[PERSONAL] 7 Mind-Blowing Concepts That Shaped My Personal Finance Mindset

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Correction: 7 concepts that I can think of *now*.

Sometimes, abstract concepts float around in my head, and once in a while I’d catch it with a metaphorical net and write it down in a jumble of intelligible notes, until I come across the exact literature that describes what the concept is.

The mind-blowing part comes from ‘oh wow, someone articulated this before, this is exactly it’ (slightly compounded if the writer already passed away, and I feel like I’m communicating with the dead), and my only hope here is to share it with you, in the hopes that these concepts appeared to you abstractly as well, and finally you know the name or term for it.

Let’s start.

#1 – Permission habit

We learned the permission habit in school, all of us. We were rewarded for waiting for permissions and instructions.

Life doesn’t work like that.

It took me a while to realise that I could just *do something I want to do* instead of asking *if* I was allowed to do it. Obviously I’ll need to do my basic due diligence and apply a good dash of common sense, but wow this was a game changer.

After unlearning this habit, I felt much freer. When making a decision, I’ll push through every single ‘is it okay to…’ thoughts in my head, and tell myself back ‘why cannot’.

In short, I want to get used to thinking of the possibilities instead of the restrictions. I don’t want to let others dictate the limits of my abilities. What’s the point of having money, which is supposed to be freedom, if I have invisible shackles limiting my decisions?

#2 – The world isn’t binary

Right is right, and wrong is wrong, right? Not really. There’s a bit of wrong in every right, and a bit of right in every wrong.

(Stay with me here)

This means… instead of thinking of the world as black and white, think of it as more to shades of grey. Everything has drawbacks, and you should know in what ways it is harmful.

Therefore, don’t be blindly loyal. To an investment. To a leader. To a political party. To a brand. To an ideology.

To a religion.

Drop ya pitchforks, let me expand on that.

#3 – Doublethink

I learned the concept of doublethink in George Orwell’s book, 1984. Here’s a definition:

And it is a necessary concept to understand, to just, Idk, make sense of the world and not go bat-shit crazy over its idiosyncrasies.

For example, I *have* to accept that there are violent and misogynistic aspects in my religion (by modern standards; this is a fact), AND choose to remain in it for its spiritual and communal benefits. Doublethink.

And I *have* to accept that capitalism in its purest form promotes the destruction of Earth and killing of humans, AND admit it is the most efficient form of economic system. Doublethink.

#4 – Western superiority

I’m ashamed to admit this, but young Suraya fantasised of marrying some Orang Puteh. I’ve consumed mostly Western content since a young age, so you’d understand how all these would have cemented the ‘West is Best’ narrative, right?

It is only after I learned about the history of other civilisations, that I found out that (1) hey, the East has all this amazing knowledge and culture too, and (2) why the hell are MY amazing culture are reduced to caricatures and negative stereotypes?

Therefore, while I’m still not perfect at this as I’m still unlearning the narrative of Western superiority, I have been more intentional to the person who said a particular fact or opinion. Are people praising her/him because they are (fair-skinned) Westerners, or is what they’re saying actually makes sense?

It’s sad when we overly glorify some white dude when he’s mediocre at best, and avoid our local talents and expertise. You and I know of some MNCs that hire Westerners in top management. In China, they even have a ‘rent a foreigner’ industry, where companies can give the ‘impression’ that they are a global company.

Closer to home, it is also sad when we benchmark ‘city-living’ as progress and shove it down the Orang Asal, who may benchmark their idea of progress to something completely different.

#5 – Care work is so freaking valuable

As long as tasks utilising ‘traditionally feminine’ skillsets are valued and compensated less in the workplace, and care work (housework, childcare and elderly care) is almost always the ‘woman’s job’ to sort out, gender wage gap will always exist. 

One solution is to normalise paying fair rates for care work.

#6 – Self-determination vs the environment

Yes to self-determination, but the environment you’re in is pretty damn important too. The person living in poverty is more concerned with their next meal, rather than learning coding skills for 6 months so they could get a job. Let’s just be real and admit that rags-to-riches, against-all-odds Jack Ma-type situation is the exception, not the norm. 

Pro-capitalists forget this. They’d say, if ONLY you work hard enough, you can do it too, it’s just a matter of how BADLY you want it. Failed? IT MUST MEAN YOU DON’T WANT IT BADLY ENOUGH.

Slap you one time. No critical thinking skills. Cannot think or empathise for other people, only think of themselves.

#7 – ‘If I’m rich’ fantasy

What I mean here is the tendency to delay good deeds to future, more abundant you, if or when that comes. It’s being stuck in the ‘only rich people can solve problems’ mindset. That’s toxic AF.

Also how confident am I that I’ll be the type of rich person that helps people? I know I can be stingy – I’ve scrolled past more donation calls in my social media timeline than I can count.

I AM GUILTY OF THIS. I am still unlearning this. Still working it out, but I love @sirennextdoor advice here.

She’s right. If I’m not the type of person to donate RM1 regularly when I have a little, then I’m not the type of person to donate RM1000 regularly when I have a lot.

Final Words

Did any of the concepts above relate to you in any way? Which ones? What mind-blowing concepts did YOU learn recently? As always, share your thought in the comments section. I love reading your comments, they give me so much joy and new perspectives.

Lastly, some real talk. I hope that you like this aspect of personal finance too. I’m not just hoping for growth in my investment portfolio (although ngl that’ll be sweet), but also growth in mindset and as a person. Some of you have been following RoR for over 5 years – I can only *hope* I changed for the better, because it would suck if my development remained stagnant since then.

Until next time, xoxo

Related: [Personal] 5 Things I Learned in my 20s: Advice I’d Give to My Younger Self

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  1. Hi Suraya

    I was just about to pass this article when it appeared in my email (because I feel somewhat disorganised with work today), but I’m glad I read until finish.

    I don’t know if this is similar to permission habit, but all my life (up until I got married), I had to sugar coat everything I tell my parents. This includes white lies, blue lies, lies after lies (at some point I was beginning to think like a con person). And true enough after unlearning to tell lies and start telling the truth, I felt so much better. It probably took me a while to kick the habit. But, as my elderly parent becomes older, she is somewhat stuck in some time zone where the truth does not sit well with her. Hence, its back to the old habit, but only with pakatan with hubby…

    1. Hi ayidun,

      Thanks for sharing that. Not quite sure if that’s similar to permission habit, but can see the unlearning process meant a lot for you, with lots of good intentions

      Happy that you have a supportive husband 🙂

    2. If I’m rich’ fantasy…

      I could relate to most of the above concepts, but this one is particular because I kept postponing the little things I could handle at a time to when I’m richer , more comfortable.

  2. A concept that some ppl may have heard of is ‘sunk cost fallacy ‘, which is very applicable in investments and also in our Asian lives.

    Imagine you bought a movie ticket only to find that the movie sucks after 30mins. Common Asian response is to continue watching it since already paid for the ticket. But if you choose to walkout, you only lose the ticket $ & 30mins of your life vs continue watching it and lose ticket $ & 2hrs of your life.

    Another example is our relationship with food (this may be controversial to some). Asian parents always teach us not to waste food, a good value. Imagine you ordered something and find it extremely oily that it makes you feel sick eating it. Some ppl may continue to finish it simply not to waste food and/or because have paid for it. But what about our health? Can we really put a price on that? I’d rather ‘waste’ unhealthy food. It’s a lot easier to put on weight than to lose it..

    1. That is an EXCELLENT concept, thanks for sharing Jasmine! Great example with the food as well. Can admit I find it hard to not finish my food too..

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