Escaping the matrix

Escaping the matrix

Hi fellow FIREstarter, welcome to my corner of the internet!

The title of this introductory post could have been “My journey” or something similar, but that would be boring. Like for many fellow thirtysomething millennials “The Matrix” movie made a huge impact on my young mindset so let this title be a salute. That was the first movie I have seen in cinema and I was shocked, inspired and disturbed with a lot of questions at the same time thus can not imagine a better kickstart for this blog than the wise words of Morpheus.

Let me tell you why you’re here.
You know something.
What you know, you can’t explain.
But you feel it.
You felt it your entire life:
Something’s wrong with the world.
You don’t know what, but it’s there.
Like a splinter in your mind…driving you mad.
It is this feeling that has brought you to me.
Do you know what I’m talking about?

Entering The Matrix

I was born into an average working class family at the end of the communist era in the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. As I child I was amazed by the art of woodworking and my plan was to become a carpenter later. However I was an average guy also was an easy learner. My grades were good so my family thought I could achieve more than that profession. They told me to learn diligently, get a degree, create connections, get a good position as a doctor, lawyer or teacher, work hard and I will be happy, secured and successful. It seemed to make sense so I carried on and did my best at school. Then I fell in love with computers and programming and felt that this will be the future, at least mine.

While the light-hearted school years were passing by a dictature arose in my country and an ugly conflict escalated between members of the republic. By that time we were living in the already renamed Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. We, kids did not experience much of the on-goings until one morning when we arrived to school our teacher told us that we should go home and stay there as the NATO started bombing our country.

The Splinter In My Mind

I was an eight grader by then. The second part of that year was an interesting experience, but lets leave that story for another day. Back to the topic by that time I definitely felt that something is wrong with the recipe to success they gave me. The problem was that most of the people around was working hard. Some of them extremely hard. But none of them were considered rich and only few of them were wealthy at all. Some of them were barely able to keep their heads above water. For the most unfortunate ones living from paycheck to paycheck would have been a huge improvement.

Despite the circumstances, my family was financially ok. We were no poor, no rich, got everything we needed, but not too much. I always envied the rich kids with fancy toys, exotic vacations, being carried everywhere with luxury cars, etc. Yeah even in those years there were some. Needless to say they were not descendants of the most hard working families. Same time they seemed happy and I knew I want that happiness. But I also knew there is a big error in the system I was prepared for and had no idea how to fix it.

The Rabbit Hole

The fall of ’99 slowly arrived. The planes were not coming anymore, the old regime was seemingly replaced with a new one. There were riots all over the country and there was no certainty about our future. Thanks to my parents’ forethought we took advantage of living close to the border and I started high school in the neighbouring country.

Through the following four years I have learned a lot, experienced a lot and my horizons expanded. Realized that my recipe is not totally wrong, just for being successful in this whole new era I will need the capitalist version. Got familiar with the idea of the corporate ladder and started to see climbing it as the solution. To become a proper sedulous minion I admitted to the local university.

The next years spent with maneuvering between high learning performance and becoming a dropout. To support my studies I got a part-time job which provided a lot of life lessons and (with the help of my parents) enough money to cover my living expenses. My biggest problem was that I was not really able to learn hypothetical things which do not have real world usefulness and made no sense to me. Because of this questionable skill five years later I officially became a dropout.

Wake Up Neo

Blaming the education system for my failure the most rational solution seemed to be finding another school which teaches differently. So I returned to the homeland and enrolled into college there. As we were in a distance relationship with my girlfriend for years at this point we were happy to finally move in together. In this new environment, using my previous credits finished college in two years and got a degree in computer science.

Two months after my graduation I landed my first job as a junior web developer. My starting salary was at the national average of approximately $350 so I felt that I am killing it, we will be ok and the future is bright. We were short on money, living frugally but still, we were barely able to save anything. The next year we got married and another year later my first daughter born and that changed the game forever.

I remember when I got her in my arms the first time. Until that my focus was on work more and earn more to be able to spend more and build a life to fit into the scheme we were taught. Suddenly I realized how short-sighted I became. That little creature in my hand did not care about how fancy is our car or how big is our house. She only needed care, love and time. A lot from all of these. And that was the time when I started to feel that splinter in my mind again.

The Journey Begun

As a programmer I was always good at problem-solving. And there was a problem. How to earn more while selling less of my precious time. That is a hard nut to crack. Fortunately, an opportunity arose from nowhere so as a first step I changed jobs. My salary doubled, the working environment got better and my work became more appreciated. But at the end of the day, I am still an employee in the 9to5 world with an obligation to spend ~9-10 hours every day with work related stuff (preparation/commute/office time/commute/decompress). Four years have passed so far and I still don’t have a better solution.

When I started to earn more we accumulated a little surplus. That was exactly the time when interest rates fell under 1% for saving accounts. My wife was ok with the situation and called it an emergency fund, but I felt restless. Same time started investigating how do other people succeed in this game of life. That’s how trading, investing and personal finance came into the picture. At first, a friend of mine introduced me to forex trading but felt immediately that this is not my game. Then I ran into future options trading. I paid for a course and started demo trading just to realize that I do not have the conditions to operate this strategy in a profitable way. Quit the demo account after a year, but I still think that this is an option if the stars will align in my favor anytime in the future.

Related to the course I mentioned another thing appeared on my monitor. The more logical and more conservative approach of dividend growth investing. Paid for another course and indulged in it. Felt again that this will be the solution, but when I started to study the related rules and the tax regulations it turned out this is another thing which does not worth starting with smaller amounts of money. Desperately continuing the search I ended up in the personal finance blogosphere and found myself here writing this introductory post.

Preparing the EMP

A couple of months ago my second daughter was born. With this joyful event, not just the number of my children doubled but the urge to find a solution for the initial time for money problem. Partially I started this blog to share the knowledge I accumulated through my journey. I am far not a financial guru so expect a fourth grader teaching the second grader style. But I also wanted to become part of this great movement, make new friends and maybe find the solution while taking advantage of accessing the collective consciousness of the community.

As I started with a quote from Morpheus closing it with another one from Neo seems the right thing to do. If you are still with me let me thank you for reading my first post, hope you enjoyed it and just in case you are curious how will my story continue please use the signup form on the top right to never miss a post in the future. If you liked it feel free to use the buttons on the bottom to share with anyone who could benefit from reading it.

I know you’re out there.
I can feel you now.
I know that you’re afraid… you’re afraid of us.
You’re afraid of change.
I don’t know the future.
I didn’t come here to tell you how this is going to end.
I came here to tell you how it’s going to begin.


12 thoughts on “Escaping the matrix

  1. Congrats on the first post!! I’m so happy that you’ve joined the ranks of personal finance bloggers.

    It’s great to learn a little more about you through this post, I look forward to hearing more as your journey continues.

  2. Great story / amazing all the billions of unique experiences around this world.

    1. Thank you Brent, had my share of strange experiences but fortunately, I was lucky enough that none of them turned into nightmares.

    1. Thanks, Chris. Me too. Zion is still a long way to go and sentinels are around, but I am buckling my seatbelt as Kansas is going bye-bye 😀

  3. The Matrix was by far my favourite movie. I think it made me question things. I’m not sure what impact it had on my way to FI but, after watching it about 20 times, i think, now that I read your post and read those quotes again, it probably had a higher impact than I thought.
    Your story and background is similar to mine and you might be the closest FI blogger geographically.
    I wish you all the best on your road and it’s just a question of time when you’ll get there too. And when you do, the real journey and the real goals will reveal themselves.

    1. Thank you, Mr. W. If you have watched it 20 times it definitely did have an impact. Watching that movie, then the Fight Club and reading a books foreword was the three breakpoints which made me think more seriously about “the other path”. Discovering the truth, that there is not only that one reality what others show us is an important epiphany. Thanks for reading.

  4. What an interesting origin story – and such a hard time to grow up. So glad everything’s much more stable nowadays.

    Here’s to enjoying your FI journey.

    1. Thank you 🙂

      Actually, you are right with the word “stable”. That describes best the life and the economy over here. Of course only if you mean by that the growth charts are flat and nothing serious improvement is happening 🙂 Of course there are exceptions but those are hard to notice. We really should have elected that Beli guy(Ljubiša Preletačević) at the last elections. At least we would have some fun in politics 🙂

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