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.
Let me introduce Tony
Tony is a guy who moved to the UK from Spain to start over again.
I first heard about him as someone who lost €45,000 in the early stages of his journey towards financial independence. I could only imagine the sense of regret and his longing to have the power to turn back time to undo his mistakes.
His loss alone was not what drawn me to find out more. What did was his brutal honesty in writing up his experience.
I don’t often see this kind of self-reflection. He would have been well aware of the risk involved in exposing himself to keyboard warriors who are quick to judge with their 20/20 hindsight vision. He chose to do it anyway to help the community.
I applaud his courage.
I reached out to Tony to see if he was comfortable with sharing more about his background and he kindly accepted.
He has also generously declined my offer of a free book as a thank you for getting involved. As a result, I am offering this to my readers. Comment on this post and I’ll pick someone at random sometime in May.
I took away a lot from his story and I hope you do too.
Over to Tony…
Kid: Hi Mum, how are you?
Mum: Stop! Don’t move!
Kid: Why Mum? What’s going on?
Mum: Can’t you see him?
Kid: See who? No, I can’t see anyone! What are you talking about?
Mum: Oh! He’s gone now. Your grandfather was standing out just right there warning me about something that’s going to happen soon.
Kid: Mum, there was no one there! Where is Muffy?
Mum: Oh! The cat? I threw him out the window, he made me crazy in my head today!
That is a word for word recollection of the first signs of my mum’s mental health breakdown after school one day. I was 12 years old at that time. It was over 20 years ago but I can still remember it so clearly.
Whilst this was happening, my dad was in the bar getting drunk.
I didn’t have any brothers or sisters to talk to and relieve my pain. Everything was kept inside me. It was building up like an emotional toxin that would blow up from time to time.
Meanwhile, my friends were sharing their quality time with their ‘normal’ families.
I used to cry a lot by myself at night as a child, but over time, it no longer helped me cope with an absent mother and father.
Addictions and bad habits would be my next calling. I would smoke, drink and hang out with other vandals in order to escape from reality.
Luckily, I managed to keep some common sense and kept on studying. Despite some unfortunate events, my parents gave preference to funding my primary and secondary studies in a school taught by nuns. I think that’s what protected me from drifting too far down the wrong path with the wrong people.
There was not much I could understand as a kid, but I knew that I didn’t want my parents’ lifestyle for my future. At least, that’s what my inner voice was telling me at that time, so I knew I needed to carry on studying.
I had always blamed my father for having such a miserable childhood. I have now, as an adult, understood that he was human, just as me, and made mistakes, just as I have.
When I was a kid, he had a dream of firing the boss and become a business owner. His strong desire of not being told what to do made him rush into the purchase of a business that would soon bankrupt after acquisition.
No business and a huge debt to pay off from his empty pocket.
Both my mum and dad would entirely dedicate their life to get as much cash as possible, whilst banks were constantly threatening with foreclosure proceedings if they were behind on loans payments.
My mum worked on the night shifts in a textile company, while my father worked as a shop floor manager in a plastic injection mouldings company, 70-80 hours per week.
Me: Mum, why is there not hot water?
Mum: Sorry darling, the boiler has broken down.
Me: How am I supposed to have a shower now?
Mum: I will boil some water for you darling, wait a minute.
This boiler would remain unfixed for the whole of winter. Even a simple task of having a warm shower was too much for my parents.
My mum couldn’t handle the pressure and ended up mentally ill when I was 12.
My father died of cancer when I was 20 as a result of an unhealthy lifestyle.
He drunk quite often, didn’t exercise, smoked like a chimney, had loads of coffee, ate unhealthy food, had bad sleeping habits and hardly socialised or had any spare time to enjoy hobbies or spend with family.
Certainly, my childhood wasn’t great, but now I’ve learnt to accept my past and turned some of these obstacles to advantages. Because I grew up poor, I value money and not possessions. I don’t need to spend tons of money on unfulfilling materialistic objects, Basic needs, love and occasional cheap treats is all I need. That’s a great advantage in terms of reaching financial freedom, isn’t it?
As I earn more, I save more, because I don’t need expensive clothes or cars to show off to other people that I don’t even like. I want to focus on improving the health of my relationships with people and money.
My parents didn’t teach me about money, but watching their experiences with money did. That’s THE lesson that my parents gave me. It has shaped my mindset toward money by helping me to be careful of my spending and live well below my means.
They also indirectly influenced me to become a more resilient young adult, capable of overcoming tough obstacles that life throws at me.
Although it felt to me like they abandoned me, I realise now that they tried their best. Things could have been so different if my dad’s business venture worked out.
Through them, I learnt something far more important than money.
A priceless lesson that I will remember deeply for the rest of my life:
To be able to value what I have in front of me.
Thanks for that mum and dad.
My childhood experience is what has shaped me into who I am today I guess, a 33 years old introvert who values a simple life.
I have no children yet but a lovely girlfriend who I deeply love and has brought sense and meaning to me in life.
For the time being, we live and rent a studio flat in West Sussex, South of England. I work as a Design Engineer in a structural and sheet metal company and my girlfriend works in the hospitality sector.
A new beginning
At the age of 28 I was stuck with my life; my friends were getting married and settling down while I was after new experiences.
I wanted a change and to press the restart button.
I left my job and booked an English course online to study in the UK.
I was desperate for a new start and to do what I want without worrying about money.
My first few months in the UK were amazing. New environment, new people, new experiences and a new language. Meeting and communicating with people from different backgrounds was a wonderful experience.
Discovering financial independence (FI)
My first steps towards learning English was to adopt a new habit of reading more. I spent hours reading books in English to accelerate my learning process.
One of these books was the famous Rich Dad Poor Dad, which opened my eyes in regards of how money works. The main books I read after that were investing related. The more I read, the more I liked it, Although it was not an easy topic to fully understand, as you’ll see later on.
The first time I came upon the idea of financial independence was through reading blogs online. I was surprised by the huge amount of people trying to pursue the same goal.
My friends or people surrounding me didn’t think about retirement or investing at all.
With the aims of joining an awesome community and getting closer to like-minded people, I decided to begin with my our own journey. However, I must admit that I wasn’t focused on reaching financial independence at first. I was only interested in investing aspect of it.
The FIRE community welcomed me warmly and as a result I have been influenced by the movement, which I think is great!
Do I have a FI plan?
My FI plan turns out to be a bit complicated, as we are still unsure whether we will settle in the UK for good or not, a decision that can change my journey noticeably.
Investing in the UK may be different than investing in other European countries.
The UK offers attractive tax-free investment options which can influence my journey towards FI. Because of that I neither have a definite plan of how I will reach FI nor enough knowledge yet to make a proper and sensible plan. I am hoping to be able to change that soon though.
In relation to my partner, she is partly on board with me.
While she would like to be financially free, she wants to spend money experiencing things now before we have kids.
This is okay for me as long as it allows me to keep my savings rate at a decent level. She is great at reducing expenses while I am ‘supposed’ to be great at investing. The last bit needs a bit of improvement after my recent 45k € loss… However, I think we make a good team together.
I don’t follow an extreme frugal lifestyle, so I don’t see the journey as a sacrifice but as a lifestyle improvement. I don’t mind spending some extra money to enjoy some experiences that will make me happier, like traveling. As I’ve never lived in an expensive home or had expensive possessions like a posh car, I don’t have the feeling that I am sacrificing anything at all.
On average, I’ve generally been able to save between 30-50% out of my payslip.
My savings rate has dropped to 30% though because we’ve recently moved closer to my workplace and I’ve taken care of all the expenses until my girlfriend found a new job. My goal for now is to increase this average back up to 50% and keep it close to that level.
I haven’t talked about my FI goals with anyone except my girlfriend and a very few friends. What I know for certain is that my boss will be the first one to know when the right time comes ☺
Once I am financially free…
Financial freedom would give me peace of mind, not worrying about living payslip after payslip, and being able to have possession of my own time, spending my time doing what I want to do, where I want to, and surrounded by those I choose.
There are a few things I would love doing once FI, like spending time teaching children in countries that lack in educational opportunities, travelling, learning new languages, tasting new cuisines and learn from the habits of other cultures.
Basically, I would like to experience things that make me feel awesome and add meaning to my life more often.
My biggest financial mistake (so far)
Although I have just been investing for a little over one a half year, I have already made a huge mistake.
In 2017, I started investing with a forex algo-trading company, which owned a software that made trades on the currency market exchange automatically, without the need of any human intervention.
It didn’t work out pretty and I ended up losing 45k €.
My dreams and impatience got the better of me. I invested a lump sum of money with expectations of retiring earlier due to higher returns.
Obviously, I was living in a bubble and it burst. My pursuit towards FI quickly became my undoing.
I haven’t seen many people around the community investing that way, so my best advice is to be careful of where you invest your money and don’t invest in a company or something you don’t quite understand.
A big part of the community invests in world trackers, which may be the ideal way of investing in order to not make the same mistake I did.
No one knows about my loss apart from my girlfriend.
My mum’s mental illness is getting worse and I don’t even know if she remembers about that money.
My girlfriend was as amazed by the initial returns but was extremely disappointed after the loss.
We were expecting my forex investment to finance some of our traveling journeys we had in mind, so it was hard for both of us to step off from the clouds and fall back to earth.
I must say she’s been extremely supportive; I’m definitely investing my time with the right person. I wouldn’t know what I’d do without her.
UK or Spain?
Investing in the UK offers the opportunity to invest tax efficiently, and that’s a big advantage when compared to Spain.
My current salary here is not far off from the salary I could get in Spain, especially in Barcelona. When I look at it from the long-term point of view, the chances to increase my salary here in the UK are higher than there.
Putting aside Brexit, the UK economy is more solid than the Spanish one, which should translate into a better job opportunities in the future?
What I find very expensive here is housing, but I think that as long as I manage to keep my rent at a reasonable level, I should be able to reach FI quicker here than in Spain. Also, my girlfriend doesn’t speak Spanish, giving her little options to find a job there which would affect my savings rate.
It’s still early days but the option of retiring in Spain has been in our minds for a while, mainly in Canary Islands. The cost of living there is lower, the weather is appealing and we both love living close to the beach. The people there are also very friendly and nice.
The FIRE movement in Spain seems to be increasing in popularity, as at the time of writing there are 27 blogs registered in Firehub.eu against 50 in the UK (50/27=1.85). It’s not too bad when comparing population; 46 Million in Spain against 65 Million in the UK (65/46=1.4).
There’s not much of an advice I can give to other people that are thinking about starting their own FI journey yet, as I am still learning about it.
The only thing I can say is: be careful about what you do with your money and seek professional advice if unsure. There’s a lot of information out there which can be confusing and can also lead you the wrong way.
If I could go back in time I would tell myself to be more patient, and take the appropriate amount of time to learn about something properly before taking action straight away.
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