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Financial Freedom: An Interview with the Original Money Maverick on Early Retirement by 36

Updated: Apr 14, 2023

This article was created after a financial review conducted with Luke Ho in 2021, who was the author's Financial Consultant/Investment Specialist. MM: Could you tell us a little about yourself, and how old you are? Luke: My name is Luke, but I was better known as Money Maverick a while back. I'm 30 years old and a servant of my Lord Jesus Christ. Currently I am the Managing Director of Money Maverick Academy, where I train consultants to become real, competent Financial Consultants with integrity . I'm better known from my financial publications as an Investment and Critical Illness Specialist, and the writings on the blog Money Maverick.

Workshop with Money Maverick
Luke's event as an invited lecturer at IFPAS.

I was in long distance relationship with my ex-girlfriend Manow from Thailand on and off for about 5 years now, and she made up a lot of my motivation to be retiring early. READ ALSO: An Earnest Conversation MM: Let's get right into it. FIRE (Financial Independence, Retire Early) is a concept that's taken the internet by storm and you seem very determined to retire. Why 36? Why do you want to retire so early? Luke: To be specific, I'd like to FIRE by 36 and serve my clients till the end of my days. That would mean that I have no intention of giving up the services that I want to provide for my clients in the future. Clients would have significantly more complex problems as they age and go through various life events. Because my team and I only have so many hours in a day, I'd like to effectively reach a point where I no longer need to take on new clients by having Financial Freedom. That would retire me effectively. Instead, it would be more enjoyable to have my existing clients flown over with their families onto my land, to work out their estate planning with the large assets that I've helped them accumulate over my years of hard work as their consultant. MM: Land? Luke: I own a piece of land that is undergoing development in rural Thailand, under my ex-girlfriend's name.

MM: We'll discuss that in a while too. Is that the only reason?

Luke: Another reason is due to the limits of fluid intelligence and my physical body. I am happy with my career, but there are many things I have yet to do that I really want. I think that it's important to aim high, but not to get too greedy. When I have enough, I'd like to focus on enjoying those things instead of earning more money, and I can only enjoy some things more when I'm still young. MM: Any examples? Luke: I'd like to build a boat with my own hands. Learn some survival skills. An instrument or two. A new language (especially Thai and Chinese, maybe Korean). I'd like to try my hand at other things in Thailand. These things would better for my mental and physical health. With early retirement, I can give my best to my existing clients without the distraction of consistently having to acquire new business to stay afloat. I'd also be able to provide for my new family (wife and children) and support my parents, siblings and church to some degree.

MM: But why not consider something like LeanFire instead, or semi-retirement, rather than trying to retire fully so early? Luke: I don't think that will work for me. I'm an all-in kind of guy, and my client pool often seems to hold similar sentiment. In fact, I encourage them - and I try to be a good example for them. It's the least I can do, since many of them are older and wiser than me in areas outside of finance.

MM: When did you know you were ready to retire, and what motivated you? Luke: It started largely out of fear, that I wouldn't last in the Financial Advisory industry. I was struggling a lot in the early years. When I did get paid on good months, I decided to invest as much as I possibly could so that I would have money if I failed at my job. That fear still lingers till this day, although less so. There's also my strong desire to support my family. Because I intend to marry a foreigner, I will likely be the sole breadwinner for the rest of my life. I didn't want a situation where I failed to bring my children up in their early years due to being stuck at work because we didn't have enough money. My dad did an incredible job and I love him for it, but I do wish I had spent more time with him in my formative years. Its with his and my family's help that I have the opportunity to do so for my future family.

MM: What do you do for income generation? Luke: My current job is to coach and train consultants who've been overlooked or received little support to become competent and sustainable in their careers - especially in regards to investing. This enables the best for my clients in my time of Financial Advisory as well. I also do Estate Planning such as Wills and Trust introductions. On the side, I co-own several businesses, with the primary being an e-commerce businesses which two appointed directors are helping me to manage. I also derive some income from my private bonds.

MM: And how much is that income? Luke: Because of last year's income, this year I'll have to pay more than $70,000 in taxes. MM: Thank you for contributing to this great country. Luke: ...sure. I will do as many reliefs as I can, but I could probably still use a tax consultant. Next year I am slowing down, so I think its fine. MM: You still save a lot. What does your asset allocation look like now and how will it look in Retirement? Luke: I've talked briefly about my portfolio in a previous article.

The majority of my portfolio are in unit trusts which I identify to outperform the results of the SNP500. While the risk exposure can be potentially lower or higher, the result is what matters most to me. These unit trusts often match what I offer to clients, so that we have a shared interest in me working hard for our retirements and to have the returns buy us time in the future.

A screenshot from Luke's Manulife investments.
A screenshot from Luke's Manulife investments.

They also tend to have long, lock in tenures - 3 of my long term policies are in Manulife, so that clients who I suggest invest without much liquidity for many years are assured that I have significant skin in the game in terms of both structure and investment risk. My current track record in the last 5 years is slightly over 30% annualized. I do not expect this trend to continue, but I will continue to take an aggressive approach in my investments for early retirement.

A 5 year return illustrated from current annualized track record.
A 5 year return illustrated from current annualized track record.

Additionally, I have some private investments, private bonds, my land in Thailand, CPF, two cryptocurrencies and the businesses. MM: I read that article, in part of my preparation for purchasing this blog. That sounds like you have more than enough, if your three long term plans already has so much money. Luke: It's not nearly enough.

MM: But how do you achieve such high returns? Couldn't you retire quickly if your portfolio goes up another 300%? Luke: That's not how investments work. The last 5 years were very good. It would be overly optimistic to assume that the next 5 years would be as well. I do an extensive amount of research for investment opportunities across sectors and geographies, from credible white papers and constant testing. Most people doing a broad approach would never even consider them at all. I haven't found it particularly challenging to get high returns over an extended period, but the risks that I am taking can be quite different from broad-based US Equities. It can be very jarring in the short term, but most investors who learn and accept my methodologies through my students should reap the long term rewards. Some of these clients even have much better performances than me, because I was the guinea pig for their polished investments.

MM: That's true! Luke: ...Shut up. [Luke's return in 2020 was 80.41% against Seth's 128% due to Seth investing in April and not January]

That being said, I'd consider it really good if I just had an 8% annualized return from now till Age 36. I have to dial down the risk for future investments soon.

MM: What are your current expenses like, and what do you think your retirement expenses will be like? Do you track your spending, including escalating health insurance? Luke: My current expenses are high. Businesses alone costs roughly $24,000 a year at least. My employees, full time and part time, will cost an estimated $500,000 across the next 6 years. Taxes should be at least $400,000 in that same period or higher, conservatively. Yearly charity donations would be between $180,000 to $240,000. This is all before personal expenses. This is also before I account for various things like insurance, CPF contributions, regular investments and any other liabilities I may pick up along the way. With FIRE, most of these expenses will drop drastically - but you have to account for everything. For my retirement expenses, I have to create a sizeable portfolio that accounts for supporting myself, my wife, my parents, my home(s), inflation, forex risk, future children and the cost of raising them, various maintenances and emergency situations such as natural disasters, various taxes and changing governmental conditions.

I worry a lot about dividend or capital gains tax, with the last one.

MM: That's...a lot. How much do you think you'll need? Luke: I think I'll need at least 2.2million dollars. I do elaborate about the cost of my dream here, and some of the considerations I just talked about on a Youtube video.

MM: The average Singaporean Male will live to 82, and our generation could live even longer than that. What does your retirement plan consist of, and how do you intend to make it last for so many decades?

Luke: I'm primarily banking a lot on whether or not I'm truly good at my job, so the investment portfolio I mentioned has to be converted to a sustainable lifelong income stream for all the expenses and future expenses I listed. These include dividends and CPF and coupon payouts. I've intentionally excluded any potential recurring income from my job or businesses. If I fail, I fail - but I've worked too hard. I don't think I'll fail. I'm more worried about effective Estate Planning, which I've been accounting for by writing my Will and working on a Trust. Incidentally, these are all services that I provide.

MM: What has been your greatest challenge on your road to Early Retirement so far?

Luke: I've been investing 80 to 90% of my income for over 4 years now but it's only gotten harder and harder. It's really an overwhelming personal challenge.

I also seem to be getting a lot of flak for it publicly as my assets grow. People can be very critical that I'm not 'acting my wealth.'

It's very strange - if you show off your wealth you get criticized, if you're frugal you also get criticized. This sometimes does tempt me to spend a lot more, especially when I'm burnt out from work and want to find a short staycation to rest.

There's also a lot of pressure on me when I find my bank account constantly close to empty in the effort not to compromise my savings habits. I don't even consider my savings account part of my portfolio. Good investors and financial managers save before they spend, but my income is so variable that sometimes what I have left to spend is very little if I insist on saving a fixed amount, which I do. So that's difficult. Having an entirely different quality of lifestyle on a month-to-month basis [depending on what you have left after saving] can be quite stressful. MM: How do you intend to prevent some of the common problems encountered from early retirement? Luke: You mean like getting bored, or... MM: For some there's a loss in identity and purpose as well.

Luke: Between running the business on my land, charitable projects and the 101 things I have to try in my life, I don't think that'll be a problem. This doesn't even include learning how to be a good husband or father, which I'm a bit more anxious about. My Retirement plan only includes 2 children and their education, international + inflation adjusted. So if I have more I'm a bit screwed. (laughs) Any 3rd or 4th child probably won't go to college.

MM: Scholarships. Luke: Eh. MM: Any ideas on how do you want to contribute to the world post Retirement?

Luke: I'm hoping to build a peaceful community with affordable housing, a church and some businesses in the poorer areas of Thailand. I still love that place, even though things didn't work out for me.

MM: Finally, what advice would you give to someone considering Early Retirement?

Luke: I never considered Early Retirement until I met my ex.

In Singapore, we have a serious potential to achieve Financial Freedom compared to Thailand. Realizing how I squandered my own opportunities in my youth bothered me. Think a lot about the opportunities that you have, if you're reading this. Do you have a responsibility to take those opportunities? In poorer countries, other people only dream of such chances. If you believe as much, then push yourself as much as you can while you can, because life is short - but for people who are forced to work until the day they die, life is long. There have been times where I compromised my health or comfort for investing to the point of tears. But I'll make up for it with the decades of time that I've earned in the future with the people that I love. The views offered by the interviewee do not represent the views of any financial company, nor are to be considered as Financial Advice. Should you seek professional advice on investing well, you can be introduced to a financial consultant with competence and integrity through the links below. Money Maverick


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