I opened an online shop!

I recently opened an online shop selling nutrition, cosmetic, skincare, house hold and electronic product.

For Singapore customer, please go to sg.shop.com/khmall

For Taiwan customer, please go to tw.shop.com/khmall

For Hong Kong customer, please go to hk.shop.com/khmall

For Australia customer, please go to au.shop.com/khmall

For the rest of the world, please go to global.shop.com/khmall

Feel free to put your query at the comment if any.


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How to approach your student loan repayment (or any other debt)?

I came across a forum post talking about student loan repayment, the writer is asking for people to partner with him and held him accountable for his own student loan repayment schedule. I paid off my student loan last year, below are some of the things I think will help you if you are setting goal to pay off your student loan.

1. Calculate how much money do you need to pay back

This is the first and most obvious thing to get clear with before you start any repayment. Go to your online banking account, pull out your bank statement, call your bank to confirm the outstanding balance of your loan. Don’t try to do any of the steps below before you completed this step.

2. Set your mind on a target date with timeline & plan

Nothing get done until you get serious. Setting a target is not enough to achieve what you want to achieve, and this apply to your journey of student loan repayment too. After getting know how much you need to pay back to the bank, draw up a repayment schedule that is suitable for you. Be a bit more aggressive on the schedule by looking at your disposable income. For example, if you are able to fork  out $500 every month to repay your student loan, set a goal to fork out another $100-$200 every month for the same purpose. This might give you a little pressure but this is also a good opportunity for you to learn how to spend your money effectively and efficiently to support your life.

3. Do it together

Depends on your preference, you can invite your friend who are also have the same desire to pay off their student loan to embark on this journey together with you. Accountability to another person will ensure your chance of success because it give you a reminder every time you want to spend money on unnecessary stuff. You and your buddies also can encourage each other during this challenging period.

4. Take up second job

This is optional I would say. If you have a promising job, I suggest your give your 100% in that job and performs the best you can be at that job. However, after said that, take up a second job does few things that beneficent to your repayment target. Firstly, it will give you some extra income to put into your loan repayment and speed up the process. Secondly, you might be able to learn some new skills in second job that compliment your main job. Third benefit is not related to loan repayment, you might be making new friends on the job and expand your network.

5. Live frugal but comfortable life

Although I think this go without saying but I will mention here anyway. Frugal means different thing to different people, so I won’t be defining how should you live then be considered frugal. Bottom line is you are comfortable with the life style and spending habit you chose and willing to responsible for the outcome without blaming other people when you are unable to achieve your goals.

Other considerations

Well, we can always expect the unexpected to happen in life…

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4 lessons I learn from playing RISK

1. You can choose the best strategy, but the outcome will still depends a bit on luck

I spent a lot of time on the RISK game and kind of figured out the best strategy to win the game at its hardest level. However, the strategy only INCREASED your chance of winning, not GUARANTEE your victory. It is the same as our strategy for early retirement, you might be saving 50% of your salary, optimise your spending and invest the difference, but the end result sometime still depends on how the economic is performing. This is especially true when we are just starting to execute our early retirement strategy.

2. Someone at some point of time will disrupt your plan.

RISK is an interesting game, because you are facing 6 others opponent at the start of the game, you might have some plan in mind but someone at some point of time will disrupt your plan. While you on the way to conquer Africa, some computer player will attack you at your weakest link to break your occupation of that region.

Interestingly, it is similar scenario to whether we are talking about eating healthy or saving money. Imagine 5 friends having a gathering, if 4 of them is watching their spending closely and the remaining one just spend his money like no tomorrow, the 4 person won’t criticise the spending person. But if the trend reverse, interesting conversation start to happen, the 4 spending person will start saying things like “I rather spend a bit more money to enjoy myself” or “What is the point of saving so much if you cannot enjoy your life?”.

3. If you cannot join them, beat them!

In the game of RISK, since I am playing with computer, there is no way for me to convince the computer to join me for my game, the only way for me to survive and thrive is to beat all my opponent during the game. However, in real life, you should try your best to convert people around you to join you in your early retirement journey, bring out your best argument by living happily without spending all your earning at the end of the month.

4. Things will get easier and easier once you pass the initial phase.

In the game of RISK, once you passed the initial fighting phase and occupy one of the region, things get easier. Your supply of army at each round increased, your chance of victory increasing by each round. In the journey of early retirement, your job get easier and easier once you build your first passive income source. As your passive income increase,  your freedom increase.

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Be Responsible

I would like share a small story:

One day, a bird is resting beside a man lying on beach. The man just saw the bird fly from the roof top of the three storey holiday resort and landed on the beach. So the man ask the bird how did it managed to do that? The bird answered the man saying it just jump off the roof top and start swing its wing, the rest just happened naturally.

The next day, the man climb up to the roof top and jump down from there while swing his arm trying to fly like the bird. Obviously that never happened and the man broke his leg when landed on the ground. While suffering in pain, the man did not forget to curse and swear the bird for introduce him flying, and the people walking past him thought he is crazy and no one dare to come near him and help him with his injury.

Moral of the story? Please judge yourself before you make any decision and please be responsible after made the decision.

Our daily live experience can teach us many things if you are really paying attention to the things happening in your life. Today I would like to talk about responsibility. Many of us don’t want to be responsible for the decision we made, it is always other people fault that we don’t earn enough, we are too fat or we fall sick easily. But if we really think about it, did we define a amount that is considered enough for our situation or are we chasing a moving income target? We are complaining that our weight keep increasing and our muscle percentage keep dropping while eating ice cream. We sleep late, eating junk food and blaming the weather when we fall sick.

So I believe we as individual and our society as a whole need to be more responsible.

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How To Change Your Life, One Step At A Time.

We are all afraid to change, change means risk, danger, uncertainty or even perish since ancient time. In modern time, we gained more control over our life from risk of weather, animal, change of season or lack of food source. Our food production is now abundant, enough for every human being on this planet, but unfortunately very unevenly distributed.

Change is difficult, we don’t know how to get started to change our life to the better although most of us want it. But wants alone is not enough, only action bring changes. If you want to be healthier, don’t start running 5km tomorrow morning, instead spend 5 minutes walking if this is the first time in 5 years you are doing exercise. If you want to be better at work, spend more time learn about your job, get to know what is required to complete the job quickly and perfectly. If you want to have a better family relationship, make time for your family. Plan an outing with your family away from work and all other commitment, talk to them during the trip, pay attention to them during normal days, spend time celebrate special event with them instead of staring at the computer screen in the office.

However, talking is cheap. Anyone can write some thing on the internet like this post to tell you to change, but only you yourself hold the power to change your life to the better, one step at a time. My life has completely changed for the past few years, it took me many years to slowly improve my life for the better. Paid off student loan, bought a house, accumulate saving, started a blog, learning new skills at work, drafted a plan for early retirement, all this take time and effort to commit to it. And I am glad I took the steps and effort to complete all those goal.

I won’t tell you to set a goal or write down your goal and past all over your house and the place you will pass by daily. I believe there is always one thing that is always on your mind and that thing would be the most important and most suitable goal to chase for. For me, I don’t achieved all those thing on the above in one step. At any point of time, my focus is laser sharp, I would focus only on one goal unless that goal can be accomplished automatically like paying off student loan. During my paying off period, I basically did not have to put in much effort, I still maintain my usual spending habit and work my job. The only difference is I channeled my money toward clear off that debt. During buying house  period, thing is a little bit different. There is research to be done, where and what kind of house are we looking for, is there any new launch happening in the location we are aiming for? If there is, is the price point right for our budget? How big is the house we want to go for? What are the options available and which developer is reliable? All this question need to be answered before we can made one of the most decision in life, buy a house.

It is still a long way before I can see the early retirement light at the end of the rat race tunnel, now I am focusing on become the best employee I can be and fight for the highest income I can get. No matter how impatient I am now, I still maintain my pace and changing my life, one step at a time.

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Why am I saving money?

This is one of the most important question you need to ask yourself before you start doing anything about your personal finance. Always start with why first whenever you started anything. Why are you learning a new skill? Maybe because you want to embark in a new career. Why are you start running? Maybe because you want to have a better health to accompany your kid during his growing journey.

So, why are you saving money? Because you really do not have much material needs? Because you want to save up for that year end trip? Because you want to buy some asset and redeem back your time freedom from working life? Or maybe you are saving for a house payment after marriage. Whatever it is, without a clear reason behind your action, very soon you will feel that saving money is a sacrifice.

For me, I have passed that phase long ago. I realised I value time freedom so much that I don’t feel sacrifice when I am saving money. In a matter of fact, I actually feel very proud to be able achieve an increasing saving rate although my income remains the same, imagine how fast will my progress will be when my income level rising over the time. My best bet now will be working super hard and super smart to increase my professionalism and my income.

The idea of multiple stream of income has became more and more popular as more and more people value freedom and they realise that they don’t want to work in an unfulfilling job all their life and place the control of their life on the hand of another person. However, what this idea fails to capture is that we should build the multiple stream of income one step at one time. Focus on your regular job, sharpen your professional skill and making sure that you main source of income is stable and strong enough before explore other source of income. It is always your main job that has the most potential to earn you the most money compare to whatever side line you try to pursue during your night time and weekend. No doubt there are people who are able to create large income source using their night time and weekend hours, but they are in the minority. For the most of us, our best bet is still with our day job.

Back to the topic of saving money. Change of mindset is a must. And reading and implementing those saving tips that spread all over internet is not helpful. For example, instead of shopping around for the car that provide the best value for your money, try bus, MRT or bicycle. Instead of comparing between various value phone plan, choose a basic phone and prepaid card. Maybe you would say most of the people are holding a smartphone, what is wrong with that? Why am I asking people go back to ancient time and use those ancient phone with limited function and unpressable button. As I mentioned in my previous post, a $42 monthly commitment required you to invest more than 10K into an investment vehicle that has a return of 5%. With this calculation in mind, I certainly think twice or even thrice before I sign my name on any dotted line.

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Don’t let debt control your life.

I was meeting one of my friend and had a few hours talk that day. One of his idea intrigued me, which is about how took up mortgage and car loan make him a better person, a more responsible person. His argument to me was with more loan/mortgage, he felt he had more responsibility financially. It motivated him to work harder, went out to work more often, earned much more income. As the conversation get longer, I started to feel more and more uneasy with his ideas. Somewhere inside me feel that maybe he got the sequence wrong, it was not those debt/mortgage that made him a better person, he became a better and more successful person before he can afford those loan/mortgage.

It is a popular idea to divide debt into good debt and bad debt nowadays. Good debt by definition is the debt that can earn you money, create more cash flow for you, bad debt is the opposite side of good debt. Accumulate bad debt is easy, just go out there and buy that fancy car or that latest gadget on the shelf on credit when you have no idea how to pay off the other two credit card that you has used up their credit limit. Good debt is a bit tricky, I read a few books on this, and I still confuse. The idea seems to be you borrow money  you don’t have to invest in investment vehicle that nobody can guarantee its return. If return on investment of that vehicle is higher than the interest on the money you borrowed, you are called ‘leverage’ else you are ‘over leverage yourself’.

Right now, I am not ready to take on double risk for my own personal finance planning. Saving accumulation still the number one priority on my list now, professional development for a higher paying job is second on the list. Sometime I get into discussion with friend about whether high saving rate or high income is more important, that discussion always ended both parties agree that both are important. With living cost in Singapore maintain at certain level, you cannot have a high saving rate if your income is too low. In theory, a person with a monthly income of 10K, A and saving rate of 80% is having the same live style as another person with monthly income of 2K, B and no saving. In this case, if B is able to increase his income without increase his expense, his saving rate will be growing without his knowing and not affecting his life style.

Back to the topic of debt, sometime people don’t realise the effect from their purchase. Take smartphone as an example, a decent smart phone can cost up to $1000 now. Assuming a typical consumer change their phone every 2 years, which means he has a monthly instalment of about $42. This instalment is permanent unless his behaviour changes and stop chasing the latest gadget every two years. Now let’s see what did he gave up for that smartphone. In order to produce that same $42 every month with a investment vehicle that return 5% per annual, he need to invest ($42 x 12)/5% which means $10080 invested.

Of course I am not suggesting that you are not allowed to buy a phone unless you have $10080 accumulated in your investment. You are free to spend your money anyway you want since you have put in the hard work to earn that money. I just hope that before you make decision that will affect your monthly cash flow, you are fully aware what are you buying into and you are perfectly comfortable with that.

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What does retirement means to me

I am born in year 1981, age 33 this year. There is a term used to describe people born in my birth year, Generation Y. For me I believe it is just a convenient way to categorise people when organising a marketing/sales promotion event. People in every generation is still mainly influence by the macro economic situation they are in  during their living, for people live in wartime, survival is the mostly talk topic, how to create food and fulfil our needs with minimum resource was not deem as cheap skate but a virtue.

People who grow and live in time when there is no war but stable economic year by year have much different mindset. Working for decades to enjoys life for a few years or months is the norm in that generation, people mostly stay in one company for decades, collect their pension after decades and start enjoying life.

We who are living in unstable(some call it dynamic) economic environment has a much different inspiration. Many of us won’t be staying in one company for decades, maybe not even years. We are in the greatest time but also in the worst time in the history. Every few years come a financial crisis, every financial crisis bring about lay-offs, retrenchment and at the same time bring about some great investing opportunity. Our society has divided between those has and those has-not. It is not longer young people that remain working and old people who are retired. We see more and more young people(some early 30s) retire in their own term and we see more and more elderly are forced to work beyond traditional retirement age,  maybe even till their death.

In order to survive and prosper in today society, we need to figure out how does the money system works. Saving without investment obviously does not solve our retirement puzzles these days. With the inflation remains high and strong, our saving can easily be eaten up with our knowing . There are a few traditional ways in investment, namely stock market, real estate and business(I meant run your own business here). In order to survive and retire in our generation, it has became mandatory for us to invest our money wisely. Stock market has become the favourite of the investor(in loose term) due to its lower barrier of entry compare to real estate and business. However it does not means it is easy to master the art and science of invest in stock market.

In most simple term, buying a stock is buying a piece of a company. You casting a vote of confidence into the company of your choice, betting that it will earn a profit and share with you that pool of money it earned from its operation. If you are determined enough, consistently putting money into stock market and buy some large corporation stock for long term can bring you great return. After certain number of years, the return/dividends from your stock holding will exceed your annual expense. By this time, we enter the door of financial freedom, we take back our time, we can decide what we want to do with our day. I believe everyone will be a even more efficient and effective worker if it is their choice to spend their time in office rather in the park.

Having the choice to do the things that you find it meaningful is the most important benefit I like to have in my retirement period.

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Don’t retire early

Every now and then when I talk to people about this blog and the idea of early retirement, the positive people would maybe excited for about 5 seconds before they told me it is impossible to achieve early retirement in our generation. Actually, if their idea of retirement meant inactivity or doing nothing at all, they are almost correct. Because even thought I haven’t achieve the financial side of freedom to early retirement, I knew that even I manage to get my investment to support my expense in future, I won’t be sitting around doing nothing either.

I am 32 years old this years, let say I get my investment up and running to support me financially in 10 years time, I will be 42 years. By then I am still relatively young in the society, and I will have much more knowledge and energy to serve the society so I don’t think I will be sitting around at home and reading newspaper and watching TV all day long. The thing is the definition of retirement in today world should change, it should not means inactivity or expiry of a person, it should be a member of society gain his time freedom to pursue important things in his life. It could be his family, traveling plan, social activity, his job(yes, there are people love their job and doesn’t celebrate every Friday and blue every Monday) or just serving his community.

Also, I think early retirement or not, we all on the journey of  life. Even you think you are going to work for a much longer time because some choices you made in the past, there is nothing to be sad about. We all have our own way to contribute to this society, some of us done it with our job, some of us volunteer, some of us run a business to provide goods and services and some of us taking care of our family. It doesn’t means that early retiree is better than you because they can retire earlier than you, it simply means that they made the decision earlier and decided to make it works for them.

There are sacrifice to make, things to set aside, events to miss in this journey. You are the only one can answer whether are all this effort worth it? Are you really ready to commit to this goal? Remember, it is not only the big ticket item you need to be mindful, you have to be really looking all area of your life to make it works.

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Living like a student?

Most of us had student life, it was the best part of our part. That was the time when we were young and energetic, full of ideas and with all kind of possibilities. That was also the time we have no income, depend on our parent for daily needs, watch out for our spending and plan months ahead just to get a concern ticket or a trip to the town.

Seriously, I like those years. I like those years where we were less financially educated but we are causing less damage to our financial self. I like those years where resources were so scarce for us (parent weren’t rich), but we used our creative mind and hard work to earn our reward. We were fearless, we were hardworking and we were ambitious. We worked our tail off for something out of interest or passion, not money, we don’t spend money on unfulfilling stuff because we were busy working and chasing our dream.

Fast forward 10 years, everything changed. Most of us had been through the ultimate test of life called career. Career is a abstract word, an idea this society want to push into our head. And most of the time, how successful you are in your chosen career is measure by how much money you make in this particular career. At this point of life, you have the most earning power of your life, you felt compelled to reward yourself after all the job well done, you stopped watching every little spending in your life because it just doesn’t worth your time. You have money but you don’t have (enough)time for the things you like to do, the people you like to spending time with and read the book you have been wanting to read.

Sometime I wonder is this the life I want for the rest of my life? Working hard to earn the dollars and spend them all in the next moment, then repeat this cycle. Or should I work hard to earn the dollars and ask them to work even harder to produce more of themselves to serve me?

Either path is a choice, it is a choice we all have to make and we all had made in our daily life. Every time you make a decision, you are making that choice, no good or bad, it is just a choice. As I always said, there is no problem, only project, there is no failure, only feedback.

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