Ruby’s Current Journey To Financial Independence
After working full time for 7+ years in Manila (and a couple of months in the UK), I found myself in the USA without knowing anybody. I mostly left the Philippines because I was getting tired of working without really having much to show for it. I was losing around 4 hours a day sitting in traffic on a commute to & from work, and seeing as the Philippines is a third world country, we are only being paid 80% less than our peers. The fact that I was losing time and money on a daily basis not being productive got me to be more assertive and take action on what I really want to do in life: there’s more to it than just sitting in an office all day and I really don’t want to wait until I’m immobile to do the things I’m passionate about doing.
To be honest, I really dreaded the idea of working until I’m 65. It’s just not me. I also couldn’t stand standing by the edge of a so-called highway in the Philippines trying to catch a bus by literally rushing and running towards it and standing more than an hour or so on sardine-like situations just trying to go home to my mom’s house in the suburbs.
So, after I finally got to move to a first world country from a third world country, one of the first things I did was to learn how the US financial system worked. Funnily enough it was my boyfriend (now my husband), who introduced me to Vanguard and personal finance blogs. This then led to a rabbit hole of information that I so happily succumbed myself to, and I learned what Financial Independence truly is. It’s the ability to earn money to cover our necessities (and a few luxuries like travel), through passive and portfolio income.
Since I am very conservative, we have pegged ourselves to be FI 15 years from now. It will probably be shorter but we’d rather have a more realistic goal than be super aggressive.
We are doing this through the following methods:
- Maxing out our 401(k) contributions, Health Savings Plans, Roth IRAs
- Utilizing at least a 50% savings rate after all the contributions above without compromising our love for travel.
- Dabble in AirBnB by renting out our spare bedroom in our house & hopefully finding another viable unit to do short term rentals on.
- Building a rental real estate portfolio (1 down, 7 more rentals to go)
- Higher interest-paying bank accounts (averaging around 5% APY)
- Parking emergency funds in bank accounts that are easier to liquidate but still earning interest.
- Tossing extra money into building the rental portfolio and a bit into paying down our mortgages for our 2 other properties.
- Side hustles through freelance writing.
- This blog – when it finally gets to turn a profit.
Peter is working on analyzing how much passive/portfolio/rental income we are getting monthly and maybe we’ll share that here. That will hopefully be replacing our earned income and you may be able to see our journey turn from earned income to passive.
It’s kind of sad that I was nearly 30 when I finally got the break I was waiting for and took the steps to help become Financially Independent. To be honest, it’s just harder to do if you’re from a third world country. As they say, it’s better late than never, right? I’m glad I finally got on this journey, and well, thank you for the chance of sharing my story to you guys.
The earliest age (as of now) that we can retire on is 45, but maybe certain things will pop up in our way that will make it much faster. Hopefully you guys are going to be in for our journey 🙂
Side Note: In the 3 years and 3 months since I have moved to the US, I managed to save enough money for a down payment to buy 2 houses: how crazy is that?
From a Philippine Standpoint (i.e. Advise to fellow Filipinos):
Disadvantages when I was living in a third world country:
- Traveling wise, I spend so much more money on visas and paperwork trying to prove that I am coming back to my country.
- No such thing as travel hacking. That or you’ll have to spend an absurd amount of money just trying to get points for your trips. Oh, and you’ll have to pay annual fees for cards that don’t really give you a lot of perks anyway.
- The foreign exchange rate – very bad if you want to travel. $1 is currently worth PHP50, which is almost enough money that I would spend to catch the bus to work and back home.
- You lose so much time in traffic that you could have spent being more productive (side hustles or even building businesses)
- The Philippines isn’t really financially educated enough – most people just spend as they get their paycheck, and don’t bother to save. Interest rates are next to nothing (you’re lucky if you get 1% per annum). I did manage to save but didn’t really get to grow as much as I hoped through portfolio income.
- High cost of living in Manila – it felt like buying certain basic things cost as much money as American grocery stores, but with us earning 75% less.
- The culture – the ‘just because you live abroad means you’re rich mentality’ which I hate so much. Yes, expats do earn more living abroad, but does that entitle your neighbors or other people back home to start asking for stupid, expensive things just because the expats can now afford it? Hell no.
I’m not putting down the country of my birth but the truth us, there is a “brain drain” going on back home. Why? Well, for the simple fact that life is so much better abroad. There are more opportunities to earn more, and grow your finances.
If you ask me what advise I’ll give to my peers back home to help become Financially Independent? I’ll say – get out, get out and try to work abroad while you’re younger and have fewer strings that hold you back in life. Don’t spend your working hours spending time stuck in traffic when you can be productive with your time. Time is such a valuable resource that you can’t just always put off everything for later. Who knows how much time we have anyway. Leave while you can to try and forge a better life for yourself. It’s for your own sake.
There is always a temptation that with the earning more part, that you spend more. Curb and stop your lifestyle inflation. Just because you earn more doesn’t mean you spend more. Use that extra money that you’re earning to invest in businesses or mutual funds, or stocks instead of just letting it sleep in a bank account. Also, for the love of god, don’t tell anybody back home how much your net worth is. Just don’t. Give people a LOW number if they ask. It’s none of their business anyway.
Most people can’t even dream about moving abroad because of families, and friends, but as I mentioned – that’s not the path I was aiming to go to. I want to pursue my passions (like traveling for now) in such a way that I’ll have enough to live on without clinging on to my job for dear life.
If you don’t want to leave, I would say use that extra money to buy rental units or invest in businesses or other assets that will give you income. Don’t get caught up in multi level marketing or other so-called businesses that promises to get you rich quickly. Life doesn’t work that way, and you have to know more about what you’re getting into through research, learning, and through the passage of time.
Don’t turn a blind eye to your finances and complaining that money just passes through your fingers. Always set aside a strict budget for yourself on how much you’ll save and invest for yourself. That should be your first priority. You may get salary increases with your earned job, but try to live on what you were earning way back in your first job and save & invest the rest. Before you know it you have a bigger than average balance that can help give you the freedom that you want.
Asking for help from friends and relatives should ABSOLUTELY NOT BE AN OPTION. If you get into trouble, discipline yourself on how to get out of it. It requires sacrifice from your own self and please don’t drag other people into your sad, sorry tales of how you spend more than your means.
So, in summary – be more mindful of your money. Be frugal. Be mindful. Be independent.