Something had to change
‘The thing is, FI Guy 101, you’re not adding any value to this call’….is what a customer (a prominent Managing Director of a property business turning over £100m) actually said to me in 2011. Ouch. A customer said that about my call, to him, when my actual job was to add value to every call. At that point, I seriously questioned whether I had a career in this field. I’d been making slow but steady progress in an industry I had fallen in to by chance and now a customer was telling me this. Things had to change. I had to get better.
I did, and within three years I quadrupled my salary. How, is for another day, but the result was that for the first time in my life I was earning a decent income.
Starting from scratch
I had the typical childhood background of not coming from money, indeed the very opposite. At 14, the meagre earnings from my paper round went straight to the house finances, such as bills and food. I didn’t get any form of education in personal finance. There was no money, so there was no need! I did however, get taught a solid work ethic by amazing people and developed an unshakable tenacity and unwavering belief that we can do anything we put our minds to.
Like many others, I have historically been less than great at managing money and whilst to a degree it’s irrelevant (you can be good at managing money no matter what your income level), only comparatively recently have I started earning a decent salary. They say your 20s are for learning and your 30s for earning. I guess that’s true in my case.
Following university I spent 10 years working with animals and the field of Conservation. It felt good contributing to the healing and improvement of the planet in general, even in the smallest of ways. I also enjoyed the down to earth, holistic and community values shared by many people working in those industries. The problem was, the pay is generally terrible. I mean, really crap.
Sadly, as I matured and developed life ambitions such as owning my own house, the lack of reasonable financial remuneration meant that I felt this was no longer a sustainable career. I didn’t know what I was going to do, but I did know I wanted to work in the commercial world and follow the money….wherever it was hiding. I eventually fell in to a new career within IT and in my late 20s started from scratch. I encountered many speed humps along the way (see paragraph one!) but through bloody-minded determination and grit, worked my way to a respectable position and income.
How frustrating then, that after years of toil I was now actually earning a good salary and was still in debt and worrying about money.
Today I am a married man and father of two. We decided as a family, that because we are lucky enough to financially be able to do so, that my wife would dedicate the forthcoming years to being a full-time Mum. Yes, it costs us money (and opportunity), but we believe in the values and benefits it brings. It’s a trade-off of course.
From a financial perspective, however, this leaves us as a single income family and poses a particularly challenge when it comes to clearing debt, let alone achieving Financial Independence. Is this even possible?
I haven’t ‘squandered every penny’ or been particularly frivolous. Sure, I’ve been occasionally guilty of ‘keeping up with the Jones’, though nothing hugely extravagant. But I haven’t been clever with money and I haven’t had a plan. Had I known then what I know now, I would be years ahead.
What is Financial Independence, really?
To me, Financial Independence is not about money. It’s about creating more time and choice. It means being master of my own future and being able to spend that time in a more meaningful and productive way, be it more time with my family and children or giving back to the world and feel like I’m making a difference. I know, cliché huh?
I talk much more about the FI part of FIRE, as in the Financial Independence element. The ‘RE’, or Retire Early aspect concerns me less. I’m not looking to hang up my boot straps any time soon.
Ultimately, I would like to achieve the level of financial freedom that will allow me to perhaps one day return to animal and environmental Conversation and give something back to the world.
The money plan – step one: destroy debt
I’m starting this journey from a negative position. Job one is to clear down debt before I can even begin the real path to FI. Excluding the mortgage, but including debt such as the remaining finance due on the new car finance over the next 4 years, I’m in it for about £20k.
We have some savings and a small amount in investments, so Step One includes restructuring and balancing what this looks like. We still need to keep an emergency fund and as a single income family with two growing children, there isn’t always a lot left at the end of the month. So much of my initial focus and articles on this blog will be about sharing the tactics, tools and mindset I discover to destroy debt, along with the progress I make.
I do not hold all the answers right now and I don’t pertain to be a glimmering example. There are others out there that are way ahead and can crunch the numbers in minute detail. I am, however, hugely tenacious. I will hunt down this goal unrelentingly and will share an honest account of how it goes and the lessons learned along the way.
Why the blog? Let’s do this together
Cash Curator and I have known each other for a few years and spent a lot of time on the road together for business; travelling, hotels and the occasional (OK slightly more) pre-dinner ‘aperitif’. He used to bend my ear about the latest he’d learnt in personal finance and investments. I talked incessantly about fitness and well-being. I guess over time we wore each other down and eventually started listening to each other! The commonality that pulled this all together, though, is that we are both pretty in to ‘personal growth’. Man, I hate that term – so full of cheese. But whatever you want to call it; development, growth or just being a better human being (yeah, I like that one more), both of us are only happy when moving forward.
I believe many people are in a similar position to me. Regardless of salary, in this age of hyper consumerism, huge numbers of people are burdened with the stresses and strife of debt and want to be financially free.
If sharing the accumulated knowledge and lessons we learn can help just one person leave behind the dark shadows of debt and become more financially free, to find greater financial health and the subsequent mental and emotional well-being, then it’s all been worth it.
Here’s to the pursuit of financial fitness and freedom.