A story and a message for everyone's financial new year.
I got feedback recently that my stuff has been getting a bit too promotional.
Yes, I have funds that pay 7, 8% a year in passive income with less volatility than REITs. Yes, I can get them paid out monthly and directly to your bank account with just a few signatures. It also probably comes with some kind of discount.
...You know. Stuff like that.
But to be honest, self-promotion isn’t in my nature. It might not seem the case, but it’s true. I’ve never been particularly big on promoting myself.
I don’t like having my picture taken, for one. I have problems making eye contact and holding attention. I don’t often like sharing personal anecdotes compared to factual ones.
In the last two years, I’ve really learnt that people need to like you and trust you before even talking about the problem. And I’m a problem solver, but I’ve not been described as particularly likeable.
It can be hard for a reader to take the time out to drop a message. And there’s a lot of unanswered questions.
What can I do for you that someone else can’t?
Why should I be trusted?
What could I possibly understand about your problems, let alone finances?
I’d like to try a little harder this year. It’s always easier to be open and honest when you see that your Financial Consultant is as well.
So, this… Is me.
My girlfriend’s name is Manow. It means ‘Lemon’ in Thailand.
I fell in love and got together with her officially on August 3, 2016.
It surprised even me, that I fell in love with someone who was so physically far away…Manow lives in a village in Southern Thailand. It's 1900km away.
Its simplistically beautiful in many ways, and I kind of like it.
Imagine a 1950s Kampong on steroids. I think that’s the best description.
…There are literally animals next to power generators.
Before Manow, my plan at the time was to get into NIE, slave away for 4 years and be a slave for another 4 years, and presumably the rest of my life. I made several attempts to try and cut that time short (by simultaneously applying for PGDE and stuff).
It was a pretty decent plan. I had just finished Uni, had 8 years of voluntary tuition under my belt at the Woodland Social Centre, another couple years of private tuition even at a University level (I taught statistics) – with a bunch of grateful testimonials and references to boot.
I loved kids, and I loved teaching. So it was a bit of a no brainer. I was so sure it was my destiny.
But…4 times I applied, and 4 times I was decisively rejected. Didn’t have a clue why. I thought my determination would show or something.
There’s been a lot of underlying pressure because my parents, and my brother in particular, have always gone out of their way to make sure that I could be the best version of me. The sacrifices were made, but there was something lacking.
I didn’t feel as responsible for them.
I didn’t feel responsible for anyone, really. I certainly felt a sense of responsibility – they had done so much for me, and it was my duty to be able to look after myself. Me.
And only me.
So I failed to get into NIE. Again. And there was some tears and some online ranting and a lot of questioning God at church, but… Nothing about me had fundamentally changed.
Money, Money, Money
The biggest trigger happened that month in October, when I received my last NIE rejection.
I had still made very concrete plans to visit her in Thailand, because 1) I hadn’t been there in almost 10 years and 2) she’d been to Singapore twice since we got together, but I hadn’t gone over to visit once. I wanted to declare my intentions to her parents at the time – that I’m her boyfriend. I’m not just playing around with your daughter.
But we were both poor at the time.
She was making a small salary and I didn’t have a job. She worked 30 days a month, 7 days a week, 12 hours a day except for the unpaid vacation she took to spend time with me.
Those were the times we were at our poorest, and we stayed at hotels so cheap sometimes it costs less than $15 for the two of us.
Sometimes those hotels would leak water down the walls. Sometimes the air con would just stop working suddenly.
Sometimes the hotel would have a bathtub, only for it to have so many scratches and stains that it looked like someone’s kidney had been carved out in that bathtub.
The experience humbled me tremendously, because I saw the harsh conditions she lived under and how she thrived under them. There was a constant fear of land (animals, snakes), disease and sea (floods), and there wasn’t any air-conditioning. I’ve become a lot more worried about her since, but she’s stronger than me.
She always has been.
That last night in October of 2016, I barely slept.
I was holding a beautiful girl in my arms who loved me, and I couldn’t offer her anything.
How would I protect her?
How would we be able to afford to see each other?
Didn’t she deserve better?
Something inside me really snapped that night. Like all the lessons and sacrifices that my family had made for me finally kicked in. A side of me I hadn’t seen in really long, an overwhelming desire that’s my mantra for myself and my clients.
I needed money to protect her. To get a house was actually a few feet off the ground, that I couldn’t break open with water or a hammer.
I needed money to see her. I wanted to see her. To fly back and forth, as many times as it took.
And she deserved better. She did.
I wanted to drive her around in a car, not on a dangerous motorcycle in the rain. I wanted her to be with someone who could provide for her, not someone who was broke and helpless.
What I’m building
The story of my recruitment is equally long and it’s not what this is about, so to cut a long story short…I did. It’s still ongoing, but its been my 3rd year since.
I entered an industry where 90% of the people who enter, leave within 2 years.
Where more than ½ of my cohort that I entered training with, has left the industry from the time I’m writing this…
…And I’m universally despised by people, especially those who take the MRT.
Hell, I even got my first hate mail.
I’ve lost a large number of people who I used to call friends, and worse, who I actually thought were friends. And an extended number of people who ignore my messages when I send them, despite them being out of genuine goodwill and concern.
But I’m still here.
And we’re still together.
Financial Consultancy is one of the best choices I’ve made – it’s been good for finances, for me to push myself out of my comfort zone, for spending time with her and others. Your true friends stick around too, and you make new ones – which is pretty damn cool.
I think things with my family are better also...I'm closer to my mum, and I have so much respect for my dad. I get to be a more active part of my siblings lives.
Being in a relationship is like running a business (or in my case, running three businesses – two literal ones and one girlfriend). And I’m trying to center those things around efficiency and honesty.
I’ve learnt not to fight against greed and against my bias unnecessarily. It’s foolish, and untrue – to declare unbias.
Everyone has their bias.
It may seem a little odd to not be an advisor who will promise great things like intrinsic altruism and unquestionable service, but I’m just painfully honest about it.
Our society runs on the premise that the ones who solve the most problems will be the ones most rewarded, which is why Jeff Bezos is the richest man on earth. Or was. Whatever.
Me – I want to be rewarded.
And so I'll solve a lot of problems, and I'll solve them to the best of my ability and with integrity, because it's a long term, mutually rewarding strategy. There isn't a benefit in intentionally lying.
For all the people in my life, and especially for her – I need to be rewarded.
Structure, Finance, Planning, Career and More
My long-term plan is still to generate passive income that’ll be enough for the two of us, so that she doesn’t have to work so painfully hard. That’s why I’ve structured out a plan so that I can continue to service my clients while retiring in Thailand by my late 30s.
As you can imagine, this takes quite a bit of micro-planning down to the minute detail.
It also involves a lot of delayed gratification. I save between 80 – 90% of my income and exploring strategies to continue to increase that income, while investing aggressively - before transitioning towards steady monthly income in the form of dividends.
Once several decades of inflation kicks in, I’ll convert it into a personalized annuity that will last till I’m dead.
You also have to account for things like tax and inflation, post retirement activities and costs. Most prominently, you have to account for the 180 hours of additional free time in a month you have – because if you think you’ll spend all of that time on free activities like television, you’re kidding yourself.
(Why retire otherwise?)
With my background in Psychology, I also try to be there for some of the subtler things. Career progression and analysis is certainly one of them. Other needs that I can address that aren’t quite so common are also covered.
Over the course of this year, I hope to specify how some of these instruments work and how suitable they are for people, like I did recently.
And it’s not a perfect journey. It requires commitment, much like you would to a policy – or even more so, a loved one.
But you know, it's amazing what you can do when someone else is in the picture. I never had a particular big dream that I wanted to work for before...and now, I do. I hope you do too.
Taking myself through this ongoing journey every day has made it useful for my clients. I believe that my experiences will adequately equip me to help them.
Have it All
Each one of you has a range of experiences and motivation that is unique to you, and only you.
What do you do with it? Who is it for?
Not everyone is a believer, of course. But I’m always very encouraged when a client who’s around my age, sometimes younger – tells me something seemingly outrageous, like they want to retire in 20 years. Or by Age 40.
Sometimes its for simpler luxuries, like exploring the world. It amazes me how little some of these people have traveled in today’s day and age.
Other times its very deep and personal, like for their aging parents. Buying a property for them is a surprisingly common reason.
...I love that it's for someone.
That’s the greatest purpose of life – to love and be loved. It’s why the happiness index for countries far poorer than others can be so much higher. When you put someone first, it makes life that much more fulfilling.
So… This year is a new year, and we’re literally living in the best time in the history of existence.
Put your foot down decisively on the accelerator for your financial journey and make it a good one.
For someone special.
You can have it all.
From the two of us