My Origin Story - Part 1 - The Early Years

financial freedom origin Aug 08, 2018

A few readers have been in touch to ask me about my past and how I came to be where I am now.

In this first instalment, I want to take you from my childhood, up until the event that changed my life and is the reason this blog (as well as many other things in my life) exists.

How It All Started

When I was about 4 years old we moved from south Kent to a small village in Essex, around 50 miles east of London.

I am not going to say that we were ever poor.

Money never seemed to cause us too many problems when I was young (not from my childs perspective anyway).

But we were certainly not rich, I guess we were comfortably middle class.

We went on decent holidays, had a nice home, good food, hosted events for friends and family. It is easy for children to take all of this for granted.

It is not until you are much, much older that you start to appreciate the financial cost of this wonderful lifestyle.

My mum stayed at home to look after my brother and I for the majority of my childhood, before returning to her job as a school chef once we were a little older.

My dad was a sales and marketing manager and used to travel to all sorts of exotic sounding places for work. Perhaps that is how I caught the travel bug – I was always curious where Dad was going on his adventures.

We lived in what you might describe as the ‘average’ 4-bed detached house in a village on the outskirts of town.

Our old family home would probably be just above the UK average house price, but there were certainly no electric gates, sweeping driveways or Range Rovers on the drive!


Money On Trees

As a child, money seems to ‘grow on trees’, doesn’t it?

Children are always asking their parents for the latest gadget, the newest pair of trainers or the next ‘must have’ collectible toy or game, but they never pause to think about the pressure that this put on their parents.

As kids, my brother and I were no different.

What I didn’t appreciate back then and have only come to learn later, is that while all this fun was going on, behind the scenes, my father in particular was preparing a nest egg for the future.


Spend Half, Save Half

He had a philosophy of ‘spend half, save half’ when it came to any excess income and I guess in this respect he was rather unusual, both at the time but over time as well.

He found a balance many people never achieve. He was enjoying his money now while also making sure he had something put aside for the future.

As children, we received a small amount of pocket money each week, but if we wanted anything extra, we had to earn it.

My parents would usually have a couple of little jobs to do around the house for me to earn an extra pound or two, but these jobs always ran dry before I was done earning (I guess my love for side hustles started at an early age).


My First Side Hustle

Dad would always tell me that if I wanted to earn more I had to go and find ways to make more and that’s exactly what I did.

Aged 8, I started my first business washing cars on our street.

I would gather up a group of friends and we would go knocking on doors along the road asking if people wanted their car washing for £5.

This worked great for a week or two, but then people got tired of being asked and the business dried up. I guess that was my first experience of how the world of money really works.

Dad would often set us little money challenges though and I guess in doing so he instilled a work ethic in me which remains to this day.

The pocket money we received was, in a way, like social security. A small weekly payment that you received regardless of your effort.

The jobs Mum and Dad had available in the house were the low hanging fruit, the easy money, but they were always limited. If you wanted to earn the big bucks, you had to go and innovate something that would generate cash.

On the day I turned 13, the very first thing I did was apply for a paper route. I just couldn’t wait to start earning some more money of my own. I did that paper route for 2 years, often taking on additional routes when other people called in sick.


My First 'Proper Job' 

On my 15th birthday, I applied for a job in a Pub washing pans for minimum wage and I was so excited. Pot washing, as it turns out, actually pays a lot better than paper routes. 

As I started college, I got my first ‘proper job’ working in an electrical store.

I dropped out of college after my first year because I was so desperate to get into work full time. Everyone thought I was crazy at the time, but to me, it just felt like the most natural thing to do.


The Value Economy

My annual salary at that time was just below £8,000 – minimum wage essentially. But there was a silver lining – you earned a commission on anything you sold.

I guess that was my first experience of the ‘value economy’ (where you get rewarded based on your contribution rather than on how many hours you work).

Just as I started work at the store, I met my future wife Katherine. Her money habits could not have been more different to mine. She was definitely a saver and I was most certainly a spender back then.

Around this time, Katherine and I also moved out and rented a small flat. 

I was enrolled on the graduate management programme with my employer and completed this very quickly. Once I had this new qualification, I decided that it was time for a change.

I applied for a job with a bank that sounded right up my street and, as luck would have it, I got the job!

That was the beginning of my career in finance, despite the fact that at that point, I had no clue at all about personal finance.

My earnings in the bank job were a bit better – I think I had a basic wage of around £16,000 per year at that point. Better, but not spectacular.


Our First House

Due mainly to Katherine’s good savings habits (I can’t really take much credit here), we managed to save a deposit and were able to buy a house at the age of 21. My parents gave me £10,000 to help with the deposit and this is pretty much the only financial help I have received to this day (no big inheritances or lottery wins here!)

We were incredibly fortunate to receive this help and I will always be grateful to my parents for having prepared so well as to be able to afford to give me some money.

Everything else we have ever made, we have made on our own.

The bank job felt like it was made for me and as I gained experience and qualifications, my earning rose quite quickly. By the time I left the bank 4 years later, I was earning over £90,000 per year.


Lifestyle Inflation

There was one big problem though. My spending was keeping up with (if not outpacing) my new found earnings.

I felt like I was running on a treadmill just to stand still. I was working harder and harder and earning more and more, but yet I seemed to be spending everything (and then some more on credit as well). How could this have happened to me?

It turned out I had forgotten my dads advice to always save half.

We were married in 2013 and it would be the life changing events of our honeymoon that would change the course of my life forever...


Read part 2 to find out more.

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