My Story

Published October 24, 2020

Updated April 28, 2024

~6 mins read

Last Updated: 24 October 2020

This might be a long read so I'd suggest to read it by chapters. I truly believe that everyone have their own story to tell, and this is my story.

My Mom and Her Influences

I come from a single-parent family so if there's one person in my life that has biggest influence on me, with or without them realising, that very person will be my mom.  Ever since my dad passed way at my age of 11, she has been juggling between work and family, depending on no one else but herself to raise two daughters.

There's always a saying from her that sticks to my head, even until today.

It is solely my responsibility to raise you, pay for your tuition fees and send you to university.

Anything else beyond are your responsibilities - whether you'd study hard and get a good paying job or drop-out from school, I don't care.

- My Beloved Mother

Now that I reflect back, she's really a badass mom when I was a spoilt brat. I truly didn't care up until certain point when life hit me and I truly understood what she meant by "responsibility is in our own hands". Thankfully that wasn't too late then.

But that's not the key point here. Over the years, she would always complain to us about how financially irresponsible my dad is - for the lack of financial planning, spending without a future in mind and neglected the property opportunity back in the early 80's, Instead, he spent most of it on a luxury import car and gambled the rest away. As a result, we have been always renting the same home ever since 5 years before I was even born.

She would then share about how having our own home is one of her dream (another one is to drive new car) but she had to put those thoughts on hold as the priorities were to raise us up and she couldn't over-commit, financially speaking. She didn't realise it back then, but for me being the eldest child, I naturally felt that the responsibility to fulfil her dream fell on my shoulders.

On a positive note, she indirectly taught me her views on personal finance and while I could not agree with everything about her approach, it worked out well for her and there's at least a few key takeaways that I have learnt:

  • Plan your future and spend responsibly
  • Do your budget and track your expenses
  • Save and spend within your means
  • Always have your emergency funds
  • Responsibility's always in our hands - never 100% rely on others

Still, as much as she have tried to influence me, I didn't really bother to listen to her views (on saving etc.) and I spent most of my pocket monies received throughout the university life, including the financial aids given to our family to help complete my studies. Something that I have been beating myself until today for not properly managing those monies. Had I started my personal finance journey and better managed my money during university days, perhaps those monies would've compounded until today. But still, it was worth the "price paid" as I've learnt my money lessons early on.

Life After Graduation

With all that happened, it was hard for me to start with completely wrong foot unless I intentionally want to screw myself up. I am lucky enough to start my first-job after graduating with above-average pay and managed to consistently save above 25% of my gross-income at least for the first 2+ years of working, thanks to my mom's influence.

My first financial goal became clear (or biased, depends how we view it) - to get a family home and complete my mom's lifelong dreams. Thanks to the semi-aggressive savings and some calculated risk taking (by forecasting my income growth estimations); I bought my first property (under construction) in 2015, approximately 15 months after I graduated, scheduled for completion latest by end of 2018.

This gave me plenty of buffer to grow my offensive strategy ensuring that my income level grew in time for the mortgage commitments. It was a worthy filial decision, but a complete nightmare from financial perspective. Here's why:

  1. Monies are put into non-income generating asset for a long time which means that these are as good as liabilities already.
    • Until today (even with lowest possible OPR in Malaysia's history), and with my growth of Income, mortgage payment still attributes to -20% of monthly net income, which is a significant portion. Imagine few years ago when my income was smaller (even higher portion)
    • There are "running costs" associated with owning a property, which most of us neglect (myself included) during the property selection process. Things like Maintenance Fees, Assessment Tax, Household Repairs, etc. do add up quickly and attributes to approx. -4% of monthly net income
  2. That also means that I have at least ~25% monthly opportunity cost, which could have been invested to grow my income (or portfolio size)
  3. This hasn't factored in the Renovation Cost (I honestly lost track - more on why later, but it was at least RM70K++)

With that said, do I regret this decision when I look back? Yes sometimes. But what would I change if I was given a chance to change my decision? Probably nothing. Or at most - get a cheaper home sacrificing some lifestyle.

The reason was simple - financially the decision was wrong, but life to me is always about having the right balance. On one hand I could have invested/grew my portfolio size but on the other end, life is as real as it gets - how long more can I spend my time with my mom, whom I will always feel indebted to? We will never know - death is a reality for all of us, it is only matter of when.

The smile on my mom’s face was priceless, when we moved in together. And for that alone, I’m leaning towards sticking to my decision.

The Calm Before The Storm

If I have to specify the time when I have had my worst financial positions, it'd be between the year of 2016-2019 where I literally wasted close to 4 financial years for growth opportunities.

I barely kept track of my finances during these period as I was hit with severe depression for the first 2 years, and hit by two huge expenses - "Medical Cost" and "Home Renovation Project" took a huge toll on the latter two years, easily adding up to RM150K++ (in case if anyone's curious, the medical cost is NOT covered by insurance as it is indeed one-of-a-kind)

Without going into too much details, let's just say that after all that have happened, I learnt to love myself more before others. It kinda hit me hard as all my life, I seemed to always be fulfilling others' dream and never my own.

In a way, I am thankful of the series of event that happened and I was still able to weather through the financial storms with minimal damage to my financial ecosystems, aside from some huge opportunity costs which anyway was needed to keep my sanity.

At the same time, I managed to achieve my dreams within a very short span of 2 years where I have witnessed a few others taking up to 10 years or even longer. Maybe one day, I will delve into the details depending on the audiences.

Sailing Forward and Beyond

Sometime in late-2019, after all the chaotic mess that the storm leaves behind, I finally decided it is time to pick up my mantle and move forward by restarting my financial journey again.

It was really hard to do so after dropping it close to 4 years, but I managed to hold myself accountable and stick to my key principles and always ensured to "pay myself first" and spend the balance.

I don't know how things will turn out in the future but now that the storm is over, I will live on to tell my story as I sail forward.

Onwards and Beyond, and together we shall grow!

p/s: I am sure that you also have your fair share of story - feel free to comment below or if you'd like to remain anonymous to the audience, send me an email at [email protected] and I'd be more than happy to publish your story anonymously through our Guest Letter series!

Captain Gracie
October 2020

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