Whenever I listen to a personal finance podcast, they all start with the “what’s your money journey?” And I think it’s a great way to start introducing ourselves and what has taken us where we are today.
My early days…money for grades
So…when did my money journey start? I was born in Spain in a middle class family though my parents came from very humble rural families. They had to work since they were very young to get something to their mouths. They were sent to religious schools as a way to keep them fed.
When they grew up they went from the north of Spain, where they are from, to Madrid in search of opportunities. My mom studied a career while working several jobs. My dad didn’t get a university degree but managed to self-teach and climb the corporate ladder.
I’ve always been drawn to money since I was a little kid. My dad used to pay me if I got good grades and I kept that money just because (I’m not sure I understood what saving meant!). I used to check the stock market for my dad and gave him updates when he came back from work. I loved to see how his invested money was growing. And I knew it was not good when I had to tell him that the stock market was down.
I studied Business Administration and Actuarial Sciences so finance was part of my life. And something I learned to love. Everything that had an euro or dollar symbol, was exciting to me.
Early career and saving money
When I graduated I started working at one of the top management consulting firms with an amazing salary. For the first two years I was still living with my parents so I was able to save the majority of my money.
I have never been a “mindful saver” but I never felt the need to spend money or buy expensive things. On the other hand, I never thought about price when buying things. I knew I had the money and bought everything I wanted. Lucky me, it was usually few cheap things. The majority of my money was spent in traveling, partying and food.
After 3 years I decided that I wanted to pursue a MBA at INSEAD, one of the top 1-year MBAs in the world with campus in Singapore and France. That would be a good chunk of money…I had some savings (~20k) but needed additional ~$80-90k. I got approved for a special MBA loan that was really affordable (EURIBOR + 0%!). Kind of free money I guess.
Our Start on the Path to FIRE
After I finished my MBA I met Mr. Life. And that’s when my concept of freedom, success and money started to change. Mr. Life has always dreamed of being his own boss, direct his life and create things that will have an impact. He has always been “good” with his finances. He spends only the minimum and he only needs a hot shower, a strong wifi connection and a swimming pool to make laps to be happy.
Mr. Life fought very hard to come to the US and that included living and sleeping on the floor of a friends’ apartments and having to choose between bed and food. Interestly enough, he thought that once he could earn a decent salary he would just go into a spend rush…that never happened. He kept being frugal (and he still is).
Mr. Life and I moved together to the US in 2013 and that’s when our savings rate started to grow. We both were earning 6 figure salaries and even though we were living is South California we had a pretty decent savings rent (in comparison to the average population). I created a budget, tracked our finances and had monthly reviews as a couple.
After several years and promotions we decided to follow the “standard” path and bought a house. My approach was, “how much of a house can we afford?”. Sigh. We got a new construction, 3-bedroom, $700k house. Well, that was probably too much…but again, I was thinking, “why not? We can afford it and we deserve it!”.
And then I learned about FIRE and started listening to the ChooseFI podcast…The FIRE spark was lit.