Aiya! Easier said than done you might say.
But, you have to start somewhere right? Having a positive mindset is a good place to start. Then the trick is to keep going until saving becomes a habit. Push your savings to work for you by investing it. Better still, find a way to automate everything, ie. saving and allocating it for investment.
In this post I’m re-publishing a LinkedIn article written by my friend, Yeng Yee back in 2018. Yeng Yee drew upon his past experiences on how having the appropriate savings allowed him to make the unlikeliest life choices. As the wise may say, it’s taking the path less travelled that makes all the difference in the experiences that we have.
Original article source: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/got-dream-pay-yourself-first-yeong-yeng-yee/
This is a story about savings; how it allowed me to break free from a toxic job, experience another world, make a dream come true, and start anew. It is also about the importance of taking care of yourself first.
I graduated locally into the telecommunications world, securing a coveted management trainee role and feeling pretty good about myself. Hey, getting picked from a few thousand applicants was pretty big back then, and the work was challenging and exciting. Not to mention the stock options. It was good money for a fresh young buck like me. Good times!
But I didn’t spend it all. I saved. No expensive holidays, no nice car. Maybe it was disciplined in me growing up (I always had a limited budget), so I learned to be prudent. But I am thankful for that discipline. It allowed me my first major pivot in life.
As with most companies, restructuring happens and things changes. Some will leave, and some will stay. I chose to leave. I was getting stuck in my development and felt suffocated. I needed to get out there and see the world. The United Kingdom was on my mind. I couldn’t study there due to the financial crisis, and I had promised myself that I would get there with my own money someday.
That someday came, when I applied to the working holiday maker visa to the UK and was accepted. I was going to get my life education in the bigger world, on my own.
I did my sums and was pleased that I was able to cover a year’s worth bills and monthly allowances for my parents, plus having enough to sustain me for a few months in the UK while I look for a job. I also had some emergency funds stashed away, in case I needed it. This was important to me, as I felt a responsibility to take care of my family even though I was going to be away, and I needed to feel a little more prepared. It wasn’t much, but it was enough to give me confidence to take the leap. Up until then, I had never left for a foreign country on my own.
The two years I spent abroad was for me, the most formative years of my life. I feel like everything that I have done until now was only possible because I made that first step, resulting in immense personal growth that carries on even now. I continued saving, even when the pay was sometimes a measly £250 a month. I learned to spend wisely, and in the process realised that there was very little that I needed to survive. I even managed enough to travel and explore Europe. Living on my own taught me many things. Self confidence, self awareness, strength, humility and gratitude were new, powerful lessons that broke me down, tore me up, and rebuilt me into someone better. (On that note, I encourage everyone to travel. I mean real travel, not nice holidays. You will be forever changed, in a good way.)
Thank you, savings, for giving me my real education.
I carried the lessons I learned from my time away into what remains the biggest, most difficult, but most meaningful experience of my life. I started my own restaurant, with absolutely no experience. And I ended it on an absolute high. It was a dream brewing for ten years, and it became a beautiful reality.
I put in my entire life savings into that dream, coupled with some investments from my girlfriend and my parents. My parents must have thought I was completely mad and feared me losing everything. I am sure that my girlfriend was overwhelmed too. I am grateful for their love and support.
Even then, it was tight. The budget was in the neighbourhood of just seventy to eighty thousand ringgit. That was all we had. But again, it was enough for us (me and girlfriend) to feel confident to make a move.
Every day before opening was budget adjustment day. The discipline and rigour we put into controlling the cash flow would have made any drill sergeant proud. This also meant plenty of elbow grease, negotiations, project management, compromising between needs and wants, and getting help from amazing family and friends. Having savings to start, but not enough for everything, forced us to think hard and be creative about different ways to make things happen. It also trained us to be prudent and efficient with money.
The business did so well that we commonly had people lining up to get in. We made money within the first month of opening. Because we learned to control our money, we recovered our capital in less than a year. I was able to repay my parents. We saved diligently, and I did not take a salary until we had emergency funds set aside for operating costs. No holiday break for an entire year. I was working seven days a week. Our reserves started growing, and we were full steam ahead.
Then, the landlord told us to move.
The move cost us one hundred and fifty thousand ringgit. Rent doubled, new renovations, upgrading of equipment, new licenses, among other things. We shifted within two months.
Had we not saved, we would have gone under. We were too new for the banks, and any chance of a loan would have taken too long. That would have been the end of the road. A road we paved with a healthy dose of blood, sweat and tears. A road that we still wanted to travel on. We were lucky to have enough to go on.
Thank you, savings. Again.
After an unforgettable six years, we eventually came to the end of the road, on our own terms. It was time for a change, a new chapter. Another big move.
By now, I had my own financial planner. We did the projections, and I had enough savings to start anew. It was only enough for the short term, but that was all I needed to know. That was all I needed to move.
I feel like I have come full circle in a way. Savings have always helped me do the things that I want to in life, and now I am helping others to do the same. With savings, everything is possible. I believe that deeply.
Learning to pay myself first has enabled me to live a life of truly no regrets, in the time that I have had thus far on this earth. It is rich and full of unforgettable experiences. I wouldn’t trade it for anything else.
Now, what about you? Do you have a dream?
Have a conversation with your savings. It may just be possible. And it will change your life.