This year, I am turning 30. More than kicking things off the bucket list or any dirty thirty laundry basket, I see this new decade as a life shift. How I live will be different – career changes, deeper commitments, more endeavors – and I want to be ready for it. Emotionally. Physically. And yes, financially.
How prepared am I money-wise? I honestly don't know for the future is not cast in stone. What I do know is that I've managed to reshape my relationship with money. And everything started with the decision to invest P5,000.
It was December back in 2010, when all the rage about being prepared for economic downturns reached its height. It made Filipinos – young and old alike – more conscious of where their money is going. I was then a freelancer living by the deadline with a retired father, a mother abroad who just lost her job, and a sister still in school. Though our needs were being met, the insecurity that it awakened made me rethink of my lifestyle, including how to save and invest my unstable income.
Though I've always been familiar about mutual funds (thanks to my writing gigs), it was only then that I seriously considered putting in my extra money on such an instrument. I remember thinking – this is money you are prepared to lose, so don't expect too much. But what I got went beyond the good returns (as of last year, it has more than doubled): I actually liked the feeling of putting something aside for my future.
Since then, I decided to seriously take on the task of building up my savings. I set a “rock-bottom amount”, which just means that my bank account should always have this particular balance. I lessened my night outs and identified the areas where I can cut back such as movies. Small but manageable exercises increased my confidence in my journey to be more financially-fit. Of course, I got lucky on certain areas such as my parents making adequate preparations for their retirements and a way of living that has more or less remained prudent and simple.
After three years, due to a fortunate windfall, I was able to set up my emergency fund. For the first few months, I faithfully put in a certain percentage of my monthly income. This forced me to adhere to an allowance per day, which took all the creative maneuvering I can muster to make it work. Two years ago, I got my own health plan since I don't have a company to rely on for such benefit. Last year, I decided to get a variable life insurance – a combination of life insurance and investment - to fund for my retirement.
Of course I had a ball with the money I was able to save, especially on the two years after I invested P5,000. I traveled a lot – that being my biggest vice – and accumulated unforgettable experiences along the way. All these carried a price tag, which I thankfully was able to afford, because of the adjustments I made along the way. My financial excursion was not about painful sacrifices but cultivating discipline and seeing it as an adventure instead of a delay.
So where is that P5,000? It's still there in my equity fund, to serve as a reminder that being financially-prepared is equal parts the journey and one's desired destination. All the best!
Image under Creative Commons by Hans Braxmeier