Some thoughts on my financial wellbeing
Ever since I was young, I always thought that the “right path” to leading a “stable and financially secure” life is to study hard in school, graduate from a good university and find a good job that pays well.
However, after witnessing a personal event in early 2022, watching some videos and reading some books (Such as, Rich Dad, Poor Dad and The Millionaire Fastlane), I realised that the “right path” that I have been taught to follow is not “secure” at all. There are actually many dangers of having a job as my single source of income.
Reason 1: My livelihood becomes entirely dependent on my employer
At any time that my employer decides to let go of me, for whatever reasons, I will be out of job and have 0 income. This is perhaps not so much of a big problem if it happens to me now, when I am still young and can easily re-enter the job market to find another entry-level software engineering job in the growing technology industry. However, I cannot say the same, if I were to project myself in this situation 20 years down the road, when i am in my forties. By then, I am not sure if the software engineering industry will still be growing like now or face with an oversupply of software engineers. But I can imagine that in 20 years time, I will probably be at least in a managerial position and if I were to face a middle-aged retrenchment, I am 100% sure that it would be much much harder for me then, to be re-employed compared to now.
The reason being that, I might be deemed as “too old, too expensive and too experienced” for the positions that I apply to. I believe that as one climbs up the career ladder, the number of positions advertised in the open job market that can match one’s skillset and experience is lower. To put the idea that I want to convey in my previous sentence into an example: In the job market, the number of job openings for a Software engineering manager level 5 is lower than the number of job openings for a Software engineer level 1. I also believe that there will be a stronger preference for companies to promote internal workers into senior positions than hire external workers which may cost more and expend more resources. Therefore, I will have a harder time looking for suitable positions. Even if I am willing to lower my expectations and apply for a level 2 or 3 position, companies might not be willing to hire me due to me being “over-qualified” or their fears that I view their offer as a temporary position and that I might jump to greener pastures. Ageism is also another factor that I have to consider especially in a fast-paced industry like technology which favours youth and agility.
Even though I am still relatively new to the workforce and this is not a looming threat to me now, I believe that it is incredibly important to recognise this early and take steps to start building a moat to protect myself.
Reason 2: Unbalanced balance sheet, slow lane to wealth
The pictures above are taken from the Rich Dad, Poor Dad book. If my job is my only source of income, my balance sheet will only contain liabilities and 0 assets. Compare that to a rich person’s chart.
Having just my job as my main source of income puts me in the Slow Lane path. It means that my financial wealth is limited to how much hours I put into my job and how much money my employer is willing to pay me for my time and effort. I will find myself working hard everyday but seeing no light to the end of the tunnel as there is always an endless stream of bills to pay and my salary barely pays me enough to cover them.
There is a theory, “Workers work hard enough to not be fired, and owners pay just enough so that workers won’t quit.” A Job is an acronym for “Just Over Broke.” where we work for pay and benefits that reward us in the short term, but are often disastrous in the long run.
Once people get trapped in the lifelong process of bill-paying, they become like those little hamsters running around in those metal wheels. Their little furry legs are spinning furiously, the wheel is turning furiously, but come tomorrow morning, they’ll still be in the same cage. Great job. ~ Rich Dad Poor Dad
Therefore, the moral of the story is not to rely on our job as our single source of income. If one wants to obtain true financial freedom, one will need to focus on “buying assets” that will generate income to fund our expenses and pay off our liabilities. These assets are independent from the time and effort we put towards it. They should be able to continue to operate and continue to generate income even when we are sleeping and not working.
Assets can be
- Paper assets: Stocks, bonds, mutual funds -> Generate portfolio income
- Real estates -> Generate passive income
- A Business (that generates stocks that others want to buy) -> Generate passive income
- Patents or License ->Generate passive income
Given that I currently have limited financial resources to start buying big assets, my current goals right now are to continue working hard (or smart) at my job to generate earned income and think of strategies to acquire assets that can help me to convert earned income into passive income or portfolio income.
Meanwhile, I will also need to continue to increase and build my financial knowledge. As someone who has never studied any finance related subject (Maybe except Economics subject during my 2 years of Junior College) in the 16 years of my education, finance is an entirely new world. I have no idea how to read financial statements (making some progress with a Udemy course…), analyse stock markets, and there’s lots of things I need to learn.
(1) For starters, the main bulk of my assets will be on paper assets.
I currently have some existing paper assets such as unit trusts and stocks. However, I truly think that just by relying on them, they are not going to help to bring me to achieve “financial freedom”. This is because, the market is hard to predict and is too uncertain.
Investing in individual stocks are regarded as having high risks and high returns. A stock price depends on the buying and selling actions of many other billion investors in the world. Even if I do my fundamental analysis diligently and make sure to invest in “good” companies with good financial statements, if other investors don’t and they sell the stocks, I will be affected (in the short term) too. Alternatively, there is always the threat of stock delisting due to some government policies or other unforeseen variables that can cause the stock price of a “good” company/business to fall.
I am personally not very skilled in knowing what stocks to buy and what to sell. As a non-professional, i find it to be very time consuming for me to constantly monitor the performance of all available stocks in the market, read news….and decide on what to buy or sell in a frequent basis. (Maybe I should read up on what strategies other people use…). It is not something I derive joy in doing and I prefer not to spend a lot of time on this activity.
Therefore, while I will try to improve my knowledge on investing in individual stocks, eventually in the long run, I don’t see it as being the main bulk of my assets.
On the other hand, unit trusts or ETFs are regarded as more stable paper assets due to their diversified nature. Many people hold on to them as a way of “playing safe” while still getting some returns out of it. However, my main concern is that their returns are minimal (though definitely more than the returns of putting my money in the bank with low interest rates) and I don’t think that I want it to be the main bulk of my assets eventually as well.
For starters, I think that paper assets are the “easiest” to get started. In the current term and with my limited capacity, I will first focus on buying paper assets. Hopefully, in the future, I will be able to focus my attention on buying other kinds of assets.
(2) The next asset I would like to focus on buying is in Real estate Investment
Real estate sounds fun to me actually. I enjoy admiring nice houses or buildings. I think that this is something I am interested in venturing into.
However, due to the required initial capital required where I will need to put down a few thousands at one go (maybe i need to let go of some paper assets), it is definitely more intimidating than investing in paper assets where I can start with just a few dollars.
I personally feel that I want to first focus on learning more about real estate investing by reading books and watching youtube videos to see how others do it.
Secondly, I want to learn more about the laws surrounding property acquisitions in different countries. After reading this blog which talks about the laws and property taxes in Singapore, where I am currently living, I feel that it is going to be a BIG challenge if I want to start my real estate investing in Singapore. Therefore, I am going to focus my attention in Malaysia which is the next country I am most familiar with and have family ties to.
I am still figuring things out but my current goal (which might change) is that within the next 2/3 years, I will make my first property investment in a single family home. My current philosophy to real estate investing is that I won’t buy a new, first hand property. Instead, i will target to select older houses (in decent conditions) with good locations at low value prices (maybe house flipping?). I will also not hold a residential property for more than 5 years (unless i have strong reasons to). Eventually, I hope to do “trade-ups” where I will be able to trade houses for bigger apartment buildings or commercial buildings. (Not sure if this is too ambitious LOL).
I am pretty sure it’s going to be a uphill challenge. Not sure where I will end up but all these are just my current thoughts and whether they will come true will depend on me taking my first step to getting my hands dirty.
(3) The most solid and yet difficult asset to build would be starting my own business
By owning a business, I will “be the one generating stocks that others want to buy”. It is the most obvious way and direct way of getting rich. However, it is hard. 8 of 10 businesses fail and building a business requires an incredible amount of time, effort and passion.
Jack Ma once said, “ I saw a lot of people, young people have fantastic ideas every evening. But in the morning they go to the office same again”. Not everyone is brave enough or have the motivation to start a business of their own. It is natural for one to lose motivation and be happy to just take the “easy way” out by continuing to do what we are most comfortable in. I am not immune to this mentality.
With regards to build this third form of asset, I currently don’t have a defined strategy for it yet. It’s still a work in progress.
(4) Publishing contents
Content survive time. After the content is published, the owner can continue to gain profits over a long period of time. Moreover, contents are easily scalable and can reach masses.
I hope to take a career break some time in my late twenties to pursue my dream of travelling and exploring different parts of the world (this is also one of the reasons why i am starting to think about generating passive income!!! because i know that by then, i won’t have any salary from my job but i want to feel secure knowing that i still have income…). I am thinking that, perhaps I can publish a travel book afterwards or even start a youtube video to show people my travel and earn $$.
There is so much to learn, read and eventually gather my courage to start my journey in asset building. Meanwhile, I still need to do a good job as a software engineer and perform well in my job. So much to do, yet so little time!