The Road to Wealth

Look through the Forbes’ list of the richest people in the world and you’ll find the majority of billionaires to be successful business owners, from Technology companies to Retail Shop owners to Property Developers. So what does this implies? That the surest way to wealth is to have your own business.

I guess no one became a billionaire just by working for others, in a 9 to 6 job. However, not everyone have the passion, drive, guts, and interest to be business owners or entrepreneurs.

So what are normal folks like us to do to even become remotely wealthy? While not everyone can be a billionaire, most people can amass a million or two (or even more), within their lifetime or by the time they retire. All it takes is discipline and determination, having the right mindset, and good planning. Or like what a friend like to say, have a good system in place.

I do understand that everyone is different, and not all are interested in being rich or to be able retire comfortably. Some just want to enjoy life, be lazy and comfortable, and not work too hard in life. However if you are like me and dream of being rich enough to have a comfortable retirement or to leave at least a million or two behind for your next generation, then you should seriously be following these steps.

1) Earn more
If you’re lucky enough to be born in a first world country like Singapore, then you should realized that there’s opportunities everywhere for you to make more money. From starting your own blog shop to teaching tuition to taking up a second job. I have a few friends whom I totally admire, who are sacrificing their time and energy to earn more while they are still young, or fulfilling their dreams of being an entrepreneur on the sideline while working for others. Either that or be so good at your main job that you are getting good increment and bonuses year after year. Don’t complain that you’re not earning enough. There’s always something that can be done to improve your current situation.

2) Avoid lifestyle inflation
How many of us are spending more now that we are making more money? So much more than when we first came out to work. I sure am guilty of that. I remember during my internship days, $600 a month was more than enough for me to both spend and save. And now, with many of us having a salary of 10times over, we are finding ourselves not having the ability to save. It is important to look back at our younger days and reminisce of how “free” we were from material wants and stick to that. Resist the urge to spend your increment from now on, and try not to splurge your bonuses away.

3) Save the differences
It is so simple, but many of us are not doing it. You earn a paycheck, you pay for needs and some wants, and you save the rest. The bigger the gap between our salary and spendings, the faster our savings will grow. I have friends who are not exactly high earners, yet they have an impressive amount of money amassed due to prudent spending and wise investing. They end up doing better than most high earners!

4) Invest
Once you set aside your emergency funds, you should invest to grow your wealth. Learn to study and pick up good businesses and invest in them. There are many things we can look at. From ETFs to Blue chips to REITs. It is important to invest in order to beat inflation and to slowly build up a portfolio that generate passive income to fund your dreams, which at the same time, offers capital appreciation so that you are not faced with a declining net worth as you grow older.

I know the steps sounds really simple, but not many can do them, or are willing to do them. Those in their 20s and 30s think that they have all the time in the world to start when they have their fair share of fun. However, time passes in such a way that before you know it, the bulk of it is already long gone.

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Getting rid of materialism

I wouldn’t say that I’m completely rid of materialism. In fact, close friends of mine know that I’ve been having this watch craze lately, and am currently eyeing an IWC Portofino watch which cost a whooping $7,200.

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Gorgeous isn’t it? However, unlike before, I have a better sense of self control and I find myself having no reasons to get it. I will get this watch as a form of reward when a) I completed my ACCA, or b) I have a saving in excess of 100k, whichever comes earlier. Either way, there is still a year or more to go before I accomplish my goals. And who knows? Maybe by the time I accomplished them in a year or two, I may not want to spend so much money on a discretionary want after all.

Over the past year, I’ve come to a conclusion that there’s no end to materialism, it’s like trying to fill a bottomless pit. Many think that buying and owning things equates to happiness. In fact, it’s the total opposite. Think about it, when it’s the time one would usually shop and spend the most? It’s usually when one is unhappy and turn to retail therapy to make themselves feel better. Situations like stress from work, break ups, family problems and unfulfilling personal lives tend to make us shop more. Shopping gives a false sense of happiness, and a false sense of importance. It acts as a distraction from things we are truly unhappy about. When we buy things, we get attention and assurance from shop assistants and we feel a sense of importance. After the purchase is made, friends or colleagues usually notice it especially if it’s a big ticket item and we get attention from it for awhile. This again add on to us feeling important from our purchase. However, the root of our problem was never removed nor even paid the slightest attention to.

I had a bit of time by myself today, so I started asking myself why the sudden interest in watches. Why this strong urge to “reward” myself despite not having real reasons to do so? Is it because I’ve hit an income level of 100k per annum? Or because I’ve climb out of debt and am saving over 40% of my salary? Truth to be told, I wanted to get a watch to mask my discontentment at work, and out of boredom. I’m bored with my boring albeit well paid job. I don’t feel challenged and I’m not growing much career wise. Why not change job? Firstly, I’m not a quitter, secondly, this job offers me two important things. Time and money. Time to complete my studies, and money to build up my savings at a faster rate.

Therefore, I tell myself to focus on experiences, relationships, my goals, and on fixing my problems. Don’t focus on things such as that beautiful IWC watch. When we focus on being a better person, on improving relationships with people in our lives, we will then be fulfilled and material things naturally wouldn’t matter as much anymore. Having said that, I may still get that watch as a reward only when I truly deserve it, when I reached my personal milestones. We’ll see!

When retirement turns ugly

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When retirement comes to mind, we usually think of all the wonderful things we will be doing when we are no longer bound by our jobs. We will have the time and freedom to travel, do the things we love, and to spend time with our loved ones.

However, I was proved wrong today. It suddenly hit me that retirement can be scary and you can never really be prepared for it, mentally, emotionally and physically. Yes, you can be financially ready, you might have have enough passive income every month to sustain your lifestyle, have enough savings to last you for the next 20 years, or comprehensive insurance plans to protect you from emergencies, but it takes more than just money for a happy and fulfilling retirement.

By the retirement age of 62, we may no longer have the energy to travel all we want, when we want, and where we want. The long flight to Europe or the States can make us physically tired. We feel tired from the endless walking and exploring of new places. Our stomach may no longer be accepting of cuisines different from what we usually consume.

How about we forget about traveling and focus on our loved ones instead? Our children and grandchildren? By 62, our kids have turned into adults and might already have a family of their own, or be too focused in their own careers that they hardly have time for us. They might not need us as much as we need them now. They have a life of their own and we may only see them during the weekends, or worst, they may only visit us once a month or only during special occasions like birthdays and Father/Mother’s Day.

How about the sense of loss we will feel when we no longer have a career? Suddenly, something important is taken away from us, something which we have been focusing on for the past 40 years of our lives.

I had been trying to get in touch with my ex-boss since her retirement early this year. Finally today, my ex-colleagues and I were able to pay her a visit her at her place. After her retirement, we heard news of her falling sick and was hospitalised for awhile. We texted and called her, and tried to get in touch with her, but she replied saying that she wasn’t ready to face us. Until today.

It was only this day that I finally get to hear her story. 3 months before her retirement, in November 2012 , she was approached by our CFO that the bank is giving her 3 months notice for her retirement coming January. There is no other suitable positions for her within the bank except for the post of a filing clerk. A filing clerk! I couldn’t believe my ears when she told us that. It is a total insult for our Head of Management Accounting. There was practically no retirement compensation for her as well, only one month salary and an additional 10K. She was with the bank for more than 10 years and this is what she received for her retirement.

Shortly after, she went into depression and started getting really unwell, having to call in sick for most of the last 3 months at work. She did not even turn up for her last day at work, and a colleague had to collect her belongings and couriered them over to her. That was when she was being hospitalised and was being treated for anxiety and depression. This is what retirement can do to a person. Having worked with her for 4 years, she had always been a strong person physically and mentally. She hardly goes on medical leave and was quite a workaholic. Of all people, I can never expect her to go into depression because of her job loss. Her total medical bill for 40days cost her 16K.

I guess that it didn’t help that she was single and that work had always been a top priority her whole life. It was just too much for her when she loses her life focus. With the additional insult of offering her the position of a Filing Clerk, she lost her self worth completely. She did have supportive siblings, nieces and nephews constantly around her though.

It was fortunate that she had always been financially savvy. The medical bill was mostly covered by CPF and she only had to fork out 5K in cash. She also owns properties, has money in her fixed deposit account, and an investment portfolio. At least she does not exactly have to worry in the financial aspect.

LESSON LEARNT
I always thought money and being financially secured is the most important thing in enjoying our golden years. Money can solve most problems like medical bills and can fly us around to many different places and keep us from worrying about bills. However, it is equally important to have good health, a loving family, and still have passions and goals to lead a fulfilling retirement. We need to still feel useful in our old age, to be able to help others or contribute to the society. Money in this case is just a tool. A tool to make our lives easier, more comfortable and have less worries. We need life purpose to keep us strong and happy.

So now, besides saving, investing and growing wealth, I am going to commit myself to finding other life passions, and also to continue building and maintaining meaningful relationships with people. In my quest for wealth accumulation, I noticed that I had been a little aloof with friends and colleagues, and had preferred my time alone, reading or thinking about things in general.

I thank my ex-boss for helping me realised that money is important, and that many other things like good health, friends and family, and having passion are all equally important as well. I hope she’ll recover soon and be able to fully enjoy her golden years.

Oh and one more thing.

NEVER EVER RELY ON YOUR EMPLOYER FOR RETIREMENT. TAKE MATTERS INTO YOUR OWN HANDS AND START NOW.

The kind of life I want

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Most of the time when someone ask us “what do you want in life?”, we would often think of the fancy lifestyle we see in movies, living in a huge mansion, driving a Porsche, flying in private jets and partying on our own private yacht. And then we are reminded of how much money is needed to fulfill such dreams, so we stopped dreaming and tell ourselves to go back to reality and be contended with our pathetic little lives.

However, having a fulfilling life does not mean we need to be living in a huge mansion, driving a fancy car or having an endless supply of designer clothes to wear. Rather than asking yourself what kind of life you want (most people would either want a fancy lifestyle, or they do not know what they want), ask yourself what is important to you in life. More often than not, the things we want are actually very very simple.

The kind of life I want…

Being able to prepare breakfast for my loved ones every morning. Have a nice peaceful meal with them in our nice, cozy little apartment and see them off to work and school. Career wise, I’ll probably be working in a charity organization or with a welfare group or even my own company where I can focus on helping people who are in need. I would opt for a job where I can make a difference in others’ lives, than be in a high paying corporate job. I’ll have the luxury of working flexible hours, to be able to head home before everyone else, to prepare a sumptuous dinner for my loved ones.

Weekends will consist of waking up early, heading out for some shopping, or simply finding family activities to do. We will head out to different restaurants for brunch every week. In the evening, we will bring our kids to meet up with family members and friends, to do potlucks and dinners at one another’s place.

Every few months, we will go on short vacations to neighboring countries. Once a year, we will head to more exotic locations like the States or to Europe for a longer vacation.

I will be around to watch my kids grow up, be with them through their different life stages, rather than being stuck in a office job that robs me of my time and freedom.

What I have stated above are very simple pleasures in life which does not require living in a big mansion, driving fancy cars or owning a private jet. It does not require ALOT of money. However, financial freedom is much needed for my loved ones and I to indulge in such simple pleasure in our current society. We need money for us to choose what job we like to do. To be able to say no to high paying jobs which require many working hours in the office. We need money to indulge in our weekend treats at different restaurants. We need money to go on regular vacations, especially for a family with kids. We need money to buy our nice cozy apartment and to maintain it.

This is what money means to me. It is for me to buy time and freedom. I am saving really hard now. To build up a decent level of savings and investment portfolio, which can help me generate passive income in years to come. I hope to have my second and third properties as well, to generate passive incomes for me and my loved ones to live the kind of simple life we want.

How do you want to live your life? Start planning now and live it šŸ™‚

How Rich People Think

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They always say the first step to getting rich is to study those who made it, and to adopt their thinking. This post isn’t exactly a book review of “How Rich People Thinks” by Steve Siebold, but more of discussing some of my favourite points in the book which I believe in, and which enlightens me as well.

– Middle class worries about running out of money, world class thinks of how to make more money.

Normal folks worry about having to pay bills, their mortgage loans, their children’s education etc. They find themselves in a position whereby there is nothing left to save for at the end of the month. While on the other hand, the rich are making so much more that their bills took care of themselves, and not only are they able to save, but they are also able to invest or take advantages of any business opportunity. For the rich, there are always ways and methods to make more money.

– Middle class thinks about spending… World class thinks about investing.

The normal folks think it is impossible to be rich so they don’t see the point of saving and investing for their future. They rather spend money on material things and on entertainment to make themselves feel better. They are not able to see so far ahead into the future, hence they are not able to resist instant gratification, to buy that new pair of jeans, new designer bag, or that flashier car. The rich plans far ahead and knows how to make their money work hard for them, even when they are not busy making money.

– Middles class has a lottery mentality… World class has an action mentality.

How many times have you heard others saying they will become rich when they won the lottery? Rather than leaving such chances to luck or fate, the rich become rich by doing something to make it happen. They never stop learning, they find their passion, and became so good at doing what they love that they make money from it. They take risk and never give up even if they fail numerous times. They can fail 72584937 times, but they just need that one time to succeed to make a difference. The poor wait for outside factors to rescue them from poverty, winning the lottery, inheritance from a rich relative, or for some woman, finding a rich husband is the solution for them.

– Middle class is waiting to be rescued from financial mediocrity… World class knows no one is coming to the rescue.

This is similar from the point above. Normal folks just sit around, feeling sorry for themselves, resenting the rich, and hope that a miracle will happen to them, and one fine day they will become rich. That day never came. What’s worst, they pass on such mentality to their children. I remember my father always tell me he will buy me this and that when he won the lottery. After 20years, it never happen. For so long, I had such a mindset too, digging myself into debt and hoping someone or something will rescue me from my predicament.

– Middle class believes money changes people… World class believes money reveal people.

I believe if someone of good values become rich, they will do even greater good than before. Similarly, if someone of ugly character become rich, they will misuse or abuse their wealth. Problem is, movies and the media only portray the bad sides of wealth. That is what normal folks choose to believe, that wealth equates to greed. They think that being wealthy is bad, so they make themselves feel better by being mediocre their whole lives.

– Middle class believes money is about status… World class believes money is about freedom.

Similar to another point in the book, “Middle class believes people seek money for power, world class seek money for control”.

If you ask someone what will he or her do if he has a windfall and he’ll tell you about that fancy car, big house and expensive suit he is gonna get when he is rich. All these represent status of wealth. That is why so many lottery winners squander away their winnings within a few years and became worse off than before. They use money to buy things, to buy status. The rich understands that money buys time and choices, not just status. With money, one can choose to quit their meaningless job or get out of unpleasant situations. They can hire help to take care of the mandate aspects in their lives and focus on the important things like their health, loved ones and contributing to a cause they believe in. In short, having money is about having the freedom of choice.

– Middle class lives beyond their means… World class lives below their means.

The rich are able to live below their means not just because they lead a frugal life, but because they earn so much money, regardless of how they spend, they are still able to save and invest a large portion of their earnings. While it is important to save, one should also focus on earning more by constantly learning and improving oneself to develop a win win situation whereby one can afford a luxurious lifestyle, and still have enough financial security for their retirement etc.

– Middle class believes the more money you make, the more money problems you will have…World class believes the more money you make, the fewer problems you will have.

Similar to another point:

– “Middle class equates money with stress, world class equates money with peace of mind”.

– “Middle class never makes the connection between money and health, world class knows money can save your life”.

I have heard people saying things like money cannot buy happiness, love or good health. To me, these are just excuses for staying within your comfort zone. For it is easier to not try at all, than to try and fail numerous times. I don’t think one will feel happy, being broke and not being able to pay their bills. And with the extra stress, how can one stay in good health?

Anything that can be solved by money is not a problem. Need repair for your car? Your television just broke down? Tuition fees for your child has increase? All these are not a problem at all if you are rich. I am not saying money can buy you a long life, but with money, you will have access to the best health care, medicine, and doctors available at your disposable. The rich definitely has a peace of mine compared to normal folks.

10) Middle class teaches their kids about money by example… World class does the same thing”.

I grew up with a mentality that money is a scare resource. In a normal family, you hear parents telling their kids stuff like “money doesn’t grow on trees”, or that “rich people are greedy”. Children grew up thinking being poor is noble, and that one has to get rich on the expense on others.

The rich on the other hand grew up with an abundance mentality. There are the few bad eggs that squander off their parents’ wealth, but the majority manage to build their family empire and bring it to greater heights. There are also many second generation self-made millionaires that earned their keep through their ambition, innovation, and rich mentality due to their upbringing.

Being rich is never easy, that is why the majority of us are just mediocre. The first thing you have to do is to open up your mind, stop wallowing in self pity, and believe that being rich is possible. Read about successful people and see what they did right in their lives and replicate their success. Do something, start saving, learn to invest, plan for your future, and stop complaining. You might not end up being a millionaire, but you will at least retire comfortably, bringing positive mindset to your children. Regardless, you will end up being in a better place than you currently are, just by opening up your mind and making an effort to save and earn more. If they can do it, so can you.

Things I’ve accomplished in my 20s

Came across an article some time back about a list of “20 things you need to accomplish in your 20s” and I thought I’ll do up a list of my own.

However when I was going through the list again, I realized I’ve actually accomplished quite a few items. So now I shall write about my so-called “accomplishments” and what I want to achieve before I turn 30 next year. Do bear in mind that the list below is just based solely on my life, on the little achievements that I’m proud of, so it might not sound as ambitious or exciting or noble as you would like it to be.

Proudly accomplished:

1) open a trading account early this year and learnt how to invest in Equities and value listed companies

Despite working 4 years in a bank, I had never taken an interest in financial products nor had I learnt about investing. It was only when I left the banking industry that I started reading up on my own and started investing in equities. I’m no expert, but within a few months, I did build up a nice portfolio of blue chips from various industries.

2) got out of debt and became a master of my own finances

It wasn’t easy climbing out of debt. But with enough motivation and by being persistent, it can be done. I’ve also created a budget worksheet for myself, sticked to it, trimmed unnecessary expenses, and started saving money.

3) finally knew what I want in life – financial freedom

This is my biggest “accomplishment” by far, in my own opinion. I’ve been drifting along in life for far too long, not knowing what I want in life. All it takes is a little bit of soul searching and asking myself questions on what’s important in my life. I wanted financial freedom, to be able to do what I want, whenever I want. It may sound very generic, everyone wants financial freedom, but there is a deeper meaning behind it. I asked myself what I would do if I’ve achieved financial freedom, if money wasn’t an issue from living the life I want. The answer is very simple. I want to spend time with my loved ones instead of spending most of my waking hours at work, stuck in a cubicle office. I also want to help people in need, to contribute to society, and to help others who were like me, to get a grip on their finances.

4) learnt to be happy with myself

Too often, we let ourselves get affected by people and things outside of our control. We get affected by others’ opinions and bashed ourselves internally by their words. Others can say and think whatever they like, we can’t control that, but we can always control our own thoughts, emotions and actions. No one can make us feel lousy about ourselves unless we allow them the right to do so. We are also very much affected by the things people own, like we see our friends driving a brand new car and we’ll then start to feel lousy with ourselves and try to keep up with the jones. There is this saying “we buy things we do not need, to impress the people we do not like”. It’s so true in our current society. I also believe that “if we buy things we do not need, very soon we will be selling the things that we need”.

5) read on a daily basis and to keep up with current events

Knowledge is power. There’s always so much to learn, to improve on, and I believe reading can help one become a better person. It broaden our world and let us focus not just on ourselves. There’s a bigger world out there than what’s happening in our life and in our circle. When our world become bigger, we learnt to be more understanding and tolerant of others, and learnt that not everything is about us. By keeping abreast with current events, we can make use of opportunities to make more money, to help us achieve what we want in life.

Ironically, I’ve only accomplished the above within this one year. That is, after I’ve sorted out my financial mess.

I also have a list of other things I’m working on to accomplish before turning 30 next year:

1) be more organized

I’m not the most organized person around and I do lose things or forget things easily. This is one area which IĀ need to improve on.

2) get the body I always dreamt of

I’m tired of complaining about my body. It is time to do something about it.0

3) spending more time with my loved ones

I’m getting married next year, so I hope to spend more time with my parents and siblings etc. For a start, I’m bringing my Grandma on a trip to Bangkok in December.

The list I’ve come up with is nothing impressive. It is my little ways of telling myself that I’ve grown, and became a better person.

 

Introduction

My initial motive for setting up a blog was to be accountable for my own finances, to track my progress and my journey to financial freedom. During my financial distress, I searched high and low looking forĀ inspirations/advice/information on personal finance matters from local websites or blogs that can help young women like me get out of debt and get my financial life in order. To my disappointment, I was not able to find much information. IĀ have no idea if Singaporean women are so good in managing their finances that they do not need help, or that they are actually as clueless as I was. I eventually found advice and information on personal finance blogs from the states, as well as from mentors in my workplace.

Financial literacy wasn’t something that was taught in school. I don’t know about you, but I sure did not learn about money from my parents as well. By starting Get Rich Diva, I hope to help young Singaporean women learn the importance of saving money, getting out of debt, building wealth, and having the right mindset and values about money and how it can improve one’s life greatly.

Life isn’t just about clothes, bags, shoes and make up (gee, I used to believe in those), it’s about values, family, friends, being a better person, the correct mindsets and attitude, and realizing your dreams. By getting my financial life in order, the other aspects of my life improved as well, all within a short period of time. I begin to search deeper within myself, found my goals and dreams, and work on being a better and happier person.