You’ll need a plan (and stick to it!) to have money and retire early

If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.

A man…a plan…profit!!

Well, that’s oversimplying things very broadly…but there’s some elements of truths in there if you want to

  • get rich
  • retire early
  • and do shit you love

There’s one big missing segment there though, which is “do-do-do-refine-reinvest”, so it looks more like this

  1. Plan
  2. Do-do-do
  3. Refine
  4. Reinvest

But today, I’m only gonna talk about the Plan part.

Importance of planning

To be effective and maximize potential, you will need to have a plan and work towards the goal and mission. For example, my personal and nigelchua.com’s goal, to build as much passive income streams as possible. The question is to know or find out what is relevant OR NOT.

Planning is about what steps you need to take to reach the goals you want, what possible challenges and problems to anticipate and overcome, how to use your resources (skills, finance, time and opportunities) to reach the goal you want. Planning involves analysis of resources and trends, predicting emerging markets and future demands.

Basically, a goal is where YOU want to be at a certain time and the plan provides the roadmap and directions how you’re getting there.

That’s the reason why there’s the famous slogan “if you fail to plan, you plan to fail” – planning is a basic, basic, basic part of achieving any outcome you desire. It’s the blueprint that will organize, direct and guide your decision making.

For example if I set a goal to build passive income of $10,000.00 a month by 50 years old, and that’d be my guide to think and pick passive income investments and businesses from now (40 years old) till I’m 50.

Planning as a qualifying (and commitment) filter

Planning works as a filter for people to determine

  • level of commitment they can commit to the plan and outcome
  • flexibility and hunger to grow, learn and refine
  • patience to see the plan through
  • your decision making ability will show as well…

Basically, once you start planning and putting your ideas to paper, it’d show if your ideas are good or not, if it’s realistic or not…or if you’re committed, or not.

Kinda like getting and staying happily in love and married.

A lot of people jump from marriage to marriage or relationship to relationship at the first sign of trouble, because they want things easy; and they’re not ready or mature enough to work through hurdles along the way. There is no such thing as walk-in-the-park with no problems. I say this specificly to the people I’d met who wanted to work with me, but quickly threw me under the bus when we hit some road bumps. Aka “it’s always someone elses fault or problem”.

It was painful then, but those were great lessons for me in filtering and choosing people who are worthy, but also, qualified my goals and dreams.

My $10,000/month passive income goal

The number that I pulled up for $10,000/month passive income as my goal, isn’t an arbritary number. I went to the drawing board to determine and decide what’s my expenses, and additional buffers.

At this point in time, my family monthly expenses are crossing $14K/month, but that’s including mortgage and insurance, which will taper off after about 10 years. Personally we do not spend more than $6-7K/month right now, but that amount may change as the kids grow older so we buffered out mortgage/insurance and buffered in additional spending as we and kids grow older.

I calculated my financial independence based on 45 if all the ducks line up well for my high-risk-high-return investments; but failing which (or delayed), then the steady business and dividend stocks will (must!) achieve my passive income goal for me by 50.

And the way I’m doing it is:

  1. earn more**
  2. save more
  3. invest 75% of savings into dividend stocks; 25% into high-risk-high-return stuff

That’s it.

I spend most time at the ** earning more phase, because there is no limit as to how much any business or entrepreneurship ventures can earn, And keep looking for better and better solutions that can serve my passive income goals.

How bout you? What’s your plan?

$10 investments anyone can and MUST afford (Part 1)

I allocate 80% of my savings into stable passive income cash paying assets such as dividend stocks, but I allocate 20% to higher risk higher return stuff.

Many of these high-risk-high-return stuff can be affordable to speculate / invest in

Crypto

I’ve been speculating into blockchain projects such as Bitcoin and Ethereum since 2017; and it can be very volatile. The nice thing about crypto is that you can buy in fractions.

For example, as of today, Ethereum is about USD $1,200 for an entire ETH, BUT you can own 0.01 of ETH at $12 as well, and slowly work your way up to buying more ETH over a period of time.

I use crypto.com app as my main crypto platform because it’s so convenient when it’s on my phone. It takes time to register and for them to do KYC (know your customer) process, so register there as soon as you can.

Stocks

I mentioned earlier that 80% of my savings are invested into passive income assets such as dividend stocks, and you can also purchase fractional stocks from your stock broker.

As I’m kinda lazy, I still use my traditional stock broker Lim & Tan =)

Domain names

This…is a painful area for me, because sometimes I want a specific domain name and someone has bought it and is squatting on it, and even trying to make me spend thousands of dollars for it. Do you know how much a domain name cost to buy?

If it’s from a standard registrar, you can buy one for about $10 bucks man…but a very popular wanted domain name, it can fetch a pretty penny.

How much?

crypto.com‘s $12M domain name purchase is an anomaly of course, but you can see how entrepreneurs and businesses can be willing to spend a good shiny penny on a good domain name.

Of course…you need to be good at picking potential buyable domain names, which can be hard. I use this platform to purchase my domain names.

How much is enough to retire (your leanFIRE or coastFIRE number)

CoastFIRE and leanFIRE are very different in nature, and I’ll cover them separately, and then you decide which camp you fall under.

LeanFIRE

This financial independence retire early approach takes a “leaner” way of lifestyle to save enough money and retire as soon as possible. Mostly, you will choose to live very, very minimally and save/invest the rest, and your retirement will be more frugal overall. This gets you to retire earlier than most (late 20s or 30s) BUT you trade-off with a smaller investment portfolio due to less time involved.

LeanFIRE approach may mean that the passive income from your portfolio may not allow you lavish lifestyle (so no expensive cars / holidays / spendings) ie retire earlier frugal lifestyle.

The average number to calculate leanFIRE is to take your annual expenses and multiply that by 25.

So if your monthly spend is $3000, then annually you spend $3000 x 12 = $36,000. 25x of this will be $900,000. Assuming you

  • save and invest $1,000 a month into 6% returns per year stable assets
  • reinvest that 6% every year

You can reach your target $900,000 in 28.5 years.

This is a common strategy for people who are wired to retire earlier and/or have overall lower spending expenses than  other households for example people who have no kids / single, senior citizens, living in tiny homes / vans etc.

LeanFIRE is generally about being willing to live simpler in retirement, and people who follow this approach usually try to live on less than $50,000 per year or lesser. They would be okay / willing to

  • move to a lower cost of living area
  • spend less on travel or experiences
  • cut back or simplify food and transport expenses

CoastFIRE

Financial independence, retiring early can be very tough for young people to save a large chunk of money upfront, especially when cost of living is higher now no matter where you go. LeanFIRE can take many, many years to achieve (even the example above is a good 28.5 years). CoastFIRE on the other hand, is another alternative.

The difference between coastFIRE and normal FIRE is that with normal, traditional fire, you have more than enough passive income from your passive income investments to cover your daily expenses. You’re “there”. CoastFIRE is more about the beginning or earlier journey of FIRE, and you focus on

Frontloading your coastFIRE number which will let you achieve FIRE in X years.

I gave an earlier coastFIRE example with Jake here.

The two top principles of coastFIRE are:

  1. you will still need to work to cover the basic living expenses BUT
  2. you no longer have to worry about saving money and investing for retirement

Because you frontload the coastFIRE investment amount as early as possible AND let compounded investment return work hard for you over a period of time (usually the time you choose to retire).

Example, say 25-year old Jane has saved $100,000 and wants to retire at 55. Assuming Jane doesn’t spend much, around $2,800 a month (total $33,600 per year) and Jane’s money grows at 6% per year, she will have $574,349.12 by 55. 6% of $574,349 is $34,460.94. Jane would have achieved her coastFIRE number at age 25.

If I’m 35 want coastFIRE and retire with $1 million at 65, and say I’ve $200,000 to invest. Assuming annual returns of 6%, with the 6% reinvested over 40 years, I would have achieved it

within 28 years, by then I’ll be 63 years old. 2 years early.

Thing about this coastFIRE approach is that I will still have to work to cover living expenses as my investment work its compounding over time, but I will be on point for retirement without needing to add any extra savings – this is what it means to

coast into retirement

Of course, knowing myself, I will want more buffer, so I will top up / add in additional monies over the years to grow the principle more, and this will lead to

  • shaving off the years to hit $1M but more importantly
  • I’d have a larger (and more defensive) amount above $1M for buffers

What I like about coastFIRE is that it takes a lot of mental stress away from the get-go, and I can choose to work simpler or less hours at my work, knowing and having confidence that I can retire at X amount and years which is working for me. This is the biggest benefit in my opinion. To add on to that, secondary benefits are less sacrifices upfront:

  • no longer have to be stressed by counting dollars for vacations or big spends or small spends
  • dont have to choosing higher yielding projects with a lot more stress or tolerate rubbish people at work
  • even if I lose my job, I can choose a simple low paying job to pay the daily expenses and I’ll “still be okay”

This allows me to enjoy the journey of life more.

CoastFIRE first then slowly work towards leanFIRE then FIRE

It’s true, this idea of financial independence, retire early can be such a big idea that we start to shut down cos we get overwhelmed right? Here’s how I do it.

I call it the eat-the-elephant-one-bite-a-time method.

The “normal” FIRE means that you have enough passive income from your passive income investments to cover all your living expenses, and it can take quite a chunk of money and time to get here; but for us who are just beginning, let me introduce you the idea of

CoastFIRE

Yeah, it was nice to find out that there’s different stages of financial independence retire early, which makes sense once you think about it. After all, no one “suddenly” becomes financially independent retire early right?

Lol, so true but I didnt think about it earlier?

So coastFIRE is basically an early stage milestone for financial independence retire early dudes (and dudettes). The goal at this point is so save very, very aggressively as early as possible so that you can invest aggressively such that the compound interest of your investment will carry you all the way towards retirement.

To break down coastFIRE is 3 steps:

  1. is saving to investi as much as possible as early as possible
  2. reinvest the compound interest over a period of time
  3. to achieve financial independence / retirement at a particular time

CoastFIRE calculation example

Say an example of person A, let’s call him Jake. Jake is 24 this year, and he wants the usual:

  • passive income
  • retire early

He calculates and finds that he “just” needs $72,000 a year to retire. In today’s number’s that’s actually decent, around $6,000 per month to spend. Working backwards, assuming a standard 6% return per year, $72,000 / 6% = $1,200,000.00. That’s a big chunk of change, but he knows that he has time on his side, which takes off stress.

Two approaches to coastFIRE

CoastFIRE math

Save like mad and find $279,590 and put into a stable investment that will provide 6% return on investment; and reinvest every year for 25 years.

What I really really like about this approach is that it FRONTLOADS everything: once off $279,590 and let the interest keep compounding and growing by itself. Jake will save like mad and earn as much as he can, then frontload the entire $279,590 ONCE OFF and then just leave it be.

The amount will compound and keep compounding and after 25 years, Jake would 49, and he would have $1.2M in his account.

Every year, he can draw out from the 6% which translates to about $72K/year. If he can draw out less, then more can be compounded for the next year.

During this 25 years, he of course must work to sustain his day to day, but he can look forward for a pay day in 25 years time with confidence. This method frontloads a lot, but at the same time, offloads financial strain from the early stage.

Jake can keep adding to this amount in the meantime to either shave off years needed to hit the coastFIRE amount, or have more than enough at the end of the 25 years.

Risks or downsides to coastFIRE and how to manage

  1. Risk of investment tanking. What if the % returns drop?
  2. What if he loses his job?
  3. Investor as the risk: what if he sells early due to something happening (medical, mental issue, fraud etc)

As you can see, coastFIRE is a very powerful long term stress reliever, but there are a few risk/weak points as I mention above. There are workarounds for these potential risks, as I write in orange.

  1. Risk of investment tanking. What if the % returns drop? Jake should buffer at least 20% in the total invested amount AND instead of fully withdrawing 6% yearly, to instead only draw 3-4% to allow compounding to account for inflation, market downturns and growth. Only invest in very stable asset classes such as global ETFs or index funds
  2. What if he loses his job? This isn’t the biggest issue in my opinion, especially after Jake has front loaded the entire coastFIRE amount needed to grow in X years. Even if he takes a basic job to survive or for less stress, the model will work.
  3. Investor as the risk: what if he sells early due to something happening (medical, mental issue, fraud etc). This is very advanced and much more complex stuff, and I have thought about it, The only workaround for this from my current understanding is to create a trust and place the entire amount with specific instruction and conditions into it. The biggest risk of any investor is himself, and it’s the investor’s responsibility to not only protect his investment from others but also from screwing it up himself. It costs money to create and maintain a trust fund, which will need to be paid from the returns of the investment, so this will need to be computed as well.

Side hustle idea #4 you can start this week

My rule to quick fast side hustle ideas:

  1. Low barrier for entry: doesnt require you to buy equipment that costs more than $1K
  2. No special skill: doesnt require you to study years for a license, the skill needs to be learnable in hours
  3. Recurring: something that the clients will need on a recurring basis, 1/2/3/4x per month
  4. Scalable: not hard to hire someone to train and do the job

Today’s idea: home cleaning

  1. Low barrier for entry: clients who pay for home washing usually ALREADY have the equipments in their own home, be it mops, brooms, etc available. You may bring your own and charge them extra too, such as mop, broom, floor wash etc
  2. No special skill: You DONT need to train or study years to learn how to clean a home – start with your own home, and a couple of your pal’s places.
  3. Recurring: 100% recurring business, possibly even 1/2/3/4/more times per month, depending on how clean they want their places to be
  4. Scalable: It’s definitely easy to hire and train technicians to clean homes for your clients; plus there’s lots of people would be happy to work for you as employees as you deal with growing the business and acquiring more clients. Bonus: there’s a lot more things you can do: ironing, compound eg power washing, grass cutting, commercial properties, moving in/out cleaning, pre-festival cleaning etc

Warning: as homes are very “open concept”, there’s always risks of misunderstandings such as you could have spent 2 hours making their toilets clean but they’d rather you clean their hall — so sharp communication is key.

How to get your first 3 house cleaning client?

This is the key to get your business started, and you can definitely just start off on weekends to keep your day job. Some ways you can start getting clients and leads:

  1. Look at your neighbourhood, and start there. Knock on your neighbourhood doors and tell them directly: “Hey it’s me, my name is ____ and I live in this neighbourhood. I am starting a home cleaning business and my rate is $X. Would you be happy for me to do that for your home / room / office this week?”
  2. You can offer a bundle discount for more hours.
  3. Message a bunch of your closest buddies and ask them to refer someone, something like this: “hey, I’ve started a home cleaning business and I’m looking for clients who wants to go back to clean homes, can you please refer a neighbour who’d love that? Sweeten this deal by offering a special deal to them for example: refer x number of clients and I’ll clean your room/home for free this month.
  4. Do the same on social media.
  5. Location bundle, if you already have a client scheduled for a date, reach out to the neighbours in the area and let them know that you have a client appointment on that date/time, and if anyone would want a session, then you’d be happy to do a bundle discount since you’re already in the area.

There’s more ways to grow your side hustle too, but start with these.

The most important rule to get rich (simple but profound)

Holy grail of getting rich

This is one of the “holy grail” of wealth and financial growth, that is to pay yourself first.

Of course, paying yourself first isn’t about taking out money to splurge and spend on frivolities, but it means to FIRST carve out a percentage of your income every month to be invested FIRST.

In an earlier example, I shared how I do this:

  • 20% of income set aside for investing
  • of this 20%, 80% goes into stable cash paying dividend stock including REITs and 20% balance into higher-risk-higher-return stuff

This is to be done REGARDLESS of how much I spend or spent that much, be it overspending or underspending (frankly speaking, readers on my blog will more likely be underspending rather than overspending).

So month-in-month-out, my investment portfolio will keep growing, and I will follow the rule to not overspend so I can invest consistently every month.

Why this is important

…is simply because most people are broke because they dont do this.

What they do is to pay everything else first THEN they try to save and invest the balance.

They pay the electricity bills, water bills, the mortgage or loan, etc etc…and at the end of the month, they’re already out of money and funds, and what do they do with that last $247? They’re too tired to think clearly, so they spend it on treating themselves to a nice meal or a purchase.

Poof, there goes that month’s investment opportunity.

Why paying yourself first is vital

Firstly, I know myself. I work better as systems and habits, so I’d rather set a budget and invest first from the get-go, and work around the balance; rather than the opposite of paying all the bills first then hope that I’ve enough money and willpower to invest at month end. I wont lie to myself, I…tend to fail that way.

That’s why I rather:

  • exercise at the beginning of the day
  • wake up as early as I can
  • make all the hard decisions as early as possible
  • do all the hard stuff as early as possible

Because I know that at the end of the day/week/month, my willpower is weak and I’ll do shit to help myself.

Therefore, the most logical conclusion for myself is to pay myself first and invest at the first of the month rather than at the last of the month, and it’s a

Virtuous cycle

Converse to the vicious cycle of most people who pay everyone else first and try to save and invest the balance but fail at the end of the month and feel demotivated and stress, there’s a virtuous cycle of paying myself first and investing at the first of the month.

I feel like I’ve achieved more (which I have, by investing that 20%) that’s already working for me. That keeps me a little lean in my finances, and keeps me accountable to keep my money and funds in check…but I know that if I want to, I can spend the rest of the 80% because I’ve already invested.

So it’s guilt-free at this point.

This keeps me motivated and the momentum keeps me going =)

How much to invest in dividend stocks?

This can be fairly subjective, so I’ll tell you how I personally do it.

I carve out a percentage of all my income for investment, around 20%, and of this 20%:

  • 80% goes into stable, cash paying dividend stock (including real estate, business trusts and REITs)
  • 20% goes into higher-risk-higher-return stuff such as cryptocurrency and growth/tech stocks

So I dont wonder about a specific amount, but work on a percentage.

Say I earn $4000 a month; so 20% of this is $800; and 80% of $800 = $640 to invest into cash-paying investments per month. Then I can invest monthly or quarterly.

That’s it – no need for overthinking and overcomplicating things.

Rich dad’s #1 lesson that made me $1,000,000+ (will make you rich)

I stumbled upon Robert Kiyosaki’s Rich Dad Poor Dad book in my 2nd year of my occupational therapy diploma studies, when I was in Ratna’s place doing group work or some assignment. Somehow, I just saw it and it stood out to me. Without thinking, I immediately blurted out to her if I could borrow it from her, and she graciously said okay.

That was the beginning of a money change in my life.

You see, I grew up in a poor to middle class family, and I dont tire of telling this story. I have very loving parents and siblings, and we love each other. But I remember growing up seeing my parents fight over money, there was so much money stresses and strain. My dad would loan money to pay for stuff, but we manage by. There was not much money talks, so watching them was sort of front-row seats of my learning.

In school, I realized I too started borrowing money from my friends whenever the month-end was too far away, and that happened almost every month (thanks Pei Fen and Julia) for helping me all those years. I was embarrassed to have done that, but I realized it’s something

Monkey see monkey do

Rich dad’s #1 lesson that changed my life

It’s just “an” idea, that assets put money into my pocket or bank account. So, the natural conclusion is that I need more and more assets to put in more and more money into my pockets. The simplicity worked for my simple brain, especially when financial intelligence was a new concept to me.

Robert then expanded that point, on how he went into entrepreneurship because he’s not super smart to become a doctor (I could relate to that), and not talented enough to become a highly paid actor or entertainer (well…dang, me too). So it’s entrepreneurship for me too, which led me to start my entrepreneurship journey.

First, as a freelancer, then as an agency owner, then a clinic, then a clinic chain.

This allowed me to

Earn more

Earning more has always been helpful.

It’s a stark difference of earning $2000/month (and taking home $1700+) as opposed to my first month as freelancer where I took home $4800. I will NEVER forget that feeling of amazement, disbelief, and this sense of hope. I knew that if I could do it once, I can do it again and again.

Then I leveled up, instead of just earning $5K/month freelancing as a freelance therapist, what happened if we opened our own clinic? We didnt have the skills or knowhow, but we were willing to learn, and then we started earning $10-20K+/month, with a clinic. Then multiplied again when we had people joining us. Then multiplied again when we have 2, 3…and more clinics.

Investing

Robert was (still is) very big into

  • real estate
  • teaching and intellectual property books / boardgames
  • precious metals such as silver and gold
  • and more recently, cryptocurrency

He taught me broadly about the idea of investing, and after we started earning more, we started to look at what and how we can do more when it comes to investing and working our hard earned monies even harder. This is a skill that I’m improving and honing everyday, on top of running and growing my businesses.

I’ve since gone for other courses and books and courses, but I wont forget this very first book. I still pick it up once in a while, and it’s a great gift to give.

How smart men invest (what you can do today)

Smart men always, always invest.

Always earning and looking to earn more.

You’d have a regular income be it from employment and/or entrepreneurship. It’s an ongoing thing, which you can split into

  1. spending (essentials and luxuries)
  2. investing

You’d be looking to keep increasing your monthly take home and bonuses by increasing your skills, experience and responsibilities over a period of time.

Always trying to increase the amounts saved and for investing every month.

You’d try to squeeze out as much into savings and investments which you can then use for mid and long term investing

Prioritize safe investing approach

80%+ into conservative and “safe-ish” investments such as

  • broad based index funds
  • rental properties
  • public listed dividend stocks

Conservative and safer investments usually brings about conservative and safe-ish returns, between 5-10%. Which is pretty decent, and I gear it this way because the bulk of my hard earned money shouldnt be gambled – it’s meant to work like a machine, day-in-day-out to increase its returns and value to me.

20% into higher risk, higher return

  • growth / tech stocks such as Apple, Google, Alibaba, Netflix, Facebook (Meta), SEA etc
  • cryptocurrency such as Bitcoin, Ethereum, Cronos, and so many other blockchain projects
  • some % into low caps

Growth / tech stocks and cryptocurrency / blockchain projects are pretty similar: they do very well in bull markets with lots of money, but conversely, they can get punished and pummelled badly in bear and down markets. Same goes for low cap which is the highest risk of them all, but with the highest potential returns too.

The goal is a balance trinity flowchart of getting richer by

  1. constant earning more
  2. constant saving more
  3. constantly investing and reinvesting more into conservative and higher return investments

Rinse and repeat until you reach your desired amounts, and even then, dont stop – keep going.

How to invest safer (Part 2)

Someone asked me, how to invest safely into the stock market?

I find that easiest (and probably the safest) way of investing into stock market is by keeping it really simple, so:

  1. broad-based index funds
  2. dollar-cost-average over time
  3. time in the market

Broad-based index funds

These type of index funds are good because they tend to have very little asset management fees (1); and over time, market grows as a whole (2). So by investing into the entire market keeps you well diversified and little management fees doesnt erode the returns you get.

One thing you’d see in most AUM (assets under management) investment companies are that they take / skim off 1-2%+ of all returns, be it good or bad market. So in a good market, if you get an 8% return, they’re taking up to 25% on your returns. In a bad market, if you already lose 13%, they’re gonna take an additional 2% from your portfolio.

Broad-based index funds takes away these expenses and keep you invested into the market as a whole.

Dollar-cost-average over time

Also known as “DCA”, this is one of the best ways to invest:

carve a % budget of your income that goes directly into investment(s) of your choice on a monthly basis

Doesn’t matter if it’s higher price or lower price, by doing this over a period of time, you’d get an average aggregate price which will likely be much better than trying to get a lump sum and entering the market.

Time in the market

This is a continuation of dollar-cost-averaging, and time in the market (invested) is always more powerful than trying to time the market (be it investing or cashing out), because it removes the overthinking and other investor psychology that can mess around with your investing approach.