Some say it’s financial independence. Well, it’s just retire earlier. Are we on the right track?
Financial independence is not a common thing
When I graduated in 1998, my idea of a good life is to keep getting promotions until I get very high salary every month. I have no idea how high is high though. I just know that every month I did not have much savings left so I needed to get higher salary. I think I was paid quite well because I was able to get a credit card almost immediately after I have 3 months pay slip. My first credit card was from Citibank and second one was from Maybank. I do not hold both these cards nowadays. Long story but briefly, their benefits for credit card holders did not appeal to me.
What could we do to retire earlier than most people?
#1 – Deciding WHEN?
Have we decided on the age which we want to retire a.k.a no need for full time salary? When we hit our 35th birthday? (wah, very early) When we reach 40 years old? (i have passed this) How about 45 then? (I am 44 in 2021) By the way, even 50 years old is fine because the life expectancy for Malaysians is no longer 65 like long time ago but it’s towards 80 these days. The expectation is that this will continue to increase in future. Thus, retiring at 50 still meant another 30 years more to enjoy the new lifestyle.
#2 – What’s your current earning power like? (Briefly, active income must be higher than expenses.
Are we working towards earning more than what people typically earns every month? Let’s take RM11,000 salary per month for calculation. I think this is the low side of T20 household in Malaysia. This is the minimum household income for a T20 household in Malaysia. If these T20 households need to work 40 years in order to retire by 60, then if we wanted to retire earlier than them, then perhaps we stay focused on just working for 20 years and aiming at RM22,000 per month instead?
#3 – What’s the passive income AFTER active income? (Yes, passive income will now have to be higher than your expenses too)
When we actively get a fixed income every month, everything seems fine. As soon as we stop working and we do not have a fixed income every month, then we better ensure we have a recurring income every month. Preferably this recurring should be almost the same as fixed income if not more. Just now we used RM22,000 per month as a benchmark. Well, if we want to save enough money into Fixed Deposit to earn RM22,000 interest per month, then we need to have RM13.2 million saved into FD in the bank. Erm… how?
Do note that property investments are illiquid even if we get a positive rental return every month. Meanwhile stock market, even if we were to buy the bluechip counter would still have unforeseen circumstances. Many of these companies which were deemed to be as strong as the oak tree has fallen. Just remember to start thinking about passive income if indeed we want to retire earlier than most peers.
#4 – Are we protected against unforeseen circumstances?
I was hospitalised in Singapore during a business trip and was admitted in ICU too. That bill was enormous. Please get ready for unforeseen circumstances. Please do call up your insurance broker friends to understand more about medical cards, about other necessary protections based on our age and lifestyle. Please do not be penny wise and pound foolish because any sudden trips to the hospital for a week will likely to cause a huge dent in the expenses for many months. We may suddenly be in a huge debt after a trip to the hospital.
#5 – How low could our expenses be?
Beyond just the passive income focus, we also needed to know how low could our expenses go. If we are STILL paying rental, then do remember this amount goes up every year. My advice is to own a property which is fully paid on the day you decided you like to stop full time employment. Please do finish paying for the car too and continue to drive the same car. If we intend to travel a lot, have we factored in this into the financial calculation?
If we are used to spending RM100 for food every day, are we ready to spend lesser? All these are to anticipate a sudden drop in passive income as well. No one knows when the future pandemic may strike.
#6 – Do we really want to stop working full-time anyway?
Truth is, the lifestyle life we wanted need not be the life we need to have everyday. I love to have coffee with friends and just talk about everything under the sun. I do not need to do this daily. I love to jump into the sea and build some bad looking sand castles but I do not need to do this weekly. I have visited probably around 20 countries thus far and I would love to do this more often than every other month but I still love my hometown and all my family members too.
By the way, what if I love my what I do? Haha. I love interacting with people. I love to continue to be a Toastmaster member. I love to share what I know. I love to write. These are what I am already doing today. As they say, if you love what you do, a job becomes an interest. When it’s an interest, you will be good in what you do and somehow all the rest could just fall in place. In fact if we could just work 4 days per week and spend the other 3 days as our own, that’s already fantastic. It does not need to be all 7 days.
I do believe that I am not going to stop full time employment before 55. In other words, at least another 11 more years to go. I also do not believe that working to 60 is considered a sad thing too. I already enjoy what I do today and I do not have the feeling of refusing to jump out of bed every morning. Perhaps I would wait to have both my children in university first. Then, I would want them to be independent and I could then spend more time to do other things too.
At 60, if I live to 80, I have 20 years to continue visiting more countries. If I could visit a country every 6 months, I could still visit easily another 40 countries before I bid goodbye to this world. Happy thinking about it and making plans to achieve it too. I am very sure you could come up with a good plan too.
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