financial independence

on financial reflections of the last decade: 2010-2019

I’ve seen a lot of the 2009 vs 2019 social media posts recently with people posting how much they’ve changed over the last decade. Quite frankly, it’s nothing short of terrifying that a decade seems to have passed in the blink of an eye. While I’m not interested in sharing whether the past 10 years has been kind to my face(!) or not, it did make me think about our finances and where we are now compared to the start of the decade.

the start of the decade

In 2010, we were professionally speaking, still babies. I had just finished a year of postgraduate study after getting my undergrad in 2008 and Mr. NC had also just (in 2009) qualified in his professional specialism. So, for 9 months of 2010, I only had a small part-time wage (I worked one day a week during my post grad) but come September we were officially a dual-full-time-professional-wage-income couple. We ended 2010 in a negative standing due to our liabilities (student loans) being more than our savings. We were however, unbeknownst to us, at the start of a very exciting financial decade.

2011 saw us get married which decimated our savings but we paid for a wedding and three week honeymoon ourselves, which was an incredibly satisfying financial achievement. Again, however, we saw ourselves back at square one on the savings front and for the first time, no real pressure to save for anything in particular. We enjoyed the second half of 2011 as carefree newlyweds with a good household income. I also got a new job in September 2011 which paid slightly better than my last job. By 2012, we realised we wanted to move but the stark fact of the matter was our house was in negative equity as we had bought in 2007 just before the financial crash hit. This meant we couldn’t leverage our equity for a house deposit and so began a major concerted savings effort to move house. We cut back on all but necessary expenditure and managed to pull off a fantastic achievement of saving £30,000 in one year. At this point our wages hadn’t changed all that much and 2012 and 2013 saw us earn slightly less income than 2011 due to Mr. NC’s work bonus being slightly less generous. Again, another consequence of the 2008 crash.

At this point, our story diverges from the path that would have projected us down the path of buying a house at the very limit of what we could afford and would have again left us with no cash savings, with everything ploughed into the house deposit. In 2013, we seized on an opportunity to go and live abroad and this is where things really got interesting for us. Initially, I didn’t have a job to go to, so although in 2013 our income remained at the 2011-2012 level as I worked up until almost the end of the year, in 2014 our income took a £15,000 nose dive and on the savings front, we had nothing where we had moved to; we left the £50,000 we had saved in the UK. Before we moved we wrote on a scrap of paper where we wanted to be financially by the time we returned to the UK and our aim was to preserve the £50,000 as we were unsure if I would ever get a job and we wanted to prioritise travelling to experience the new continent we lived on. Looking back, past us makes me smile as we ended up coming back with so much more than that £50,000 but we just really didn’t know where life was going to take us at that point. All we knew was that we’d sold our house to move (making zero profit) and so we needed a house deposit when we moved back!

the midway point

I had managed to find part time temp work initially when we moved but by 2015 I secured a permanent well paid job and our income grew by £10,000 above that of where we were when we left the UK. Life was great at this point and our household income allowed us to travel and enjoy our new city. It was in early 2016 that we discovered the FIRE movement and it dawned on us that this could be a viable life path for us. We got moderately serious about upping our savings rate (we didn’t go completely frugal as we still wanted to travel a lot) and it helped that our income also shot up thanks to a promotion for Mr. NC. 2016 also saw us move our £50,000 life savings into the stock market because we definitely were not going to reach financial independence solely saving in regular ISA’s.

In 2017 after almost 4 years living abroad, we decided to move back home but before we did, we went travelling for 4 months. Some people may wonder why, when we’re pursuing FIRE, we’d decide to go travelling without jobs to go back to at the end of it but although we are very set on pursuing financial freedom and quitting our office jobs in our 40’s, we also are cognizant that we’re only going to be as young as we are right now and whilst we have the energy and the passion to do these things, we’re going to embrace opportunities. Life is unpredictable and so we want to live the best way we can now whilst having ambitious plans for the future. Given our lack of income for 5 months of 2017, we ended up earning more money that year than we had in 2011-2015 and we started new jobs with renewed vigour.

The last two years of the decade were by far the best earning years we’ve had in terms of jobs and we also turned our hand to side hustles to boost our savings pot which gave us over £6,500 in extra income. These last two years, although excellent financially, have been quite tough mentally as we are now well and truly in the grind of trying to sock away as much money as we can to leave our jobs.

where we are now

It’s a long road to financial freedom and sometimes it feels never-ending and doesn’t feel attainable. However, reflecting on where we started from in 2010 and where we are now, it’s been an incredible decade. Our household income is 71% higher than it was 10 years ago, our annual savings from earned income alone (excluding capital gains and side hustles) is 256% higher(!) than it was in 2010.

We have also in that decade lived on another continent, travelled to 14 different countries (4 continents) and made some wonderful, lifelong memories.

Looking back makes me proud of what we’ve achieved and also gives me hope and renewed motivation for the next decade. My hope will be that come the end of the 2020’s we are almost ready to pull the plug on our office jobs and start living a different life.

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