Sunday, 29 March 2015

Thoughts on Physical Training

One of my biggest fears is the wasting away of my body, and along in that, the wasting of my mind as I continue to plod along the path in search of the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

We've all heard stories of fellow schoolmates who were in their prime, the most outstanding and natural sportsmen during our teenage years. Envied by the boys in the compound for their sporting abilities and idolized by the girls from the nearby schools for mainly, their developing bodies (at least on a subconscious level). Well, I've never been an outstanding model of physicality, and had always been a late bloomer in that aspect, suffering from bouts of childhood asthma together with a strong penchant for a "Happy Meal" or "Zinger Burger" on the bus trips home.

Gradually, I decided enough was enough and thus started developing my physical fitness, undertaking certain endurance events through my JC and NS days. Now that I'm more than halfway there to my goal of financial freedom, I've started to dream of the things I'll do once I'm done with investment banking, and I realise from past experiences that I do love pushing the limits of my physical endurance levels, trying out different events would pit me against myself. Definitely one particular realm I'll like to focus my attention on would be adventure racing and self sufficient ultra marathons.

The main takeaway since beginning my journey into developing myself physically is that with the right mindset, discipline and plan, you can pretty much undertake any physical challenge you want to. Go from couch potato to marathoner in 60 days? Drop 30 kg in eight months?  Complete a 10km swim in one continuous attempt? These are all possibilities, as long as the right plan is in place and there is a strong will to follow through and execute your plan.

And little did I realise that was actually a transferable "skillset". You start believing in yourself and your abilities once you've completed those physical goals that hey perhaps I can do something like that in the corporate world, or I can actually retire by 35 with a few million in the bank. You draw strength from your past victories to keep you moving forward in search of future victories. Your goals might not always be reached, but hey, shoot for the stars and even if you don't reach them, you'll at least reach the clouds.

These days, I try to put in at least 3 HIITs (high intensity interval trainings) that lasts anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes, together with a run of  6 - 8km over the weekend. I do have a pedometer (think something like fitbit) and I try to cover about 4 to 5 km through walking daily. Hopefully that will put me in a good position to embark on my sporting adventures post calling it a day in the corporate world. And you know what, I actually feel much better and more effective during the day comparatively to a period where I was just slogging my guts off at work. I bet my heart and body agrees with that to some extent too.

Simple habits that translate into effectiveness in other aspects of life. I think there's a word to describe that - keystone habits. Maybe lacing up your shoes and heading out for the run might do more for your life than just generating endorphins. 

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Traveling - best life ever?

A commonly heard phrase - getting to travel on business is fun! Or not? Probably only the uninitiated would agree that business travel (at least in an investment banking context) is fun. See the sights, dine on the Company's dime, jet-setter, real go-getter aye? I don't think so... let's set the record straight.

Traveling for business is not the same as traveling for leisure, the kind that enables you to act as a flaneur in a foreign land, or as a caged up consumer riding in a human transport, stopping along the way to purchase souvenirs and gorge yourself silly as typical tourists.

My kind of business travel under normal circumstances means "day trip". The type where you wake up at 0500, generally after leaving the office at 0100 the night before trying to rush mostly unnecessary prep work for your meeting, in order to catch the 0700 flight to a neighboring country, try to stuff your hand-carry luggage together with your roll-on into the cabin space, squeeze up in economy class, try to get a few winks before some baby starts screaming like there's no tomorrow, disembark speedily and try to beat the crowd at immigration, jump into a taxi to a smorgasbord of client meetings, hope that it does not over-run and try to make it make to the airport to catch your last flight home. In between you hope nothing else on your other transactions blow up, else that means cranking shit out on your laptop whilst your taxi is gyrating in and out of traffic, or even worse, having to head back to the office after you land at 2300 or so (as an Analyst that's pretty much the norm, but when you get to the Associate level and above, there's a secret button called "forward" that allows you to get out of these situations, unless your junior bankers are neck deep in shit and you've got to embrace the suck to get ingrained into some of the details).

In between client meetings, you'll be lucky to sneak in a bite or a coffee at the local Starbucks or Au Bon Pain (pun intended), having awkward conversations that includes subjects such as what's the latest gossip in the office with your senior bankers, which you can't really share because that latest gossip or might I say bitching generally revolves around them. Probably the only sights you get to take in are those from the back of your taxi and of the airport. But hey soon you'll gather enough experience to become an airport, local Starbucks expert and regional flights schedule expert.

So that pretty much sums up day trips, an event that encompasses almost 70-80% of all traveling done in investment banking. My favorite route would be the 0710 Singapore Airlines flight to BKK and the most hated one would be the 0710 to KL, for the reason that you rarely get to experience some shut eye given the short amount of cruising time.

Sometimes you "luck out" and get to go for a roadshow, which encompasses a week or two of meetings all across the globe. Depending on whether that is a Regulation S / 144 A transaction (basically rules that allow you to sell securities in the UK / USA), you'll get to experience London and the USA for a while. But at the very least  ultimate training in service standards if you're junior banker, so much so it'll encourage the concierge at the Grand Budapest Hotel to greet you with a curtsy in recognition of your professionalism. You'll be in charge of ensuring seamless logistics (from arranging transportation, printing of books/meeting materials, making sure hotels are all sorted out), taking care of after meeting dining and entertainment, and being a grade A nanny to your clients, ensuring that the entourage is up and ready for the next day's meetings with potential investors after a big night out and reeking of alcohol.

Most times you'll have a roadshow coordinator who's based out of your home office making travel arrangements in advance, but they work normal hours. Thus anything before 0900 and 1800, you'll be the onsite travel agent. You'll be so good at coordinating last minute changes to travel arrangements from your blackberry earpiece that you'll ought to add that job to your your ever growing resume in lateral skills. Because any fuck ups, it's your head. So better make sure you've got a few readily charged spare blackberry batteries so you'll always have juice.

And oh yeah, don't forget the work that is piling up on other transactions whilst you're traipsing the globe. Hey, but roadshow traveling is done mostly on business class, so at least you have some space to work on your laptop when the shenanigans take a break as you jet across the Atlantic.

Roadshows comprise 10 - 20% of the business travel I've done. The remainder? Those are the good times junior bankers live for. When things go quiet during the December holidays or the summer holidays where you have to attend a simple due diligence meetings overseas with an amicable Associate or senior banker you think you can click with, if time permits, you can have some really good times at dinner, airport lounges or bars downing drinks and building connections that will withstand the test of time in the future. I've had a chance to make some really good friends as a result of the shit that we've gone through and experiences we've shared. And sometimes you might even get a chance to fly for closing dinners, some of which would make your local compliance departments blush. But let's not venture into that realm too much, because these awesome opportunities are generally few and far in between.

So do you still dig business travel?

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Making your first few years out of college count as a [Banker] (Part III)

Managing lifestyle inflation

Perhaps this topic could have been tied into the subject of managing your personal finances, but I thought of taking this out for some much needed emphasis. 

Think back to when you were just a mere student. What made you happy and content?

Hmmm maybe it's unwise to frame this within an existential and philosophical structure. I guess the best way would be to focus on a certain material aspects for illustration. 

Let's take food for example. Say, when I was 17 years old, having restaurant food for dinner would be considered luxurious and perhaps only warranted on special occasions. An all you could eat Japanese buffet that costs S$38++ per pax (say Hanabi, I recall that to be super popular at that time) would be a once in a year affair for birthdays, if we got lucky. Fast forward to 27 years old, a couple of years just right out of college, having restaurant meals for dinner (thanks to the dinner allowance =p) would be the normal standard, and for special occasions, it would warrant even higher spending of up to S$100 per pax.

Another example for the 'fun' folks who would be able to identify. When I was 18 years old and just out of junior college, sharing jugs of long island ice tea at Zouk with a couple of friends would be a considered the top end kind of spending for a great night out. One year out into the workforce and sharing jugs would be considered a farce. We would need nothing but bottle service, and sometimes even bottle trains (think of an entourage delivering [3] [Moet Imperial] bottles in multiples of 3) as a minimum for a fun night out. 

So what happened there? Essentially, the mammal brain, together with the ego, decided that since its host was raking in more money than it used to receive back when it was a mere student, it was time to upgrade its lifestyle for a better experience. 

Well, there's certainly nothing wrong with spending more money, as long as you have good self control and discipline to not spend beyond your means. The issue that I grapple with when thinking about lifestyle inflation is that lifestyles are sticky and people tend to think that when things are going well, they would go on forever (the irony is that the thinking is likewise when things are going badly). 

You might think that you'll just try out that fancy champagne brunch place once, that nice hipster coffee joint for your morning cuppa joe this one time, or even take a taxi to work to escape the morning crowd because you feel like doing so today, Before you realise, it feels so good that it turns into a habit. You can read more about habits in "The Power of Habit" by Charles Duhigg. Pretty solid book. 

For chickenshit like food, drinks, etc., it might not matter much if you're earning a sizable salary that can afford these small luxuries, or if you think that you'll be able to change if something untoward changes in your employment earnings, or if you are like majority of my colleagues who think you'll be working for at least 30 or so years (probably works out to be early than the mandatory retirement age of 65, but I still shudder at the thought of spending more than 10 years in investment banking), but if you're aiming for F.I.R.E, then it becomes quite the impediment. 

The other potential issue that might happen is that you somehow get influenced by your inflated lifestyle choice and move on from the small time luxuries to the big time luxuries, say apartments, cars, boats, watches, business class tickets, luxury hotel stays during your holidays, etc (this list can't be exhaustive :) ). Before you know it, you're trapped by debt to service these big time items and have to be committed to the JOB. You begin to worry when bad times come, create unnecessary stress for yourself, and have limited your options in life. Congratulations, you have sold your freedom and your soul for these items. Now your luxurious items own your candy ass. Cheers bro, nice Porsche 911 btw. Looking sweet. 

So how are some ways to avoid lifestyle inflation? 

1) Pamper thyself, but with limits. 

Sometimes you work hard and you need a break. If you're working 100 hour weeks, you're going to feel like going out to party hard when you have time. Or at least drink and eat good food to reward yourself, or buy some fancy shit. Fine with that, but set your limits. Have a budget for these sessions and stick with it. If necessary, set up an "luxury" bank account that GIRO transfers your budget to that account automatically every payday and only utilise a debit card for that account. Also, when you want to reach out for your credit card to purchase luxury goods such as that iPhone six plus (yes I'm looking at you), back off for two weeks or so first and if you find yourself thinking about that constantly as a need, then so be it, but don't do this too frequently. 

2) Change your mindset 

The best Chinese proverb from secondary school that still resonates with me is "一 寸 光 陰 一 寸 金 , 寸 金 難 買 寸 光 陰". What you are doing by being an employee is essentially a barter of money for time. Think of your indulgences as units of time that you'll have to work for and I trust that you'll start to feel the effects when you further indulge. At least I did. 

Also, instead of pampering yourself with too much when times are good, start using that as a base to save more fuck you money to provide yourself with more optionality. You never know when shit is going to happen. I'll adapt the old adage to "make hay and save for the rainy day when the sun is still shining, because pouring rain is not far away".

Also, the act of self deprivation for a period of time helps to enhance the pleasures of experiencing luxuries. You would only know happiness if you feel sadness. Satisfaction can only be felt if you feel hungry as well. To maximize your utility, consider going cold turkey with regard to luxury spending for awhile and you might just find the experience to be even better the next time you go for it.

For example, I believe it's more enjoyable to have a beer once a week after a hot run in the sun as compared to having a beer every night. Trust me, I've been through both phases and I know what works.

3) Find a support group that aligns with your fundamental values and beliefs

Birds of the same feather flock together. If you work as an investment banker, you'll naturally see a group of colleagues that lead the high life, drinking fancy champagne, dining at the hottest spots, driving the fastest cars and staying at the swankiest places in town. Essentially, living large. I'm sure parts of that are on credit, but whether it's overextended credit I have no idea and honestly don't really give a fuck. 

But the thing is if you're a new guy who doesn't really know why you're doing this job, you'll tend to gravitate to the status quo, even if there's no dick measuring competition going around. Contrary to popular belief, not all investment banks have a materialistic competitive culture going around - I think that's because those guys are too drained from working 100 hour weeks to really care. Perhaps keeping up with the joneses and competing on who has the most branded bags and shoes would be more evident in the private banking sector, which I hear is the case..

Thus it's essential to know why you are doing what you are doing, because that helps with motivation. And if motivation is low, try to find a group of like minded friends in the same industry. If you are a loner and those are lacking, I hear the blogosphere has some interesting personal finance blogs and communities that might be helpful for you to connect with =p 

To summarise the lengthy prose, basically, think of practicing delayed gratification with most wants and desires, combine that with the above advice and who knows, your future self might be thanking you 10 years down the road for the choices you have made today. 

Monday, 16 March 2015

The Enchiridion Principles

"The world is governed by divine wisdom, not by blind chance, that we must not give too much importance to Fortune, for she is a fickle lady, taking away with one hand what she has given with the other. We must not become upset when she takes good things away from us; they were never ours to begin with."

"But for your part, do not desire to be a General, or a Senator, or a Consul, but to be free; and the only way to this is a disregard of things which lie not within our own power."

"Anyone who is dissatisfied with the present and what is given by Fortune is an ignorant man in life. But the person who bears all things nobly and rationally, as well as anything that proceeds from them, is worthy of being considered a man. "

"Demand not what events should happen as they wish; but wish them to happen as they do happen, and you will go on well."

"Sickness is an impediment to the body, but not to the will, unless it pleases. Lameness is an impediment to the leg, but not to the will; and say this to yourself with regard to everything that happens. For you will find it to be an impediment to something else, but not truly to yourself."

"If you would improve, be content to be thought foolish and dull with regard to externals. Do not desire to be thought to know anything; and though you should appear to others to be somebody, distrust yourself. For be assured, it is not easy at once to keep your will in harmony with nature and to secure externals; but while you are absorbed in the one, you must of necessity neglect the other. 

"Nothing is portended to me, either to my paltry body, or property, or reputation, or children, or wife. But to me all portents are lucky if I will. For whatsoever happens, it belongs to me to derive advantages therefrom."

"Never proclaim yourself a philosopher, nor make much talk among the ignorant about your principles, but show them by actions. Thus, at an entertainment, do not discourse how people ought to eat, but eat as you ought. For remember that Socrates also universally avoided ostentation. And when persons came to him and desired to be introduced by him to philosophers, he took them and introduced them; so well did he bear being overlooked. So if ever there should be among the ignorant any discussion of principles, be for the most part silent. For there is great danger in hastily throw out what is undigested. 

And if anyone tells you that you know nothing, and you are not nettled by it, then you may be sure that you have really entered on your work. For sheep do not hastily throw up the grass to show the shepherds how much they have eaten, but inwardly digesting their food, they produce it outwardly in wool and milk. Thus, therefore, do you not make an exhibition before the ignorant of your principles, but of the actions to which their digestions give rise.  

"The key is to keep company only with people who uplift you, whose presence calls forth your best."

"The essence of philosophy is that a man should so live that his happiness shall depend as little as possible on external things."

- Epictectus 

Some quotes that I have held dear and have tried to live in accordance to since getting to know about Stoicism almost six years ago. Till this day, I find deeper meaning and relation when re-reading these quotes, and they help to calm my mind and gather focus on the true north. 

The Ministry of Education should have made this essential reading material for literature back in secondary school. It would have set the foundations for generations to come. 

Sunday, 15 March 2015

Making your first few years out of college count as a [Banker] (Part II)

We had discussed about some methods for dealing with the job in the first part of this series. Let's now move on to the other aspects of life that I find matter much more than the job. These aspects, if handled well, provide much more possibilities for the future, will enhance your well being and might even help you seek greater meaning in life. 

Dealing with personal finances

So you've got a great gig going on and you're rocking it in the office. What's next? My advice would be to set yourself up for a life with low expenses and overheads. Here are some ways to figure this out. 

1) Office Perks

Most firms provide for the overtime meal allowances and a cab ride home. Meal allowances in the banking industry generally range from S$20 - 40 at food outlets in the vicinity and you can claim a cab ride home if you stay past [2100] or so, depending on how stingy your firm is. Most firms also do provide an allowance for weekend work, that would comprise of a meal allowance and cab fares to and fro the office. One institution I know has a weekend allowance of close to a S$100 per day, provided you "work" for more than five hours. 

For most people just beginning their career out of college, you'll be loathe to leave these perks unused. In fact, the smartest folks I know would purchase two meals, one to consume for dinner and the other for consumption at lunch the next day. Some might even purchase healthy snacks such as nuts or fruits instead of exceeding the budget at restaurants around the area. Trust me, a healthy option is what you want to be reaching for instead of a Snickers bar at 0400 in the morning. And the large majority try to time their work on the weekends such that they can enjoy the weekend allowance and yet get shit done as well. These allowances do add up to a pretty hefty sum, by my last calculation it would be around S$1,200 - 1,800 per month, depending on how much overtime you put in.

2) Automate your systems

Get your bills sorted out through GIRO or recurring credit card payments. Sign up for a credit card. Depending on your preferences, some would like frequent flyer miles whilst others would prefer cash back. Personally, I fall in the cash back camp, and would recommend the OCBC 360 account together with the OCBC 365 cash back for some form of interest (up to 3% p.a., depending on certain 'performance metrics', and limited to first S$50,000) and some great cash back deals. Generally I don't find any substance in paying annual fees, and with most basic credit cards, you can get annual fees waived, at least in the first year. So make sure you get that tied down. c. S$200 bucks would be quite a substantial sum of cash that you can use for at least 3 solid meals instead of paying for a piece of plastic in a business where the consumer is actually king. 

The most important thing is to ensure your credit card bills get paid in full every month without fail. You can either do that via a GIRO from your bank account or make it a habit to log on to pay your bills in full, to avoid interest charges, which believe me, can snowball if you leave it be. Isn't there a saying that compound interest is the eighth wonder of the world? That's definitely true, and you want that to be working for you instead of working against you. 

I remember vividly that the only time I've incurred additional interest charges was when I paid my first bill and thought that the minimum sum is the only sum required for payment, and you can roll your principal forward every single month, without any fees. Although I managed to get this waived eventually, that was really clueless, abject and naive thinking back then.

Also, you want to start some form of savings. The best way is to set this up automatically such that you pay yourself first. Set up another bank account where you would transfer [ ] to monthly once your monthly pay cheque comes round. Do not touch your savings account unless for investment purposes only. Rinse and repeat. Simple. 

3) Develop your investing skills

Now that you've got the basics in place and some form of savings, it's time to head to the most important subsection in this mini personal finance summary, which is making your money work for you. Look, I believe the bottom line for getting F.I.R.E is to ensure that your passive income covers your expenses, and if you aren't able to utilize the war chest that you have built up efficiently, you'll have to end up selling your time in exchange for cash. These are the facts. The two main ways of obtaining passive income would be to build up a business that generates income for you, or through investments, be it in a business as a limited partner, or in the markets through several mediums (retail investor, fund investor, etc.) Given my lack of business acumen and experience in the former, I'll refrain from exploring that angle and will be focusing on the latter. 

How do you start? You start by accumulating knowledge through reading and then practical knowledge by applying what you have learned to the markets. Full disclosure here - my investments have been limited to the equities space. I don't hold any fixed income investments as I believe staying fully invested in equities would yield the highest expected returns over a sustained period of time (at least five years and above). I'm also against the use of any forms of leverage, including the use of sneaky leverage through property investments, given the golden handcuffs and unnecessary worry that might cause me. I have trouble enough getting a good night's sleep and I don't want to worry about the repercussions of what would happen to my finances should I get laid off.

And yes, like that great song that was sung decades ago, things are always a-changing, especially in investment banking. Just last month, Goldman Sachs' Singapore office laid off 30%  of its staff. My heart goes out to them and I hope that have taken prudent measures on deployment of their cash hoard. I guess the name of the game is optionality - creating enough options for yourself should shit hit the fan. 

I digress. What I would strongly recommend for most investors is the purchase of an index fund that is generally commensurate with the global economy instead of doing stock-picking, for reasons I should surmise in another post. In any case, for index funds, the first one that comes to mind would be the Vanguard S&P 500 index fund. A fund that basically tracks the S&P 500 and has low expense ratios. Besides the components that form the index fund (i.e. the S&P500, STI Index, HSI index, etc.), the expense ratios would perhaps be the next most important input that I'll be evaluating. You want something that has the lowest expense ratios, because you don't want any fat cat fund managers taking more than they deserve. After all, it does not take rocket science to deploy funds to track an index. Lastly, if you're investing in an index fund, it'll be a good move to deploy your cash in stages (monthly, quarterly, etc.) to get some benefits from dollar cost averaging and also to somewhat neutralize market timing bias. 

A caveat here - I don't have any holdings in index funds, though I am fairly certain this is what I would practice if I were to reset the clock. And as much as I'll like to discuss various equity investments and perform case studies on them, I'm bound by certain most reasonable and appropriate compliance restrictions - thus will not be able to provide any insight into that front. 

The way I think about investing is that besides you going to work, you would have [ ] more workers going to work with you, and they work for your sole enterprise, such that in [ ] years time, you can enjoy the fruits of your labor. 

The best time to plant a tree for shade was 10 years ago, and the next best time to do that is now. 

I'm not sure whether it'll be useful to share books for reading and articles that have shaped my thought process on the investments and personal finance front, but if you would like me to, shout out and I'll think about it in more detail next time. 

With that, I have covered part II of this series. In the next part, which should be the last part, I'll discuss about lifestyle inflation, relationships and personal development.

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Making your first few years out of college count as a [Banker] (Part I)

Over the next few posts, I will be veering a tad off the normal conversations revolving around personal finance, probably a result from reminiscing with a couple of good mates over a few beers recently about our respective first years playing the role of a freshly minted wet behind the ears Analyst working in the investment banking division of a bank.

I would say this summary could have several solid takeaways for the general public, but it would perhaps be most relevant to college students who have recently graduated, gotten lucky and find themselves in relatively high paying, and of course highly stressful entry jobs, such as being an analyst in a front office position at a bank, a lawyer at a legal firm, a doctor serving his residency at a government hospital, or [insert others] (not aiming to quibble over what qualifies).

Well you can have a highly stressful entry job and might not have gotten lucky with the pay package, However it would be generally be the norm and not the exception that a high paying job right out of college would invariably come with a intensely stressful regime, which might be a soul-draining and mind numbing experience even for those lucky over-achieving tadpoles.

This is my version of how to deal with this and make the most out of your first few years out of college.

Dealing with your job

Firstly, congratulations on getting hired! Welcome to the firm! Now, you might be the whitest hottest shit in college and thought yourself a master of the universe, but that ends now. Nobody gives a flying fuck whether you were of pedigree, went to elite schools at each level such as Nanyang Primary, Raffles Insitution, Raffles Junior College, Harvard / Wharton / Chicago, or whether you came from the streets right through the rough and tumble of life as a juvenile delinquent who made good, managed to ace his way through Polytechnic and studied as a local University or some dandy version of that.

Because... now you are just a corporate drone in an army of many waiting to serve the whims and fancies of your clients, which by the way, as a fresh Analyst, you will not have any 'clients' per say except for your immediate boss, be it a more senior Analyst, an Associate or a big swinging dick of a Managing Director.

So my advice - Eat humble pie for breakfast, lunch, dinner and try to absorb as much as you can by throwing yourself into the frenzied chummed waters of your business. I could write another long ass post on what one should be looking out for, but if I could summarize, it would be attitude. You probably had some form of aptitude and that's how you got through the front door during the interviews, but that doesn't count for fucking shit now. Think you know what's the best way to get about completing an assignment? Nah, the Analyst (or even Summer Intern *gasp*) who's been here four more weeks than you might know better and would be generally ready to help you get up to speed so he'll have another competent drone in the pool to share the love, whoops I meant workload. So don't re-invent the wheel. Ask questions, have a great work attitude, put in the fucking hours like a real man/woman (I'm not sexist) and you'll be fine. The first to go are the fucking weasels. Make a solid impression in the first few weeks and you'll be fine. You'll be surprised how fast 'judgement' can be passed on newcomers to the floor...

Now not everyone has the same mental constitution, fortitude and resilience as Jason Bateman, Steve Rogers or Wolverine. There is a strong possibility of cracking under pressure and a developing a constant feeling of being overwhelmed. Some mental retards might even come in with the notion of a "work-life balance" (yo bro, if you are earning more than S$8,000 in your first job, you're certainly not paid for the quality of your thinking or analysis, it's more likely you are compensated for being a corporate drone that forms part of the furniture in the office, so don't even try to embark on these career paths if you believe in "work-life balance", at least in your first few years out of college.

I digress. So what is the best way to deal with it?

Understand why you are doing this job (you might want the experience, or you are using this as a platform to F.I.R.E, or have S&M tendencies and enjoy working like this, or [insert why]) and accept your fate

Accept that the worst result is fucking some shit up and getting fired - hey you will still be alive, the world did not end. Accept that while this might suck balls at times (such as having your holiday cancelled, or missing your girlfriend's birthday, or grandmother's funeral, or spending your holiday in a hotel room working constantly,etc. this suck balls list is non-exhaustive), it too shall pass eventually. Accept that you have made your decision to work in this line and it's solely on you. Accept that you will not be able to have a normal 9 to 5 life because you have chosen so.

Adopt this Stoical approach and smile whilst doing so for best results.

Another measure would be the ability to break up your tasks and look forward. Trust me, as a newcomer, you will get swamped with multiple tasks, get pushed to the brink with seemingly never-ending requests and all-nighters (they are not an urban legend, these things exist, and for the (un)fortunate, they might happen weekly for quite a lengthy period of time, depending on your bank's pipeline, or what outsiders might call an 'orderbook'). Look to break up your assignments and take them down one at a time, look forward to Friday nights, where you might enjoy some form of a reprieve now and then, or when things get real fucked up and shit hits the fan, look to breakfast, lunch, dinner, supper, [nightcap] and repeat.

During my toughest periods, I actually started looking forward to my daily lunch, where I would, without fail, have economy rice (eggs, sweet and sour pork, cabbage) and it became my comfort food, where I would tell myself that no matter how shitty things got, there would be those three dishes waiting for me each day. I also told myself that regardless of the shit that happens each day, I would have already accrued S$[ ] for the [morning] and I am slowly but surely moving to my goal of F.I.R.E.

And of course, you'll have the camaraderie of your fellow colleagues who are performing the same role as you. Which really helps to ease the pain a fair bit, and that is why you've got to have a good attitude, be a team player and not a fucking weasel, otherwise you'll lose the faith of this 'support group'...

Sunday, 8 March 2015

The general principles of freedom (Part II) - Why?

One of the greater takeaways from primary school was the knowledge of the 7 key questions - Why What When Who Where How and How Much? Of these, I believe "Why" would be the most important question, especially when you embark on an endeavor of any sort. 

"Why" creates the motivation and provides the cornerstone foundations for the pursuit of any goal or dream. If your reasons for doing so are strong enough, naturally motivation wanes and one would almost always fall short of arriving at the finishing line. Thus before one begins any journey or endeavor, I would recommend examining your reasons behind doing so, lest you put in a hard shift of wasted effort.

My own reasons behind pursuing financial freedom? Simple, I subscribe to the notion of a competent man, where:

"A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects." - Robert Heinlein

Well, not literally word for word, but to summarize there are so many more adventures in life that are available once one unlocks the door to F.I.R.E , instead of following the masses and doing the 9 to 5 till you're 65. Not to say that the route to financial freedom is easy, I actually think otherwise. 

It comes with itself a host of sacrifices, and living life with contrarian values. My underlying theory is, if you had a chance to work hard for 10 years, earn your ticket to being financially free, and then live life on your own terms, embark on your own adventures and call the shots to your life with no scythe hanging over the top of your head (your boss / financial troubles), would you do so? The question I get asked frequently is: What happens if you make it after 10 years but you pass away the very next day? Would it be for naught?

The short answer would be yes, but would you rather not take your chances and lived like the masses? And chances are, your keystone habits would have changed during that time, giving you the satisfaction of achieving something most people wouldn't even have dreamed of, and perhaps even inspiring some others in the process. That my friend, might be just a tad sufficient to warrant such a journey. After all, the rewards are in the journey and not the end in itself.

So, my dear readers, what is your "Why" behind your journey?  

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

The general principles of freedom (Part I)

Recently I've been roving the hood on more occasions as a form of exercise. I cannot help but notice a striking persian house cat,  adorned with a spotted coat of brown and a nice leather collar, skulking around. For good times sake in rememberance of a Ben Stiller and Robert De Niro classic, let's call this persian kitty "Mr Jinx".

At times I've witnessed Mr Jinx hunting, moving around with a stealthy and silky smooth demeanour similar to its bigger relatives seen on National Geographic. Other times I've seen Mr Jinx occupy the centre of the road, oblivious of the surroundings,  acting like a boss and generally not giving a flying fuck. Nothing seems to faze Mr Jinx here. And I've even had the chance to see it *gasp* mate - that my friends was quite a comical sight.

It dawned on me that at the end of the day I felt just like Mr Jinx. Generally, on some days I feel like chilling out and doing nothing much in particular, on others I feel like getting down to business and getting shit done and on others I feel like [insert appropriate adjectives here]. To summarise - I feel like doing what I want to do at that time, similar to what Mr Jinx does.

Alas most humans have this thing called a J.O.B that is structured to prevent you from living the life you want to live. Yeah you might surmise that you get some pleasure and endorphin rush to your brain from doing your job - hey I actually know people in reality who say that they adore working 90 hour weeks even as a Managing Director (gotta get a CT scan bro), but generally I feel very much constrained by the proverbial 0900 to 0000 (15 hr days are pretty common in my industry, some might even say that is a luxury), so what's one to do in this particular dilemma?

The easy thing would be flipping the bird to the mainstream, peacing out and living life as a hermit or a recluse, but I think the more effective way would be to embark on what one can describe as your personal role playing game in what would be mostly aptly termed 'The Capitalist', for the gaming afficionados, probably something similar would be Dragon Age, Final Fantasy or one might even say Football Manager, except you can't hit the 'save game' and restart your game. Mis-steps could potentially set you back by a couple years of freedom.

The question lies in your strategy, and execution thereof, in this dynamic game. How exciting the world seems once you adopt this attitude.

But what should this strategy comprise of? Let's discuss this over the course of the next couple of weeks...

Sunday, 1 March 2015

The annual Lunar New Year reunion

Well it's time to round up the Lunar New Year holidays once again. A time for feasting and a time for renewing familial ties, or not? I suppose one thing that strikes me as a gaudy affair during each Lunar New Year is the underlying "status review" that happens whenever you pay your respects to your elders whilst visiting.

Pretty sure most of you would have had that experience, of a well meaning Uncle or Aunt who would ask you: "So Ah Boy, what are you doing now? Still working in [ ]?", or "Ah Ger, married already not, time to find boyfriend and set up a family no?" Following which, he or she would dish out life advice such as how you should be buying a property, a car, or some stocks that would be absolutely rocking it up.

The thing is, these little nuggets of advise are generally refined from their past experiences in their process of growing up, where direct action has directly or indirectly resulted in their current state of affairs. Thus, following through with their well meaning pieces of advice might potentially lead to the end result of a similar lifestyle.  Which I guess would be not be a bad thing if you would like to be a middle level manager in your late thirties, with three kids and tied down to a mortgage that services your family condominium. 

But if you have made a conscious decision to be F.I.R.E as soon as possible, then going down the conventional path might not be the most appropriate course of action that would be aligned with your goals. And perhaps the best people to take advice on doing so would be folks within the same community who have arrived at their goals. 

So I did the best thing I could do and replied "thanks for your tips, I'll be sure to take them into consideration.". This whole interaction basically reinforces my desire and dreams to arrive at the grand stage of FU money, which is best illustrated by the following video. 

Ka pish?