Jared is a really nice gentleman I got to know while reading other finance blogs in and around Singapore. Around 2 weeks ago he asked whether he could guest post on my blog and I was really interested because I am always interested to know how these “Lao Jiao”’s financial journey.
As usual, this is one of your fellow readers so do be supportive of their sharing.
I did it my way – Singapore Man of Leisure
How do you eat an elephant? One mouthful at a time, silly!
So it goes for sharing the story of how I am able to “retire” (for lack of a better word) at 44 in 12 months’ time. I will expand and share more on each phase of my journey in future blog postings.
Below will be the short version (now that’s an understatement!) of my 28 years’ journey. I am looking very much forward to my next chapter in life – “play”.
And being financially free is merely a tool to make this happen – it’s not the goal or destination for me. Hope to make this distinction clear as there’s more to life than the pursuit of money. I prefer the pursuit of happiness as you don’t always need money for it!
Index 100 (入江湖)
I left school at 16 after my GCE O levels in 1983. I got 5 O level credits with an aggregate score of 20 points. Yes, scrapped through to the 3 years’ pre-university program by the skin of my teeth! Which is not surprising for all my 10 years of academic study, I’ve always been the “just-passed” student.
Well, I did not turn up on the pre-U registration day; instead I went to the HR dept. of Metro Singapore to switch from a temporary (while waiting for O level results) to full-time sales assistant position. I can’t wait to start earning my own keep! I went from temporary worker’s pay of $12 per day to $450 per month after my 3 months’ probation. I guess $450 is my index 100 for future earnings capacity/growth?
NS days – Group dynamics and EQ training ground (战国时代)
Served my duty as male citizen of Singapore for 2 years – lucky I only lance-corporal. That’s the upside of “lower” education – served 6 months less compared to A level and Diploma holders. From NS onwards, I quickly realized that most things were stacked against me…… (Serve me right for not studying hard!? Nah! No regrets man.)
Dark ages (五代十国)
From age 21 to 24, it’s a period of bumming around and quick succession of jobs. I have no idea what I wanted to do in life! Lost as lost can be!
Age of Enlightenment (三国）
From age 25 to 29, Melandas, Eurosa and Montgomery Ward were 3 companies that helped me clarify my search for the industry and career that suited me. I see the light! During this period, I survived 2 rounds of downsizing at Montgomery Ward.
Crusades and Reformation (汉朝)
In Jan 1997 at age 30, I joined my present company (hope you understand I can’t reveal for now). And for the past 13 years, it’s been loads of fun! Yes, it’s true what they say – if you like your job, it’s not work! And if it’s not work, good results follow naturally.
At 37, I got the opportunity to move to China for my first overseas posting. It’s also a tale of sizing opportunity in adversity; our Asian regional headquarter was relocated from Singapore to Shanghai during this time. I was part of the 25% that stayed on and survived…… Lost many good colleagues……. It was also the year I picked up this book called “Rich Dad, Poor Dad”. Many self-help books I’ve read; but this one ranks at the top – you just have to strip out the marketing hype and the multi-level marketing nonsense.
Speculation history – What a laugh!
In 1999 when I was 32, and Singapore was recovering from the 97 Asian financial crises, I opened my first shares brokerage account. All my trades made money!? (There’s really such a thing called beginners luck!) Then at the market top of 2000, I opened my first shares margin account (what can go wrong?). Well, talk about bad timing! I lost it all from 2000 to 2002. All! There goes my nest egg that I’ve built from age 16….. Warren Buffet is right. I was caught swimming naked when the tide receded (blush, blush).
I will post at a later time why it’s the best thing that happened to me in my financial literacy journey. Although I would have wished I started shares speculation 10 years earlier when my nest egg was much smaller…… I would have just lost a finger, not an arm……
From 2003 onwards, it was a period of rebuilding my nest egg. Meanwhile, as part of my financial literacy education, I took 10% of my re-built savings as “learning fees”. I tried many things (I don’t learn by theory) – futures, CFDs, share borrowing to short stocks, pairs trading. Have not got to warrants and options yet – for those, I need to know the “Greeks”, which I am weak in…. For me, currencies and commodities futures are already lots of stress and excitement without making things more complicated. But one day, I believe I will try out options and warrants. Never say never!
As a result of my small stake, I did not fully participate in the bull rally from 2003 to 2007; but I learned something more important (at least to me) – financial literacy.
Blind cat caught dead mice (a Chinese saying) – pure dumb luck!?
From Sept 2009, it just so happens that my peak earnings and savings capacity were matched with the opportunity that the present financial crises presented. Although I did not buy at the bottom during March 2009 (no balls!), scaling in from Sept 2009 till today (buy the dips), I’ve managed to lock-in an average portfolio dividend yield of 9% for 2010. I’ve also bought silver (without leverage) at average USD 16 per ounce.
Through baptism of fire, I’ve found an investment style that suits my personality – growth and income. Yes, I am a John Neff wannebe.
But a swallow does not a summer make. My memory of 1999 is still fresh. That’s why I don’t blog about trading. Wait till I have 10 years of successful investment record then I am comfortable sharing. I don’t want to mislead others. Talk about the blind leading the blind…..
Sorry to disappoint you all. It’s not a tale of great investing glories. It’s merely a story of stumbles and falls. And lots of dumb luck! My nest egg is mainly active earned income.
My personal view is that’s it’s TIME, not money – that’s the real asset we have.
That’s why instead of extending my active earnings till 55, I’ve decided to exchange that with 11 years of frontloaded “freedom” from age 44 (when I am free from contractual obligations) to pursue my interests. If my money runs out; I can always go back to work at 55 (Choy!).
Money lost can be earned back. But time lost…….
Ramblings from a Singapore Man of Leisure,
P.S. If you want to get to know me more, you can visit my blog: Singapore Man of Leisure. Just google it!
Investment Moats is an investment weblog focusing on dividend investing, growing passive income and personal finance. Learn how to easily budget with my envelope budgeting strategy to save money and not overspend.