It’s important to note, Shang graduated with minimal or no student debt. Her college and MBA education were paid for by a combination of her parents’ savings and scholarships. That gave her a huge advantage and boost while pursuing financial independence. Having said that, her story is still an inspiration for how to adopt the right mindset for success and happiness!
- Power Of Mindset
- Rewiring Your Thinking
- Handling Judgement
- FIRE In An Expensive City Like NYC
- Reducing Healthcare Costs
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Chris: I am very excited to introduce Shang from Savemycents.com. Her story is inspirational and she uses many techniques that show us the power of mindset. That’s why I wanted to bring her to the show today. If you could please introduce yourself Shung.
Shang: Thank you Chris for having me! What I want people to know is that financial independence, especially in the united states, is attainable provided you put yourself into the right mindset. This is a lifelong journey. I came into the US as an immigrant along with my parents. We didn’t have a lot of money and from a very early age, I learned the value of a dollar. So with my very first paycheck, I always learned to live on less than what I earn and invest the difference. Invest is the keyword.
Then I met my husband Mr. Save My Cents. We thought to ourselves, what if we could exit the rat race and never be derailed from one of us losing our income. What would that look like?
That’s when we decided to live off the lower of the two incomes while living in Manhattan no less. So while we did that we were able to get our savings rate of over 50% and invest the difference for 12 years. We reached a net worth that allowed us to retire early or have work optional. I didn’t even know that was called FIRE back then I just thought we were being very frugal. Later on, I found out all about the FIRE movement and Mr. Money Mustache, etc… Then I started to blog about my experience and that’s what leads me to the personal finance social media realm.
Chris: Awesome! How did you end up in Manhattan?
Shang: I left China at the age of 3 and I live in Europe until I was 10. Then I came to the United States. I’ve always been drawn to big cities. I worked in Boston after college and went to a business school in Chicago. Then I landed a tech job in San Francisco. My husband was in New York at the time which meant long-distance, which sucks! We both felt New York was a more flexible place and it offered more opportunities for us. Yes, it’s a very high cost but it just made sense for us. We love it! We love being in a more international/diverse location with interesting art and culture.
Chris: I see the same thing as you it’s an amazing city! I know New York is going through a difficult time right now but New Yorkers are resilient and I’m sure the city will bounce back even better. Hopefully soon.
Living In A High-Cost Location
Can you talk about how you managed to achieve that high savings rate in a high cost of living area? Any advice for those who are thinking about FIRE but feel it is out of reach in their area?
Shang: If you want to get to a high savings rate in expensive cities, a high income is going to help. When I say that I believe in financial independence for many people. I don’t believe they need to be in an expensive city. If your dream is financial freedom perhaps you can consider moving to the suburbs or a lower-cost city across the US.
In New York City, the base rent is just so high! Unless you find unique opportunities such as rental stabilized apartments, which is what my husband and I found, it is difficult. Everything else is being as frugal as can be. Redefining what it means to have a need and what it means to have a want. We had to even redefine what a need was. I always thought my apartment would be functional however, a rent-stabilized apartment does not mean its functional. There are 4 flights of stairs, not a lot of repairs, no dishwasher, and no laundry services.
In terms of transportation, many people in NYC don’t even think twice about taking an uber if the subway is not available. For us, uber was just not an option unless you were sick! If we had to walk 20 to 30 min to walk somewhere that is just what we did. When people first hear about that type of extreme frugalism they can judge. I’ve been called a cheapskate and cheap. I want to emphasize that if you paint it in that negative light and you see it as deprivation, then it’s not going to work. You’re going to be miserable.
Power Of Mindset Strategies
It was not until I started gratitude journaling and used a technical called Trigger/Action/Reward. Every time I was triggered to feel bad about myself, I used that same trigger to rewire my brain to make my situation better. Then I rewarded myself for making that change. Also, using #IGetTo which is simply replacing “I have to” into “I get to” statements.
I have to go to work is now –> I get to go to work
I have to walk down four flights of stairs is now –> I get to walk four flights of stairs because I am lucky enough to have the health to do so.
That rewiring of my mind into gratitude and into realizing the abundance of my life was what allowed me to scale back my expenses down to the bare minimum.
Chris: Wow! That’s super powerful. I like the power of the mindset shift you’re talking about. We used to always complain saying “I have to go to work” or “I have to run errands” but now we are all saying “I get to go to work” or “I get to go outside”. Unfortunately, sometimes we require an external force to trigger us into appreciating things more. What you’re suggesting is to trigger it internally and make it a habit to think that way. Is that right?
Shang: That is right! It is a habit and I often encourage people to say “I get to” right when they wake up in the morning. It’s so energizing to start your day off with that positivity and it doesn’t depend on other people’s opinions of you. It’s completely driven from within.
Chris: Emotions play an important part in the journey to financial independence. How did you manage your emotions and manage the way people perceived your choices?
Shang: I am the more emotional one of the two. I often joke that Mr. Save My Cents is devoid of emotion. Emotions are important, you should embrace them. You are valid in what you feel especially when the situation is out of your control. However, you need to recognize when to stop letting your emotions rule your thinking. I often recommend putting out a timer with 15 mins to vent out all of your emotions. Let out all your anger, frustration, and anxiety. Once you cleared your head, you can make a better decision, not ruled by emotion. Making choices driven by emotion can lead you to a worse place.
Chris: Yes. I agree with you that it is healthy to have these emotions, it’s normal. We are all human. After 15 mins of letting your emotions get the best of you, I think you need to buckle down and address how we are going to handle the situation in a proactive way.
Listen to more of the show where we dive into more power of mindset strategies, handling judgment, and healthcare…
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