Back in 2015 I had just suffered a mega blow to my savings - due to family debt - which took everything I had to clear. I was looking at nothing in my bank account, a big fat zero. At the time I didn't know about the financial independence movement, but if I did I suspect my thoughts would've been "I'm never going to be able to make it".
It's been a hell of a journey since that time and it's amazing how far along I've come. Yet life still isn't without its problems. But to be honest - that's ok. Looking back has reminded me that today's problems can be overcome, just like all other problems I've faced in the past. And I suspect that life is going to continue throwing more problems at me as I continue to push forward. So in this article I'm going to send a message to my future self - to tell him that no matter how hard things become or may seem, they can and will be overcome. As long as he keeps moving forward.
Our Past: 5 years ago (just over)
It must seem an age ago since that difficult moment, sitting in our room, wondering what paying that debt would mean for us. After all, the debt wasn't ours - but it was close enough that ignoring it seemed impossible.
So we didn't.
We've always been frugal by nature and quite good at saving, and fortunately the amount we had at the time was just enough to cover things. But it meant resetting all our progress back to square one.
As I write, we're just over 5 years on from that moment - and no matter how dire the situation felt back then, things have certainly progressed in ways our younger self would never have dared to imagine.
Here's a whirlwind tour of some cool financial things that have happened since then:
We found a new job in London, after quitting the old one "without anything lined up".
We started saving again and were rebuilding our finances slowly.
We got promotions and career opportunities that boosted our income.
We made a proper budget.
We made our first ever investment.
We discovered the FIRE movement - through Mr. Money Mustache.
We maxed our ISA for the very first time.
We cleared our student debt.
We hit our £100,000 and £200,000 milestones in net worth.
We got through our first major stock market crash.
There have been great non-financial moments also:
We started going to the gym - got pretty buff - and also started playing more sport in general.
We visited many places and countries - Prague, Berlin, Budapest, New York, Boston, Kuala Lumpur, Hong Kong, Shanghai, and Beijing - with hopefully many more to come.
We started to learn Mandarin and got pretty good at it.
Some of our closest friends got married. The weddings were awesome. Some have even had kids.
We made new friends.
Reconnected with old ones.
We started writing this blog.
We moved from London to Hong Kong - something we thought might be impossible for us.
We found love.
We even got engaged.
Amazing as all these things are, the journey hasn't all been smooth sailing. We've faced our challenges along the way:
Dad passed away.
We had to fight court cases for his estate - in two countries that lasted 2 years.
We won but the costs came out of our own pocket and weren't recovered. Financially speaking, ignoring the estate would've been better.
We've been refused promotions and pay rises.
We suffered burnout and stress at work.
We needed to deal with toxic and abusive customers.
We haven't been able to fly back to the UK to see family for a while.
We've faced moments of frustration and impatience during our journey towards financial independence.
But despite all that we kept moving forward.
My Present: Today
At time of writing the stock markets are at or near all time highs and the cryptocurrencies seem to be surging upwards. We're lucky to be in on some of these - they're risky holdings at the end of the day.
This is the wealthiest - in terms of money - we've ever been in our lives.
Yet despite that not insignificant sum of money, and the good fortunes of the market, there are still many things that concern me in life.
I'll keep those things private - only for us to know - but they are things that money alone simply cannot help us solve.
To further highlight the point, when we hit our first £100,000 we were in an infinitely better position than ourselves back in 2015, but it didn't exactly feel that way. Better, of course, but not that much better.
And the same can be said for the £200,000 milestone that we recently broke through.
There were and are still concerns, feelings of doubt, uncertainties.
Somehow I think you're probably still facing those feelings too - maybe not for the same things or reasons, but there'll be something I'm sure.
I already know what you would tell me if you could come back in time. It's the same message I would tell our 2015 selves.
Don't just focus on the money.
Your Present: 5 years into the future
I suspect not focusing on the money is something that's going to become easier - the compounding growth has already started to snowball for me. Surely it's probably even better for you!
Which is probably why the discomfort of my remaining life problems are so painfully highlighted compared to before.
"Why are there still problems I have to face when I have all this money?!"
But I guess that's just life.
Yet despite that "resignation to the fact" there is a message I think would help you; it's more of a reminder really.
You're going to get through it as long as you keep moving forward.
I don't know what you'll do exactly, nor do I know how long it will take. I just know that you will.
Just like we got past all those problems I listed earlier. Just like we got past the debt. Just like you've already gotten past some of the problems I'm facing today. The very same is going to happen for the ones you're facing in your timeline.
But after you do, there's going to be the next set of problems to face.
And so the cycle continues.
Our past self was hoping that I - right now - would be problem free and rich. How naïve.
Yet I must admit that I - right now - do hope that you - in the future - will be problem free. And rich.
And probably you - in the future - will have hopes that our distant future selves will be problem free. And even richer.
But we already know there'll never be a lack of problems and the money doesn't actually matter all that much.
What matters is that we keep moving forward.
Because that's how we get through the problems no matter what they are.
The future will always be uncertain no matter how far forward in time you or I travel.
It's scary and it's easy to lose your way sometimes.
So if you're ever in a spot where you think you don't know what to do, or think you can't keep going anymore - just spare a moment and look back.
You'll see how we have things we never thought we'd be able to have.
You'll see that we did things that we never thought we'd be able to do.
You'll see how far we've already come.
And you'll see that one day, we are going to make it to financial independence.
"Keep moving forward."
Hey - just one final word before wrapping up - This article was written as part of Sovereign Quest's April Challenge: Message to my future self.
If you're an avid reader of personal financial content then Sovereign Quest should definitely be one of your go-to websites to find new articles by a range of different writers and perspectives. These challenges they're running are also really interesting to get some in-depth views and thoughts by the various content creators on how they personally see financial independence