The other night, Mrs. T and I were sitting on the couch having hygge when we started talking about our financial independence retire early journey. We have been on our financial independence retire early journey for close to nine years. Looking back, we were very surprised to see what had triggered the journey. A friend of ours gave Mrs. T a book called Secrets of Millionaire Mind. Both Mrs. T and I read the book and quickly realized that we wanted to take charge of our finances. That very book led us to start using a budget system, reading more personal finance and investing books, and figuring out what we want and value in life.
Looking at the past, we probably would have gotten to where we are today eventually, but we probably wouldn’t have started taking charge of our finances until much later. Both of us are definitely grateful this friend of ours gave us the book and opened a new door for us. This is why whenever we can, we give or loan out personal finance books to other friends, hoping we can help them have a better financial future.
After almost nine years on the FIRE journey, both of us have realized how important having the right mindset is. For most people, the FIRE journey can and will last more than a decade. Having the right mindset and determining what you value in life will go a long way since this will prevent you from feeling exhausted and wanting to end the journey.
Having the right mindset
In the last nine years, I have become a completely different person with a different mindset on how I view my life and others around me. This shift in mindset has a lot to do with some changes I have made in my life.
Night owl to early bird
Growing up, I was always a night owl. I love staying up late and working on things. During university exam times, it was not unusual for me to study until 3 or 4 AM. For some reason, I always got a second wind around midnight and managed to push myself until early in the morning. My mind was clear and worked like a sponge after midnight. Because I lived on campus and had access to some of the university buildings, I would lock myself in a room by myself and prepare for my exams. As a result, waking up before sunrise was an almost impossible feat. Post university graduation, when I was doing a lot of outdoor activities on weekends, I was forced to get up early around 6 AM or so and drive for a few hours to get to the destination. Back then, getting up that early didn’t feel right. I felt drowsy, like a mess, and wouldn’t “wake up” until around 10 AM.
Waking up early became a necessity once we had kids. Baby T1.0 and Baby T2.0 would wake up at odd hours, forcing us to wake up early too. Then last year I started going swimming before work, waking up before 5:30 AM so that I could be in the water by around 6:30 AM (it took me about an hour to get ready and drive to the pool). So far in 2020, I managed to get up even earlier, at 5:10 AM, so I could be in the water even earlier than before and swim for a little bit longer in the morning.
Unlike my younger days, I feel energized waking up this early. I just needed the right mindset by preparing myself and going to bed early. I felt good waking up early and felt excited to have to wake up to go swimming. When I had to show up to work for 6:30 AM meetings, they no longer felt like a challenge. I was up and awake. My mind was clear and ready for a great day.
I changed from a night owl to an early bird by changing my mindset. I stopped telling myself that I couldn’t function early in the morning. I told myself that I was good to go, despite sometimes getting less than six hours of sleep.
Giving up on coffee
I can’t remember when I first started drinking coffee. Since I turned 18, coffee has always been part of my daily life. I enjoy the smell, the taste, and the fact that it made me stay awake. In 2016, I stopped drinking coffee for a month. After a month, I found myself craving coffee so I started drinking coffee again. Fast-forward to fall 2018, I made it a ritual to drink a cup of coffee (or latte) when I get to work. If I didn’t, I would feel foggy and drowsy. It was as if there was a thick layer of fog circling my mind, and that thick layer of fog wouldn’t get lifted until I got some coffee in my system. I wasn’t even drinking that much coffee. Usually two cups a day, three cups at most.
One morning, after yet another episode of morning fogginess, I started to get worried. What if I had become dependent on coffee? What if my body was addicted to coffee?
So I decided to go cold turkey.
I stopped drinking coffee completely on November 4, 2018.
I have not drank a drip of coffee since and have switched over to drinking herbal tea or green tea (i.e. no black tea due to higher caffeine). Some days, I wouldn’t even drink any tea. The fogginess in my head disappeared within the first week.
To be perfectly honest, I still enjoy the smell of a fresh brewed cup of coffee but I have no desire to drink coffee anymore. My mind has been clear and I feel great.
I am no longer a coffee addict.
Eating less meat
For many years, having meat for my meals was a given. A vegetarian meal was not something I wanted to touch with a ten-foot pole. The juicy steak, the tender fall-off-the-bone short ribs, the grilled BBQ chicken, I simply enjoyed eating meat too much to give it up.
As someone who is environmentally conscious, I wanted to do my part to reduce CO2 emissions. According to the University of Michigan study, on average, US household food consumption emits 8.1 metric tons of CO2 each year. The production of food accounts for 83% of CO2 emissions, while the transportation of food accounts for 11%. Being a mindful consumer with food was crucial in our attempt to reduce CO2 emissions!
Therefore, over the last few years, we have been taking small steps to reduce our meat consumption. Nowadays, we can sometimes go meatless for the entire week. The other day, due to business dinners, I ended up having steak for multiple meals and I could definitely feel a difference in my body.
Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoy eating meat, but I definitely consume meat less frequently than before. If you told me five years ago that I would reduce my meat consumption and go vegetarian for a few days straight, I would tell you that you are crazy. But by changing my mindset about meat consumption, I no longer feel odd eating vegetarian meals. In fact, I actually enjoy eating vegetarian meals.
Why having the right mindset matters
“I can’t afford to cut back on our expenses.”
“We must have two cars in our household”
“We don’t know anything about investing, so we let the experts do it for us.”
“We are not frugal, it’s not in our blood.”
“I love going out shopping.”
“Investing is so complicated, I don’t have time for that.”
These are just some things people say when it comes to why they can’t take charge of their finances. To me, they are all excuses. Or simply put, not having the right mindset about personal finance.
Personally, I think there are a lot of misconceptions about the FIRE movement. FIRE isn’t about becoming financially independent and it’s not about retiring early. It’s about taking small steps to allow you to be in better shape financially. To do that, all it takes is taking small steps and changing your mindset about how you view your financial life.
Just because you’re in debt, that doesn’t mean FIRE isn’t applicable to you. Because once you’re out of debt, the next step is building your net worth. And in a way, that’s the start of the FIRE journey.
So how do you change your mindset about finances? Start by taking small steps.
- Can you cut back $50 on spending each month? Put this $50 toward debt repayment or toward investment.
- Can you take 10 minutes each day to read up on personal finance or investment related topics and strengthen your knowledge?
- Tell yourself that you can indeed improve your finance.
- Can you consolidate your financial institutions to save any monthly fees?
- Change your investments so you are not paying outrageous management fees.
Not all FIRE journeys need to end at being FIRE’d. It’s about taking small steps so that you can create a better financial future for you and your dependents.
So start changing your mindset about money and your financial future. You can do it!