“I’m very happy and stable in this unstable time, ironically, unlike how lost and desperate I felt three years ago.”

Exactly three years ago on this day, we featured a reader of the blog who was suffering tremendously and trying to get a grip not only on his finances, but on being accepted in a world that doesn’t make it easy on people of certain backgrounds.

In his case, being gay, of non-white ancestry, and part of a religious Muslim community.

Many of you reached out with generous words of encouragement and even sharing some of your own struggles in life (thank you for that!!), and now I’m happy to report that after three long years our friend here is doing substantially better :)

With his permission, I’d like to share his latest update here in case any of you are going through anything similar, as well as a reminder that you can never go wrong betting on YOURSELF.

It’s not always easy, but as Iqbal here shows today – progress is possible!! So way to go, man!! A refreshing thing to read in these trying times!

Here’s his note below… For reference, he lives in Lisbon, Portugal.


Hey J.!

Just wanted to check how are you doing during this pandemic outbreak.

And also to let you know how I was doing because it’s been years now since I last sent any news. So, overall, I’m better than ever and you had a big impact on me. Till today I’m very thankful for your support and it pleases me to re-listen to the episodes you recorded with Paula. So much knowledge and so much humility.

As for me, in the last two years I’ve been great because:

– I quit my university degree exactly a year ago and I’ve never been more relieved. That was one of the biggest things that contributed for my depression. I was not letting go of something that was harming me in the name of grit/perseverance without realizing that continuing it was hurting me more than doing good. I found a parallel between that and you deciding to quit the podcast. That episode was so relatable!

– After quitting school, I spent most of the time working (on what I was already working in) and saving up money (I had about €20,500 saved by the end of 2019). I work in tourism (I rent two Airbnb rooms and I’m a tour guide) and property management (I manage 8 tenant contracts).

– Even though this work was not related to what I studied (architecture), it was earning more money (€1,750/month) than people working in my field of study (architecture = €900/month).

– I wanted to invest in Land Flipping due to it’s low-initial-capital required to invest (I was planning on €7,000) so I purchased the REtipster course online by Seth Williams (€2,000). Have you ever heard about it? [Nope! But love the name! :)]

– Because I needed to physically be in the US to open a bank account for the Land Flipping business, I flew to the US and Canada for the first time in my life on Nov. 2019 and LOVED it.

– I felt super welcome by everyone and it all felt very familiar, maybe because I grew up with so many references from there (online and TV). It was very easy to start a friendly conversation with almost everyone!

– I had been very slow applying the knowledge from the Land Flipping course due to excessive demand in my Lisbon-based work. So I haven’t made any deals yet. For now, due to the covid-19, I decided to pause that course.

– During the quarantine I am trying to learn Forex Trading. I see a lot of lessons also apply to stocks (technical analysis).

– I started dating a new guy two years ago who is great and has even met my parents and relatives.

– My dad finally broke his 10-year silence regarding my homosexuality and has been very supportive.

– I’m more and more connected with my parents, siblings, cousins and some aunts and uncles.

– I suspect that many other relatives now know or think I’m gay and keep treating me equally, which is what I always wanted. One of my fears back in 2017 was that my family would treat me differently if they ever knew the truth. It’s still on a Don’t Ask Don’t Tell mode, but overall it might not be as bad as I feared, thankfully.

– I feel much more in control of my finances as I’ve been aggressively tracking my money and cutting unnecessary expenses (as you always recommended).

– I bought my first investment property with my boyfriend this February (2020) and it’s already rented out. We bought it for €99,000 and our down-payment was €16,000 which meant the loan was €83,000 at a fixed yearly interest rate of 1.25%. At the end of 30 years we will have paid €31,215,14 of interest on the €83,000 loan. The closing costs + repairs during February were €4,000 so each of us had to put in a total of €10,000 (€16,000 + €4,000 ÷ 2).

– In March (last month) we rented it for €750/month, so in one year, after taxes, insurance, fees and mortgage, we’ll have an annual liquid profit of €1,200 for each of us, which is equivalent to 12% of the invested capital with the bonus of building an asset being paid by our tenant’s rent. I only present the numbers because you and Paula love actual numbers. With the covid-19, I suspect things might change and our rent might have to go lower. Time will tell.

– The covid-19 has stalled a lot of my work, mainly in tourism, so my monthly income is down by 86% (to €250/month – not counting the €100/month from the real estate profit), but I have a financial cushion that will allow me to survive for at least 6 months (€8,500 saved up) while I learn more about Forex Trading.

Despite the many downsides of this pandemic, like my huge income loss, a possible BIG economic crisis, the many deaths, the vulnerability of my loved ones, the major changes of plans, the many health problems (even Paula caught Covid-19 and suffered a lot with it), I’m seeing many good things:

– I’m enjoying my time at home doing all the things I’ve been delaying due to the “lack of time”.

– I’m grateful I have a roof, I have supermarkets still filled with food, I have internet connection to keep learning new things, I’m communicating with everyone and keep working on property management.

– I’m grateful that the Portuguese government and police have been surprisingly responsible/correct handling this delicate issue. Even rival political parties are united.

– I’m grateful that the majority of people in my neighbourhood are being careful and humble. I offered to go grocery/pharmacy shopping for the vulnerable-elderly people in my building (it’s more common to live in apartments than in single family homes here in European cities) and they were moved by the gesture.

– I’m eating better because I’m cooking everything I eat.

– I’m talking more with loved ones through Whatsapp because I decided to create an online family tree and add everything I can before the elders pass away. I’ve got 534 people so far!

– I’m appreciating the silence in the city, the clear sound of the birds. I think I won’t be able to handle the car noises again once things return “back to normal”.

– I’m appreciating the lack of consumerism habits I used to have (I’m spending way less than I would in a week in little minor stuff like restaurants or clothes).

– I’m appreciating my daily 1-hour non-stop walks through Lisbon with pure silence, no cars, and listening to Paula, with you occasionally coming on in the Bloopers!

– I like the fact that this is an opportunity for the planet to see how it was environmentally needing a break from the heavy industrial usage.

– And I really hope this changes the paradigm of consumer habits in our planet (including for me).

– I hope this balances off the overvalue given to certain jobs and undervalue given to others (footballers versus nurses/psychotherapists/scientific researchers), etc.

(I know this list looks like a modified version of your “I’m just as happy…” post last month, which by the way I just commented there)

Overall I’m very happy and stable in this unstable time, ironically, unlike how lost and desperate I felt when I first emailed you three years ago.

I cannot thank you enough for the dedication you had towards me during that time. You always replied, you always followed up, you recognized the challenge I had even if you weren’t in my shoes (you had empathy) and still encouraged me through your honest and humble words.

So again, a big thank you for everything!

A big hug (with distance) from Lisbon,

– Iqbal


Key takeaways I see here:

  • He wasn’t afraid to give up on something that no longer holds true for him anymore! (Leaving school)
  • He’s been experimenting like crazy with ways to make an income!
  • The more open he’s been with people he loves, the more loving – or at least understanding – they’ve been in return. Probably the hardest part out of all of this.
  • He’s been TRACKING HIS MONEY and gotten his expenses pretty damn low – being able to go 6 months off €8,500 of savings!
  • He seems incredibly grateful these days!
  • And possibly the greatest turn around of all – he seems light years more *optimistic* than he once was three years ago… And good reason for it too, with everything he’s accomplished!

So again man – way to STICK TO IT and bet on yourself, and I’m so very glad to hear things are better for you now, as I’m sure everyone else here is happy to hear as well :)

I know it’s not easy – and not even close to being over – but you’ve seen the light now, baby!!! So keep on going!! And be sure to keep connected over the years so we can all continue following along your journey and be inspired by it!

If anyone missed the original post you can see it again here – Seeking Financial Stability as a Gay, Non-White, Man of Muslim Faith – otherwise, will catch y’all back in the morning for more financial chatting…

God bless! And keep on believing in yourselves! :)

j. money signature

UPDATE: Iqbal wanted to stress a few things that went on to really help him in case anyone finds this helpful themselves:

Psychotherapists — They are really important, and doing therapy for two years helped a lot. But it wasn’t just any therapist. It was a referenced one, that was not cheap at all. And where does that bring us? Back to the importance of having money to be able to afford quality services in needed times.

Psychiatrists —  I was very skeptic about taking anti-depressive pills because I feared I’d depend on them forever. I don’t. My treatment was during 17 months (March 2016 – July 2017) and always strictly following what the psychiatrist told me to do and reporting everything to her. It’s been almost three years and I feel better than ever. No addiction, no dependency.

*Verbalizing my fears through the first email I sent you, and reading the very good suggestions and empathetic responses

*Reading Dale Carnegie’s “How to stop worrying and start living” (Amazon affiliate link)

*Searching and getting physical affection, which I was lacking heavily.

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  1. Leanne April 21, 2020 at 6:05 AM

    Saving can save lives . I loved reading this; thanks for sharing this journey with us. Looking for the good in Life – and taking some action to move towards it – are invaluable life lessons and skills. and you continue to be a Total Legend, J$.

    1. Iqbal April 21, 2020 at 9:27 AM

      Thank you for your words, Leanne. It’s good to know you enjoyed reading this.
      Unlike the 2017 post, this time I’m not going to take a year to reply haha
      Yes, saving and having financial literacy can save lives. Yet, it’s not easy to find a good source of information. I found J & Paula’s content to be great because they explained things “for dummies” with a lot of personal examples involving real numbers.
      So I agree, J$ is a Total Legend!

  2. Paulz April 21, 2020 at 6:55 AM

    Thanks for sharing! I can definitely relate to his university experience! I’m not there yet, but one benefit to me being home is I’ve seen how my drive for positions in my organization has led me to great unhappiness. 1.5-2 hour commute each way to work seemed normal, where since I’ve been home I can’t fathom getting back on that merry-go-round.

    Thank you!

    1. Iqbal April 21, 2020 at 9:57 AM

      Yes, leaving university was very hard because I saw “finishing my degree” as a way to achieve financial freedom. Quitting something that was (what everyone said, and, I internalized) the safest path towards that goal was scary. And those fears are valid, specially when they’re mixed with feelings of pride, expectations and embarrassment because everyone I knew saw me as “the future architect”.
      I quit when it was more counterproductive to continue trying than not trying. Perhaps I should have quit 5 years ago, or perhaps I really needed these 5 years to understand the need of quitting.

      I don’t know, I cannot access those “hypothetical parallel universes” to see what would have been better. Nor can I go back in time to change, so I try to learn and take action:

      – I learn that even though many of my family members have reached financial security through their degrees, it might not be my case and it’s fine.
      – I learn that I may reach the same goal through other ways.
      – I pay more attention to people’s suggestions. Loved ones may give you the worst advice because they want you to be safe. Like “don’t try Forex, you’ll lose money because that is like gambling”. I recognize they say that out of fear, because they love me.
      – Yet, not everyone loses money in Forex. Perhaps the majority do lose. So it’s a matter of learning how to trade through proper education on the subject. That might reduce the risk quite a lot.

      As for the 1.5-2 hour commute, I can see that through my boyfriend. He has the same commute time and since now he’s working from home (due to the government’s demand – we’re in a State of Emergency here in Portugal) we both see he has a lot “more time”.
      I don’t know if you listen to podcasts, but, since I discovered them, I enjoyed the few commuting moments I had during the week because it was my opportunity to listen to some very interesting content out there. It ironically made me crave for more commuting time haha
      It could be a temporary solution to make it “hurt” less when you get back on the merry-go-round.

      By the way, what did you meant by “I’m not there yet” on your third sentence?


  3. Adam April 21, 2020 at 8:18 AM

    That optimism is massively inspirational! It’s fantastic to hear things have worked out so well. Thanks for sharing it with us!

    1. Iqbal April 21, 2020 at 10:17 AM

      Thank you, Adam. It’s great to know that you see optimism and that it’s inspirational. I also felt amazed after re-reading this post and the 2017 one. For a fraction of a second I was like “Oh nice, this guy is much better” and then I remember it was me haha
      Yes, I still have challenges, yes I still have bad days, but they all balanced when I take an overall view. None of my current “unhappy” moments are comparable to how lost I was 3 years ago.
      So I cannot stress enough the importance of the things that helped me: doing a 2-year treatment with psychotherapists and psychiatrists (who were recommended), reading a good self help book (Dale Carnegie’s helped a lot), and (last but not least) verbalizing to J$ what my fears were =)

  4. Libby April 21, 2020 at 8:57 AM

    I’m struck by how well Iqbal knows himself. After making decisions that honored his authentic being (i.e., leaving school, opening up to his family) how much prosperity, serenity, acceptance and love have flowed into his life. A wonderful tale – thank you both for sharing this with us.

    Iqbal’s story also underscores the peace of mind that comes from having money in the bank! Being able to live for six months from savings is HUGE.

    And I also love the compliment to J about always answering, having empathy, etc. You are changing lives and no money can compare to this impact. SWAK!

    1. Iqbal April 21, 2020 at 12:51 PM

      Hey Libby, J is indeed changing lives and no money can compare to his impact.
      And yours too, Libby. You also took the time to make a beautiful comment =)
      (when you could be on YouTube watching paint dry haha)

      Both decisions you mentioned took me years, and a LOT of uncertainty.
      I have to recognize two big things that helped:

      1. What I mentioned in my comment above (to Adam). I gained more knowledge about myself after starting the 2 year therapy sessions. I didn’t know I would stay there 2 years (I went in expecting 1 or 2 sessions) so it scared me that they said I needed to keep going. At some point I thought I was being ripped off because therapy is not cheap at all. Some days I would leave the session very inspired. Some days I would leave very confused. Some days I would leave very sad. But I kept going. The questions I got asked about myself were thought provoking and made me learn more about myself, as you mentioned, Libby.
      Today, I don’t think I got ripped off and have huge respect for the service that they provide. It’s “an investment” on your self with much higher “returns” than the initial “investing capital” haha

      2. I have a very loving family. Even though my father decided to remain silent about me being gay for 10.5 years, he kept treating me with well. And today he openly asks about my boyfriend.
      My mom seems to still struggle (inside) with the general idea that her son is gay (or different than what others might expect), but her actions show her effort in accepting me. She treats my boyfriend with a lot of care, she accepts when I invite her to LGBT+ events, etc.
      And then my siblings, who initially confused and worried about me going to hell/this being a sin, now back me with all the strength in the world.

      I completely agree with you that having money in the bank account for 6 months of expenses brings me a big peace of mind. Yet, to me it’s that AND having a loving family/community. They also make me feel safe. They make me feel that they have my back, as I hope I make them feel I have theirs.
      Which is why I had the fears I had in the 2017 post. I had a huge fear of losing this link.


      1. Libby April 22, 2020 at 9:31 AM

        As someone who has also made the investment in mental health both through traditional methods and a 12 step program, I can say it is worth all the gold in the world! The analogy is peeling back the onion and each layer reveals something new about myself.

        One thought about your mother – when my son told me he didn’t want to go to college, I choked – what the hell? We live in a town where 97% of the high school students go to college. Everyone in my family had gone to college. After taking time to process it, I realized that it was my ego but it is his life – that I had tied up some of my self-worth in what my kid did. Once I was able to disconnect my value from his accomplishments and decisions we were both happier. I did tell him he didn’t have to go to college but he did need to learn a skill so that he could support himself and perhaps a family down the road :) He went to trade school and is a welder.

        I hope you will share with everyone again at the end of this year and let us know how everything plays out for you with the pandemic.

        Hugs, Libby

        1. Iqbal May 4, 2020 at 10:10 AM

          “I had tied up some of my self-worth in what my kid did” – I think you summed up pretty well what I suspect about my own mother. I think she was always seen as “the mother with perfect children” because my older siblings “did everything right”: were good students in school, got a university degree without ever failing, got good jobs after university, married in their early 20’s, etc.

          I believe she was expecting the same from me and it frustrated her that I was not accomplishing that. Being gay made matters worse.
          Having to deal with such a “cut” of expectations perhaps made her, as you said, “disconnect my value from his accomplishments and decisions”.

          And indeed the outcome now is the same: “we were both happier”. We talk with much more easiness now, and openly too. We laugh a lot together, something I didn’t see happening 4 years ago. It was very tense.

          Going back to how a supportive family was important: around this time (April/May) in 2016, my oldest sibling saw how me and my mom weren’t getting along at all and “forced” us to have an honest conversation. She locked us in the kitchen, one night after she saw us argue, and told each of us to tell the other everything that was being held back.

          Then, my sibling proceeded to “translate” what the other side was saying, like “Mom, what I am hearing from Iqbal is XYZ. And that makes sense” then “Iqbal, what I am hearing from mom is XYZ. And that too makes sense”. If she hadn’t “translated” what each of us meant, we would have just said mean things, the other side wouldn’t understand, and, it would have just added more resentment.

          It was like therapy, and boy that helped! Both sides were getting validation. It could have gone so wrong, so I admire the effort my sibling had.

          Thanks a lot for sharing these thoughts, Libby.
          I’m glad to know your son got a skill and can support himself!
          It was a great comparison and I relate to it very well.

          I’ll definitely keep you all updated regarding how things go.
          I hope everything turns out OK for you too =)
          With love,

  5. Revanche @ A Gai Shan Life April 21, 2020 at 11:11 AM

    What a lovely update to start the day with, thanks for sharing J and Iqbal!

    Not only have you made great strides financially, you took the time to work on yourself in therapy and ask the hard questions which, as a new experience for me, I understand can be quite painful at times but well worth the effort.

    And I’m so glad for you that your family has chosen to support you and your boyfriend. I feel like that love and care is so much more than just plain acceptance (and that is of course is still better than what some people have to deal with).

    1. J. Money April 21, 2020 at 2:33 PM

      Let me know if you ever need an extra ear, Revanche! Got mad love and respect for you over here! :)

    2. Iqbal May 4, 2020 at 10:37 AM

      Hello Revanche, I’m glad you enjoyed =)

      Yes! My therapy was quite painful at times and I wasn’t seeing results immediately. I was doing what I thought was right. Yet only months after starting the therapy and months after finishing it, was when I recognized how it changed me for better.

      I didn’t share this in the emails or comments here, but I had actually done therapy with three different therapists in three different stages.
      The first one was in 2012, when I was in my 3rd year of university and felt things were getting harder. I never discussed personal issues because it was the university’s psychotherapy section, so the focus was school productivity.
      I don’t count that as the full experience.

      The “full” experience for me started in February 2015 and lasted about one year.
      Her therapy method was psychoanalytic and it helped a lot, but at some point I stopped trusting her and closed myself. It was related to how the payment method changed.
      She helped me a lot and till today I’m very thankful for what I learned about myself there. However, once you stop trusting the therapist, the sessions become counterproductive.

      It was a hard decision to quit and start the process with another therapist in another clinic, but I did. This time the method was bahaviour-cognitive and since I had already been doing therapy for a year, I was brutally honest with this new therapist.
      The payment method was not an issue and I made sure that was clear from the start to avoid any future distrust.
      During the sessions, I would honestly say everything that was bothering me, including about him.
      He was a great therapist so that honesty made the process better. Tense, hard, but better. It went throughout one year as well.

      I also read a lot of the articles from the Facebook page of Therapist Ryan Howes, Ph.D.
      He has great content. And simple too, like “when do you stop therapy” or “what should I do before entering the session” or “should I tell I don’t like something about my therapist?”

      So, in conclusion:
      – Clear out how the payment happens and what are the ground rules.
      – It’s very important to be honest in therapy.
      – And if you don’t trust the therapist, just switch.

      And yes, I completely agree with you in the last part. Being tolerated is always better than facing intolerance. However, it’s not enough. Love and support is much more =)
      Great insight!

      Kind regards,

  6. Amy J April 23, 2020 at 12:13 PM

    Thank you both for sharing this! This is one of my favorite blog entries, J! It’s so inspirational! I went back and read Iqbal’s post from 2017, and it’s awesome to see how much better he feels now. It’s also great to see how far he’s come since then, both personally and financially! This is a good example of how important “mind over matter” really is. Keep up the good work! :)

    1. J. Money April 23, 2020 at 2:01 PM

      Glad you liked it!!! :)

    2. Iqbal May 4, 2020 at 10:39 AM

      I’m also glad you liked it, Amy!
      I’m flattered it’s one of your favourite blog entries =)
      Undoubtedly, “mind over matter” is really important.
      Warm regards,

  7. stephanie t April 24, 2020 at 11:27 AM

    Iqbal, I went back to read your 2017 post, and then re-read this one. You are an inspiration for all of us! By investing in yourself and your own self-worth, you teach us that the time, effort, and money is all well spent. I am so delighted to hear that these 3 years, though difficult, have brought you much understanding and greater empathy from your family.
    It’s not just the money. It’s a well-rounded belief in who we are and what we value that makes us happier, healthier, more productive members of society. The part we play depends on our knowledge of what is important to us, as individuals, and to toss out what doesn’t add value to our lives.
    Thank you again. Your story will stay with me as a shining example of hard work, trust in myself, and true happiness. Blessings to you and yours!

  8. Sheryl May 2, 2020 at 12:44 PM

    Iqbal, how wonderful and heart-filling to read of your success in getting to know your true self. And J: this shows, as in the case of teachers, how we cannot always know how much impact we have on others’ lives through empathy and support. It is interesting to see how the spheres of health, family, work and money can all work together.

    Awesome story!