IN FOCUS: Financial Independence, Retire Early – how the FIRE movement goes beyond extreme sacrifice

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EMOTION, IDENTITY A BIG PART OF FIRE 

To that end, understanding one’s emotions around money is an important part of the FIRE journey. Having a financial plan alone might not be sufficient, one financial adviser told CNA. 

Associate director at Finexis Advisory, Ms Ten Huiyu, highlighted that there are financial coaches whose job is to delve into their clients’ relationship with money. 

“They talk to their clients about the emotional triggers when it comes to money. Is it from watching your parents? Is it from something traumatic that happened in the earlier part of your life? … They walk their clients through the emotional reaction or connection to money to try to understand their current behaviour,” she said. 

Ms Ten believes it would be “very meaningful for each individual to explore their emotional triggers with money”, as she has observed through her work that “quite a lot of (how one manages their finances) comes from their own emotional triggers or experiences when it comes to money”. 

“I feel that as I do my work with my clients, yes I can implement or suggest a system to help you achieve your goals, but so many decisions are emotional. It’s not rational. And that derails people from their original goal,” she shared.  

“It feels like when the client and I are trying to work on something and an emotional trigger kicks in, it distracts the client, and then we have to start from scratch.”

Those who spoke to CNA also acknowledged that money goes beyond dollars and cents, as someone’s relationship with money can be influenced by other aspects of their identity. They pointed to the notable lack of females openly talking about FIRE in Singapore. 

“For men, their identities are very much linked to what they do and how much money they make. So perhaps the pressure is on them … to see how much they can earn, how fast they can earn, and if not then they’re a failure,” said Ms Esther David, 26, who runs her own tuition business. 

“I don’t even hear many women speaking about money to begin with, let alone different concepts of money. And that’s something maybe they only discuss in small friend circles.” 

Former civil servant Kit, who also runs an Instagram account @centsofindependence documenting her FIRE journey, has observed that males outnumber females in the FIRE space in Singapore. She estimates a ratio of five males to one female based on her experience, adding that females working towards FIRE “might be more low key about it”. 

Entrenched traditional gender norms could be another reason behind the gender skew, she suggested. For example, once women have children, many may choose to leave the bulk of financial planning to their husband as caring for their children would be a full-time job in itself. 

The host of Honey Money SG, Mr Chong, has noticed a similar trend: About 80 per cent of his YouTube channel’s demographics are male. 

Echoing Kit’s sentiment that this could be due to the “social norm” for men to be their family’s breadwinner, he argued for the need to move away from this “very traditional mindset”. 

“More women (are realising) they don’t have to depend on men anymore, they can secure their financial independence through their own means. And even if they’re a mother, it doesn’t mean they cannot still go out and work and secure more income for the family,” he said. 

Above all, Mr Chong believes FIRE can teach individuals to be self-sufficient. 

“I think we have to realise that we cannot always depend on other people. There is always a need to be self-sufficient, be it in money, in careers, in life, anything. I think in order to escape the sandwich generation, people need to learn to take care of themselves first, and that doesn’t matter whether you are male or female,” he said. 

“Once you learn to take care of yourself, you will not leave a burden to your next generation, be it your kids or other people who are dependent on you.”



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