Seeking Financial Stability as a Gay, Non-White, Man of Muslim Faith

So I got a pretty intense email the other day, and my gut said to share it here with y’all in hopes it broadens our perspectives more.

We talk a lot about our dreams and perfect lifestyles that money brings, but something that’s easily forgotten is how important the *safety* and *security* money can bring is too. Especially for those with drastically different backgrounds than ours.

I know it’s a risk sharing this correspondence here, but I also know how loving and respectful our community is so I’m hoping our new friend leaves here today feeling better (and more motivated!) about his situation than before he got here :) I can’t even try to relate to his situation, but I also know how talking it out and getting fresh perspectives can help immensely!

So if you have something positive to add after reading this, especially those in similar situations?, please do share. It’s nice to have a safe area to discuss this type of stuff, especially with all the turmoil going on these days…

Here are briefly edited snippets from our email conversations. His name has been anonymized.



I don’t know if you expect to know who your readers are, but the reason I feel I need to learn more about money is because of security.

I’m an urban planning student of 25 in Lisbon, Portugal and I believe I need to feel I’m economically stable to have security over my unchosen heritage: being gay, of non-white ancestry and part of a religious Muslim community.

These three parts of my life makes me feel unsure about my future, and a better foundation of finances would help immensely:

– With the rise of Muslim hatred worldwide (specially in the “western world” where I live in), if I ever need to migrate to a more secure place, having money helps to start a new business, buy a house, etc.

– My closest family members are spread across the globe, and if any disaster happens (say, someone close to me dies suddenly), having money helps to buy an expensive last minute ticket to be there and give support on those difficult times. These trips cost around €1500). Or to simply have the comfort of visiting them every year.

– With society still intolerant towards LGBT+ people (within my own Muslim community, or even, within many white gays being racist towards non-white gays) having money helps because I want to have kids with my boyfriend and we’d need a lot of money to send them to private schools that would help assure their security, respect and integration more.

– Not to mention that being a gay couple adopting, we’ll have much more bureaucratic barriers, so a good net worth is a plus. As well as for providing educating, health, food, activities, etc for our kid.

– Money can’t assure I won’t ever face discrimination, so IF anything happens along the way, paying lawyers to fight for my justice is costly and I would like to fight for it.

– I’m a genetic bomb of diseases: family history of cancer, diabetes, heart attacks, blood pressure, scoliosis, etc. I might end up with a major chronicle disease that will disable me. Having money will help to pay for chemotherapy or big surgeries (like I had when I was 18. I had an urgent spine surgery that cost €24,000. Fortunately my parents were able to pay, otherwise I’d have to wait years for government aid and risk having problems later because the surgery had to be done right then and there).

– Lisbon is a wonderful city, but very very vulnerable to a mega earthquake anytime soon because we’ve had the deadliest earthquakes in history around the 1530’s, then the 1750’s and it’s probably going to happen again soon. Our city is not prepared for an earthquake, so having money (preferably not just in Lisbon) will help rebuild my life if a disaster like that happens again.

I did my school in the regular time (12 grades) with the highest marks in my classes. I entered university when I was 17-18 and expected to have a degree by 22-23 and start my career from there. With money (economic stability) I wouldn’t have to fear admitting I was either gay or Muslim or whatever (being me). I wouldn’t have anything to lose, right?

But things didn’t go as I planned. The school experience has been so horrible that I’ve been failing for the last three years and I’m currently in my last year of university. The prospects of growing economically in the urban planning field now seem scarce (especially someone who has been failing for the last three years… Who would want to hire such a failure?)

It makes me feel that I’m being left behind: many of my friends have graduated, are getting economical stability, and don’t have the fear of being rejected because they are gay, nor fear being profiled because they are Muslims.

And I feel that my economic independence is getting further away rather than closer. I feel stuck: until I have money, I can’t really be who I am. I’m always at more risk.

I am trying to convince myself that I have to be happy now. That I cannot project happiness to the future: “when I reach X is when I’ll be happy”. To be happy now with what I got.

I don’t know if it’s the media or what, but I still feel very insecure about everything. Even online I choose a nickname for me to freely say that I’m gay, Muslim and non-white (Iqbal is not my real name) so I don’t fear any repercussion.

I did two years of psychotherapy and a year of anti-depressive medication, but I still felt stuck. Talking about how miserable I feel only makes me continue feeling miserable. There’s a Portuguese expression that says “a dog who barks doesn’t bite”. I feel I need to stop barking and start biting.

Kind regards from Portugal

-Iqbal Hassan

P.S.: Even the psychotherapy and meds for years were costly. Luckily I was provided with that by my parents, but what if I didn’t have the money to have that privilege? I don’t want to feel insecure to the point that I won’t do psychotherapy just because of money. I don’t want money to be a preoccupation in my life, yet paradoxically it is.


I replied back thanking him for sharing his story with me as it’s one I can’t even conjure up if I tried?!, and that I wholeheartedly agree with the power of being financially stable (or “economically stable”, as he likes to put it). I then asked if we could publish his thoughts here.

I told him it’s a story we don’t hear much of in our blogging world, and although I can’t relate to his situation personally, I felt it would be helpful for others to hear too. If only to realize just how fortunate we are! I also reminded him how powerful it is that he knows himself so well at his age, and encouraged him to keep searching hard for those opportunities and do his best to not lose hope :(

I wasn’t sure how the convo would go from there, but to my surprise he responded back with some pretty fascinating insight! So of course I had to share that with you guys too :) And THIS is the part that really got my attention… and the one I think most of us can relate to more too.

Here’s Iqbal again:


Thank you so much for your reply, J.

Writing down my concerns, specially for someone else “playing the game well” to read it, allowed me to have a clearer view over what really bothers me.

And to have that someone validate is an even bigger plus, so thank you once again.

For a long time I’ve been a bit like “money is evil because it gives the wrong impression that whoever accumulates more has more worth, or is more intelligent.”

But money is intrinsically worth nothing. A person with a lot of money in a deserted island and no survival skills is in a worse scenario than a person below the poverty line and with great survival skills in the same deserted island.

And it’s true, it’s horrible to know that 1% of the world has more access to goods and services than the rest, just because of this thing (capital or net worth) that is very virtual.

But the problem is not money, the problem is human. Money is a tool. If money didn’t exist, something else would, and that would create this inequality. Just like I feel that most political ideologies and most religions have, in it’s core, peace and harmony. Problem is that humans, imperfect as we are, create chaos.

Fortunately, many of us also organize ourselves and create mechanisms of justice. Which is why I’m able to write to you today because I went to a school that someone created, I’m using a computer that took decades of improvements, I’m using a normalized refined electricity produced somewhere around Portugal, etc.

Chances are that I won’t be ending up in a deserted island. So in the meantime I keep living in a city, I have a family, I have friends and I’m in a society that uses money. I could choose to relinquish everything and move away to build my own house alone, grow my own food alone, etc., but that’s probably not worth it just to prove a point.

I’d much rather take advantage of this complex society that took hundreds of years of development.

Although still imperfect, it seems to be turning better, slowly: more information is out there, the internet access, the podcasts, more human rights revolutions, a shift to the official end of racism, sexism, medical achievements, technology, electricity, trains, etc.

So why ignore? Why not contribute to the system? It’s not perfect, but it won’t cease existing if I run away. If I can’t beat it, I’ll join it and try to make it as better as I can, for everyone, including me.

Is it easier than running away to a deserted island and living solely on my skills? It’s arguable.

It also depends on the person. For some it could be an easy option. For others, not. After considering that option for a while, I realize that I’m better off remaining in the system. And that’s why I want financial independence.

In the system that I chose to REMAIN in, money buys freedom, like you said. It’s not everything, but it’s very important to not forget about it.

I wasn’t expecting a proposal to post my story. It would be an honor if you did that. Just the fact that you read it and it resonated somehow makes me feel hopeful.

I will keep in touch, have a great week!

Kind regards from Portugal,



It’s hard to put into words how that last email moved me, particularly after the first one which was filled with so much distraught! How powerful the human mind is though, right?? Full of so many emotions and ideas and flipping through it all trying to make sense of the world?

I feel like that first email was for him, but this second one is for us :) I’m not sure at what point anyone ever “figures it out”, but it seems to me that it may just be an ever evolving process that we get better at as the years progress. And we keep striving for it the entire time!

Would love to hear your thoughts on any of this, and particularly any advice you have for our friend Iqbal here? Please do share them below and encourage him to keep fighting the good fight.

Financial freedom is more than just about not having to work anymore or having fun all day long – it can help immensely with feeling more safe and secure too!


UPDATE: Iqbal just shot me a note saying that he can’t believe that so many people left such in-depth thoughts and comments, and wanted everyone to know that he’s deeply thankful and that they are helping. So well done, guys!!! :) Just more proof of how incredible our community here is!

UPDATE #2: Our friend Iqbal just came back to update us, over a year later… I’m happy to say he seems much more at peace with himself :) You can find his main update below in response to JJNL’s comment up top. Love to hear it, Iqbal!

UPDATE #3: Three years later to the day! Here’s how our friend is doing now, via a new guest post by him :) “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.”

[Photo of Lisbon by Miguel Vieira // It’s the view from the Miradouro de Santa Luzia at sunset.]

(Visited 10 times, 1 visits today)

Get blog posts automatically emailed to you!


  1. JJNL April 21, 2017 at 6:37 AM

    Chin up, Iqbal – I know you feel stuck right now, but really, you are still one of the lucky ones. Why? First BIG reason: you are an EU citizen, so you are already free to live and work anywhere in the European Union, without having money saved up. Including countries with much lower unemployment rates than Portugal (see the statistics here If you feel stuck and at risk in Portugal, maybe spending some time abroad would help – for example right after you graduate? Tip: you probably know this already, but not everywhere is as tolerant of gays/non-whites/muslims. I hate to say this, but if I were you I’d stick to Western Europe when picking a different place to live for a while – northwestern Europe (like Scandinavia, Benelux countries, Germany, Ireland) if you want an optimum of countries that are doing relatively well economically and also have a population with comparatively tolerant attitudes. Of course, you could also include the vulnerability to earthquakes in your selection :). Thousands of people literally drown in the Mediterranean every year in order to get this chance you were born with, so take it! Second big reason: yes, you are at a triple disadvantage being a member of 3 minority groups at the same time. But TBH, you sound like you are letting yourself be ruled by fear a lot. That is NOT going to work. Having Fuck You Money definitely helps, but I think what you need a lot more of right now is having a Fuck You Attitude. And the good news is: that comes for free and can be obtained without a university degree. I know this is easy for me to say, because I am a heterosexual, white, atheist woman, so I am much less subject to discrimination than you are likely to be. However, I do have a lot of gay family members, who are also very Christian and hence have experienced backlash from their own communities. I can tell you from their experience that sitting at home getting eaten up by what might happen to you and the ways in which you might be rejected is not going to help you at all. You will never be truly happy as long as you can’t be to the world who and what you are in your head: i.e. until you can be out and proud. In the Netherlands, where I live, there is an organisation which specifically helps and supports gay muslims. I wonder, is there such a thing in Portugal? If so, I would seek it out if I were you. Go find your tribe, find people who have similar problems and backgrounds to yours and who can help and support you.

    1. J. Money April 23, 2017 at 3:47 PM

      Love this on so many levels – thank you for sharing!

      Iqbal just sent me a note saying how appreciative he is for all these notes here and that they are all helping :) So thanks for taking the time!!

    2. Iqbal June 10, 2018 at 9:01 PM

      Thank you so much for your reply, JJNL.
      And you yoo J., for letting her know I had read her comment at that time.
      When I read it, I was overwhelmed and couldn’t fully “understand” your recommendations.

      It’s been more than a year, and I feel much calmer. And yes, I agree with you totally =)
      I am in one of the best places in the world to be what I am. I perceive that Portugal has the lowest indexes of Islamophobia in Europe, and, is also much more LGBT+ tolerant than many countries. Although it’s not perfect, the glass is half full, not half empty. I shall not take for granted the privileges I have, that so many have been dying for.

      I guess I was lacking the “Fuck You attitude” you mentioned. I was overcome by fear and stress. Stress can be good in small doses, it can motivate, rush some adrenaline up. But it was becoming chronic. Too much fear and stress is destructive (as is anything else that is not in moderation). To some extent I guess I never admitted to myself, but I was also feeling very lonely. Feeling lonely and depressed made me more fragile, naturally. Because of that, my fears got louder. And they were directly connected to a fear of rejection, which would increase my feeling of loneliness. It was a loop.

      I don’t know what happened, but I’ve been feeling much better in the last 14 months. This post here contributed!
      My boyfriend broke up with me around the time the post was made and that was a really tough period, but I managed to go through it because other great things happened.
      I finished the anti-depressive medication treatment, started doing much more sports, the jobs I have remained stable and I managed to finish a big class in university (or is it called subject?) that was really bothering me. Right now, I only have my thesis to go.

      Also, my family relationships and my friendships were suddenly nicer, criticizing me less (my friends and family can be very critical), or my mind was calmer. I don’t know what it was, but I realized that the people who love you the most can sometimes give you the worst advice, even if they have good intentions. Those toxic advices reduced (or I was the one who started filtering them more).
      I also started going out with new (nice) people and realized that I was also lacking physical affection.
      I kept listening to J Money and Paula Pant (and listening to you guys makes me feel so good). So I suppose that all these things combined made me feel better, even though my fears and problems are still there.

      As for your suggestions to surround myself with people like me, and after reading what I wrote in that email for J., I realized I wasn’t clear about one thing: I don’t really have faith in the Islamic religion or any religion for that matter. I consider myself agnostic, as in, I don’t think any religion is entirely right, I don’t think any religion is entirely wrong, but I don’t really care or think about it that much.
      When I say I’m Muslim, I mean I’m culturally Muslim: Arabic name, 100% Muslim family, South Asian physical aspect (if I let my beard grow, all my friends and family members say I look like a Taliban), etc. And I decided to let me beard grow because I dislike trimming it regularly (and because I got more compliments from guys lol). But on the other hand, it makes me “look more Muslim” specially when I don’t wear shorts. Because of my physical aspect, I felt people looked at me differently. But maybe that was a result of my fragile state, and, because a year ago, “talking about Muslims” was more common in the media due to everything: ISIS, Donald Trump, Syria, Paris attacks, etc. I think things calmed down a little bit in the last 14 months.

      However, I did try to connect with an international group of LGBT+ Muslims worldwide, many years ago. It was nice, but I felt it was not enough. First, because they were believers and I’m not. Second, because we were all geographically distant from each other. Third, because Islam is SO diverse that the group had Bengali people, Pakistani people, Turkish people, Indians, Arabs, Iranians, etc. from the very different Islamic branches.
      Although it’s very beautiful to see such diversity, I felt I didn’t connect with many. And it’s OK.
      There are no LGBT+ organization focused on Muslims in Portugal. Actually, I barely know Muslim LGBT+s in Portugal (most are married people who live double lives, one thing I don’t want for me).

      So, I joined the LGBTI Youth organization in Portugal to do volunteering work, back in 2013. And it’s been great. We go to schools and moderate debates about these topics, with the teenagers, which turns out to be quite gratifying. In my most depressive stages, going to these schools was the best part of my life.

      And still is. This year I did a lot of volunteering in schools, where I felt very hopeful by the positive reception of the Portuguese youth. Some teenagers even came out to me in the end, crying. That was moving, and made me feel like I was making a huge difference in the world, positively.

      So yes, this is my little update.
      Thank you so much for taking your time to reply with such good insight.
      I treasure every word in the comments here =)

  2. Jacq April 21, 2017 at 6:58 AM

    I would just like to say that end of college university time is full of uncertainty. Our friends graduate before or after us, and the prospect of finding a job is daunting. It took 10 months, and networking through my college roommate’s fiancé before I got my first job. Now I have over 10 years of experience in my field. I’ve worked for 7 different companies, some as an employee, some as a temp/ contractor. It’s been an interesting journey. I’ve made friends with coworkers, and others were just friends while I worked there.

    Iqbal, you sound like a thoughtful young man, who is kind and caring, and you weren’t afraid to reach out to J money. Keep reaching out to the FI community, they (we) are a very supportive bunch, who have a lot of experience and wisdom to share. Wishing you much success.

    1. J. Money April 23, 2017 at 3:49 PM

      Very very true – soooooooooooo much more out there after school, which seems like EVERYTHING at the time but in reality is just a blip!

    2. Iqbal June 10, 2018 at 9:04 PM

      Jacq, thank you so much for your words.
      You’re right. I must not let myself believe that “It’s too late for me to succeed at anything”.
      Thank you for sharing your example, for your kind words of encouragement and I am definitely remaining in the community here! =)

  3. My Sons Father April 21, 2017 at 7:13 AM

    Awesome post! I appreciate you sharing with us and Iqbal’s willingness to have his words and life published so publicly. Unfortunately money won’t solve all the problems in the world around us, but as Iqbal points out it will certainly help when you are faced with some of life’s challenges.

    I can’t offer up to much insight or wisdom. Only that you can’t control the ignorance in the world, but you have more control over what you allow into your world. So be aware of who and what you are inviting into your life.

    Thanks for sharing Iqbal. Hang in there, I truly believe things will get better for you (and our world).

    1. Iqbal June 10, 2018 at 9:08 PM

      And things indeed got better =)
      I just shared an update on JJNL’s reply.
      It thrills me that you found this post awesome and took the time to reply with encouraging words!

  4. Band of Savers April 21, 2017 at 7:36 AM

    One of the biggest money mistakes that I’ve made, and continue to make everyday, is that I constantly look to the future. I singularly focus my attention on achieving financial independence and being able to retire and often forget to stop and look around at what I already have right now. We have to be prepared but if we bog ourselves down in the pursuit of more we will never be able to be happy with what we have.

    As for the first email he sent about needing money for financial security, yes, money does buy security. But what are the chances that all of the things on his list are actually going to happen – let alone at the same time. I work as a project financial analyst at a manufacturing plant. Every month we have to identify all of the potential risks that we have on a job and how much it would cost for each one of them, then prove that we have enough reserves held on the job to cover those costs. But we don’t hold enough to cover all of the costs at the same time. We know that there is a chance that incident A will happen and cost us $100,000, but historically that only happens 10% of the time so we will only carry $10,000 to cover that risk. After putting all of these factored risks together we might end up with $500,000 of reserves that we have to carry, which is plenty to fully fund a few of the possibilities but definitely not all of them – because it never happens that “everything” goes wrong. My advice to him is to just keep your head up and plug away. Work hard. Prepare for the worst but hope for the best. Enjoy the wonderful things that this world and those in it have to offer. And over time all of the risks and monsters won’t seem so scary.

    1. J. Money April 23, 2017 at 3:53 PM

      Great insight w/ the risk!

    2. Iqbal June 10, 2018 at 9:16 PM

      You’re right, J. Great insight with the risk.
      It reminded me about insurance. After this post was made, I started thinking that maybe I should just get insurance for the things I feel insecure about and give me some peace of mind, as I’ve listened in the podcast that Paula Pant (J. Money’s co-host) has a couple of interesting ones.
      But yes, worrying too much is counter-productive.
      Like J. Money mentioned. The first email I sent was much more for me. And it was a relief to write down my concerns. Verbalizing the issues helped me.
      And even more with your solutions =)
      So thank you for sharing your work strategies to serve as a parallel/comparison to my concerns.

  5. Matt @ Optimize Your Life April 21, 2017 at 7:53 AM

    It is really easy to get caught up in our own troubles and our own bubble. I think we all need to do a better job of reaching out and hearing from people with different lives and different struggles and different viewpoints. Thank you for sharing this story (both Iqbal and Jay).

  6. The Tepid Tamale April 21, 2017 at 8:32 AM


    I echo your thoughts, it’s so easy to get caught up in our own bubble. I do need to take care of ‘my business’, but I am in an incredible situation when looked at from a world view. Why? As Buffet says, simply the ovarian lottery. So once I only focus on ‘my business’, I think I have a problem. Thanks for sharing this.

    1. J. Money April 23, 2017 at 3:53 PM

      Amen to the the ovarian lottery… none of us had any say where we were born and to whom and to what era of life/etc… Very good to be cognizant of as hard as it seems sometimes!

  7. Mike April 21, 2017 at 9:05 AM

    Thanks for sharing J$. As I read Iqbal’s first email I was concerned because he seemed to focused solely on attaining money. With every bullet point he kept saying money will make me safe, money will make me happy, etc. But while money can help and give you some freedoms you wouldn’t have otherwise, it is not a solution to all of life’s problems. Indeed, many people who have more money than they know what to do with are completely miserable.

    With his second email I felt like he came to understand that just having more money wouldn’t solve his problems. It might make life easier and give him some piece of mind but it can’t buy protection from a world full of prejudices. That’s a more mature attitude and one that will help him appreciate what he has and earns for himself in the future.

    1. J. Money April 23, 2017 at 3:56 PM

      I think getting it all out to someone new, and then stepping back to take it all in really helped for him. And that 2nd email was after a lot more soul searching and coming to terms with stuff :) Was fascinating to read both of them as the hit my inbox!

      1. Iqbal June 10, 2018 at 9:34 PM

        It’s been more than a year, but I’ve been around, reading.
        I finally came back to reply. It thrills me to read your words and to know you were fascinated by the story. Things indeed got better and I must agree with you: the first email where I structured what were my real concerns allowed me to reflect about them, and, with J.’s help and now all of yours, come to terms with it.
        The world is not perfect and will never be, but knowing how to appreciate what we have makes a huge difference in our feelings.
        Thank you, Mike and J.

        1. J. Money June 11, 2018 at 11:07 AM

          I’m so glad you came back to update us, my man. You def. seem much more at peace with yourself! It’s a wonderful thing! :)

  8. ZJ Thorne April 21, 2017 at 9:07 AM

    Iqbal, family, I hear you. I am also part of the LGBT community and that is a big impetus for my pursuit of financial well-being. The backlash against us has been staggering in the past few years. Money on hand and skills to navigate the world will serve you well. My profession is widely portable within my country; I did this intentionally. If one region ramps up the homophobia, I can quickly (ish) move to another region to seek safety. I do this in the US and I know that my risks are less than yours.

  9. Jennifer April 21, 2017 at 9:28 AM

    I wanted to share that while I am hetro/white/female, I suffered untreated depression in college, resulting in a suicide attempt and dismissal from the school. When I got ‘better’ I continued at another school, but it took 7 years to get my undergraduate degree. And I NEVER actually felt I knew what I wanted to be when I grew up (still don’t). But even after that rocky start, I retired (early) at 54. We all struggle with life, but I think you will find being aware of what you face/fear makes a huge difference. Good luck and best wishes.

    1. J. Money April 23, 2017 at 3:57 PM

      Good for you, Jennifer!!! Thanks for putting this out there for him and others to read!

  10. Kari Harding April 21, 2017 at 9:58 AM


    Your concerns are valid, but don’t let fear cripple you today. I’m in my early 40s and still live in much the same fears I had when I was young. Money will help you with a lot of things, but you can’t live for the money.

    Live for yourself, boyfriend and future children. Understand and realize you are planning for a better life. It takes time but you’ll get there. I know you have the faith and love in your heart. It’s apparent in your writing.

    Ignorance is everywhere. Try to rise above it. Fight the urge to give in and repay someone for their ignorance. In the long run it won’t help.

    I definitely know how you feel. I come from a devoted Christian mother. A few years ago I became a Messianic Jew. I also started a blog, baking business and book. Haven’t told them. They are not supportive.

    Try to keep your head up!!! Perhaps a blog is for you. It sound like you have a very unique perspective on life the world might want to hear. I’d read it.

    God Bless,


    1. J. Money April 23, 2017 at 4:03 PM

      Yes to blogging! Opens up so many doors, not only for yourself and confidence, but also professionally/community-wise as well.

      Love that you’re going all in on yourself too, Kari :) Thanks for taking the time today to offer advice!

  11. Ms. Frugal Asian Finance April 21, 2017 at 10:00 AM

    Thank you so much for sharing your story! I believe that there’s still a lot of discrimination and racism out there. While we can’t control what people do or feel, we can take better care of our lives and our finances so that we don’t have to be at the mercy of other people. Good luck with everything!

  12. Divnomics April 21, 2017 at 10:16 AM

    I’m not a regular commenter on this blog, but your story really made an impact. I can’t relate to what you’re going through. But I do notice the growing tension that arises as it comes to people of color, Muslims or even gay people. I’m living in the Netherlands, which is known for it’s greater tolerance towards people that are looked at as ‘different’. But with all the recent global developments, it feels like it has never been as important as now.

    Although my situation is far from different. I try to cope with things in a way to worry only about the things I have influence on. Easier said than done, but it really helps in getting into action when needed (even when it’s just something like reaching out to somebody) and feeling less stressed out if nothing can be done by me to change it. Sometimes only smiling back to a person can make it a better day.

    I hope you’ll find more of what you’re looking for, and remember that there is still much love left in this world.

  13. Mrs. Picky Pincher April 21, 2017 at 10:22 AM

    Hi, Iqbal!

    I’m so sorry you’ve been met with so many challenges. It’s humbling to remember what great people like you go through too often.

    The downside is that many basic necessities are pricier in Europe than here in America. I used to live abroad and it was more difficult to save money because food, housing, and energy were far more expensive. Are you able to take steps to reduce these expenses?

    Do you enjoy what you do for a living with urban planning? If you genuinely enjoy it, just keep at it. Finish your last year of university and look for a job that speaks to you. Keep in mind that it might not specifically be in urban planning, since that’s a niche degree. But you can get the degree and get a job, so don’t worry too much about it. :)

    I know firsthand how expensive counseling is, but if you need it, then you need it. I managed to save money by going to counselors who were in training, so they charged less. I also went to a counselor instead of a psychiatrist since counselors are cheaper (they aren’t medical doctors).

    Also I just wanted to say good luck with the adoption process!! I wish you and your boyfriend the best. Be proud of who you are and the things you’ve accomplished.

    I know I’m an internet stranger, but I love you and I want you to be happy and safe–please remember that. :)

    1. J. Money April 23, 2017 at 4:06 PM

      You are so sweet!!!

      Can you duplicate yourself across the entire world, please??

  14. Mike B. April 21, 2017 at 10:39 AM

    Igbal, Hi. Driving a cab in NYC, I come into contact with all walks of life, each and every day. There are dozens if not hundreds of different languages spoken here, and it’s truly a beautiful city of the world. And very welcoming; however, the grass is always greener. There’s nothing more I’d love to do than travel; to be able to go back to Europe, Asia, and to many other previously un-visited places. You’ve got a good head on your shoulders that’ll be of use when you’re truly *feeling* stuck. My advice is to finish school, and then see the world a bit. If possible, pick up an internship or part-time gig now doing something, anything minutely related to your field of study. Baby-steps. I have a genuine thirst for knowledge, although learning often equates to delayed gratification in the form of financial compensation (and therefore that coveted security that you are seemingly desiring).
    Best, and thank you J$ for sharing~

  15. Mrs. BITA April 21, 2017 at 10:52 AM

    Dear Iqbal,

    I am a woman, I am brown and I am a first generation immigrant, so I know a little something about being a tad different and not quite fitting in. I don’t quite know what it is like to walk in your shoes of course, but I can empathize.

    You are right that money will help. Of course it will. But don’t let it become the center of your existence, because if you do, it will disappoint. Focus instead on building the life you want. Make sensible money decisions, save as hard as you can, take on side jobs etc., but don’t let any of that be your raison d’etre. In my experience as a minority and an outsider the best thing to focus on are your relationships. The more friends I made, and the deeper those relationships grew, the more secure I felt. Money gives you the security to flee a bad situation, relationships that will stand by you and hold you up give you the security to stay put.

    1. Veronica April 21, 2017 at 7:15 PM

      Great reply!!! As an immigrant woman I agree 100%. Good luck brother!

      1. J. Money April 23, 2017 at 4:08 PM

        Damn – yes, spot on. Relationships are key!

  16. Lindsay | Notorious D.E.B.T. April 21, 2017 at 10:56 AM

    Thank you so much for sharing this post! It’s great to get reminders like this all the time that there are real people with problems I can’t even imagine all over the world.

    Iqbal, you’ve got a lot stacked up against you. It will be very easy for you to drown in it should things become bad (and if there’s anything I’ve ever learned, things WILL become bad at some point in your life). This almost happened to me and I’m a heterosexual white female non-religious person too, as someone said above.

    I suggest you really work to find the people you connect with now. The key to happiness is in other people (and it’s difficult for me to say this as an introvert…I moved to the middle of Alaska when I was 18 to avoid people for Pete’s sake…). That might mean getting out of your comfort zone, or finding a new hobby/life purpose online. You need a good social support system around you; this will serve you well when money can’t.

    As for the urban planning degree, I have some friends who say it’s difficult as well. One of them couldn’t find a job after he graduated, so he taught himself how to code and now he makes over $100k/year as a software engineer. Just because your degree is in urban planning doesn’t mean you need to stick with it. Talk to people, find out what they’re doing. Almost no one works in their degree field anymore. Hell, I got my degree in wildlife biology but I’m working as a personal finance freelance writer right now. Never saw that one coming, but I still want to be a wildlife biologist someday. It’s tough when you’re young and you pick something you think you’d like to do, and then the game changes by the time you graduate. This isn’t something new. To get over this hurdle, you need to be adaptable and find other opportunities rather than training yourself in one area. You go to college to learn HOW to learn, not to learn one particular skill.

    Lastly, to afford travel to visit relatives, have you checked out credit card travel hacking? This can allow you to get free flights/hotels, but ONLY – ONLY – if you invest some time in working the system right. Check out for a free email course on how to do it, don’t fall into the trap of racking up a balance, and you’ll be fine. :)

    1. J. Money April 23, 2017 at 4:10 PM

      Very true on the degree field.. there was def. no “professional blogging” options when I was in school :) Though interestingly enough my design and marketing degrees did come in handy!

  17. Primal Prosperity April 21, 2017 at 11:18 AM

    This story reminds me of a quote: “Nobody’s free until everybody’s free.” – Fannie Lou Hamer

    I have three gay men in my close family circle, so I’m very aware of the struggles and the triumphs. Let me tell you though, Ibqal, it will most likely get easier for you as time goes on, so hang in there and don’t be afraid to be who you are! I do wish though that I could wiggle my nose and make the world a kind, loving place for everyone. Until then, I can just continue to be that way myself.

    Also, I think urban planning is a great field of study. I’m reading “Happy City”, at the recommendation of an MMM post and it clearly shows the trend of cities redefining urban life. So, you should have good job prospects. And don’t worry too much about your grades. Keep you confidence up and show your intellect in other ways than just grades. I went to engineering school with a brilliant guy who used to say “D is done”. I’m not suggesting that students strive for D’s, but I am saying that it is not the end of the world. Heck, Richard Branson didn’t even finish high school! :)

  18. caren April 21, 2017 at 12:06 PM

    Wow, my heart goes out to this guy. He certainly has a mixed bag of circumstances working against him.

    I think the first thing I’d want to reassure him of is that there are a lot of people out there that are accepting of who he is, both as a gay man and as a Muslim, and to not feel like the world is against him. Some of us just want everyone to live happy lives in peace, regardless of faith and orientation.

    But I recognize that there is lots of fear and hate in this world, so he is not wrong to want to protect himself against it.

    The other thing I sensed was a lot of fear about things that are completely out of his control (like an earthquake). I’d stay focused on things that are within my locus of control as we can kill ourselves worrying about everything from natural disasters to nuclear bombs. It’s not productive to worry about stuff like that.

    But to your point and his, financial independence is the best way to manage uncertainty and money may not buy happiness, but it can buy protection, choices and a quick escape from bad situations.

    I wish him well. It sounds like he’s pointed in the right direction. He just needs to let go of some of the fear in his heart for things he can’t control.

  19. Rachel April 21, 2017 at 1:08 PM


    First of all, I want to take a moment to commend you for your bravery – even anonymously, it takes a supreme amount of courage to talk about these fears and concerns you have, not only from an LGBT+ standpoint, but from a Muslim one, as well.

    Second, thank you so, so, so, so, so, SO very much for bringing this topic to attention. And thank you, J., for sharing it. In world where Islamophobia increases exponentially on a daily basis, it is absolutely vital to see the other side of the coin, to experience sympathy and empathy for Islamic peoples. At the end of the day, we’re all just trying to get by in this world, and very few of us seek to destroy it. It is incredibly unfair that so many are compared to the actions of so few.

    As a member of the LGBT+ community myself, I’ve experienced firsthand some of these concerns of yours, and I empathize greatly with you. I’m white, and I’m not Muslim (or religious at all), so I cannot even begin to try and act like I know what you’re going through. My best friend is Egyptian and Muslim, though, and I feel your pain. Every time I see Islamic peoples treated poorly, it lights a fire within me.

    I wish you nothing but success in your journey. Don’t fret over your late start and your past failures. Remember that many successful people, myself included, have failed many a time. I failed more exams and more projects than I can count while in pursuit of my education. The important factor is not how many times you fail, but how many times you get back up again. Though you’re a little behind your friends and peers, you seem like you have never given up in trying to pursue a better you. And that’s all that matters.

    You have a beautiful mind, Iqbal. Please don’t ever let how others treat you tarnish your view of the world, because it is breathtaking and raw. Remember that “great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds”, but “you never fail until you stop trying.” (Einstein)

    With nothing but love,

    1. J. Money April 23, 2017 at 4:14 PM

      GREAT point on how everyone fails – especially successful people! So so true… Was smiling the entire time reading this, thanks Rachel :)

  20. The Deliberate Lifestyle April 21, 2017 at 1:26 PM

    Thanks for sharing Iqbal and J.

    Much of the personal finance (especially in the FIRE realm) content out there is centered on developing strong financial practices such that over time you won’t be obligated to trade your time for money — you can “escape the rate race” as it were.

    While this is a noble goal (and one that I personally hold), its posts/dialogues like this that add some much-needed perspective. For individuals living in countries that are less secure/developed/tolerant/resource-rich than the U.S./Canada/Australia/Western Europe, simply joining what we refer to as the “rat race” is a perfectly noble if not ambitious goal.

    The point that I’m trying to make and what this article stirred up in the old cranium is that we’re pretty damn privileged to even have the goal of achieving financial independence. And we ought to be grateful to be in a situation where such a goal is achievable because it doesn’t take much for it to be crushed in our faces (by sickness, government regulation, natural disaster, etc.).

    1. J. Money April 23, 2017 at 4:14 PM

      The best part of blogs is the people and stories they carry with it, right? :)

  21. Superbien April 21, 2017 at 3:54 PM

    Not-Iqbal, man, I’m so sorry you are staring down so much bigotry, so much hate related to the things you can’t control (and shouldn’t have to!). This period in time is hard to handle for straight white people of non-discriminated faiths… how much more so for any of the above, much less all 3!

    As to feeling like a failure. Some people hit this age and fly like little birds to heady success, leaving the rest of us to feel envious and crappy about ourselves. But most of us struggled – between ‘some’ to ‘a lot’ – and learned hard but valuable lessons.

    I was also one of those academic high flyers… and was really stuck after graduation, unable to find a job. Working as a receptionist and waiter as a smart college graduate felt bad and like I was a screw-up and would never make it. But… I did… eventually. Those negative messages looping in my head weren’t true.

    If you’d like my life lessons, for what they’re worth:

    1) Be reliable. Seriously. Show up on time. Do your work consistently. Be the person who follows through and gets stuff done with minimal drama. This is the most important.

    2) If you approach every task as a chance to learn, with real openness, you will be a success. People in charge give you menial tasks to judge your work ethic and ability, and you never know what weird knowledge will be useful.

    3) Make connections with people. We are taught that success comes from lone-wolf genius, but that’s nonsense. Meet people; be the person who schedules coffee or lunch with coworkers (even if you have social anxiety – believe me I know how utterly terrifying that is; do it anyway). Connect people who could help each other. Ask for advice more than you give it.

    1. J. Money April 23, 2017 at 4:17 PM

      #1 all the way! Just showing up makes you a better employee than many out there who are lazy or selfish or both! It always amazes me that just by doing your job makes you look worlds better than the person next to you. And even more amazing when those people ask for raises or promotions when they can barely even do the work they’re asked to do?

  22. Chelsea April 21, 2017 at 6:40 PM

    Thanks Jay for sharing this one.
    To Not-Iqbal: Continue growing into your skin and find the people that accept and support you and hold tight to them.You will finish school, and you will start your career and then you have a whole new opportunity to prove yourself and succeed. And if you don’t enjoy the field of your study, try something else. You don’t need to have it all figured it out at 25. Maybe consider moving somewhere more progressive if the opportunity arises. Canada is a great option :)

  23. Michelle April 21, 2017 at 8:15 PM

    Much respect to Iqbal for sharing his story. Very brave and story that is very much in need of being heard. Also, much respect to Jay for sharing Iqbal’s story with your readers. I follow several FIRE themed blogs and while I appreciate the knowledge and life hacks I have learned in handling finances my biggest frustration with this aspect of the blogosphere community is it’s lack of perspectives from people with diverse lives and experiences. Yes, spending less and saving money are necessary but not everyone’s financial challenges can be solved by cutting cable or shopping around for lower insurance rates.

    1. J. Money April 23, 2017 at 4:18 PM

      Haha, yup…. The FIRE community is very white/educated/engineer’ish :)

  24. Claire WantLess April 22, 2017 at 4:23 AM

    Thanks for sharing Iqbal’s story, J. Really glad we all got to read it.

    I really feel for Iqbal when he talks about experiencing homophobia within his Muslim community as well as racism within his LGBT community. I can’t imagine how hard this must be for him (although I’m queer myself and have experienced homophobia. I’ve also witnessed racism at times from LGBT people, which is incredibly sad). I do understand how a sizeable emergency fund would be a comfort.

  25. Pedro April 22, 2017 at 9:26 AM

    Segue em frente, tenta ser hoje melhor xo que eras ontem. Boa sorte!

    1. Iqbal June 10, 2018 at 7:06 PM

      Obrigado, Pedro. Sei que a resposta é tardia. Li na altura e as tuas palavras tiveram um impacto positivo.

  26. MGoBlue April 22, 2017 at 11:58 AM

    Just a comment to help you to keep pushing forward…
    One of your questions was as to why anyone would ever want to hire a “failure”. It’s pretty safe to say that every person reading this has failed over and over again. That’s the road to success, and I believe the key is in persistence. Sometimes it’s the one who has had to overcome challenges who is the one with the most creativity and the most tenacity–qualities that are admired. Besides, everyone knows that although school grades are great and important, in the big scheme of things, it’s not what makes or breaks you. Even when problems seem insurmountable, take it one step at a time, and remember that you are actually in an extremely enviable position to many. It’s all relative.
    May you find peace and happiness. Even in this crazy world, you have love and support, even if it is unbeknownst to you.

    1. J. Money April 23, 2017 at 4:20 PM


  27. Master Duke April 22, 2017 at 9:53 PM

    There are many people in this world who have failed, dropped to nothing, and came out ahead in the end!

    Charlie Munger was walking around California crying after his son passed away due to cancer around the same time him and his wife had divorced. Life is a journey, one full of many tests, and as people its our duty to respond to those test with full force, showing life who the real boss is!!

    We hope you come through and grow through the journey you’ve had in college. Meet with your teachers, find more time to study, and continue reading financial blogs, you are definitely on the right path to becoming successful in your future. It sounds like your boyfriend has been very supportive of you during your tough times, thank him for that and let him know how much you appreciate it. People like this are hard to find.

    Know that the news portrays emotion grabbing articles to keep people engaged, and even though there are groups that realistically hate specific groups, there are many people who don’t. Instead, they show support, love, and kindness to people as they make their way through the obstacles of their journey. Even during slavery, there were white abolitionist helping the slaves escape to freedom during the underground railroad. As people, it is up to us to do our part to spread love and help those who want to rise through the hate. It is undoubtedly wrong and stereotyping is BONKERS. Keep your head up, keep your grind up, and keep working to be the best you can be.

    We wish you success and peace my friend!!

    1. J. Money April 23, 2017 at 4:22 PM

      I didn’t know that about Munger!! Wow….

  28. Mark E April 23, 2017 at 6:47 PM

    Think about this….just reading a blog like this at his age, Iqbal is 25 years ahead of me. My grades weren’t good, my career path rocky, but I have a decent job, a little money in the bank and a little security. My advice is to do the basics…set up an emergency fund for ‘whatever’ happens, start putting money away for ‘retirement’ and don’t touch it (you have time on your side), and then LIVE. Let time and the power of compounding be your friend and go out, make friends and LIVE.

    I am gay and I have a gay friend who is Chinese and a college student too. Coming to the US as a student who could not speak English very well – he had a hard time acclimating, he struggled emotionally, he worries about getting a job after school, but through all of his soul searching he came up with a motto that he tries to live by and I LOVE IT! “BE HERE NOW”. That’s it, and it is perfect for today’s world. BE HERE NOW, enjoy life.

    My advice – be financially secure with a little money in the bank, continually improve your situation ( if you have to start out with a so-so job, then always look for a better one) and make friends and enjoy life. Who knows what tomorrow brings. Europe as a whole can be very friendly, when I traveled during college, I was amazed at the people who were open and friendly, they didn’t care about labels, gay or not, or religion for the most part. People everywhere have trials and tribulations, we don’t know everyone else’s challenges – we all have them.

    Iqbal – you will do fine, just take one day at a time, save one more dollar and make one more friend. We are all cheering for you and wish you the best!!!

    1. J. Money April 27, 2017 at 9:58 AM

      Wow, beautifully said man. I can’t agree more!

  29. Adriana @MoneyJourney April 25, 2017 at 7:49 AM

    I can’t even begin to imagine how it must be like to be in this situation, but being a foreigner in Italy, I can – on a teeny tiny level – relate to how it feels to be different.

    When I moved here, it took me years to find a good, stable job. I blamed it mostly on the economy, but the truth is, I’m sure the fact that I’m foreign has had something to do with it.

    It also took years before I finally realized discrimination is real, but it’s not as bad as it seems. The media makes a huge deal about it because they have to, the reality though is different.

    I actually know very few anti-LGBT people! Most are simply indifferent to the concept. I’ve worked for a couple of LGBT online communities and, while doing research, I asked people I know about the topic. Turns out, it’s mostly the media that makes such a big fuss about it.

    Also, some of our best friends are Muslim. They’re great people and few are even more open minded than many of our Italian friends! It’s a shame the media portrays certain cultures in such a negative way.

    Being “different” can be difficult indeed, but if you manage to focus on the positive, things will get better eventually! You have only 1 year left of college, you know achieving financial independence is possible and you’re making plans for the future – that means you believe in it!

    As long as you don’t let low self esteem get to you, you should be fine :)

  30. Kellie April 29, 2017 at 11:23 AM

    Although we have different reasons/backgrounds, the security the tool (money) brings is very important to me. It allows me to have power over my situations when in the past I’ve felt stuck and unempowered. What I have learned in my own journey is that when I focus too hard on my LACK (whether of money, self-confidence, bravery, etc), I stay stuck and go backwards, feeling like I’m failing. I’m learning that when I let go and focus on people, providing value, helping others, keeping an eye out for an issue that bugs people but no one is really addressing, the money/security flows more easily.

    That being said, if you ignore your money, it will leave you. I keep an eye on it but try to remember it really is Just. A. Tool. Invest in relationships and grow new ones. I struggle with putting myself out there to people I don’t know (coming from my “lack” mentality) but trying to work on it. The rest seems to come when I’m trying to grow in the other areas of my life.

  31. J. Money May 1, 2017 at 11:14 AM

    “I you ignore your money, it will leave you.” Hell yeah!! Gotta pay attention to it whether we want to or not (and whether we have a lot of it too, or not!)

  32. R. May 7, 2017 at 7:46 PM

    Although I fully recognize the challenges Iqbal has that many others don’t, I do believe Iqbal’s perspective is somewhat of a doomsday one. He seems to be agonizing over potential disasters, which are unlikely (albeit possible). As someone born and raised in Lisbon, I can attest that no one – NO ONE – is thinking about a potential earthquake. I think some of this agony is not just the situation he is in, but Iqbal’s bleak perspective. As someone who has suffered from depression as well, I can relate. But I won’t subscribe.

    Iqbal, I hope you conquer and free yourself of some of those fears. That’s half the battle!

    1. Iqbal June 10, 2018 at 7:18 PM

      Thank you for your words, R.
      It’s nice to know you could relate and gave insight too.
      I basically poured out all my major concerns in life (around that time last year). The concerns still remain but I feel much better now. Writing them and hearing feedback (yours and others) helped. I read at the time, but never replied. I guess I was a bit overwhelmed.

      I agree, people don’t think about the possibility of another earthquake here on a day-to-day basis. I didn’t too. The reason I mentioned the earthquake in Lisbon is because: studying architecture, we came to learn that most buildings in Lisbon are in a fragile structural state. Even the new renovations happening! The city hall allows renovations with no structural plan. A basic term of responsibility signed by the architect is enough now, to accelerate renovation bureaucracy. I like this flexibility to allow a quicker recover from the city landscape, but I was told by some architects that some professionals who sign the term of responsibility just signed the paper and cannot assure (or even know) that the building is earthquake-safe. I fear it would not be pretty if another earthquake like the 1755 one happened.

      Thanks again for your words. Who knows we might have crossed paths around the city ;)

  33. NM June 11, 2017 at 3:20 AM

    I dont know if iqbal comes back to this post but if you do as far as intolerance goes from the faith perspective as a fellow millenial muslim i have to say 99.9 percent of the time no matter how shit someone can be they take up less than 1 percent of your life during whatever unpleasent interaction. And trust me i’ve seen the ugliest and its scary sometimes (threats, slurs and physical violence on a few occasions from adults before i was out of highschool) but the rest of my life is so much bigger than that hate. Its full of people i love, talents i have, hobbies i’m being introduced to, languages i want to learn and just a world of possibilities and potential and its exciting. And the rest of your life is so much bigger more special more significant than any hate that anyone else will ever harbor against you for any of part of how you identify.and thats what you should never ever let anyone take away from you.

    1. J. Money June 11, 2017 at 2:16 PM

      “the rest of my life is so much bigger than that hate.”

      Beautifully said, NM!

  34. Mohammed Mulla June 11, 2018 at 6:06 PM

    Hello Iqbal

    I’m stunned at the multiple levels of discrimination out there. Is this reality or overthinking?

    Personally as a ‘Muslim’in the UK, I rarely get any discrimination. I believe that being comfortable with who you are and not giving a damn what others think allows one to move on with life.

    Of course I don’t know your full story but I sense a ton of worry and attachment.

    Please let some of these ideas go or work them out.

    I say this from experience. I’m not gay but over a decade ago I decided what was best for me. Moving out of a community that didn’t serve me, plus choosing who I wanted to date rather than being dictated to has changed my mindset and life.

    I don’t know if sharing that will help.

    I hope you are feeling better now, life is too short to be attached to so much concern.

    Sending you love brother.