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How a 74 year old cleaner amassed $400,000 in savings over 60 years

I was hopping mad when I read this Sunday Times account of cleaner Goh Kah Keow, who got swindled of her entire life savings of $400k by 5 con artist from China.

Since this is a wealth blog, I chose to focus on what I felt is a spectacular feat and that is how despite being less educated than most in today’s society standards, she amassed $400k.

I am not sure what $400k is to you, but as an average income earner that is a sum that I wish to reach soon but have not touch yet. It is a sum that my parents failed to gather as well. And I believe it is a sum that many could not take out easily if you need.

If its so easy, then we shouldn’t have seen the uproar over the CPF Minimum Sum. Every one was complaining that it keeps rising and so many couldn’t hit it.

Well now we have someone that probably proved that we gave ourselves too much excuses.

  • She started working at a tender age of 10 years old and have been working ever since
  • The jobs that she worked in ranges from baby sitting, washing jobs, a brief stint as a factory worker and cleaner jobs
  • She worked hard, and anything that she can get her hands on to make money, because she was influence when she was young that growing old without money is a tragic thing
  • She does a sideline of collecting newspapers to sell
  • She spent little, but saved 50 to 70 percent of her monthly pay
  • Money is kept in 3 bank accounts as fixed deposits
  • If you think her last drawn salary is a lot, she earns $700 per month
  • She lives in a studio apartment
  • She picks up discarded cloth from the factory she worked and sew curtains, pillow cases and covers for herself. She refused to buy clothes and makes them herself
  • She didn’t have a passport because she does not believe in going overseas for holidays
  • She owns no TV sets
  • She sleeps at 7pm so as not to switch on the lights
  • Her indulgence: Japanese Cheesecake from Giant, but only buys them when its on offer
  • She gives money to beggars and anyone seeking donations

There is no complex wealth building involved here. It is just extreme frugal spending, and learning where the value is . On top of that she gives to those in need.

I am kinda pissed that I thought we rid these cases long ago. My grandmother while I was rather young was a victim of one, and I would chide people for being gullible to believe in it, because I know, they are up against really skilled grifters. Everything will sound believable and the odds are not stack in their favor. In my grandmother’s case, the person could be an expert hypnosis as well.

The fixed deposit rates last time could have grown her savings by a fair bit. There can be many 4-10% fixed deposit rates back then that you don’t have to venture into higher risk products.

She basically followed my formula to become wealthy. Only thing she did it to the extreme. Spend extremely less, Earn more, Build Wealth Wisely. Have a Sideline.

If she earns $700 and still can save 50%, then perhaps she showed us that we are not optimising well enough, and perhaps we complain too much.

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Monday 30th of June 2014

It sadden me to read the story on Sunday as well. What I did was that I shared the story with my 15 year old son, the 2 lessons to learn were:

1. It is possible to save instead of always blame the G and the society for the high cost of living 2. Be vigilant

The (2) is hard especially when she has such a kind heart.


Monday 30th of June 2014

hi RM2,

thanks for sharing with your son. i believe its an example of we should reflect more and not give ourselves so much excuses.

My 15 HWW

Monday 30th of June 2014

Hi Kyith,

I am also very impressed with this lady. And I really feel for her at the age of 74. She probably doesn't need $400,000 to retire on but with her life savings gone, I wonder if she would eliminate those little "pleasures" like the cheesecakes and massages. Hope the police are able to recover a good fraction of her lifelong savings.


Monday 30th of June 2014

hi 15 hww, i am just thinking if they have recovered much of it. it really give a huge distaste to the bad points of opening up this country to more people.

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