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Haidilao FI – Steven Lim Kor Kor Teaches Us a Very Valuable Financial Independence Lesson

There is this very disturbing TikTok video sharing some very questionable financial advice that caught my attention these couple of days:


Steven Lim sold his HDB and put all his proceeds into ONE stock 🤯Creds: Singaplex #singapore #sgtiktok #tiktoksg

♬ original sound – thesingaporeanson – thesingaporeanson

I described the video as disturbing, but perhaps it is not disturbing for you HAHA!

The composer of this TikTok video stitched together a few particular sections of Singapore personality Steven Lim’s interview that is more interesting.

The video focus on two critical areas:

  1. He sold off his HDB flat recently to buy one stock.
  2. The lifestyle that his eventually wealth would afford him.

You might wonder what “tok gong” stock he invested in. It is SingPost.

That is probably a very questionable thing, and I can go deeper into the mechanics of Steven’s move if I wish to.

What caught more of my attention was the second area.

Many times, these edited videos might incorrectly depict what the people are trying to say, so you might want to watch the interview itself:

Steven discusses Yishun, selling off his HDB and redeploying his money into SingPost in the 6 min 25 second part. He bought 450,000 shares of SingPost at $0.65.

He basically needs just one good stock, and the success and failure of this stock will determine his “Endgame”.

At the ten-minute thirty seconds mark, he was asked whether SingPost would be a major pillar of his retirement contribution.

And his answer to this question fascinates me.

His answer can be a bit incoherent, but here is what I think he meant.

Steven honestly shared that even now, he can “go on for many, many years”. And then he asked what the famous restaurants out there are. The host suggested chicken rice, but Steven thought more like Din Tai Fung and HaiDiLao.

Steven said that today, he calculated that he could continuously eat Din Tai Fung, Haidilao for two people for 16 years.

Over the years, I have learned that everyone likely has a slightly different model for their retirement in their head. And there are good reasons because each of us desired a different lifestyle. The lifestyle that many of us desired might be common on a few levels, but we will likely differ over:

  1. The grade of the particular expense we are discussing
  2. The frequency of the particular expense

He is precise about what his $300,000 can buy him today. Not all his expenses, not food that is essential to life but specifically high-grade food. And he is being very precise that he wants to eat this with another person (he is struggling to find that someone to share with now lol)

And he needs to eat it on and on.

You can question the rationale of Steven’s life priorities or the degree of conservativeness in his financial independence income structure.

Still, it is clear what is first and foremost in his thoughts, and if he could secure an income to provide for Haidilao at his desired frequency conservatively, that is good enough for him.

In Steven’s head, he is not asking, “What is the amount that I need to accumulate so that I can cover all my current expenses so that I can FIRE?” but “I have $300,000 today. What can my $300,000 buy me? What can I fit into $300,000?”

The former question is aspirational, and you will be left with the feeling that you are very far from your desired lifestyle. The latter question focuses on what you currently have and the degree of lifestyle you have already secured.

I think not a lot of people think in this more conservative perspective.

It only occurred to me to look at things this way in recent years.

And I think this perspective may work for many because the question actively forces you to question the grade and frequency you can accept of your different expenses.

Do you even need that in retirement?

Too many do not even know their financial independence configuration, which is critical in figuring out your magic FI number.

We know that we cannot fit everything into a small suitcase, and so it forces us to evaluate if we need to bring that item along or do we need to use a combination item.

It forces us to be creative. And in our financial independence journey, it forces us to be reflective on our desired life.

A few months ago, a good friend of mine discussed the degree of our conviction on pivoting our portfolio allocation towards small-cap value. Halfway into the conversation, I pointed out to him that he has conservatively secured the essential 90 meals a month for himself for the rest of his life.

His portfolio is not significant enough by many people’s standards, but I try to point out how significant that amount is based on what it can buy him. He doesn’t secure enough for his wife or kid, but I think it will make him ponder whether securing 90 essential meals for the rest of his life is something important to him or something will take priority over this.

And my greatest gift to him is that when I say he can conservatively secure, he knows it is conservatively estimated.

Say what you want about Steven Lim, but I thought more people could think his way.

Don’t always think about the independence of everything but one expense item at a time.

And I hope more of our clients would reflect and ask themselves this question. It may change the trajectory of their financial plan. Just don’t put all their money into one SingPost.

I left the interview curious about why he is confident that with $300,000, he can eat Haidilao for two for 16 years. I have never eaten Haidilao before and therefore do not know the average cost. I don’t even know the fascination over hotpot like this! You pay a large amount for limited food, then you still have to cook the food yourself. WTF. Why so specifically 16 years?

Do many of you frame things this way? How do you find this framing compared to the traditional way?

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