15 June 2015

24 Tales in the Journey to Wealth


"Financial Independence, Retire Early" (FIRE) - that seems like a wonderful catch phrase to set the flames going. What does it take to achieve this burning desire? I think it boils down to a magic number.
[1. http://lizardorealm.blogspot.sg/2015/05/light-fire-can-i-retire-now.html]


To achieve this outcome, I invest in the market, diversified across market regions, namely Asia Pacific (except Japan), global emerging markets, the US, Europe and Japan. 

Unit Trust.
I use funds from the Supplementary Retirement Scheme (SRS) and CPF OA and SA funds to invest into Unit Trust on the Fundsupermart platform. Since each year I can contribute up to to $12,750 into SRS, that is the capital injection that goes into this portfolio. This unit trust portfolio is further complemented by ETFs. Fees in Unit Trusts are relatively higher compared to ETFs, but the latter tends to be less liquid.

Singapore Stocks.
A value investment approach in dividend paying stocks can be most rewarding. I diversify across the Singapore stock market by buying a dozen stocks (or two!) to spread the risks. The wonderful part of this is that I can happily collect dividends to reinvest while waiting as well. Of late, the dividends can run into an average of $1,000 a month. This will be the means by which I intend to generate the eventual passive income for retirement. The dividends would have been more, except that I typically take up the script offer (i.e. collect more units of stocks in lieu of cash), so as to continue to build up my portfolio, and at a discount from the market value.
[2. http://lizardorealm.blogspot.sg/2015/04/my-singapore-team-of-dividend-stocks.html]

US Stocks.
Likewise, for US stocks. I invest through POEMS which hold the US stocks as a custodian account. US stocks (if you pick carefully!) have a practice of steady dividend growth. So even if you do nothing, the dividends tend to hold stead or growth with each passing year. The only problem is the 30% withholding tax on the dividends. The custodian fee that POEMS charge is quite minimal really, so that I can live with.
[3. http://lizardorealm.blogspot.sg/2015/06/my-us-team-of-dividend-stocks-2015.]

Exchange Traded Funds (ETF).
Since I already hold diversified portfolios of Singapore and US stocks, the rest of the market regions are held via ETF, which complements the Unit Trust portfolio mentioned earlier. I prefer to hold ETFs that pay out dividends - or what I refer to as an Income ETF Portfolio.


The stock portfolios are complemented by bonds and cash. While my plan was to maintain only 10% in bonds and cash (or bond-like instruments), it has typically reached 20%. In addition, I maintain 6 to 9 months worth of expenses in cash instruments.

Preference Shares and Retail Bonds
These can be bought off the SGX. The coupon payments, usually half-yearly, provides yet another income stream.
[5. http://lizardorealm.blogspot.sg/2015/01/non-convertible-preference-shares.]

More recently, a wider spread of bonds can also be bought through Fundsupermart. Aside from the few retail bonds, the majority will require hefty $250,000+ investments. Something beyond my reach and need for now, so it's something to keep in view as a future option. As an income stream, perpetual bonds can be quite attractive.
[6. http://lizardorealm.blogspot.sg/2015/05/bondsupermart.html]

Singapore Savings Bond.
This offering from the Singapore Government will be available to retail investor soon. While not a inflation-linked bond, it has some semblance of it. I will most certainly park some of my cash components here. That will serve as an emergency buffer that can be cashed out if needed.
[7. http://lizardorealm.blogspot.sg/2015/04/singapore-savings-bond-as-safe-as-it.html]

Central Provident Fund (CPF).
The compulsory savings into CPF actually is another bond component, offering steady and fairly risk-free growth. The only problem is the lock-in. The lock-in becomes less of a worry for someone like me who is reaching the half-century mark. CPF funds has serveed many useful purposes thus far, especially to fund housing (used), support the kids' education (an option not yet used), or invested into stock or unit trust funds if I prefer to take more risks.
[8. http://lizardorealm.blogspot.sg/2015/02/a-great-retirement-offer-from-cpf.html]

Bank Savings Accounts.
Even the traditional banks can offer interesting saving accounts with higher interest rates. But a bit of acrobatics need to be done. This is the other component of my cash funds.
[9. http://lizardorealm.blogspot.sg/2015/06/how-can-we-stretch-interest-on-our-bank.html]


Even as the investment portfolios are being built up, it is also worthwhile to examine options to reduce 'leakages'.

Supplementary Retirement Scheme (SRS).
Taxation is such a killer, especially at higher incomes. One sure way to reduce the tax burden is to contribute to the SRS (and invest the money sitting in SRS!).
[10. http://lizardorealm.blogspot.sg/2015/02/one-way-to-avoid-paying-more-tax-srs.html]

And if you have a charitable heart, donation is another way of reducing the tax burden while doing some good deeds.
[11. http://lizardorealm.blogspot.sg/2015/02/another-way-to-avoid-paying-more-tax.html]

Credit Cards.
Some people view credit cards as an evil thing. But used wisely, it can actually help reduce our expenses.
[12. http://lizardorealm.blogspot.sg/2015/06/4-credit-cards-with-great-cashbacks-and.html]


There are many exotic options and alternatives to grow that investment pie. But be very careful! Perhaps, it suffices to keep things simple.

A recent trend has been the growth of crowd-funding platforms. These have arrived on our shores, offering the lure of 12% returns or more. In reality, they are even more risky than junk bonds. I am keeping this in view for now.
[13. http://lizardorealm.blogspot.sg/2015/02/moolahsense-embarks-on-new-fundraising.html]

Starting a Business.
This requires more careful considerations. I'm not quite ready for that leap.
[14. http://lizardorealm.blogspot.sg/2015/01/running-cafes-as-business-owner.html]

One could wait for an inheritance, if there is any to be had! But I wouldn't bet on this.
[15. http://lizardorealm.blogspot.sg/2014/12/20-years-and-200000-mothers-savings.html]

Exciting Bank Offers.
This is an oxymoron. With the exception of the aforementioned special savings accounts, what can they offer that can do better than all the self-help options mentioned earlier given their exorbitant charges?
[16. http://lizardorealm.blogspot.sg/2015/05/a-fantastic-investment-deal-at-bank-or.html]


Be Healthy.
Most importantly, is to stay healthy. What's the point of an early retirement, if one is in bade health? Or worse, expired early!
[17. http://lizardorealm.blogspot.sg/2014/07/investing-and-dieting-wealth-and-health.html]

Medical Insurance.
But we can never be certain of good health. So medical insurance is a must in my view. Without this, all the savings and investments can be easily wiped out in no time. Sometimes, we really have to spend money to save money.
[18. http://lizardorealm.blogspot.sg/2015/04/thank-goodness-we-had-medical-insurance.html]

Staying Healthy on Cruise.
One can still enjoy life, even while on a food binge on a cruise. It's not that difficulty to stay healthy, really.
[19. http://lizardorealm.blogspot.sg/2015/04/not-too-difficult-to-stay-healthy-on.html]


Con Jobs.
These are just plentiful and are happening everyday. Always worth repeating the mantra, "if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is too good to be true". Greed is our greatest enemy. And the enemy is that person in the mirror.
[20. http://lizardorealm.blogspot.sg/2015/05/rags-to-riches-riches-to-rags.html]
[21. http://lizardorealm.blogspot.sg/2015/02/the-allure-of-gold-treachery-of-glitter.html]

Job Loss.
This can really be painful and disastrous. A family unit that has multiple wage earner helps diversify the risk. But for the single-income family, there really isn't any room. Best to move on and deal with the realities.
[22. http://lizardorealm.blogspot.sg/2015/05/what-do-you-do-if-you-get-laid-off.html]

A lifestyle of living beyond one's means is a sure road to disaster. Live within your means. What you can't save isn't yours.
[23. http://lizardorealm.blogspot.sg/2015/05/a-millionaire-and-yet-completely-broke.html]

Careless Decisions.
Sometimes, we will make bad decisions and lose money. Hopefully, this doesn't happen too often and too painfully.
[24. http://lizardorealm.blogspot.sg/2015/06/sumiko-tans-money-no-enough.html]

"Good health, great wealth!"
Or should it be, "Good wealth, great health!"

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