Friday, March 8, 2019

How I Was Sold On The Idea of Financial Independence

Since I am coming up close to a decade of investing since I started my financial independence journey in 2009, I thought I’ll do a trilogy of articles on the “rewinding back to history” to remind myself how far the journey has been, and hopefully this can also inspire others who are keen to take on this journey. 

For the longest time I can remember, the sequence of a life’s journey is designated to be like this.

First, you attend school, study hard for your exams, get into the top 3 rank in your class, listen to your teachers, then subsequently get into a good tertiary school. 

Once you have graduated, look out for a good role at a multinational company, work for 8-12 hours a day, get promoted, and then stay there until retirement age comes calling for you. 

You work there all your life, build up your pension fund and you are all set for a comfortable retirement life. 

For the upper scale of the greater population, they work even harder, longer, climb the corporate ladder at a faster pace, increase time commitment and take on bigger responsibilities. 

Some goes to work unprecedentedly soulless without direction if this is what they wanted in life.

F.I.R.E - Financial Independence Retire Early

Over the last decade, this unwritten pact has been shredded by the FIRE movement community who thinks that going through life in this structured manner was an insane proposition. 

The FIRE movement thrives on the idea of financial stability and freedom autonomy and sells it to the people who falls under the radar of a failed designed regime system in our society. 

If you are a scholar and work in an organization where you thrive, look away because the FIRE movement is not suited for you. 

But for the larger part of the population who struggles to keep up, and are always constantly demanding for higher pay and more attention, the FIRE social movement pounces straight on your weakness, turning them into an upward spiral of beliefs and successes. 

They make them believe that financial stability has nothing to do most of the time with a person’s scale of intelligence nor purchasing power. 

The movement believes that financial independence is a stone step away within everyone’s reach if they want to believe. 

Sure, you do need some form of basic income to tide over your expenses and make some good judgement call, but the key is still discipline, sacrifices and some delayed gratifications and with expanding knowledge accumulated over time, you can venture to grow your money via the various investment tools. 

My Personal Experience 

I was sold to the idea of financial independence because the FIRE movement promises something that a lot of things back then were in doubt to me. 

Back then, I wasn’t sure if I had what it takes to survive living in Singapore. 

This is one of the best developed fast growing nation in the world that is famous for her great territory of building landscape and fast pace of lifestyle, not to mention the stress level bemoaning on the high cost of living. 

Even when I was undergoing my education phases here, I was struggling to keep up with my peers for the sheer amount of homework and words to memorize and that stress that everyone was talking about lived up to its name real quickly. 

I had to settle for a score of 186 for my PSLE when everyone of my classmates were celebrating theirs’ and I had to enter the normal stream in the next phase of my secondary school.

What's my future like with this bleak outlook of 186 score, I wonder

Growing up here keeps me in the toes all the time, relentlessly trying to play catch up with fellow peers and classmates who are always steps ahead of me. 

On the good side, it forces me to step up my game (coming from a low base) and improve myself as a whole. 

Thankfully, the FIRE movement gave people like me chances to outperform my peers on a different scale. 

It is not entirely about wits because otherwise I would have fallen off the pack long ago.

One of the FIRE success criteria is to have perseverance and discipline and I had to work on my character build up over the years to get nowhere close to perfect.

But I know I have to give it a try.

And slowly over the years it is a soft-skills that can be nurtured and improved over time.

Thankfully it worked and I managed get a little better of myself as each day passes.

I continue my pursuit of financial independence since, and believe this is a movement for the people who believes in themselves, regardless of how the rest of the world sees you and discard your presence in this world.

This is a path worth taking, because even for the non-believers this is something they would have to take on someday in their lives.

Thanks for reading.

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  1. Hi B,

    Not to toot my own horn, but I had good grades up till university. But the thing I quickly learnt after graduation was that grades only give you a chance for an interview in the corporate world. Ultimately it boils down to on the job performance and experience.

    I think you can be proud of how far you've come from the 186 in the PSLE! Looking forward to part 2 and 3.

    1. Hi KK

      I agree with you, it gives candidates a good chance for a good interview with a good company which can give a good headstart in their career.

      All things equal though, success in education is still a good correlation to a good career, though it may not always be.

      Thanks for sharing your experience.

  2. Hi Brian,

    You mentioned "If you are a scholar and work in an organization where you thrive, look away because the FIRE movement is not suited for you. "

    Reading your past posts, I get the impression you are doing pretty well in your finance career. Since you are thriving in your career, do you sometimes think FIRE is a distraction and not suited for you since you have a thriving career?

    You are a good example why normal/express streaming is a bad idea. This system wasted one year of your life! It warms the heart to see an underdog prove the elite system wrong :) All the best in your career!

    1. Hi Hyom

      Thanks for your kind words.

      I'm doing just okay in my career and life. I had very little expectations of what I can achieve in this world, so I just want to take a step at a time.

      I think with kids now, the focus attention goes very much to them than myself, so this is something I want to be working on it.

  3. Focus on career development by earn more, save more, invest more and more cpf even without toppings up with our own spare cash is far better way to pursue FI

    1. Hi Uncle CW

      A good career development over 30 years should be enough to bring one to FI with a decent plan.

  4. Like!

    Its also great to climb up from the bottom. I say with sincere compliments

    1. Hi SI

      And with great teacher like yourself shaping our education and youth mindset from the start :)

  5. as I grow and age, I realised one of the most important factor to do well is the meeting of right mentor who will not only help u in the things you do but also give u new thinking perspective. the only challenge is it's not easy it find the right one

    1. Yes I agree. A good mentor goes a long way that can lead you into the right direction. It's priceless really and it's hard to find one in our lives.

  6. How come you don't need to serve NS/

    1. Hi I just got my citizenship recently so am considered first generation.

  7. Hi Brian, Wow. One would never have guessed that you didn't do so well back in PSLE (not that it matters now). I similarly have a close friend who scored the same and by Uni time he was valedictorian while I the express stream student was struggling. My friend encouraged me greatly during that time.

    Look forward to hearing some of your sharings on gaining some of the soft skills at work. I believe these soft skills are more important in navigating the workign world than academics. I also just started to take action about my situation and not complain about the system and I figure still have a long way to go.

    1. Hi 30yearoldInvestor

      Thank you for sharing your story with us.

      Yes soft skills are one factors I am constantly trying to improve everyday because they are just so so important today knowing how to articulate and communicate is key to our successes.

    2. Hi Brian,

      Thanks for visiting my blog and adding a link back too :) I'm an avid reader for your blog and heard you speak once back in 2018 when you shared the 6+4/ 8+2 strategies. Helped me alot.

      I agree that soft skills and communication is key. Learnt it through the hard way that teamwork is also important (or ability to work with others) at work, making friends whenever possible.

  8. Thanks Brian for sharing the inspiring post. Very well said indeed on the sequence of life expected of a typical person in our current banal Singapore system. I give it 1000 Likes! Looking forward to your part 2 and part 3.

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  12. Hi Brian,

    Chance upon your blog. Nicely done bro. Similar to yourself, I had a slow headstart in my younger days. PSLE was 187 / 300, just 1 point higher than you. Eventually made my way through N lev, O lev, Diploma, Advanced Diploma, Degree and eventually Masters. Similarly, my goal is to achieve financial freedom before the age of 40. Made my first million at the age of 33 through stocks investment. However it's not enough to retire. I am still working full time as an Engineer and part time blogging. Just started out blogging though (less than a yr). Checkout my blog >> I have also uploaded my PSLE result in my blog. lol However your blog is way better than mine, in terms of contents wise and traffic. Feel free to drop me an email, or if u do have some advise / feedback for my blog. Feel free to write to me. Wishing u the best in everything u do, achieving financial freedom!!


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