Why I Started On My Journey To Financial Independence

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Those who’ve known me from a long time ago would have known that I’m not much of a saver. In fact, I was the furthest thing away from a spendthrift there was. Spending over RM30 on lunch during college every day? Check. Manicures at RM450? Okay fine. Dyeing my hair at the hair salon every month? No problem. Buying lolita dresses that cost over RM1000 per piece? I’ll take twenty. 

So how did I transform from a spender into the meticulous saver I am today? Well, I’ve got a certain notorious personal finance blogger to thank. Also, my hatred for jobs. I’ve never been someone who wanted to work. So much so that my childhood dream was to marry a rich man and become a happy housewife for the rest of my life. Unfortunately, life doesn’t work out that way and almost two years after I moved to Tokyo, I realized that my time was running out. I was graduating from my Japanese language school soon and I was in a do-or-die situation. 

  • Option 1; I find a job in Tokyo and stay on.
  • Option 2; I go home to Malaysia and get forced to find a job by my parents.

Honestly, neither options were very appealing to me but when push came to shove, I decided to try my luck at looking for a job in Tokyo first. I applied to a grand total of… 3 companies. What a hard worker, I know. The first company I interviewed for dropped me after my second interview but luck was on my side as the second one offered me a part-time customer service position for 3 months to see how things go. The pay wasn’t great, in fact it was below average for a university graduate but at the time I was thankful to even have a job with my mediocre Japanese skills. I accepted their offer, and 3 months later I was promoted to a full-time employee right after my graduation. Phew. Crisis averted.

But where does the financial independence part come into play, you ask? It came about when I was stressing about writing resumes and attending job interviews. As an introvert, the prospect of an interview with a group of strangers was about as appealing as chewing on sawdust so after my interview at the first company flunked, I told myself I couldn’t do this anymore. I didn’t want to spend my life going to job interview after interview, working at company after company until I die. No. That’s not me. So I googled “how to retire early” and found Mr. Money Mustache’s blog. And as they say, the rest is history.

Mr. Money Mustache is a Canadian born blogger who is famous for being one of the early champions of the FIRE movement, aka Financial Independence Retire Early. Those who pursue the path of FIRE typically save and invest as much as possible in order to retire early on in their lives. Mr. Money Mustache in fact was able to retire at the early age of 30 thanks to his aggressive savings rate and frugal living. When I first found his blog, I was hooked. Sure, his methods might be a little hard to replicate such as biking everywhere instead of driving, or DIY-ing everything in his house, and I certainly don’t earn as much as he did as a software engineer, but I figured out I would try to replicate his success by saving up over 50% of my take-home salary every month.

What started out as an experiment quickly turned into a habit, and now I’m proud to say that it’s been almost 3 years since I first started on my FI journey and I’m chugging along nicely towards my goal. In 2019, I actually saved up over 2 million yen a year earning minimum wage in Tokyo. Can you believe it? If you told the past me of my achievement I would have laughed and called you crazy. Also, I don’t even spend that much money anymore… Well, at least when I was still living in Tokyo. Once I returned to Malaysia with the pandemic and everything my spending has gone up slightly again. It’s a work in progress ok!

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