Credit: Danielle MacInnes on Unsplash
Three years ago, I accepted a job to work for the NHS in the UK. Truth-be-told, it was a straight forward decision for me. The idea of finally being able to gallivant on the sidewalks of Oxford and Regent's Streets, take a Big Ben selfie, and of course, to finally touch and snap an instagrammable photo of the infamous red phone booth, were good enough reasons for me to take a leap of faith and travel thousands of miles away from home, the Philippines and start a new life in Britain. Besides, malaki talaga ang sahod!
Fast forward 3 years later, okay naman. In fact despite the fluctuating feelings of homesickness, I managed to adapt well to the British way of life. And affirmatively, I saved a good some of money; that, when converted to Philippine Pesos, was worth over a million. Yup - my frugality game is on-point? While I deserved a pat on the back for saving well, I knew it wasn't a good idea to keep my hard-earned money in a savings account as its original value will be eroded by inflation over-time. The best strategy to make my money work for me was to invest it. That burning desire to "investment-my-money" idea catapulted me to do my own research about the ever dreadful finance subject.
So, with great enthusiasm, I read as much as I can about investing before and after work, and on my days off. This process has led me to discover countless blogs and finance websites, YouTube channels and podcasts, and books about investing and personal finance in general. Armed with knowledge (though not much), I opened a Stocks and Shares ISA account. It was psychologically challenging for me to move my money to a high-risk investment account as the market could dip without a warning. But I kept my cool - I knew it was the right thing to do. And then, excitingly, a year ago, after continuous fervent research, I stumbled upon FIRE - Financial Independence, Retire Early. Thanks to firehub.eu.
I was mesmerised by the concept FI-RE. I could not believe that people thought about this years ago, started a cult (lol), I mean, generated a good following and later became a movement. There were too many tick boxes about FIRE that captured my attention - the philosophy behind it, is the very life I am already living - frugality, minimalism, stoicism, personal finance - I could go on. What is best, I reckon, is to just follow those who are also on the FI-RE journey or are currently living a FI-REd life. The blueprint is already laid-out. I just need to tweak it a bit, remove what I don't value and admit what is necessary. So, here comes the journey.
Why share my journey?
Let me tell you a story.
As of 2013 statistics, there are over 10 million Filipinos who live and work abroad. Four million in the US, over a million in KSA, Canada is third at 800K, around 140K in the UK, etc. (imagine the number today). Despite earning a decent income working in these countries, Filipinos' love affair on excessive consumerism is hardly inseparable. Filipinos also have a culture of incessantly sending money back to the Philippines. This could be to support a family (wife/husband/kids/mother/father), relatives, friends, neighbours, religious entities, etc, for whatever reason, educational, medical bills, house repairs, debts, material gifts - I could go on. The list is notorious. In fact, sometimes, it is extremely boisterous, that others remit money on a monthly basis to up to more than 50% of their take-home pay like an employer paying his employee a monthly salary. Crazy!
I understand that others are doing it out of genuine love, but it has gone too bad, there are too many horror stories you could read online. In fact just recently, I came across to a viral FB post about a gentleman who worked in Saudi Arabia for 21 years, returned to the Philippines in 2018 as his body could no longer bare the hard-work, only to find himself begging on the streets of Manila - homeless, a year later. Imagine helping your family and relatives for so many years, forgetting to save and prepare for your own retirement, only to be abandoned by the very family you helped before? This is exactly what happened to the poor man.
Sad. But stories like this is preventable. And I believe that the idea of FI-RE is that very spark that we, Overseas Filipino Workers need - to stop sinking into this same depressing event.
This is a personal undertaking, an obligation to myself, an experiment. If I succeed, I'll treat myself with a sparkling wine; if I fail, at least I've tried. But, how would I know if I won't start? Right?
Welcome on board!
The Brown Pound, 2020
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