Early Retirement Strategy

Early Retirement Strategy By Saving & Investing $50+ Per Day

Early retirement isnt about stopping work forever, but it’s the point where you no longer have to work for money. To me, it carries the same weight and notion as financial independence, but I feelthink that the term financial independence is too big and vague.

If I was a pure noob and someone asks me

  1. Nigel, do you want to be financially independent versus
  2. Nigel, do you want to retire early

Heck, I understand #2 with the snap of my fingers.

I’m semi-retired at this point in time employing the approach that I use in this article. I think I will be fully retired by 45. You may be asking, hey, how can you retire at 30, 40 or 50?

The important thing is to first define what early retirement means to you.

Back to the original first line: early retirement to me isn’t about stopping work forever, but it’s the point where you no longer have to work for money.

You may choose to keep working if you enjoy it and it brings you meaning with a big difference. Working for fun and love when you’re retired means that you can stop working or quit

  • if you’re tired
  • if you don’t want to play weird political or power games
  • there’s something (or someone) more interesting

You now have flexibility to choose that saving up enough money can give to your lifestyle.

Frankly, studies are showing that work is good, and that many people who completely stop work tends to have decrease and lowering of mental and even physical abilities. In fact, retiring without work and meaning can cause people to die early too.

So no, we want to retire early but not really stop complete – what we actually want is the flexibility to be able to choose and pivot the kind of work and projects we want to do.

Let me show you the path I’m taking (still on) to retire early and how you can too.

Early Retirement Strategy – How Can I Retire Early?

There are five (5) key gears when it comes to retiring early:

  1. How much you make (actively, passively)
  2. How much you spend (expenses)
  3. How much you actually save
  4. How much you invest (sum total, less fees)
  5. How much is your investment return rate (return on investment, ROI; and cashflow)

The first step in building your early retirement strategy is to determine your early retirement or financial independence number, which is the exact number you need to ensure all your bills are paid, and you no longer need to worry about making more.

This can be a dynamic number that can change (up and/or down) as your needs change, but we can be more conservative and make some buffer which allows room for errors and growth. I add in 30% buffer.

Do realize and understand that your retirement number will change, because we change. And that it’d take time for you to accumulate enough to reach your financial independence, retire early (FIRE) goals – some may do it in 1 year, some in 3-5 years, and many will be in the range of 10-30 years.

How Much Money Do I Need To Retire?

This…is a hot topic, and the main crux of the issue is that it can be hard to say how much is enough – that’s the main issue.

According to the Trinity Studies, accumulating 25-30x of your expected annual expenses will allow you enough money to last you for the rest of your life BASED on 3-4% withdrawal rate.

Let’s do some number crunching.

Calculate how much you spend monthly on average

You can access this google sheet calculator that I created at https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1q5NYn4pNNBkyH4Ko2qUCiEhXaHm6xoOovJds8H7s7r4/edit#gid=0

The google sheet I created helps you create an average monthly spending expenses.

My wife and myself spend about $173K a year (my goodness that’s a lot) as you can see when I populate the google calculator:

We recently moved home to be near St Andrews Junior (Primary) so that our boys can have a chance of getting in due to proximity, which explains our recent $4K rental what I remarked as “medium term”. This may not be a long term cost but if we do in the end upgrade from our 99-year leasehold HDB public flat, then I will be faced with a 20-30 year mortgage.

The other two large medium term costs are

  1. Children education: David goes to a private full day pre-school which costs $1200 a month after subsidies and Olivia goes to a student care at $550 a month and the bus fare is $170 a month. This will / may change as David goes into primary school and Olivia phases out from student care.
  2. Insurance we have a couple more years of endowment plans that we will finish paying in 1-3 years, and thereafter our insurance will be the standard ones of hospitalization, accident and term insurance (no more endowment ones)

If we do not upgrade our property and once both kids in public school at 7 years old, the numbers would be significantly lower.

At the current rate of spend, with 30% additional buffer, my 30x is fairly scary high for me at $5.2M. My earlier number projected by my wealth advisor was a comfortable $3.2M where we can be comfortable generating 8% per year for me to live off 4% and 4% to be reinvested.

So…it seems like I need to work a little harder lol

Though it’s almost impossible to account for everything and all variables, you’d note that it’s the biggest chunks that accounts for most of the expenses so in your case:

  • where you live (high cost of living HCOL versus medium and lower costs of living areas)
  • kid(s) or not

will have a big impact on how much money you need to retire early.

In my case of where Singapore real estate is no joke, and depends on where you live, you may need a lot more. Like me, you may need to earn a lot more and have some tradeoffs.

Bottomline, the less money you need to live on, the less you need to retire early – this is key

Then try to cut back on our biggest expenses

Frankly, we have a fairly lean lifestyle: we take public transport (do not own a car) and dont eat at fancy restaurants (we do eat out 50% of time but local local mainly). If left to just me and my wife (don’t get me wrong, we love our kids, but there’s expenses la), we’d be able to long retire.

The biggest expense this season of my life revolves around kids:

  • moving to a rental condo in woodleigh (rental $4000 a month)
  • potentially buying a freehold condo/apartment in the same area near St Andrews Junior
  • private childcare and student care

Frankly, last year, my numbers are very different: I live in a fully paid off public flat in Sengkang, so I dont have that $4K rental then like I have now.

If I do not upgrade to a costlier property, and “move sideways” back into HDB, I technically can retire based on $3.2M again. I’ve been thinking about this for some time recently, and will continue to ponder it – the reasons why I’m thinking of upgrading to a freehold is because of

#1 My Sengkang flat at 206C is a 99-year leasehold, built in 1998.

As it is leasehold, once it reaches the end of 99 years, there will be zero value of the property and the government will take back the land for redevelopment.

As of 2022, the remaining years there is 75 years, and it’s a good time to sell it with most of the cost recouped so that I can either buy a new HDB public flat or buy a private instead.

#2 Price of Singapore properties keeps going up – both public HDB flats and private

This is a 30-year+ trend amidst pandemics and crises; and what’s also bothering me is that if I should buy a private freehold apartment or condo which can help my kids should they cant afford a property in Singapore in the years to come (Olivia is 7 this year, David is 5, and one more to be born in 2022 Feb this year) – something like a protective decision for their long term living.

But that will possibly cause me to have to work longer instead of coasting / semi-retiring at 45 to pay the mortgage (ugh), unless something very good happens such as my investments increasing 5-10x in value.

You can cut back on small purchases to save money, but those wont really move the needle a lot. You’re always going to be able to save more/most money where you spend the most. Interestingly, Singaporean and American family spending are similar:

In 2017/18, housing, food and transport accounted for the largest shares of monthly household expenditure. Collectively, they contributed to 62 per cent of monthly household expenditure, slightly lower than the 65 per cent recorded in 2012/13.

https://www.singstat.gov.sg/modules/infographics/hes/household-expenditure

Americans spend more than 70% of their income on housing, transportation and food.

Here’s what is most effective ways to save on these 3 categories:

Housing

You should do all you can to decrease and remove your housing expense; or better, make money on your housing expenses.

Either buy a smaller space that’s just enough and nice. If you bought too large, say, you have 1-2 rooms that’s not used at all, then consider renting out the rooms to offset the mortgage or even make money.

Transportation

I’ve been pushing aside idea of buying car for years as it doesn’t make sense to me to pay premium to drive a few times a day and the car is stationary most of the time. Not to mention that public transport is good in Singapore and that Singapore is well known for pricey car ownership

  • expensive cars (average 1.6L compact car is $100K)
  • COEs (paper cert to allow ownership of cars) of $60k-$85k

We hadn’t covered petrol, tolls, insurance, maintenance issues.

But if you’re on the road a lot and you need to buy one, buy a used car with good mileage and dont change frequently ie use your cars till they drop dead lol.

Food

There are a number of ways to save money on food including

  • making food from scratch at home
  • making in bulk to bring to work / school
  • buying in bulk
  • eat less meat / expensive luxury cuts or foods
  • eating less
  • if you’re eating out, pack half to eat another time if the amount is good
  • using discount and promotions codes and cards

Set weekly, monthly, quarterly and yearly savings goal

I’m not that detailed, so I lump my money goals and go by large chunks eg $1000 a week, $4000 a month.

These go into my investment accounts and from there gets invested into my investment vehicles be it

  1. dividend stocks (on hiatus / phasing this out as I experiment with wealth management and DBS digifolio)
  2. wealth management
  3. digifolio
  4. cryptocurrency
  5. real estate* (I’ve disliked real estate because I felt that it is more work, requires more capital, less liquidity…but I’m open to exploring it down the road)

Everything I do and invest has one thing in mind: it has to increase and grow year-on-year and/or provide me with passive income that’s dividends, interests or yields.

I realize that many people glaze over when I talk about retirement, passive income and making money.

I get it – it’s perhaps due to people not being able to wait, anticipate or “see” into the future, preferring money now, in the hand. Perhaps it’s due to mistrust or other matters.

When I first came to Singapore back in 2002, I had to borrow money, $50 or $100 here and there (thank you Julia and friends who had helped me before, I appreciate you). I barely had enough, so when I share nowadays that I need to have $3.2M, I know I have come a long way.

The numbers seems so big, so far and so discouraging.

I hear you…we are not ashamed of humble beginnings or shy from hard work. As a word of encouragement, the more you think creatively on how to earn more, save more, invest more and retiring early, your brain grows and levels up in slow changes.

Today maybe you’re comfortable talking about earning an extra $500+ and investing $1K. A couple of years time you’d be comfortable talking about earning extra $5K and investing $10K, and you will keep growing.

Maybe today you’re struggling to have 2 meals a day, or to pay for transport…but dont give up.

Keep going.

So what should your goals be? Be it daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly and yearly?

Before I had to move house and possibly buy a new private property, I ran some numbers with my wealth manager, and we came to the agreement that based on me wanting to retire comfortably with $10K in today’s dollar value, I will need $3.2M.

Based on $3.2M and 8% returns per year, I’ll withdraw 4% which will be $128K ($10.6K per month) and the other 4% is to be reinvested to account for inflation and for the base amount to grow year-on-year.

Working backwards at 40 years old today and if I want to retire at (without factoring compounding interest)

  • 45 (5 years at point of writing): $3.2M/5 years =
    • $640K/year x 5 years OR
    • $53.3K/month x 60 months OR
    • $1.75K/day for 1825 days
  • 50 (10 years at point of writing): $3.2M/10 years =
    • $320K/year x 10 years
    • $26.65K/month x 60 months OR
    • $876/day for 1825 days

It looks scary…a little. But the older and savvier me today has multiple sources of income from business and investments – it’s definitely easier to retire by 50 but I’m aiming for 45 still.

For you, use the calculator I created for you: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1q5NYn4pNNBkyH4Ko2qUCiEhXaHm6xoOovJds8H7s7r4/edit#gid=0

  • you key in your monthly expenses line-by-line (average)
  • it will compute your average monthly and yearly expenses
  • and do a 30% buffered and 30x basis (based on Trinity studies) – you can remove the buffer and decrease the multiplication factor to 25 if you want it to be easier or more basic

If I have more time, say 30 years, it’d be even easier $3.2M / 30 years = $46K/year x 30 years with 5% average ROI! That’s just $126/day!

So calculate how much you need to save and start it today.

Invest

Create a simple investing strategy that you understand and works for your needs

The most important point here is that

  • the strategy needs to work
  • works consistently
  • done consistently

So it should be simple enough to understand and do. Refer to my investment passive income strategy.

I have a general take on investing:

  • Timeline:
    • short term: daily cashflow for every day use
    • medium term: money that I’ll need / want within 5+ years
    • long term: growth for 10++ years
  • You understand it
  • Historically reliable and successful

My investments currently are:

  • Business
  • Land banking parcels (phasing this out)
  • Cryptocurrency (waiting/hodling to sell at specific price points)
  • Wealth Mx: Wealth Management, DBS DigiPortfolio

Accelerate your investing game

For me I took the path of entrepreneurship to be my wealth and early retirement accelerator. I knew I wasnt cut out to be an employee because I hate politics and working with short term fools. And it has propelled me forward (I work bloody hard 60-80 hour weeks in the first 5+ years to build up my business skills) and that’s where I earned my first million.

If you’re an employee, what Id recommend is to deposit as much money every day or week into your investment accounts. Every day. Invest every dollar made and reinvest your returns.

I was pretty excited when I was able to achieve my $50/day ($350/week or $1400/month or $16.8K/year) investing.

I…felt that I was in control and I know I’m progressing.

Each time I transfer an amount to invest I know I was making small strides in my early retirement account.

If I made more, I put more money in. Returns on investment also went in. I used to do daily calculations but I got tired of it, and that’s how I started the lump sum, as much as I could and as often as I could.

Most of it are automated and into either wealth management or cryptocurrency investing – it’s still fun to me today, this game of early retirement, investing and reinvesting.

You may need much lesser than me – best you run your own numbers and calculations.

There are many apps that you can use nowadays to help you invest, but the good ol’ manual depositing using your app and web access still works.

Earn more and diversify your income

The more you can make the more you can save and invest.
Those are mainly about optimizing expenses and spending, but the real biggest movers are

If you’re employed, the “lowest hanging fruits” are to negotiate for a higher salary and next will be starting a non-conflicting side hustle.

I looooooooove entrepreneurship and side hustles for so many reasons, but I realize some people just dont like the risks and the “always on” mode.

So if that’s you, then you will have to negotiate for higher salaries and find better and better work opportunities.

I wont comment much on employment-related optimization because I did not spend much time employed (I dont have particular like for it – just unemployable i guess lol)

There are many ways to make money on the side, search in YouTube, udemy and blogs and you can find and replicate another’s blueprint for yourself and your own business.

Easier side hustles

There are some easier side hustles that can help you make a couple hundred extra a week such as

  • cutting grass
  • walking pets
  • baby sitting
  • tutoring
  • making deliveries (parcels, people, stuff)
  • etc

Of course it’s work, and not all side hustles are created equal.

Some are good-enough to earn some pocket money on the side but doesn’t have the potential to scale (such as being riders or drivers for ride-sharing apps). The reason for this is because you’re always going to be limited by the number of hours and energy you have – it’s tough to work full time then pickup a job after your full time work.

It’s not scalable and sustainable in the long run to me, but if it’s good enough for you and meets your needs, go for it.

For me, I like side hustles that I can build a business on, and scale up to grow. With or without hiring employees. This is the #1 reason why I recommend blogging as a side hustle, because you can

  • work on it during your free time, be it an hour today or two hours tomorrow
  • every page and word you write will work tirelessly for your blog 24/7 a day, every day
  • your blog can scale with technology, applications and plugins
  • you can outsource easily
  • work from anywhere
  • etc etc

Some side hustles can take a lot more time to build momentum, traction and to make profits. Such as apps, websites, etc will take more time than accepting a delivery job or cutting a lawn or babysitting which can be done “low earnings BUT here and now, immediately” – which many prefer as opposed to building something that may take 12-24 months to grow though the earnings can be a lot higher

For me, I prefer to build something that takes more time with higher returns, because in the end, we will spend the same amount of time anyway.

This simply means that you can (and should) choose the kind of side hustles that best suit your time, energy and effort you want to spend. If you’re okay to work harder after your kids sleep or over the weekends, go for it.

If not, consider blogging as a side hustle.

That being said, though you can earn money doing anything…it’s a lot easier to make money doing something that you are interested in, like or best, love.

You’re more likely to stick with it and earn more, and it wont feel like work =)

Track your investments and cashflow periodically

About once a month minimum, or once a week to make sure things are going on-track and no unusual deviations.

Reinvest any surplus profits and cash, rinse and repeat.

Where To Next?


  • Subscribe to my newsletter – no spam and just my best stuff. Unsubscribe anytime.
  • Go to Homepage of nigelchua.com
  • If you like videos, head to All Videos – all the latest (and all) videos are uploaded there.
  • Visit the Blog to read the latest articles and videos. You can see all / my entire list of previous articles here: Archive
  • Head over my Resources page to the products and services I use to improve business, relationships, health and more.
  • Contact me if you like to thank me for helping you in some way (please, always tell me – it’s such emails that I truly look forward to), interview me, ask me to try a product, or media inquiries.
  • If you like my work and want to support me / my cause by giving a tip / donation or choose to buy stuff at my products and tool page – thank you for your support. You keep me going.