating. Self-worth! What is the value I attach to myself? If I don’t feel that I can bring value to whatever I do, or more importantly, that I don’t have inherent value, I will always struggle financially. Without it, how can I negotiate a higher salary? How can I be ready to seek and seize opportunities when they come my way?

I recall so vividly an incident where someone offered me a research consultancy which would pay a pretty decent consultancy fee, and I just thought “Nah, I’m a salaried employee in my company. I can’t do anything on the side”. I didn’t even entertain the thought because I was so closed to the idea that I could add any value to a project beyond what I was already doing.

Dan Pallota’s talk, together with my recent revelations made me start to realize my worth, as someone who has the skills, experience and passion to trying to improve the lives of people who are disadvantaged. Maybe, just maybe, I could and should make this into a sustainable career.

Ok, so now I am beginning to deal with issues around guilt and barriers that were holding me back. Now what?

In the final part of this series, I will share the steps I took to slowly develop a FI mindset. I’m going to go deep, sharing processes and ideas, but also insights and reflections on why all of this even matters in the first place.

So where do you stand? What is YOUR story? Chances are, you probably didn’t know you had one! But if you have ever had financial issues, you most definitely do, and you need to start getting acquainted with it in all its ugliness. Here are some that you might resonate with:

  • I am not good with money
  • I don’t need money to be happy
  • Money is hard to come by
  • I will have to sacrifice too much time to make money
  • Money is the root of all evil
  • I don’t have skills or talents people would pay money for
  • Rich people are never happy
  • It is not ok for me to be rich if others are struggling
  • Investments are complicated and I’ll never understand it

Once you identify your story, start working backwards. Where did it come from? Was it something you observed from your parents? Something someone told you about yourself that you believed? The people you surround yourself with? This first step is key towards changing your belief-system and eventually, your relationship with money.

What beliefs do you have? How have you tried you overcome them? Any successful tips to share?

How to Develop a Financial Independence Mindset: The Paradigm Shift (Part 1)

Hi Money-Makers!

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. 

The exact spot in Cherating Beach where the paradigm shift took place

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!

The Journey Begins

Join us in our journey to complete financial freedom!

We started this blog to share our journey towards financial independence (FI). The concepts of living within our means, saving aggressively and investing are not new to us having done this for a lot of our careers, however we realised that there was a gap in information and sharing of ideas on how to reach FI in Malaysia, where we currently reside. We hope this blog will be a space to support a Malaysian community of people seeking FI — sharing tips on investment opportunities, lifestyle habits and most importantly values that can help us all achieve what we all want at the end of the day — to have freedom to live life on our own terms.

We thought this photo captured the essence of our ultimate goal of freedom — whether it be financial, emotional, or spiritual. Taken during one of our annual summer trips to Europe