Everyone has a personal Money Blueprint and this shapes our financial destiny.
Imagine we humans are computers. Our bodies are the hardware and our money blueprint is the operating software that’s been programmed into us. We emerge from the “factory” of childhood into adult life with our money blueprint installed. This then forms the lens through which we see the world.
Our blueprint comes from family and friends growing up but especially from our parents. We have two ways of reacting to the blueprint we grew up with. Mostly we absorb it unconsciously and then repeat it. But, if it grates with us, we sometimes react against it and resolve never to live like that again.
Its valuable to look back at your childhood to see where your money blueprint came from. The good news is that you can change your Money Blueprint. You can change the way you think and get (much) better with money. Its never too late.
I can tell you this because I changed my own money blueprint…but the best way to illustrate this is with a guest post from one of my coaching clients.
The Escape Artist
When I was 14 years old, my father tried to kill himself.
He woke up that morning and begged my mum to make his favourite dinner. She already had dinner plans but kindly agreed to make it for him and leave it in the oven. He ate alone, scurried up to his room and took a cocktail of pills to end his life.
Why? Money, of course. He’d lost everything. The house. The car. His dignity. We’d moved in with my grandparents. And he saw no other way out.
The day before he attempted suicide I asked him for a pound for school. He couldn’t give me a pound. And that, I think, was too much for him.
So when you read about money blueprints, that’s mine. Bleak, right?
Anyway, there is a point to this. Last month I clocked a 72% savings rate. The month before that I landed a six-figure salary. The month before that I bought my first home. Things are pretty good right now. But they weren’t. And I still live in fear that they won’t be next month. Or next week. Or tomorrow. Financial blueprints cut deep and are hard to overcome.
I’m early on in my financial journey and I’m nowhere near financial independence. But the lessons I’ve learned (good and bad) are hopefully robust enough to get me to where I want to be – safe and financially free.
Here’s my story.
PART 1: THE BLUEPRINT
There’s an old saying that success skips a generation. I remember hearing this from a young age. And for me, it was encouraging. For my father, it was a disaster.
My grandfather arrived in the UK with a pound in his pocket. His brother had moved here from Sri Lanka a year earlier and set up as a salesman. He went door to door selling his wares. With an immigrant mentality, he made a success of himself. Eventually setting up a thriving business and building a beautiful home.
Unlike my grandfather, my dad wasn’t a businessman. Wasn’t cut out for it. But, like most dutiful Asian men, he took over the family business. Unfortunately, he didn’t have the grit of my grandfather. And soon enough the business went under, pulling the rug out from under the family and our middle-class existence.
We were penniless. Taken in by my grandmother, whose house, fortunately, was big enough to fit us all in. Those were tough years. My dad went in into a depressive hole and never reached out for help. He was too prideful.
This was lesson number one for me. Reach out and open yourself up to others for help, don’t close yourself off.
My mum hustled to keep us afloat. She juggled credit cards, pulled in favours and accrued debts. Money ruled everything we did, yet bizarrely we never discussed it.
I remember always thinking we had the worst luck. Terrible stuff would happen to us. Like when my dad’s car flooded and it wasn’t covered by insurance. It was a catastrophe. I remember thinking: why us? These disasters don’t happen to other people.
It’s only now I realise they did. It’s just that other people had money. The money took out the disaster element and just made it a bump in the road, a part of life rather than a disaster. This was lesson number 2: build an emergency fund.
PART 2: SKILL DISCOVERY
I went to uni knowing nothing about money. So when the opportunity to get a credit card came about, I signed up immediately. At the end of my first year, I had roughly £2k of credit card debt and, when that first interest payment came out, I lost my shit. I couldn’t believe it. I knew then that debt wasn’t for me and quickly got myself a job in a call centre to pay it off.
This is where lesson number 3 came in: being able to sell is a super-power.
In those three months, I set several records selling phone contracts. Most sales in the first week; most sales in a day; most sales in a week. The last of those came the week after I handed in my resignation; The Boss suggested I should leave before my notice period as “nobody sells when they are leaving”. I was so offended by this that I busted a gut to prove him wrong and set the record.
Shortly after I was abroad for a family wedding. I was only 18 but I got chatting to an older couple. I was asking them about their lives, their jobs etc. After they left my cousin, a mentor of mine, turned to me and said “that’s your gift”.
“Gift?” I said back confused. “People like you and they trust you. That’s your thing”. Little did I know that these two things would form my entire career. Lesson number 4: other people sometimes know you better than you know yourself. Listen to them.
It’s now that my ‘career’ begins. Due to some hustling, I’d bagged myself a 4-week unpaid internship at a TV company. I got it by sending a bunch of ideas into the development department and apparently impressing enough to get a chance.
I was the only non-white person there. I saw nobody of colour. The only non-white people I saw was at around 7pm when the all-black cleaning team would come in to clean after the all-white team who scurried home at 6pm sharp.
I gave everything and ended up getting a job. I was suddenly getting paid (not a lot) to do something, dare I say, fun. After six months I decided I wanted to move to London where TV was really being made and managed to convince a company to take me on. With three days notice, I upped sticks and went to London, crashing with family until I found somewhere to live.
I remember my first weekend in London. My cousin, a very successful older city type, asked me what sort of money I aspired to one day make. I said “£30k. If I ever make £30k, that would be amazing”. How naive.
PART 3: THE HUSTLE
Over an eight-year period, I’ve built a solid career. One that pays more than I ever thought I’d make. And allows me to lead an interesting, but often stressful life. Everything comes at a price, right?
These are the things that I think allowed me to thrive in my industry.
Lesson 5. Follow the money
Before I moved to London my uncle took me aside and said “always follow the money”. It’s something I believe is almost always the best strategy. When assessing different jobs and different options, so much of the information is hazy. Will I enjoy the work more? Are the people nicer? Will they give me more autonomy? With all of these things, people can make promises that might never materialise. The one thing they can’t lie about is the money.
I’ve moved as soon as I’m offered substantially more money (and a better title) and my current company aren’t willing to match it. Even if I’ve only been there for six months. This has allowed me to climb the slippery corporate ladder quickly.
Lesson 6. Rigorous self-improvement
I’ve always been radically honest with myself in my pursuit of self-improvement.
Earlier in my career, I focused on my weak points and worked hard to improve them. Whether that meant extra work on the weekend, reading books, seeking out help from others. Whatever it took, I did it.
There does come a shift later in your career when you have to start focusing on your strengths and condensing your powers and efforts in those areas, relying on other team members to fill the gaps. But before that stage, be honest with yourself and focus on what you’re shit at.
Lesson 7. Don’t get fucked over
This might sound simple, but it wasn’t for me. Earlier in your career, you have to be subservient at all costs. But later on, that attitude will get you fucked. Be it in terms of credit or money – it will happen. When this happens, tune into it and stop it.
This happened to me about a year ago. My success was being squashed by a senior member of the team and presented as theirs. I was junior and naive and didn’t really understand what was happening until it was too late.
Lesson 8. Take risks. And lots of them…
Risks become harder to take the older you get. As responsibilities grow, and you feel the weight of others on your shoulders, it becomes harder to be a risk taker (though, you still should). So, as you’re building your career, ALWAYS take the job that scares you more. That was always the deciding factor for me. Which job makes me want to shit myself? OK, let’s do that one.
It’s still what I do now although it takes more cajoling and more counsel. Before taking my last job, I had to get others to talk me into it. I nearly took a much safer job. But it wouldn’t have propelled my career like the one I actually took.
PART 4: THE AWAKENING
This is the magic part of my journey. Like we (should) all know, earning lots and building a career is just a foundation. But it means nothing without a Matrix style financial awakening.
My awakening came in stages. Each one being typical and cliched. Nothing remarkable. Firstly, I got engaged and googled “average cost of a wedding”. Before anyone does the same, STOP. Averages are not helpful because people are idiots and spend too much money on everything.
But it did scare me enough into realising I needed to save more. Until then I spent mostly what I earned. Not quite pay check to pay check – but not far off. I was relatively frugal in that I didn’t drink much, made my own lunches, took joy from modest, low-key pursuits. But I did spend a lot on clothes, on big one-off purchases. the kind of buys that feel ridiculous a year later. I knew this had to stop.
I began by doing what I do best: reading lots of books about money. I read everything: Your Money or Your Life, I will Teach You to be Rich, Dave Ramsey. You name it I read it. This helped me slash my spending substantially and the money flowed it – and stayed in – month after month.
The second stage was stumbling across MMM’s seminal The Shockingly Simple Math Behind Early Retirement. It changed everything. I consumed everything he had written and then set out to find more. Financial Samurai; Get Rich Slowly; Young FI Guy and The Escape Artist.
Each became a superhero to me. An Avengers ensemble. And I started implementing all of their teachings. I set up a Vanguard account. Signed up to my company match. Tracked my net-worth and monthly savings rate. Aggressively slashed my expenses.
But more to the point, what they allowed me to do is gain control of my life and see The Path more clearly. Money no longer confuses me and I no longer delude myself about money.
And that’s where I am now.
PART 5: THE JOURNEY BEGINS
The platform is now set. I have the foundational knowledge, I have the income and I have the mindset. According to the maths, financial independence could be mine within 5-7 years.
And how did I get here? It was my financial blueprint. It was my father. When I graduated from university, my dad drove me back to my student halls. He handed me a five-pound note and said: “Whatever you do, don’t be like me”. Not only was that the first time I was ever given any money from him but it was the first bit of advice he had ever given me.
And it worked. When I look back on my career, my hustle, my insatiable desire to learn new skills, it was all a direct reaction to my financial blueprint. A financial blueprint is neither good or bad. It’s all what you make of it. But the key is to recognise it.
In some ways, whether I actually become financially independent in the end or not doesn’t really matter. The teachings of this movement have helped me control my life, understand some of my demons and ready myself for everything life has to throw at me.
I hope some of that was helpful to read. It was certainly helpful to write it down.