(without getting lucky)
It may seem odd to publish this in the current market conditions (>30% drop in stocks, >50% drop in crypto) when everyone - myself included - is bleeding out. Pessimistic.
But it is precisely in these times that we learn how to make money sustainably. Its easy to dismiss ideas of hard work, prudence, sound choice, and patience in a bull market, when everybody is a winner, when everyone is rich.
By no means is this a ‘get rich quick’ scheme or a stock/crypto coin shilling advertisement. If anything, there will not be ANY stock picks or coin recommendations in this blog entry, in case anyone was expecting these.
Also, I am not ‘rich’, in like the Crazy Rich Asians sense, or even in a FIRE sense, but one day soon I will be (🤞manifest that shit🤞).
So I can only bring you as far as I have come.
All I am trying to be is a woke non-salaryman - aware enough about the world to step back and question societal norms and assumptions, and to ultimately NOT be a salaryman. To be financially independent, work only on things I am passionate about, and having the time for the people I love.
That last bit is important; there are many ways to get rich, but do they make you “time-rich”? as in having the freedom of time to do whatever you want, not bounded by anything or anyone?
This is not financial advice!!
These are simply my thoughts on how to get rich - a theory for success, after experiencing many failures.
My Money Journey so far:
lost 20k GBP trading forex in university - ending up surviving on $1 of digestives for 6 weeks
15k SGD buying blue chip stocks right before Covid, only to have them drop 30+% in 2 weeks; sold at the low in mid-March to ‘cut losses’ lol
bought TSLA at $154, the seeing it drop to $132 THE NEXT DAY because Elon Musk tweeted that “the stock price is too high lmao” cries inside
sold TSLA at $260, only for it to rise to $340 IN THAT SAME DAY.
sold TSLA at $700 to buy a house - initially super regretted doing so because the stock went on to rise to $1200 by end 2021, but looking at the markets now, seems like a good call in hindsight.
lost $20k SGD in a crypto airdrop scam, blinded by greed, with so many warning signs indicating it was a scam (maybe a future blog entry?)
currently down >50% in my liquid portfolio (I say liquid because a large chunk of my net worth is locked in the property)
So as you can see, a roller coaster of a journey. And I’ve only been investing for 5 years? (3 if you exclude the forex digestives bit).
People see the good bits, the highlight reel - ‘oh you designed a board game so you must be earning a lot from it’ or ‘wow you bought a condo at 25 years old’ - but behind the scenes, behind each success, is plenty of failures and falls. A rocky road.
Each loss preceded a gain in wealth several magnitudes of the loss - I earned back the money in spades.
Failure clears your mind, sharpens you, makes you see reality only for what it is, not what you want it to be. Forces you to accept it, plan accordingly, and act.
The Money Flywheel
Ultimately, any framework for money, for wealth creation, should be sound enough, stable enough to let me sleep well at night.
I call this the Money Flywheel because ideally once you’ve spun it a bunch of times with your own effort, the wheel starts to spin by itself, and the wealth engine runs on its own.
Now before we go into the details of this flywheel, there is something we have to establish first:
What are you going to spend the money on?
What is the point of growing your wealth if you don’t spend it? At least eventually?
I highly recommend reading Die With Zero by Bill Perkins if you haven't figured this out yet.
Essentially you need to take a good, open-minded look at your life, and do a financial audit of yourself.
What do you want to be spending your money and time on?
A big house? Why? Because other people will look up to you if you have a big house? Or because it becomes a multi-generational home for your loved ones to be in the same space together?
A flashy sports car? Why?
Travelling around the world? Again, why? And what kind of travel? Hostel backpacking? or 5-6 star hotel living with Michelin star meals?
Education? for yourself? for your kids?
Donating to charity?
Starting a business?
There is a lot to unpack with each item, and my views on them are very likely different from yours, so where we end up in terms of things to spend money on and how much money we need will be unique to us too.
But importantly you need to have an answer. At least a calculated estimation of the amount you will need for each item, whether it be a one-time payment amount or a monthly drain rate amount.
Why go through the trouble? Well, too often the problem people have is they work too much, for too long, that by the time they hit ‘retirement age’, they have loads of money but very little capacity to spend it in a meaningful way, due to their health. Not to mention very little time too.
So we need to know when to cash out, what we are sacrificing our time and energy to grow wealth for in the first place. And once those goals are hit, to learn to enjoy. The temptation to have ‘more’ is strong: say 2.5mil vs 2mil. But the time cost to earn that extra 500k - is it worth it?
Okay now that you have a number in mind, here goes:
The 5 Spokes of the Flywheel:
For most of us, this is our full-time job, where we trade time for money linearly.
Stop working, and money stops coming in. Want to earn more money? Either work more hours, work more efficiently, or get promoted - but with increased responsibilities.
You can also build other sources of income - second jobs, side hustles, gig economy jobs.
For my fellow civil servants, very simple. One source of income. One iron rice bowl.
But don’t fret - if we get the other spokes right, we just might grow our wealth faster than our multiple-income-streams friends.
Once you have a total number - the total sum of all your inflows from your ‘jobs’, let’s move on.
What are you spending money on regularly? expensive clothes and accessories? expensive food? late night drinks, partying? taxis? Health or aesthetics treatments/sessions?
In my own life, this is the section I look at most strictly. I suppose you could attribute it to my upbringing - my parents both accountants and instilling ~the virtue of prudence~ (kill me now). Or maybe you could attribute it to the multiple money failures I’ve had over the years since becoming an independent, working adult.
But to give you a sense of my ‘minimalist’ or ‘kiamsiap’ living:
I cut my own hair to save money on haircuts. One-time $30 to buy the shaver, then zero thereafter.
I drink Huel, a meal replacement, to avoid spending on snacks (also great health benefits and all-round convenient product, so yeah its not just about money for this). $3 per meal-drink thing.
public transport 99% of the time.
It is much easier to reduce your Expenses 5x than it is to multiply your Income by 5x. So it is definitely worth taking a good look at your expenses and seeing what is unnecessary or not serving you.
The point is not to NOT spend. You SHOULD spend on the things that make you happy or help you in some way or another, especially if it buys you time. But each thing you spend on could be instead growing into more money for future you to spend on. So ask yourself if what you are spending on truly benefits you, then change accordingly.
How much money are you okay to part with for the next 3-5 years (at least)?
If you were to stop at the first two parts of the flywheel, you would only be maximizing your savings. Which is fine, especially for our parents and grandparents’ generation, where the threat of calamity or war is forever looming.
For us, the greater threat is inflation. Lifestyle creep.
Of course, it sounds silly to say that inflation is the threat or the impetus to stop saving and start investing, when nearly any investment right now is bleeding out (paper loss though). But the statement still stands. If anything, a bear market should be a massively good thing for anyone starting to invest, or even a seasoned investor. It just means the stuff you want to invest in is on sale! And when it goes back up, you are going to be proper rich.
So its time to add to your investing Pot.
You need to decide for yourself what is an amount you are comfortable parting with, at least for the next 3-5 years. If you have any payments you need to make, purchases you need to do in the near future, then make sure to set aside money for those first. Examples could be a wedding ceremony, or a car, or a house. Of course, if you are still very far from say a house, then you can afford to leave the money in investments for 3-5 years anyway because you aren't buying it anytime soon if you keep it as savings.
Delay gratification where it makes sense to, and grow your Pot.
What kinds of returns are you thinking of? What is your perception of risk? Dinosaur companies waiting to get disrupted, or new companies that are going to grow 10x?
Stable is a deceptive word.
The turkey at a slaughterhouse has the most stable life. A comfortable life, even. Every day it is fed, it feels safe. The turkey’s love and confidence in the farmer to take care of it grows stronger each day. Until one day, it is slaughtered.
Many of the companies you see now - big companies which have been around for decades, they are very similar to the turkey. They are stable, until they are slaughtered. By who? By the new innovative companies disrupting their industries.
Your choice of investment also has a time dimension: how much time do you have to give up to earn the money? If you have to stare at charts on a screen all day, then I’ll consider that an Income, day-job thing. An investment is something that you buy now, and don’t touch for years. It frees up your time to let you actually live a life.
Speaking of time…
the longer you can delay gratification for - if you can hold the money there for 10 years, while your friends can only hold for 3 years because they cash out to buy a car, then your money will grow more than them. Compound interest babyy.
Of course, think about why you are growing the money in the first place. If you have hit your goals, then you should cash out. Spend. Staying on the flywheel would be a foolish choice, as easy and as comfortable as it is, having run on it for so long thus far.
Make sure you know when to step out. Part of playing the game well is knowing when to quit. When to fold. But the fact is, if you want to grow your money more, then holding power is super important. Possibly even the most important metric.
90% of Warren Buffet’s wealth was accumulated after he turned 65.
But again, what’s the point of growing all that wealth after 65 if you are too frail to use it?
The Flywheel is complete once your assets start generating Income for you - dividend payouts, property rental income, royalties from your IP, a business that runs itself, crypto staking rewards, scholars who earn for you, etc.
As all things should be~
The image of a wheel is crucial - if you only maximize one spoke, one aspect, the wheel will not turn properly. Its going to be a bumpy ride. In reality, it means that your wealth is too dependent on one area alone, and its taking too much weight.
Yes you can earn loads in Income, but if the other parts of the flywheel suck (spending like crazy, barely investing any of it, or invest in shitty things, or only for a short period), then someone with less Income is going to beat you long term.
The ideal way is to optimize all spokes of the Flywheel:
maximize your sources of Income
reduce your Expenses
increase your Pot by holding off on big purchases
Choose better investments that will disrupt, rather than get disrupted
HODL on longer than the other guy
What Money cannot Buy
As much as this entry is about money, I think TheWokeSalaryman said it well in a recent post that ultimately, we must not lose sight of the things that money cannot buy - things like acts of service, quality time with loved ones, rituals and traditions that are imbued with meaning, friendship and relationships, gratitude and forgiveness.
"A fit body, a calm mind, a house full of love. These things cannot be bought - they must be earned." - Naval Ravikant