The Journey to Financial Independence

Reading Time: 5 minutes | May 30, 2020

We are extremely transparent with our financials. Every credit card payment, major purchase, bank account, and miscellaneous earnings is laid out openly for one another to see. We believe in couples discussing finances. This has been a foundation since Day 1. We have spreadsheets done each quarter to see where we’re at.

Even with that, I have a nervous break down of how Vishal and I (Weiting) are handling our financials quite often. Like once a month or sometimes more. Where I get a little nervous is sometimes I feel like the long term goal is so far away. Then, my brain wanders to various areas where it shouldn’t be.

Perhaps we don’t track it well enough. Perhaps we are splurging too much. Perhaps we should take on more side gigs. Perhaps we need to re-evaluate the strategy.

I feel like I need real-time updates and projections…😪

Enough. I have decided to keep a blog journal to keep me grounded and bound to the end goal. To remind me that there’s exists a strategy, if anything, a hypothesis.

If you’re interested in following along, welcome!

How did this all come about?

A few years ago, Vishal was browsing online and came about something one day.

“Weiting, do you know about F.I.R.E?”

“Nope,” I answered.

“Look it up,” he says.

OK, that I did. I read up a little bit on it. I knew I wanted to live in my means when I ‘retire’. Now there’s actually a concept for it. Great!

What is Financial Independence, Retire Early (FIRE)?

“Financial Independence, Retire Early (FIRE) is a movement dedicated to a program of extreme savings and investment that allows proponents to retire far earlier than traditional budgets and retirement plans would allow. By dedicating up to 70% of income to savings, followers of the FIRE movement may eventually be able to quit their jobs and live solely off small withdrawals from their portfolios decades before the conventional retirement age of 65.” — Investopedia

After further readings and analysis of who we are as a person, we are more about the FI piece of FIRE. We don’t necessarily want to retire early and do nothing productive. We want to still be productive and work on making a difference in the world. What we aim for is working own terms instead of the 9-5, constantly for someone else.

There were many failures and learnings along the way. Here are some so far.

I had graduated from business school but I knew very little about stocks or personal finance. How does that even make sense, right? Trust me, I ask myself all the time. To be honest, I don’t know either.

With my fear of not knowing enough about finances in tow, I started learning by experimenting over the last 6 years.

Mutual Funds

I tried out mutual funds. I tried putting in $1,000 CAD with BMO Bank and in 3 years, it returned $7.00 CAD profit. I was like wtf? From then on, I have been skeptical about investment advisors. Or maybe I just didn’t know what I was doing. I knew I was behind in learning about personal finance. I better get my shit together if I want any chance of independence.

Questrade Self Trading

I opened a self-trading Questrade account for the first time. Put in a few thousand dollars to test it out. During that time, I made an emotional decision by investing in APHRIA (APH.TO) when it was at the hype. I was thinking: “what could go wrong?” Well, a lot. I knew nothing about cannabis, have never even tried it. Didn’t know any fundamentals about the company. I decided to go in because it looks like everyone was doing it and cannabis was a big hype in Canada. I bought a little bit, and then bought AGAIN (ugh), and then today, it’s my biggest loser. I keep it there to remind me of how stupid I was.

Tech Stocks

We tried a few more tech stocks because Vishal and I both work in the software space. We knew this space much better than cannabis. Tech stocks (e.g. FB, BABA) have gone up and down over the last couple of years but we did some basic analysis to determine them with growth potential. I mean, we’re still testing it out…We’ve stayed invested in the select few tech stocks we are in as it has taught us a lot about stocks. For one, invest in what you know.

Dividend Stocks

Recently, we came across dividend stocks and have decided to learn and experiment with this. We’re trying to pick up terminology on this front and how to analyze great dividend stocks. We like the thought of consistent income…

Real Estate

We bought two real estate properties by the time we turned 24. This was before we got married and maybe a little naive too. I’m still a little anxious being so highly leveraged in real estate. It’s a long term investment and we constantly evaluate this on the go. With maintenance upkeep, regular payments, and property management, it’s taught us to think about diversification strategy a lot more.

Emergency Fund

For the first couple of years out of school, Vishal and I didn’t have an emergency fund. We didn’t believe in the need to do this. How naive we were. We started reading about the worst outcomes and then decided that we should also have a little bit ready. So we put together $10K as a buffer. Little did you know, I was laid off and we had to use some of it. That taught us that an emergency fund is definitely needed and now we have a comfortable buffer in a savings account for the just-in-case scenarios.

Revenue Streams

Very quickly, we realized that having a single source of income (e.g. one flowing from 1 employer) was very dangerous. Dangerous in the sense that if something happens to the company, then that revenue stream is cut off. With that, it really got us thinking about ways to make passive income and ways to generate more dollars than just from our employer. We’re still testing things out. If you have secrets, please do share…

The Strategy Today

By no means are we near our goal yet, however, we all have to start somewhere, right?

Right now, we know the end goal and we have a strategy. Writing this all down helps me gather my thoughts together so I revisit the strategy. Based on the calculations done, there are great tactics to experiment.

Based on the revenue we both generate, our breakdown is as follows:

  • 9% – Entertainment, Food, Subscriptions

  • 50% – Housing on the properties

  • 41% – Savings portfolio (stocks and real estate)

If you are thinking you are behind, take a deep breath. Then, take a look at where you are and assess what you can do next to plan, learn, or experiment. We don’t have it all figured out and we are not embarrassed to admit it. What we’re proud of is starting somewhere.

Once in a while, I’ll share some more about how we are managing the financial independence journey. Thank you for joining us on this adventure!