I will blog more about my story in future postings. To share my joys and highs, and perhaps to exorcize some of my demons and past pains.
I hope it will be therapeutic. I find I am talking to myself more these days....... (Hey! Don't run away leh!)
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 programme 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
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.) Singapore
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 IKEA. And for the past 15 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
for my first overseas posting. It’s also a tale of sizing opportunity in adversity; our Asian regional headquarter was relocated from China Singapore to 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. Shanghai
Speculation history – What a laugh!
In 1999 when I was 32, and
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). Singapore
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,