The Road to FIRE with some trips on the side.
Since the second half of 2018, I’ve been studying and working on learning more about health, minimalism, and financial literacy. They all work out in improving one another, but today I’m focusing on personal finance.
Here in the Philippines, it’s not quite common to get out of college with a huge amount of debt. Not to say that this doesn’t exist in our society. I was one of the privileged in the middle class to have had the luxury of a relatively good university education and no institutional debts (i.e. direct debts for loans and credit cards).
I, however, was given a double edged sword, when I got my first supplementary credit card in 2015. It gave me the flexibility to subscribe to streaming services, the ease of quick payments for Grab & Uber, as well as the quick snap of a finger to purchase flights around the country to either travel for leisure or my volunteer work. Life was luxurious, but the debt was piling up. My promise was always to pay off these credit card debts that I transacted in my grandmother’s account. I couldn’t break that promise.
Long story short, I had quite the battle with my relationship with my I had and didn’t have. I was struggling to understand how to manage the privilege properly, to ensure that I was gonna have a sense of independence in the future. By the end of December 2019, I reached a total of ₱314,964.67. This included all of the different expenses I had in the last 4 years. I was only able to pay off ₱156,090.31 in the same period bringing me to a total of ₱158,874.36. In addition to my current additional debt, I am at an outstanding debt of ₱183,508.36*.
- As of 2020–11–22, Debt Update: ₱145,830.35
- As of 2021–05–27, Debt Update: ₱53,455.83
- As of 2021–07–10, Debt Update: ₱0.00 Fully Paid!
When I finally began my active quest to a financially healthy life, I came across several articles and videos pertaining to the concept of FIRE — financial independence, retire early. Several of these believers had extreme practices about it, which included actual retirement at a young age, but we know that people who retire actually still do productive things. FIRE enables us to live a life of financial freedom, choosing to do what we actually want and not being dictated by money (or the lack of).
This account aims to tell my story more than to educate about the concept of FIRE, because I want to have sense of accountability towards my goal of FIRE by age 28. Today I am approximately 24.5 years old.
Here are my current strategies to achieve FIRE:
- Maintaining proper budgeting and expense tracking. I use the app YNAB to help me do this, because it taught how to budget with only money that I already have.
- I’m saving up for an emergency fund of 3 months first, then later add 3 additional months as I meet target. I computed my expenses to include essentials, insurance, and savings to ensure that even when I end up without a job, I can sustain the same financial activity for a given period. My 3 months reserves will total ₱70,000.00. I will reach ₱21,000.00 by end of July paycheck. I keep this in a high interest savings account (CIMB at 3.00% p.a. — whereas other banks range between 0.50–1.25% p.a.; I made a mistake of opening CIMB before GSave, so I can’t integrate to receive the 4.00% p.a. rate)
- As of 2020–11–09, E-fund Update: ₱32,000
- As of 2021–05–27, moved from E-fund to True Expenses: ₱117,981.50
- As of 2021–07–10, True Expenses: ₱113,385.75 (Bought my new glasses).
- I purchased 2 insurance policies. 1 strictly for life, the other with an investment component. I pay a total of ₱5,555.00 a month for both for a period of 10 years. I’m 7 months down, and 9.5 years to go. (Switched to semi-annual for 1 plan bringing down monthly cost to ₱5,373.33)
- I played around GCash’s investment feature through ATRAM. I only have about ₱1,300.00 and gained about ₱8.50 in interest. (Scrapped and moved to Seedbox + PERA)
- I opened up a COL Financial investment account for only ₱1,000.00 also to get familiar with the stock market, index and trade funds. I already earned ₱2.50 out of it. (Scrapped and moved to Seedbox + PERA)
- Because my debt isn’t actually institutional, I’m not pressured to pay due to rising interest expense. I pay between the range of ₱5,000.00-₱8,000.00 on a monthly basis, but aim to go more aggressive with it as my income increases.
And here are my next set of goals to reach FIRE faster:
- Explore other ways to diversify revenue streams. (Added GoTrade into my investment mix.)
- Reach ₱70,000.00 emergency fund by July 2021. (Goal met)
- Explore retirement and mid to long term investment accounts: BPI/ BDO PERA, SSS PESO, Pagibig MP2, etc. Begin contributions when emergency fund is full. (PERA active, MP2 active, PESO application submitted yet to be activated)
- Attain debt free status by November 30, 2022. (Moving forward to November 30, 2021); Attained on July 10, 2021
I may or may not have forgotten to add what the trips on the side meant. This was another concept I learned while looking into FIRE movement — mini-retirement. This concept directly addresses the issue of what to do next now that I already retired? Most people who do retire choose to do things that they love, things they wish they did at a younger age. The idea is to bring retirement age spread across your prime years. In stays true to the essence of FIRE, because I still only choose to work when I want to and get to do things I want to do without the limitations of time and money constraints.