This path I have been on has been not easy. But how did I end up here?
I’ve written before how I ended up living in the UK, the financial mistakes I’ve made, and what our life could look like beyond financial independence.
So when Indeedably created the Sovereign Quest Challenge, inspired by the post: “What’s your financial origin story?” I felt like I didn’t have much more to say.
However, I thought I’d try and pull all my previous posts together into one; hopefully be a better piece of writing.
Financially speaking, I believe we are all where we are today due to a combination of three factors which makes up our financial origin:
I’ll use these factors to frame my financial origin story.
Engagement factors are can be seen as psychological. They are either the rivers which prevents someone’s path towards financial freedom or the bridges to which they can cross.
What are the factors which either assists someone in engaging with their finances or prohibits them? These factors can relate to someone’s upbringing, peer groups or individual personality traits.
I was born in what was at the time, one of the poorest countries in the world and under conditions which led to us leaving the country. It is understandable that I grew up with parents who had a scarcity mindset.
Poverty impacts decision making.
They had more pressing things to think about and to focus on.
A scarcity mindset causes people to forgo the future and concentrate on the now. In other words, a scarcity mindset consumes “mental bandwidth”. – Mullainathan, S., & Shafir, E. (2013)
Once in the UK, I would not consider ourselves as living in poverty, but we were a very low-income family. My parents were making literally pennies on each item of clothing they sewed at home only to see them sold for pounds on the high street; a price they could not afford to pay.
The house was always noisy with the sewing machines on the go constantly. The fabric dust all over the floors and surfaces.
I don’t recall a happy or fun childhood.
I don’t recall any moments of ‘play’ with my parents.
All I remember is that they were always hunched over the sewing machines from dawn until way into the night.
They spoke of their back pain a lot and my mum would rub oils in my dad’s back.
I can still hear the distinct sound of the sewing machines now in my mind.
The sound of gun fire and air raid sirens which my parents would have been used to now replaced with something else.
A different mechanical sound.
The needle accelerating up and down.
My parents glided the fabric according to the agreed pattern with incredible precision and speed.
At the end of a long day day, there would be piles of bin bags full of clothes they had made.
By the end of each week, a man would come by our house to inspect the quality of the sewing, count the pieces and take them away. In exchange, he would give my parents a small brown envelope containing money and handover over fresh bags of fabric to be sewn together by next week.
This cycle continued for years.
When my older brother was in his early teens, he joined them and would work after school and at the weekends.
This was the environment I was brought up in.
My parents did not have the mental or physical energy to aim higher.
There was too much at stake; too much to risk losing by hoping for more.
In hindsight, this has had a profound effect on my relationship with money.
I am risk averse.
As an adult, you’ve seen this in my writing. I am a property investor, yet I have repayment mortgages rather than interest-only.
I pay about £400 a month into PMAS; which is a ‘for profit’ regular savings account which provides a guaranteed amount after 10 years with negligible returns.
Growing up; I can see how this affected me.
In primary school, at the end of a residential school trip; I unintentionally won an award for: “the boy who spoke the fewest words”.
For my work experience during secondary school, I worked at a car manufacturing plant. I had to keep a diary which was then read by my supervisor and comments made to go back to my teacher.
In it, I wrote that I wanted to join the company after my GCSEs and continue working on the manufacturing floor. The supervisor wrote words to the effect:
“…has lots of potential and needs to aim higher. He can be whatever he sets his mind on. He is quiet and lacks confidence”.
I think my mum might have this report card saved somewhere in the loft.
When I started studying Business Studies in Year 10; I remember telling my parents how much some CEOs get paid. I was just shocked at the numbers I was seeing!
I couldn’t believe it.
So many zeros.
I said to them that one day I will be a CEO and I will buy them a house.
My dad told me not to be silly and that I won’t become a CEO.
My mum told him off and said to let me dream a little.
Dad was just saying what he thought I needed to hear. He was trying to protect me because he knew how difficult life is in the UK for an ethnic minority.
He was also entrenched in the scarcity mindset.
Now grown up; for many years after joining the Police, I wanted to remain as a career detective and remain at the DC (Detective Constable) rank. This rank has no supervisory or management responsibilities.
I lacked belief in myself and in my own potential.
So what does all this have to do with money?
Money was on my mind a lot growing up.
I saw the monetary value in everything even at a very young age.
I believed that to be seen as successful, I needed to earn a lot of money.
In one way, maybe it has hindered me. I may not have tapped into my full financial potential because I lacked confidence and ambition.
In another way; perhaps my experience has taught me the value of money. I’ve had a budgeting and saving mindset from a very young age.
Investing was just the logical next step.
Intent is all about mindset and financial grit. How badly do I want financial freedom? Why do I want it? What am I prepared to do to achieve it?
I hope the previous section has helped to provide the context to explain why my mindset is the way it is.
Seeing my parents being mentally and financially anchored down provides me with the motivation to follow a different financial path.
I want to provide more for my wife and even more for our children.
I want to give us the freedom to live.
Live the life we want.
To buy us more time together. To replace our employed income with less time intensive sources of income.
To have the ability to be present.
The final factor is equally important. Even with the perfect recipe of engagement factors and a solid dose of intent; the capability to achieve financial independence is also needed.
This can be in the form of good fortune or luck; but it is also about knowledge, skills, and competencies.
All of which can be learnt.
Even with luck, some say you make your own luck. You need to be prepared for when the right opportunities come along.
I have degrees in finance, but the truth is, none of it has been of any use in terms of achieving financial independence. This is because the foundations are basic:
Invest the difference.
Have a backup plan.
They may sound simple enough, but to successfully execute requires an individual to have their own unique mix of factors I have described in this post.
Blogs, podcasts and discussion forums have really helped to educate me in all things FI and property investment related.
It’s also about understanding areas where I lack knowledge and seeking it out in the right place. I do not skimp on paying for professional financial advice when needed.
On the horizon
So there it is – my financial origin; but where to now?
It was not until I had a supervisor who coached and mentored me into believing I had much more to give in Policing and motivated me go up the ranks.
It wasn’t until I built a relationship with a couple of trusted professional property investors and developers that I built up the confidence to re-evaluate my property portfolio plans.
There are lots of change on the horizon in the CfC family.
Our eldest is starting school this September.
Our youngest is starting nursey.
Mrs. CfC’s new RAF posting means we are moving further down south by the coast.
We are very near completion on our ‘forever home’.
Mrs. CfC may leave the RAF.
I might leave the Police or take a career break sooner than planned.
We are starting a company to grow our property portfolio and potentially going into large multi-unit redevelopments.
I’m also creating a second company with my siblings to build another property portfolio which will fund our parents’ retirement and to also help my siblings achieve some form financial independence.
Finally, we will be extending and refurbishing one of the properties in our portfolio to be a place for my parents to retire in.
In the end, I never became a CEO.
I am many things.
Most importantly, I am a happy husband, a caring father, a son to proud parents, and for now, hold the Office of Constable.
- Mullainathan, S., & Shafir, E. (2013). Scarcity: Why having too little means so much. New York, NY: Times Books.
- Mani, A., Mullainathan, S., Shafir, E., & Zhao, J. (2013). Poverty impedes cognitive function. Science, 341, 976–980.
- A scarcity mindset alters neural processing underlying consumer decision making, 2019
More from the Blog
CSI Finance: Every Contact Leaves a Trace (Locard’s Principle)
How to Apply a Detective’s Mindset to Protect Your Money
Financial freedom by making decisions like a Police Commander
Humans of FI
- Full Circle – 12 February 2023
- Financial Origin – 20 February 2021
- Our Numbers – Tax Year 2019/2020 – 16 February 2021
9 thoughts on “Financial Origin”
Such a fascinating origin story. Thank you for sharing your past and motivation with us. It is wonderful to read about how your parents came to the UK and worked so hard to provide a life for themselves and their families, and how you (their children) are now working on a property portfolio to provide for them.
I am also rather risk averse, so I keep a large emergency fund, and extra cash for unplanned purchases that are not emergencies, and even more cash in a ‘to be invested’ account. My mother is wealthy, but grew up as a farmer’s daughter, so she has passed on a reasonably risk averse/frugal mindset to me. Also, I have a close relationship with my grandmother who lived through the war and is even less consumer-oriented. I think my situation might be similar to your children’s – as in, second generation financially secure.
I just read you origin story and although you believe you’re risk averse in a financial; I found your story very brave – to pursue your passions and go wherever that takes you. Whilst I recognise your point about “my parents always told me that I could do whatever I liked without worrying about the money…”, it is also about how you have decided to use that opportunity.
I hope to be able to allow my children to follow their passions.
Thank you! This is true, but I always had a family to fall back on. Had I failed to build up a client base in the UK, I could have just gone back home to my parents and started a different career. Many people don‘t have that level of security, so I don‘t think I am especially brave.
CfC that is a lovely post – thank you for sharing.
My parents, or rather my mother in particular, were the opposite. At least in terms of school/academics – they pushed me hard. But actually I don’t remember any particular push/ambition about what I would do with my career – except I suppose follow my father’s footsteps. That didn’t really appeal to me, and about the options outside that, nothing was said. I had never heard of a CEO when I was growing up.
Thanks FvL. Like many immigrant parents, mine too were very strict with school / academics. Strangely, they were not too pushy towards medicine or law like some parents I knew at the time. They expected A*s; anything less would have have a disappointment – although as the years went by, they mellowed out and tried to hide their disappointment better. They were very traditional in that respect. Reward for outcome rather than effort.
Yes likewise. Definitely no rewards for good grades, which were rewards all in themselves
Thanks for sharing this – I love the honesty & openness.
I too often received report cards with “quiet and lacks confidence”. It takes a long time to build but once you do – it’s real & solid.
I’m so glad someone found you at work and encouraged you to believe in yourself – it makes a big difference. It’s one of the reasons I used to enjoy mentoring so much.
Thanks again for sharing.
Thank for you for stopping by. It is very true that confidence takes time to build and it continues to be a work in progress for me.
It’s amazing how the right mentor can completely change your mindset – I am forever indebted to her.
Great post, really interesting story! I always think maintaining a six month emergency fund is sufficient, the rest gets invested. Personally I now put everything in my All-Weather Portfolio (now at 600,000 USD, paying 24,000 USD in dividends per year). As I semi-retired when I was 39 about 5 years ago, I mainly live of my savings and the passive income I generate. It’s sort of crazy, but our family expenses per month are at 9,500 USD (living with two kids in Singapore is expensive). But the passive income I generate is 12,500 USD, hence still ok! Keep up the great work, love your content. Noah