The Freedom Fund – A Product of Good Offense and Defense
I’ve been asked often about how I managed to amass an RM400K (almost RM500K) portfolio at 30. This post isn’t about showing off and flaunting my portfolio, so I hope it doesn’t come off that way.
I can narrow it down to two basic parts – Offense and Defense.
The first and most obvious is your ability to generate income and returns – your offense. With a high income, be it from your day job, side hustles, a business, or from your investments, a good offense is directly proportional to your increase in wealth.
However, based on my experience, a good and solid defense is perhaps much more important than your income. A solid defense is equivalent to having a high savings rate and being frugal.
Let me start off by saying that playing good defense and being frugal isn’t for everyone. I am not telling you to follow and copy what I do to the letter, but this is how I was brought up and how I built my Freedom Fund.
My Childhood / Youth
I’d like to think that my childhood and good early parenting helped make me the person I am today.
I am from a middle-class family. We’ve had our fair share of ups and downs. We’ve never gone hungry or without a meal but food was never EVER wasted.
I got RM10 per week from my mum during primary school. Thus, the first lesson in budgeting was born. If I spent all RM10 on Monday on nasi lemak and french fries, I’d starve for the week during recess. Even at that young age, I managed to save some money every week. That money was then used to buy stuff like erasers for that eraser flipping game.
Fast forward a few years, high school was pretty much the same. I had a bump in allowance of course but I was still saving money every week. I recall looking on enviously at my friends who all had iPods. I had to save money for a year before getting my own. That feeling of achievement at the end though, was worth it.
University – One of the biggest regrets I have to this day is that I didn’t take the time to apply for scholarships after my SPM. I surprisingly got really good results but no one taught me about scholarships.
I had the opportunity to study abroad as well with my parents offering to fund my studies in Australia. Instead, I completed my education locally to save my family money.
Back then, I was fortunate enough that my parents were able to pay for my education. However, I took out a PTPTN loan anyway as the interests were lower than FD rates. It was a no brainer for me. I took my parent’s money for my education and placed them in FDs. And after 3 years of education, guess what? PTPTN was giving out a 20% discount for those who settled their loans early. At the age of 21, I had made a 20%+ return. This was to be my seed money.
Another thing that helped fund my portfolio initially was that I took a part time job when I was studying. The money was one thing but it helped built character and a sense of gratefulness when I eventually entered the workforce full time. So parents, even if your teenage child doesn’t need to get that part time job, I think you should make them work anyway.
Entering the Workforce
In the first week of entering the workforce, I followed my seniors and colleagues around. We mainly ate in the mall costing me RM15 – RM25 per meal. This was when I was on an RM2,800 salary. Thankfully, I smartened up pretty quickly and my staple food was economy rice – chap fan.
I had breakfast at a nearby kopitiam – eggs, toast and coffee for around RM5. Lunch was economy rice which cost me around RM10 or if I’m feeling rich, RM13. I had my dinners at home. This was my life for 4 years. Of course there were times when I splurged occasionally. Birthday meals, dates, the usual.
During this time, if memory serves, I had a savings rate of around 50%. This was when I started buying stocks. I spent the day at work and in my free time, I analyzed stocks. Sunway, Nestle and Scientex were my very first stocks and I still hold them to this day.
Being Frugal Today
A Penny Saved is a Penny Earned
Today, as you can tell from some of my posts on social media, I do splurge a little on food and travel. But let me assure you, every other day I am still in essence a frugal person.
I still play good defense and it is in my nature to be frugal. I still go for that economy rice (now RM15) when my friends and colleagues go for lunch at the nearby bistro.
I still turn off the lights and appliances when I leave the room. I even do it when I’m not in my own house / property.
I still do not turn on the tap to the maximum when washing the dishes.
I make sure to have a fan in my room and office so I don’t turn have to turn on the air conditioning. And at times when I am hot and I have to, I set it to 24°C. That’s the lowest I’ll ever go.
I practice most hacks on frugality like waiting a week before making a big purchase. I pay myself first when I get my salary. I buy in bulk whenever I can. And I love credit cards for their cashback and points.
All these might seem a little extreme to you, but this is how I live. It isn’t tiresome for me (it might be for the people around me), but I believe these are good habits to have. And all these, in a huge way has helped me immensely in wealth creation.
Because a penny saved is a penny earned, a penny earned is a penny invested and compounded.
A few of the stuff I use to save, earn points etc can be found hERE.
Despite everything I’ve laid out, remember to treat yourself to that occasional good meal, to travel and experience the world once you’ve built up your portfolio. Use your dividends and passive income for some leisure. Just remember to flip that light switch off before heading for that holiday.
Both defense and offense are equally important on the road to financial independence. With my savings and frugality, I wouldn’t have much of a portfolio if I did not invest my money. So remember to always invest. And invest for the long term.
I apologize if you came here looking for tips on how to invest and how to pick stocks and build wealth. But the truth is, with me at least, it was discipline and good solid defense.
It’s a boring route and definitely not for everyone. So please do not feel bad about yourself if you are a big spender. Your huge income capabilities could very well outweigh your bad defense.
It is however my intention and wish that perhaps after reading this, you just might turn off that switch when you leave the room.
Do not confuse frugality with being cheap.
Onwards and upwards!
For the next article of the FI/RE and Savings Series, check out article 003 – Passive Income in Malaysia.