This post is part of the Humans of FI project which tend to be longer than usual.
They are less concerned about the numbers, but more about the the human story which led them to the path of financial independence.
The stories are raw and un-sanitised.
Please contact me if you wish get involved.
Straight to the Point
- Not a *REVEAL* post, but a sensitive one.
- A bit of personal background about me.
- My past, present and future.
On Wednesday, 12th June 1985, in the middle of the night, a husband and wife bundled their eight-month old baby son together with his eight-year old brother into a small wooden fishing boat and escaped a war-torn country.
They had to leave their daughter behind because her grandparents, at the very last second refused to let her go. The parents just didn’t have enough time to convince them to let go of their tight grip. They couldn’t wait any longer. Guards were on patrol and the boat was leaving.
They had already exchanged the little gold and jewellery they had for space on this voyage into the unknown. Postponing the escape was not possible.
The boat was designed to have a maximum of 20 people on board. In the end, 58 souls were crammed in.
The boat set off. No where in particular. Just to get away.
It was better to be in the middle of the ocean than to be oppressed.
Food was running out. Desperate to survive, everyone was in self-preservation mode. Some adults were even stealing what little food and drink was left reserved for the children.
By the third day, food and water had completely ran out.
Luckily, there was a large storm, allowing those with enough strength left to collect rain water. Whilst the storm provided the gift of water, it also meant horrendous sea conditions.
People were throwing up bile from their empty stomachs and too weak from lack of food and diarrhoea to do anything apart from be at the mercy of the waves.
Five large ships were spotted but no one will ever know if these ships saw the little wooden boat or chose to ignore it.
By day eight, on Thursday, 20th June 1985, a large container ship rescued everyone on-board.
On Saturday, 22nd June 1985, all 58 people were taken to land in a new country and placed in a refugee camp.
They spent a total of 10 days at sea.
They were the lucky ones. No one perished this time round.
The baby in the above story was me.
The country we escaped from doesn’t really matter for the purpose of this post, but eventually, it was the UK who accepted our asylum application.
On Monday, 30th September 1985, we arrived in the UK by plane. We’ve never been on one until then.
Having landed, my parents were full of hope for the future. For the first time, they felt free.
UK was to be our new home.
My grandparents attempted to follow with my sister some time later. My parents had told them not to. Arrangements for them to join us in the UK by a much safer method were being made, but as with everything, bureaucracy meant time.
I don’t know the full reasons behind it all but my grandparents decided to face the seas and embark on a similar journey with my sister. Sadly, my sister passed away because they were not rescued in time.
I can only assume my sister missed us so much and might have been putting pressure on my grandparents. It could be that my grandparents couldn’t wait any longer. The reason doesn’t matter.
A few years later, all the paperwork was arranged and my grandparents flew over to the UK to join us.
To this day, we don’t know the full details of how my sister died or where she was buried. My grandparents have since passed away.
My guess is that she was buried at sea and died due to a combination of dehydration and starvation. It is such a painful topic that my parents did not bring it up with my grandparents again, or if they did, they were too upset to talk about it.
I cannot begin to imagine the guilt my grandparents felt and what my parents went through when they received the letter from them informing them of the news.
What I know about my sister is that she was very bright for her age, kind and wanted to become a doctor.
Although I was too young to know her, I think about her a lot.
Growing up, English was not my first language. Our parents discouraged the use of English in the home because they wanted us to to learn our mother-tongue.
I am so grateful for them for this, although I remember being quite negative about it when much younger because it meant I started school not knowing a single word of English.
In fact, I was so far behind, the teachers ignored me and placed me in the back corner of the classroom. Presumably because they did not have the time to give me the extra support I needed.
It was a Roman Catholic School and it was only when a generous Sister saw what was happening and intervened was I able to eventually communicate in English. She gave me one-to-one lessons during school breaks, lunches and after-school.
Today, I think in English most of the time, but strangely sometimes think in my mother-tongue but the words that come out are English. I still struggle with ‘Cockney rhyming slang’; what the hell is that all about!?
To not mention racism would be to avoid an obvious subject.
Yes, I experienced it growing up. This is nothing unusual. What I found strange was that those who made me feel like an outsider were also immigrants themselves, albeit it second or third generation.
Children can be mean and I hold no grudges.
Adults on the other hand should know better, but I have come to accept where differences exist, discrimination will always be present, be it in people’s actions and words, or hidden in their thoughts.
Now an adult, I still experience moments when I don’t feel welcome in this country. Perhaps my job doesn’t help. When some of the criminals I deal with get bored with throwing the usual insults towards Police Officers and see that it does not bother me, they feel compelled to make it more personal by targeting my ethnicity. I find
dickheads grown men (yes, mainly men) making pig noises amusing more than anything.
One time, someone was charged with Racially Aggravated Public Order towards me. The person was arrested for being disorderly in the town after a night out having consumed far too much alcohol.
Not quite happy with their accomplishments that evening in making the town shittier by their mere presence, they decide to throw vile racial insults towards me. I had not experienced such phrases since childhood.
The person was found guilty at court and showed no sign of remorse. They were ordered to pay £40 in compensation to me. I didn’t receive a penny. I now know I could have applied to get the money another way, but why should the tax payer foot the bill?
These experiences are rare, but they do happen. When they do, it sends a sharp reminder to me that I am different and there will always be some who do not want me in this country. However, I don’t let the views of a very small minority dictate my gratitude towards everyone who has open the doors to us when we needed it the most.
One of the reasons I decided to become a Police Officer was to give something back to the country which has been so generous to us. Being a part of the Policing family to help protect the vulnerable and keep the peace has helped to give me a sense of belonging.
However, despite practically growing up here, I’m not sure I call it home. My younger siblings who were born here might have a very different opinion.
Sadly, the country where we escaped from is not home either. The authorities see us as traitors and those who remain see us differently.
Perhaps, home for me is when I am with my family, wherever that may be.
Maybe I will write more about our journey, why we left our motherland and my mission to find our rescuers one day.
So here I am. The result of my parents risking it all and the sacrifices they have made. A combination of hope, luck, miracle and determination to not waste the opportunities that have come my way.
I have a wonderful supporting wife, two beautiful children, loving parents and amazing siblings. I am proud of all that they have achieved.
I have a vocation in Policing and it also provides a stable income.
I passed the promotion process to the rank of Inspector last week, so the extra money will shorten our time to FI. More importantly though, the higher rank gives me the ability to influence wider, hopefully leave a lasting positive impact for however long I have left in the service.
What more could I ask for?
Perspective is everything.
“When I hear people complaining about how terrible things are here, I smile quietly. Those people have no idea how incredibly fortunate we are to live in this beautiful country. I guess you never fully understand this unless you’ve seen another world out there or understood how rich we are today compared to other times in history.” – Ken Okoroafor
At first, I wasn’t quite sure whether to share this personal story. It is far from unique, but I tell it because it has been fundamental in shaping how I think, why FI is important to me and what gives me the determination to pursue it.
Up to know, it has felt like what I have written here was missing a bit of context. Writing it all down like this feels like a weight has been lifted.
For our children, I hope they grow up being grounded. I hope they learn to positively impact the world and the people around them with the knowledge and resources the path to financial independence brings.
This is financial independence from my perspective.
If FIRE is truly what you want to achieve, then finding the fuel to power you through this, at times, arduous journey is vital.
We all have our own stories, struggles and set-backs. We can use it to empower us to achieve greater things or let it sabotage our potential.
As to what I will do once FI? I will save that for a post another time.
For those who know a bit about history and can probably guess where I’m from, I kindly ask that you keep it to yourself. My anonymity gives me the freedom to write more freely. Thank you.
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26 thoughts on “An Immigrant Cop’s Perspective”
Thanks for sharing your story. That was brave, and you write it well.
Thanks in.deed.a.bly. It means a lot.
Writing does not come naturally to me. Takes me ages to write a post and is mediocre at the best of times. Still, I enjoy it and hope to improve with time. I’ve actually learnt a lot from how you write!
That is an incredible story and a somewhat sad one, even though it ends in hope (and congratulations on becoming an Inspector!). I hope one day I can write my truth as well as you have done.
We’re all shaped by our childhood and those adults that bring us up in our formative years. Much of what we think about money and security and family come from those years. It add to the responsibility (and privilege) of being a parent
As I grow older and particularly now that I am a parent I agree with you that home is actually where my family is. Where it is physically located is secondary.
Thank you for sharing this.
Hi Caveman. Thank you for taking the time to read it.
Although I learnt very little financially from my parents in the form of teaching or guidance, they made up for it in their actions. We had very little money growing up, but they made it stretch. They showed us the value of hard work, the importance of education because it was something they gave up to provide for us and the ability to persevere no matter how difficult things get.
Being a parent is such a game and mind-set changer which only other parents can understand.
I look forward to reading your story one day, if you choose to tell it.
Thanks for sharing your story! You went through a lot and I believe that definitely shaped your viewpoints growing up and why you value freedom and the value of having a choice. I’m an immigrant as well. It brings on some troubles but at the same time, the frugality I learned from growing up in a poorer country helped put me ahead in my journey.
Hi Elise. It has been at the very core of who I am but I didn’t know it until I was much older. As I grow older, I’ve come to recognise more how it has shaped me.
I think I have been fortunate in the fact that I am still first generation, so I can see how hard my parents work, listen to the stories they tell me and their experiences first hand. It really does bring it home to me and makes me more grateful for whatever I have.
In my line of work, I can sometimes come across immigrant families who are second, third and forth generation who fall foul of the law. I am baffled at how they can lose their sense of identity and moral compass. I know it’s very complicated with cultural nuances which makes it difficult to tackle. It is something I am still trying to figure out to ensure that our children have a solid set of values and that somehow our story, particularly my late sister is not forgotten generations down the line.
Dear Cashflow cop,
I have been reading your blog for a little while now. It is insightful and certainly more helpful in matters of pension than the brochures provided by our pension providers!
Good luck with your promotion – you will be a great supervisor, based on what I have read so far.
I decided to leave after many years in the police recently, as I could not see any improvement forthcoming due to the political climate. I still think about how my officers were being treated, and how helpless I was to do anything about it on many occasions (you know how it goes once things get political and decisions are made by those who do not have to encounter the results). I am a firm believer of treat your people right and the rest will follow. I hope you can make a change in the long run.
I was an adult when I came to UK, and I am very grateful of the possibilities that this country has provided for me (including introducing the concept of FIRE).
Hi there Team Blue. Ah, you’re one of those silent readers 🙂 Thank you for following along. I wasn’t sure if I actually reached any coppers / ex-coppers with my blog. It sometimes feel like I am writing stuff to other bloggers who already know this stuff!
I am sorry to hear that you decided to leave after so many years. It’s such a massive loss to the service when I hear of very experienced officers leaving. We need the experience now more than ever. The service is getting younger by the day, with what little remain of the experience stretched too thinly to tutor the future generation of officers. I am reluctant to agree with your view that tougher times are ahead. As always with this service though, we pull through and make it work. That’s the truth and it is why the powers that be will keep on taking advantage of our good-will until one day things really will fall apart. I hope that day never comes.
I wish you all the best in the next chapter of your life. Once a blue, always a blue.
CFC, thanks so for much us telling this wonderful story. It is fascinating to hear people’s start in life, where their motivations are from & their ‘why’ concerning FI.
As you started in the comments, it would be great to read about your early experiences with money.
Also, many congratulations on the promotion! I am just about to start in my new Inspector post too. I wish you all the very best in this!
Hi Tory. It’s nice to hear from you again. Yeah, I intend to write more about my earlier experiences in the future. There is so much to write and too little time. I think the next one will be related to numbers again. I try to mix things up a bit.
Congratulations back to you as well on your new Inspector post! Personally, I’ve decided to go career pathways and keeping an eye out for a DI or NH role rather than go back to reactive. Full 24 hour shift-work with a young family is difficult.
Amazing story… I really don’t know how to express the way your post has touched my heart. I had similar life experiences and fully understand the feelings and psicological impact they have on us.
I’m very glad that you found meaning and purpose in life by helping and protecting the country that provided your family with a life improvement opportunity. I think that say a lot about you.
Thanks for being great, and thanks for sharing it with us man, thanks.
Thank you for your kind comments Tony.
I have such mixed feelings as my FI date approaches. There is a part of me which does not want to leave the service because there is so much more I can give. However, the time I save by not having a full-time job will be invaluable to spend with my family and explore the world with them. To have the energy to properly teach my children and be present with them. Maybe there will be a compromise somewhere, but I am struggling accept any compromises when it comes to my family. Perhaps the clock really is ticking for my time with the service as much as I don’t want to admit it. There’s still time to figure this out.
Really powerful story Cashflow Cop. You tell it so well. Thank you for sharing!
Thank you for your kind words YFG.
What a story – thank you so much for sharing. Very sorry to hear about your sister, that must be awful for all involved.
There are so many similar stories of immigrant families coming and making a success here – it makes me proud to call this country home. But at the same time, it’s sad that some people see this as a negative thing.
Hopefully your opinion of the country hasn’t been too spoiled by that minority. It must be especially hard in your field as you’re constantly exposed to the worst of society! Thankfully the FIRE community seems to have some of the best of society, so this story will get the love and support it deserves!
Thanks again for opening up on this.
Hi A Way to Less. My opinion of the country definitely hasn’t changed. Although with age, I’ve become far less naive in my thinking and expectations. Your observation is correct in relation to how seeing the bad side of people everyday can have a psychological and emotional effect. More so than many officers would readily admit. Another reason why travel is so important to us as a family. It is a way to disconnect and be grateful for what we have.
Well done CC for having the courage to tell everyone about your incredible journey. Someone once told me that if we knew everything about someones past, the actions of the present would make perfect sense. Congratulations also on your recent promotion!
My hesitation to tell it was in part due to the reality that my story is not unique and there are others still suffering and struggling to find their own freedom in other parts of the world.
I’ve not heard of that saying before; wise words. I will definitely file that one away to use in the future.
Incredible story and thank you for sharing – all those events that happened in the past will have made you a stronger person I’m sure!
Congratulations on the promotion to Inspector! I guess it must be quite tough to work up the ranks in your line of work?
My FI journey is about freeing up my time again as I’ve lost much of that freedom with work. I’m 29 (started July 2018) and hoping to be FI by 40-42. I would probably carry on working, but as a part time role in something I have as a hobby (fly fishing)
Thanks Jase. It definitely has made me stronger, probably more so than I realise.
Yeah, the promotion will usually bring with it more headaches. Like with many other organisations, the higher you go, the more you have to deal with staff issues and the role becomes increasingly political.
FI by 40-42 will free up a lot of time for you! That’s the good thing about FI, it gives us the freedom to do as we choose. Work if we want, or not.
I wanted to reread this before commenting as I thought this was such an incrediblly powerful post – thank you so much for sharing. Your experience has definitely shaped you and your values.
I’m a second generation immigrant so my background is very different but I went to school with a couple of kids who made what I believe was a similar arduous journey on a boat and although they never spoke of it themselves, we were aware that they had siblings who did not make it.
What we have got in common is Mother-tongue – English wasn’t my first language either as my folks were determined that we were able to speak the Mother-tongue despite us being born in the UK. I did know some English before I started school as I had an older sibling who taught me, but I was fluent by the time I was 7. Nowadays, I think in English but am grateful for what my parents did, otherwise I wouldn’t be able to communicate with my grandmother who doesn’t speak English (not any more anyway).
I encountered very little racism growing up, despite the little working class town I grew up in being 99% white. I probably experienced a little more as an adult but have to say that it’s very rare and I forget that I’m ‘different’ most of the time.
Finally, congratulations on the promotion – well deserved!
Your experience of racism goes to reinforce my own experience in that it was mainly those who were not white who made my childhood more difficult than it needed to be.
I am impressed that your parents managed to teach you Cantonese (? – I recall reading you making trips to Hong Kong) despite being second generation. It gets more difficult as the generation passes. It’s so much easier to communicate in English because it’s the language I use most.
That was a hugely powerful story and very unique. I totally relate to the weight being lifted off your shoulders for writing it. I spent many months running away from writing mine partly for fear that it would be too much for people and partly for fear of judgement.
Outside of Personal Finance, the subject of immigration is a big one for me. I feel somehow connected to each one in a way and as I read yours, I really felt very sad reading about your sister. Very sorry to read this.
You’ve come through a lot and it seems you’re in a good place now. FI definitely adds more hope to the journey ahead.
I wish you well, bro. Hope to hang out some time. Thanks for sharing.
Hi Ken. Thanks for stopping by.
I echo your thoughts on why it took me so long to write my story. I was going to skip the bit about my sister thinking who would want to go to a personal finance site to leave feeling down. However, I decided to include her in the end because she is pivotal to my background and who I am today. A sanitised version of my story would have been disrespectful towards her memory.
Yes, it would be great to meet in the future.
I would have never know that English was not your original language based on how you write.
Reading your story makes me realize how naive I am to the broader world. I live in the middle of the US and I’ve heard of stories like this, but never read a personal story that describes what really goes on. It makes me sad. I don’t want to go all political, but this is one reason why I lean towards opening up our borders more. I am of the opinion that diversity makes a country stronger. Thanks for opening up and sharing your story.
Hi Chris. Thanks for commenting. Believe me, I too am naive as to the what goes on around he world. It’s such a complex place with so many power dynamics in play. I whole-heartedly agree that diversity makes a country better (and more interesting).