And Going Forward…

One consequence I didn’t really foresee when I took my long break from work was that I would have no income history for 2014.

How is that important?

Well, it just so happens that I may need to look into refinancing for the condo this year.

I am in a bit of a dilemma here, because I cannot really predict the rates of increase. At the moment, I am paying about 1.2% interest, and fixed rates are at around 2+% if I am not wrong (haven’t done my due diligence yet).

The rest of the world is printing money like crazy, but the US has eased off its QE, so I can’t really predict the way interest rates are going to go.

However, the whole thing might be moot if I can’t show a healthy income sheet for 2014. And that is just one headache I have come back to.

My condo lease is up again this coming April, and the rental market is pretty soft right now, so I am not optimistic for the coming year. It is also not a great time to sell, so I have to hang in there for a couple of years more.

I have a small idea though. The condo layout is such that I can cordon off a small part of the place and make it my own tiny studio with my own entrance, while continuing to rent out the rest of the place. If my current tenant decides not to continue the lease, I might just take a couple of months and turn this into reality. The condo is much nearer to my place of work and I would finally be done with the 5.30 am wake up calls and daily 3 hr commutes. And I would finally have a place of my own.

The next most urgent thing is to just work, replenish my coffers, and throw the excess into stocks. This is the year for stocks, I think, given all the liquidity floating around the globe. However, I have to confess that it has been a little hard to adjust to working life after bumming around for so long; I must be really suited to the life of a wastrel. I miss not having to get up to the sound of the alarm clock. Oh well, it’s just nine more years…

Oh, and more money saving! The new company gym had been completed in my absence, and now I can go cancel my gym membership. There is even a free personal trainer at the company gym, and I don’t have to travel anywhere! There is also now a massage service at the company, at the cheap, cheap price of $38 an hour, so that’s probably where some of those saving’s going to go. They certainly are making it hard for me to think about resigning…

And that is the plan for this year. Earn as much as I can, save as much as I can and lose some weight in the process. Let’s just hope the doing is as simple as the planning.

Updates Feb 2014

Happy Chinese New Year to all.

This is the year of the horse, which happens to be my Chinese zodiac sign as well. You would think that you would have good luck in your own year, but that is not the case in Chinese geomancy. This is going to be a challenging year for me. Unfortunately I am still struggling mentally, and have just gone on medication to help with anxiety and insomnia.

Financially, it is going to be a tough year as well, with increased costs due to the therapy that I have to do, and looking at reduced income this year due to performance issues at work.

I have also gone ahead with the financial planner. The early retirement plan is tougher than I had expected. Basically, the planner does not feel that I will be able to achieve retirement at 45 in the way I wanted, or at least, not in a majorly risk-free way.

The reason for that is that most of my assets are locked in real estate and retirement funds. I have quite little in current liquidity by comparison. This is going to make investing a little more difficult in the coming couple of years. Basically I am woefully undiversified.

There are challenges in the insurance front as well. I just learnt that I have been mis-sold my hospitalization shield plan. So effectively, I am not covered on the medical front. For small claims, the insurance company might just not check, but I will be in trouble for larger claims. However, I have decided not to do anything just yet, as changes may be coming to medishield and maybe private insurance plans next year, so I’ll have some chance of coverage.

The silver lining is that I have substantial enough valid whole life insurance with critical illness coverage.

I have been trying to come to terms with all that, and modifying my various expectations for my retirement. Despite my preference for rental income forming a solid majority of my retirement income, I am rethinking my plan. With all the new limitations that has been put in place by the government on the rental of HDB flats, and the high cost of going with private property all the way, I may just have to find my passive income another way.

I also have to come to terms recently with some bad financial decisions that I made previously that have come home to roost. Whatever I may be able to save this year will probably go to pay for these decisions, and if my net worth does not decrease this year, I will be surprised.

I am definitely down now, but surprising do not feel beaten yet. Perhaps it is all the meds at work, 🙂 or the good rest I just had during the CNY holidays. Let’s hope that I don’t have more bad news after my next meeting with the financial planner.

Getting Expert Help

I have made an appointment to see a fee-based financial planner, and if nothing goes wrong, I will probably fork out a couple of thousand for him to do a comprehensive financial plan for me. I am also evaluating whether I will be handling over part of my assets for him to manage, specifically the equities portfolio, at a not-cheap fee, of course.

I actually had this idea a number of years back but didn’t execute because of the cost of engaging said planner, and more importantly…hubris.

Everyone around me, in both real life and virtual, was and still is advocating managing one’s own money. And here I was, university educated, with an engineering degree, no less. I’m not stupid; I can do maths. No reason that if everybody else could manage their own portfolios and various planning, why I couldn’t do the same.

It felt like if I succumbed to hiring out to a financial planner that I would be admitting that I am just too plain stupid to handle it all. That was really hard to swallow, so I didn’t.

And so I did the best I could. And I’ve got the basics covered, and my net worth is going in the correct direction at least. I’ve got a goal, and I think that I should be able to hit the target at the right time.

But with time passing, and the need for more fine tuning increases, I’m starting to feel a bit lost, and unsure and overwhelmed. And the more I educate myself, the more I’m realising past mistakes made, and the more I’m wondering if I really know what I’m doing (probably not) and I’m now constantly second guessing my next decision.

Gosh I’m tired of it all. I still like to read about personal finance management…but I’m starting to miss my romance novels. I realise that my interest and abilities only go so far, and I’m throwing in the towel. And my net worth has increased to a point where it is not ridiculous to spend that kind of money. It’s time to bring in the experts, even though I feel like a such a fraud…

No, I am not going to sit on the beach with cocktail while somebody else is doing things with my money. I will still be fully involved, but now, there is will be hand-holding and another brain to help put the pieces together. And if that makes me stupid, then I’m resigned. As long as I get to retire at 45.

And I’m writing this because I think there might be people out there who are also thinking they need to do it all by themselves. And if you are happy with that and can do it, kudos. But if you can’t and need help, it’s okay too. So we’re stupid, but at least let’s not be stupid and poor. Get some good help.

Back To Work, And A Networth Update

I had a cleaning bout last week, which improved my mood quite a bit. I don’t know why it didn’t occur to me to do some deep cleaning and de-cluttering earlier, since it had always worked to bring me out of funks earlier. Anyway, this in turn made me think I was more or less back to normal, and I was…kind of happy and looking forward to work and earning an income again. Until my tenant called last Friday with a few issues to be fixed, and then…boom! I was plunged into anxiety land again.

And so, I am back at work…still somewhat anxious. And tired. Three months of sleeping in, and afternoon naps whenever, can wreck incredible havoc with internal clocks. The good thing is that my managers are not loading me with stuff. The bad thing is that I ran off my mouth about my anxiety issues, so they are looking rather askance at me.

Also, did you know that entry level admin clerks are paid $4K to $5K a month with benefits these days? I didn’t, until my financial advisor shared with me recently that she tried to hire one, and this was what they were all asking for. Seriously?! Am I just out of touch, or are job seekers these days all delusional? She couldn’t afford to pay this, so she is still doing without one. I told her any time she could afford to hire people to do basic paperwork for that kind of money, to look no further; I would up and quit my job in a heartbeat.

I also finally have my financial numbers. It seems that my time away from work didn’t do that much damage, because my net worth increased by about $4K from August, not including the $18K gift from my mother, thanks to some of the speculative stocks moving in my tiny, tiny portfolio. So, in total, I am at about $781K, not counting the capital appreciation from the condo (about $450K). I am pretty worried about all the local tightening in the lending market recently, but am hoping things will get better after the next two years when I plan to sell.

It does pinch me a little when I think about what the numbers could have been like if I had received a salary for the past three months. But there is a little exhilaration there too. Just a year ago, I was totally envious of someone else who took a one year sabbatical from her lawyer job and went back after she spent down her savings, and was sure I could never survive the same. And yet, here I am, three months without income, without a dent in my savings. Maybe I can be just as badass after all.

I feel a little guilt too, when I think of many of my peers hustling like mad just to move their net worths a dollar ahead; and of the additional responsibilities and situations that others have, like kids, serious medical issues etc, that make it harder for them to move forward, and it doesn’t seem right that I should get it so easy.

And yet, despite living what most people would consider a rather charmed life, the past few months have been littered with moments of wishing for someone to lean on, who would tell me not to worry my little head about things, and it would all be taken care of. And hot on the heels of that thought, would come more guilt for wanting such a thing when I have such an easy life, and feeling that I’ve betrayed modern womanhood and my independent fellow sisters-in-arms.

So, anyway, I’m back in with the living, somewhat richer, still somewhat messed up and a lot guilty (I should probably write a whole post on all the guilty things). Come along for the ride.

Thank You For Reading, And Some Updates

Thanks to all the recent readers who commented on the blog. I am extremely happy to see most are Singaporeans, or who are familiar with Singapore at least. I was starting to feel a little lonely for compatriots on the blogosphere. I am sorry for not responding to all your comments directly, because I have not exactly been checking non-critical email accounts, or been on the internet for a while.

As I mentioned in my last post, I had been having a little…funk for the last few months. This resulted in my taking a three-month unpaid sabbatical from work to try and get back on even keel. I honestly feel extremely lucky that my company valued me enough to keep my position open during this period, though I am sure this is going to hit me when bonuses and share options are announced next year, since I haven’t exactly been performing this year.

Three months of lost salary aside, I don’t think I will be taking a major hit to my net worth this year, because my mother decide to gift me SGD 18K last month. I kind of protested, but she told me it would all be left to my sister and me anyway, and she would rather let us have it now because she was worried she would become susceptible to cheats in her old age and consequent vulnerability (she did include banks in that class…haha).

Also, my personal expenses are low enough during this period that it seems that the cash flow from the rental condo would cover most of it. The only stuff I couldn’t exactly cover were the income taxes and my whole life insurance premiums, which are coming from savings.

I personally feel a great sense of relief that I could afford to take the three months off for mental health’s sake without being majorly impacted financially, even without my mother’s gift. If there was ever a time when being frugal paid off, this was it. It also gives me a greater confidence that I will be able to live the simple, low cost life in my retirement.

I don’t exactly have the numbers for my overall financial picture yet since I kind of let go of data entry during the last few months. I will post them once I get caught up. I am also at a sort of a cross road with regards to my work and career now, so there are several hard decisions that I might really need to make. I am really not sure if I can last the next ten years in the engineering field before I will be able to retire. Yet downshifting at this point to a lower paid job is going to have direct consequences on my early retirement plans as well, though I may probably be able to last a little longer at a less stressful job.

I am also struggling to reconcile my parents to my early retirement plans which I will probably discuss in a next post, since this one is getting a bit long. So, thanks again to all who are reading and/or commenting. While I didn’t mind putting my thoughts out to a vacuum, it is good to know someone is listening.

Back To Blogging

Yeah, well, I guess I have been away for some time. I don’t think I was in a full out depression episode, but I have been struggling with a lot of mixed emotions. I’m still very unhappy and climbing out of the funk, and I don’t know if I may just sink into the morass all over again in the next few months. But I’m trying.

During this period, I got a bit conflicted about this blog. I am reasonably financially successful. By a lot of measures, I am probably quite rich for my age. There are some people out there who look at rich people, and automatically assume that all of these rich people must all secretly be miserly scrooges who are unhappy with life. Some of these people even turn down wealth opportunities because they are scared they will automatically become the same unhappy scrooges.

I understand. Some of these stereotypes help people to cope with the comparison game. One can’t get jealous of other people in better positions if one can find something to not be jealous about. I am sure I do exactly the same thing about other aspects of life. And also, maybe this particular stereotype about the rich is some sort of retaliation against the rich people who stereotype the poor as lazy and unmotivated.

But I really believe that there is little correlation between wealth and real happiness, regardless of those formal studies out there. And I really don’t want to perpetuate any of these unhappy rich persons stereotype, because they don’t help anybody. Yes, I am unhappy about a lot of things in my life at the moment, but that has nothing to with my personal finances. If I were to have nothing to my name, I wouldn’t be any happier. If someone were to give me another million or so, there would still be a lot of things that I need to change in my life to make me really happy.

What I am trying to say is that – my unhappiness and depression has nothing to do with money, and everything to do with me.

I’ve tried to downplay my really negative feelings about what is going on in my life on this blog, and tried my best to be as positive as I can. I never want my blog to be the one people pointed to when they want to re-establish that stereotype of an unhappy rich person. I also write about my journey to an early retirement, a lifestyle which is already fraught with many negative connotations to many people. I don’t really want my personal struggle to muddle the positive message that other ER’ers are trying to establish.

This is blog is about a relatively rich person who happens to also be an unhappy one at the moment. This is not about a person who is unhappy because she is rich. And I do fear that I might just be sending out the latter message if I write about my emotional struggles. But these struggles are also a major part of my life at this point, as much the financials are, so it gets a bit tiring to keep certain negative things out.  I also struggle with wanting to keep the blog true, but am hesitant to air dirty laundry. Hence, at one point in the last few months, I really considered giving up this blog.

I’m past the worst now and have decided to continue blogging, however sporadically, because I really do enjoy recording my financial journey. So, onwards to more money talks!

I Want…

Despite being a self-confessed technology dinosaur (still not having a smart phone, still not on Twitter!), I seem to have accumulated quite a number of toys.

In 2011, I got the PSP and tablet. 2012 was the year of the Nintendo 3DS. Now in 2013, I’ve got the “itch” again.

I am thinking seriously about an Alienware Gaming Laptop.

My perchant for computer games is nothing new. It fell off the wayside when I took an interest in improving my personal finance, but man, it is back with a vengeance.

My 2003 NEC laptop has recently been refurbished and is running pretty well, but definitely not up to specs for the most recent computer games. I won’t even consider the Asus netbook for PC gaming.

I used to lust after Alienware PCs back in those days when I used to play quite often, but they were freaking expensive then. The prices have dropped quite a bit since then, but are still comparatively expensive.

Almost $2,000 for a laptop.

Someone talk me off the ledge, please.

Actually, the price is not what’s stopping me from going straight out to get it. Actually, come to think of it, I do have a track record for spending large sums of money without much remorse. J It is the fact that I already have two working computers and adding a third one to the mix is just so…wasteful and extravagant.

And if I didn’t just go and spend $100 to refurbish the NEC, I could probably hasten it to a faster demise, and get the laptop without hurting my conscience, but since I did…

Still struggling.

Just don’t be surprised if the next post is titled “Guess what I bought?!!!”