This decade has been the first decade where I have been a fully-fledged adult for the entire time. There have been many ups and down, as I’m sure anyone will have experienced, through out. For me the following landmarks occurred:
- Moved to London for the second time – 2010;
- Obtained my status as a Chartered Civil Engineer – 2012;
- Bought my flat in London – 2012;
- Started studying Law – 2015
- Met my girlfriend – 2017;
- Took a gap year to study for the Bar – 2017;
- Called to the Bar – 2018;
- Discovering FIRE – 2018;
- Travelled to Australia, South America, Malaysia and USA plus many more countries.
- Getting Divorced – 2013;
- Father dying – 2016;
- Grandmother dying – 2016;
- Finding myself tied to a leasehold flat in a very difficult situation 2014- present;
- Various relationship break downs;
So in all, it has been a bit of a rollercoaster, but I can look back and be proud of my achievements. The ups outnumber the downs, but its not that simple.
How do these relate to financial success?
The fascinating thing I find with reading various FIRE blogs and Reddit is how young people are. I am continually impressed when I see someone who is 28 and has £60k+ in the bank (or more!). They seem to have their head screwed on in a way I was incapable of back then.
I am hardly old but I have had more than my fair share of life experience by age 36. By looking back to how I viewed life at the start of this decade and how I look at it now I realise how different a person I am now. Certainly, a bit wiser! Reflecting on my decade has highlighted to me the importance of having a good life partner to achieve your financial goals.
I wish very much that I had discovered FIRE at some point in the past. Indeed, I think I was not far from the path to FIRE and may have found it many years back had a few things not set me off course. Life seems to have a way of throwing spanners in the works.
Back in 2010 I lived in Doha, Qatar earning tax-free salary with my company giving a generous allowance for travel and accommodation (no rent!). I saved enough in the three years there for a deposit on a flat and some more, and also did a lot of travelling and partying. It was a pretty dull place to live and the temptations of a fancy cocktail bar or staying in a plush hotel “because I deserve it” due to the day to day suffering you endure was ever-present. If you ever fly Qatar Airways, I helped build the runways at their big new airport. I think my savings rate was around 50% and I spectacularly blew the rest on the high life and 5-star hotels. When you are that age you imagine time to be infinite and for some mega promotion to occur which will solve any financial issues, but of course, that doesn’t happen to most people.
In my defence, I was relatively frugal compared to others my age some of whom would compete to see who could spend their entire salary first. People also went mad and bought expensive cars on finance (which I did not). I put it down to being completely bored in an inhospitable country. Looking back I genuinely think that a 95% savings rate would have been feasible if you went extreme but that’s another story.
I got to a point where I had £45k in my bank account at age 26 and realised that I could quit my job (something I thought about every day as I hated living there) and live for about 2-3 years on that money. I also had a backup plan to go to India and live off that for the next 10 years if the shit hit the fan (it was after 2008 remember and Dubai was a sinking ship). It was a good feeling and a mini FI for me, but I did not feel happy with my life there. I think this is when I understood the phrase “money doesn’t buy you happiness”.
While out there I got married way too young to someone who didn’t know what they wanted and eventually hurt me big time by demanding a large chunk of money from me at the divorce. I accept a portion of blame for the relationship breakdown, but it caused a lot of stress. Not only that, the flat I had bought with a mortgage assuming two incomes was now only being paid by me which destroyed my ability to save. I had to get a lodger in to rent the spare room just to make ends meet. Going from the ‘high life’ to feeling totally and utter trapped was a low point for sure.
Fast forward to 2020 and I am now in a great position with a loving and caring girlfriend with whom we share similar values and can see a great future ahead. Having been in relationships with several people in the last decade (often reeling from one screwed up relationship to another) I have learned a lot about myself and what is good and bad. Most importantly I’ve learned having a successful personal life is key to having a successful financial life.
Take this example. I dated someone for a while just after my father died who was on paper, great. Went to a great school, had a good job in the arts (however, not that well paid). She lived in a Thames-side one-bed apartment which must have cost around £2200pcm. This was probably more than her take-home pay. Her father heavily subsidised her life and I quickly learned that she expected me to do so too. I think of all the wasted expenses and money spent on eating out and holidays and shudder (as I do when I think of her!). Despite being from a wealthy family she was hopeless at managing money. In fact it was around this time that my debt skyrocketed as I was certainly living beyond my means probably to try and compensate for the grief of my father’s passing. Needless to say, this relationship ended bitterly.
I am happy to report that my wonderful girlfriend is frugal and fiercely independent and insists on paying her way. I have no debt and I feel better mentally and financially as a result. I will never take this for granted!! We have bonded over saving money and really enjoy things like cooking meals at home.
What I think a lot of the younger FIRE members don’t realise is how important it is to have a relationship with someone on the same page as you. Some people luck out and find the right person early on which is great, however, if like me you have a few cock-ups along the way then it makes it hard to focus on FIRE as you are struggling to deal with mountains of stress and dismay in the other areas of your life.
I often wonder about people that FIRE on their own and whether that is a barrier to entering a relationship.
It has been a decade of growth and learning and I feel that all things considered, I’ve done a lot and achieved some very long term and challenging goals. I have gone from a frugal man (forced) to a spendaholic and back to a relatively frugal man (chosen).
The main thing is I’m glad I can look forward to the next decade and know that I have a strong partner to journey through life with. I hope that at my next decade review in 2029 I’ll be reporting that I’ve FIRED and am loving life!!