Pursuing FIRE as a single

It’s Valentine’s Day today!

A commercialisation of romance? Or a genuine celebration of love and commitment?

Guess that depends on where you are in the relationship spectrum.

I am a single woman. Not in a relationship. Not dating anyone.

Pursuing FIRE.

In my forties – but that’s another story!

Is pursuing FIRE as a single person a disadvantage?

One income

The main disadvantage from my point of view is that I only have one income whereas a couple potentially has two incomes, assuming both partners bring in an income each.

A couple may temporarily depend on one income while children are young or whatever the family circumstances are but they have the potential to return to work and earn another income.

Yes, I can earn extra via side hustles and develop additional income streams but that effort and hustle still just depend on me and me alone.

From this one income, I have to save enough for daily living expenses, entertainment and travel, debt repayment, investing and retirement.

Speaking of retirement, the statistics are not good for an older single woman. An Australian study published in 2016 found that in 2011, 34% of single women over 60 were in permanent income poverty, compared to 27% of single older men and 24% of couples. I am terrified by these statistics.

So I must plan for contingencies – what happens if I am sick and cannot work? The scarier thought is … what if I did not save enough for retirement?

There is NO ONE else to rely on or fall back on.

I am my own back up plan. 

Nearly the same expenses

According to moneysmart.gov.au, a single person needs $42,764 to live comfortably in retirement. Whereas a couple requires $60,264. That is, a couple does not need double what a single person needs, only 50% more.

Maintaining a single person household is only slightly less expensive than a two persons household – utilities, council rates, car maintenance etc. I may spend less on food & groceries but everything else is pretty much on par with a couple’s.

And I seldom save money by buying food in bulk – there is only so much oats I can eat. A 10kg bag of potatoes may cost less per kg but I cannot eat them fast enough before they deteriorate.

I suppose I can mitigate these expenses by living with a house mate or two. I did that as a  university student renting a one bedroom apartment. However, I value my privacy and independence now so it is not an option at the moment.

One person to do the work

There is only me for all the tasks that need doing.

For example, I cannot delegate to someone else to research how to invest or learn about superannuation. I must do all the reading, the asking questions by myself. Sure I still have to do that even if I have a partner – but the task will be easier as he can contribute to shared knowledge. Or maybe he can be the expert on investing while I am the expert in saving. In my case, I have to be the expert in everything.

Sometimes, this leads to paralysis by analysis – I am afraid to make the wrong decisions.

Are there any advantages?

Freedom

I enjoy my freedom – the freedom of making my own decisions. Little decisions about what to eat, who to socialise with, what time to wake up or go to bed; and bigger decisions about my goals, how much to save towards what, where to holiday next and with whom, what to invest in, how much to invest , so on and so forth.

On the flip side though, I have no one to consult with or share these decisions with which can be a potential problem. This is where good friends and family come into the picture and there is also you, my friends in the blogging world.

I also have the freedom of making my own mistakes. There is no one else to blame or make excuses for. I am not worried that my decisions may adversely affect my partner or our joint lifestyle. My mistakes cost me or my lifestyle only.

It is empowering to know that I am capable and able to make my own decisions and mistakes.

I am responsible for myself.

Shared goals

It is a myth according to some of my married friends that couples have the same goals & dreams for the future. Perhaps initially but sometimes they drift apart. Of course this does not apply to all couples – I am sure there are many whose goals and dreams are perfectly aligned.

My point is that I don’t have to worry about bringing my partner along on the path to FIRE. I don’t have to convince or cajole or negotiate with anyone else to give pursuing FIRE a fair go. I simply decided to pursue FIRE and voila! I am on my way to FIRE.

There is also no conflict with another person about their spending habits or lack of savings power or money habits in general. I just have to manage my own habits, curb my own spending sprees and save however much I like. I only have to argue with myself!

Accountability

I am responsible to myself. And I am accountable to myself.

Sometimes that makes me lazy. If I don’t have to be responsible or accountable to anyone else, then I can also get away with mediocrity or not trying hard enough. This is another reason I started this blog – I want to be accountable to somebody, even if I have never met you in person. I know it is easy to be distracted or derailed on my FIRE journey.

But that distraction or derailment is within my control. I don’t have a significant other to talk me out of pursuing whatever plan I come up with, or following the steps on the path to FIRE.

Nasty surprises

There are so many stories of women being left with their partners’ debts or get into debt because of their partners. As a single person, I don’t have to worry about my partner making a decision without consulting me. Or worse still, committing funds to something that I know nothing about or diverting funds to something illegal or unsavoury.

My income

Related to the above point, my income for better or worse, is mine alone. In that I am not worried should there be a divorce or separation, I would lose half my income. Yes, I suppose I could also take half his income but a man has never been a part of my financial plan. Ever. I remember telling my friends in my younger years that if I want to buy a nice car, I would buy it myself and not depend on a man to buy it for me.

Isn’t this journey a lonely one then, I hear you ask?

Sometimes.

Only if I allow it to be.

Nothing is stopping me from making friends, travelling the world, connecting to other people (on line and off line). Since starting this blog, I have been amazed with the warm connections I have made with people all over the world with a common vision & shared goal of achieving FIRE.

There is a whole on line community of people wiling to support me and walk with me on this journey. People who have reached FIRE, others yet who are still on the journey. People from all walks of life and in different stages of life. Bloggers with stories that inspire me and who I constantly learn from; stories that motivate me daily.

The only person holding me back is me.

Conclusion

While it may seem disadvantageous to be a single woman pursuing FIRE, I relish the freedom and independence to make my own decisions and mistakes too much, to relinquish it easily.

I am not advocating the single life over being a couple, but merely pointing out that being single and pursuing FIRE is possible.

It is empowering and a privilege to be able to pursue FIRE as a single woman.

Are you also pursuing FIRE as a single person? What are your challenges? And wins?

 

 

What is your money story?

 

The Australian government is so worried about our financial capability that it set up a website, financialcapability.gov.au and has a National Financial Capability Strategy. Its stated vision is for all Australians to be in control of their financial lives. It identified three areas to focus on – where behaviour can be empowered:

  • Managing money day to day
  • Making informed money decisions and
  • Planning for the future

It prompted me to think about my own money story and how I stack up in these three areas. To be honest,  until now, I never really paid much attention to money, always taking money for granted. However, since starting on my FIRE journey, I have been reflecting more on my attitudes and relationship with money in particular to wealth creation.

How my parents handle money influenced my own relationship with money

I was very fortunate that I grew up in a comfortable middle class family.  I am very grateful that I never went hungry and always, always had enough food. Housing was never an issue either – in fact, I haven’t shared a bedroom since primary school. My family later emigrated to Australia enabling me to attain a tertiary education at a vastly reduced cost compared to that of an overseas student.

Both my parents were the first in their families to attend college and worked in professional fields. Both came from poor families but responded to money in slightly different ways. My mum is more frugal – turn off all lights when no one is in the room; eat all leftovers etc. Whereas dad is more free with money – as long as we can afford it, it’s ok. Both parents are good savers – mum told me we lived on her smaller salary and saved dad’s income for the bigger things in life.

I have only just realised how much of my parents’ attitude to money and how they manage money has influenced me. And how their parents influenced them.

Mum’s money story

Mum often spoke to us about growing up in a rented room which was all her family of four could afford. My grandmother took in sewing & ironing to supplement my grandfather’s income as a bus driver. Grandma was the money manager in the family, often having to make do with money left over from Grandpa having a few drinks with mates on payday. Mum remembers being sent to Grandpa’s haunts to get his wages on payday before he drank it away. Over the years, Grandma saved enough money to purchase a shophouse – which was their retirement plan. They lived upstairs while the shop downstairs was rented to a car mechanic business.

As a result of her upbringing, Mum is very risk averse & values owning a property. And not marrying a man who drinks! She values education too – working for a few years after high school to save enough to fund her nursing education in the UK. Mum manages the day to day expenses of our family – making sure our food & groceries are under budget, checking prices of the same items from various shops before buying.

Dad’s money story

My dad’s story is not dissimilar- growing up in post second world war Malaysia. His family is larger with five siblings. Unfortunately, my grandma became ill and lost the use of her legs. Which necessitated my aunt to give up her studies & be my grandma’s carer. She had only just finished primary school at that stage. Food was scarce with such a big family – chicken was limited to special festival days. Grandpa saved enough money to buy a piece of land & built a house. He managed to leave a legacy for his five children despite earning so little.

As a result of my dad’s upbringing, he values education and good health – he too worked for a few years after finishing high school & funded his own tertiary education in neighbouring Singapore. He is more liberal with money, in that he will buy nice consumables if he can afford it. HIs philosophy is that one generation must do better than the previous one.

My money story

Due to my parents’ influence & example, I too valued education. I saw how they used education to get out of poverty, get a better job and earn more to create a better life for their family. I eventually graduated from university with a HECS debt – I can’t remember how much the debt was. In Australia at that time, HECS debt is automatically repaid via a tax taken out of your salary, once your salary reaches a certain level. I have long since repaid this debt.

It was difficult to find full time work at the time I graduated. So I worked weekends & locum shifts until a full time job opportunity came up. As a result of this early uncertainty in my career, I value certainty & consistency – I have worked for the same employer for more than 20 years & counting.

I lived with my parents while I saved to buy my own home. Here again, I value stability and security – no one can kick me out of my own house as opposed to renting. By the time I finally bought my townhouse, I had saved a hefty deposit, part of which was funded from shares bought when Australia was privatising state run institutions, for example Telstra & Qantas. I bought these shares at the behest of my dad and sold them for a nice profit several years later. Thanks for the advice, Dad! (Lesson learnt: shares are good – they make money in the long run)

But this is where I stopped in my money journey …

I stopped investing. I stopped salary sacrificing into superannuation. In other words, I stopped planning for my future. This is my financial mistake #1

I had achieved two of my goals, that is, I had an education which led me to a good job AND I bought a house. I was content with my life now. All I had to do was maintain my standard of living. I made sure I had enough money to pay my bills and my mortgage which was super important.

Because of my home loan structure, I could redraw any excess repayments if repayments were ahead by $2000. Which it always was, as my weekly salary was deposited directly into my loan account. This amounted to thousands of dollars – my loan account would literally state $$blah blah can be redrawn. I used this equity to buy nice things for my house and to travel.  Financial mistake #2, right there. I could have paid my loan off YEARS earlier! But my philosophy then was if I could afford it, it was ok. After all, I still have to LIVE!!

I am thankful though that I must have unconsciously absorbed my parents’ financial lessons over the years. My mum drummed this into me – never spend more than you earn and always pay off your credit card in full every month; never borrow money for things that depreciate in value e.g. a car; always save for a rainy day.  At the very least, I did not compound those financial mistakes by adding on more consumer debt.

So while I was good at managing my day to day living expenses and saved for the near future, I never consciously thought about the future that is far away in the horizon.

Then I deviated from my path …

I never questioned the availability of money until I decided to go part time in my work in order to start my own cafe business … financial mistake #3. Suddenly money was tight. I had to pay others before I paid myself. After three years, I walked away from the venture & returned to full time work in my original profession.

As shown above, I come from a non entrepreneurial background – another lesson learnt. My parents worked hard for others. Growing up, I did not have any examples of people owning their own businesses. Breaking out of that mould was difficult and my finances suffered for a few years. But I learned lots of invaluable life lessons – it taught me resilience and that I could live with a lot less money. Despite my bank balance taking a hit, I don’t regret my decision to try a new venture.

Attitude to wealth creation

My relationship with money is a funny one, not as in haha but as in uncomfortable. It’s like a slightly embarrassing relative – you acknowledge its existence but really, no one talks about it openly. I am grateful it’s there when I need it but generally, I don’t dwell on it. I don’t think about how I can increase it. It feels crass to talk about money openly, that it makes you look like all you care about is money.

I feel I am being ungrateful if I constantly seek to create wealth. The word wealth is uncomfortable for me. I most certainly do not picture myself in the wealthy category. I have no idea where this comes from. I just know that it is something quite ingrained in me.

But I now acknowledge that in order for me to have a comfortable retirement, I have no choice but to create wealth. And to create wealth, I have to invest. Which is where I have a lot to learn and catch up on!

It is interesting that as I look at my parents’ and grandparents’ financial journeys, they all had retirement plans. It is now my turn … planning for my future is now an absolute priority.

Is your money story influenced by your family? Who has shaped your money story?

 

 

Where can I send your
Monthly FIRE Goals Plan?

By signing up, you’ll also be added to my newsletter

You can unsubscribe any time, I promise.