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How to Achieve Financial Freedom in Singapore? Don’t Quit your Day Job just yet!

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An FH reader reached out to me recently:

Hi FH,

I’m a fresh grad and I work at a bank.

My salary is $3.5k a month.

I spend about $800/month, including giving money to my parents.

I’m currently setting aside about $400 a month to invest, with the rest going to savings.

I want to step up my investments and perhaps invest in higher risk products to get more upside, but I’m afraid of making the wrong move.

We actually get a lot of these questions, and the underlying theme is the same –

I want to set up a financially secure future. What should I do to get there faster?

Today’s post will explore the strategies we can adopt to achieve a financially secure future.  

Note: This post was sponsored by Workforce Singapore (WSG). All views and opinions expressed in this post are from Financial Horse.

How to achieve financial freedom in Singapore?

At its core, achieving wealth only has 2 basic steps:

  1. Reducing expenses
  2. Making money

#1 Reducing Expenses

It is probably obvious to all that reducing expenses is a key component of achieving wealth.

This is where budgeting and prudent financial habits come into play.

Scenario 1: John earns $10k a month and spends $9k a month on his mortgage, car payment, eating out and material goods.

Scenario 2: Mary earns $3k a month and spends $2k.

In both cases – John and Mary save $1k at the end of the month.

This demonstrates the importance of prudent financial habits. Even if you earn a high income, if you simply rest on your laurels and spend it all, you’ll find yourself coming up short at the end of the month.

However, there is an important caveat to this.

At the end of the day, if you’re making $2,000 a month, no matter how much you cut your expenses, you cannot save more than $2,000 a month.

In other words, saving money by cutting expenses works – to a certain point. After that, if you want to save more, you need to focus on earning more.

#2 Making money

Step #2 is making more money.

If you want to achieve financial freedom, Step #1 (Reducing Expenses) and Step #2 (Making Money) have to work in tandem.

There are 2 ways to make money:

  1. Get a job
  2. Start a business

Investing is a third option, but it requires you to first have a big enough sum to invest. If you’re from a wealthy family or come into an inheritance, you can start with that. But for most of us, we need to go with option 1 or 2 to get our first pot of gold.

So how do we decide which option to go with?

Ikigai

The Japanese concept of “Ikigai” offers a framework to approach this problem.

It’s about finding “your reason for being”, by exploring an intersection of:

  1. What you love
  2. What you are good at
  3. What you can be paid for
  4. What the world needs

 

Imagine a law graduate who loves gaming.

Being a lawyer is what he is good at, and what he can be paid for.

He loves gaming, but he isn’t very good at it (can’t keep up with the younger kids!).

The Ikigai framework provides a starting point to make your decisions – a practical framework to balance dreams and reality.

So in this case, perhaps he can consider working as a legal counsel at a gaming company like Razer or Blizzard – this allows him to balance what he loves, what the world needs and what he can be paid for.

Getting a Job

There are many benefits that come with a job.

At work, you are provided with an environment to learn and grow. The employer has invested in infrastructure and management systems, to nurture your skill sets. The employer also bears the brunt of the risks and provides you a steady income.

This allows you to properly budget, save and invest.

Getting a job also means you get CPF, which is an incredible wealth maximization tool.

For many early graduates (and even mid-career professionals), working a day job could be by far the best option. The only decision then is to find a job that overlaps with what you love, what you can do, and what pays.

Starting a Business

Running a business is a fantastic way to make money if you succeed, but it’s not for everyone.

The harsh reality is that most start-ups fail – this is the nature of the business.

It’s sexy to hear about multi-million-dollar founder exits, but that’s survivorship bias right there. You don’t hear about the ones that fail! Nor do you hear about the countless sleepless nights spent worrying about cash flow.

Risk appetite and stage of life will be critical here. A 24-year-old trying to start a business, and a 45-year-old with 2 young kids to support, are likely to have different considerations. 

It also depends on the industry you’re in. Stephen Schwarzman didn’t start Blackstone until he was 38. The reason? The finance industry requires you to pick up skills and a network before you can lead a company – most of which are best picked up working a day job.

So be realistic with yourself.

It may make sense to work for 2 – 3 years to build practical skills, network and make good connections, while saving up some capital.

On the other hand, if you’re starting something in a brand-new or cutting-edge industry (think Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates), it may be that you can strike it big on your own. Nevertheless, there are also start-up incubators or accelerator programmes that budding entrepreneurs can consider.  

Getting a Job and starting a business are not mutually exclusive!

I would also suggest a third option. Getting a job and starting a business may not be mutually exclusive.

In today’s world, the internet offers a ton of opportunities.

If your working hours are 9 to 6, this leaves a few hours every night and weekends to work on side hustles that you are interested in.

With the internet, the world is your oyster! 

LifeSG App

Whatever your decision, if you’re looking to explore options for your career, or if you’re undecided what the right path is for you, the LifeSG App is an amazing tool that can help you.

From family and parenting, to healthcare, housing and work and employment, the App enables you to get a birds’ eye view of the resources and support that is relevant to your needs.

Crucially, the LifeSG App also provides support for job-seekers at all ages. Whether you’re a fresh grad, a mid-career professional or are currently retrenched, the helpful guides will point you in the right direction for career support and job opportunities.

Job Opportunities

If you are looking for career support, the App provides you with helpful guides.

After downloading the App, you can go to Support for your Job Search > Find Job Opportunities.  

The App provides information and links to the relevant government services and resources. For instance:

  • MyCareersFuture
  • Virtual Career Fairs
  • SGUnited Traineeships Programmes
  • SGUnited Mid-Career Pathways
  • Employment support for persons with disabilities etc.

For Mid-Career Switchers

For employees looking to embark on a mid-career switch, LifeSG can also assist.

For example, if you want to pivot to a tech-related role, there are a few options. One option is to start by going for a programming course. Upskilling through a course is a good opportunity to connect with classmates and trainers who can give you practical insight into the industry. Once you upskill with a course, your CV is boosted, opening you up to more opportunities.

LifeSG can also point you in the right direction as to the relevant training funds and grants available to subsidize the cost.

Under Benefits and Support, you can also access your available SkillsFuture credit balance.  

For Retrenched Workers

If you’ve been retrenched, LifeSG also provides information on retrenchment benefits, and your employment rights.

And when you’re ready to search for a job, LifeSG provides direction to ample career-related resources to start your job search journey.

For Fresh Graduates

If you’re a fresh graduate unsure about the career path to take, there are many helpful resources to guide your decision making.

The LifeSG App can direct you to a career interests assessment tool provided by MySkillsFuture. The career interests assessment tool is similar to a personality test for career options.

The LifeSG App can also link you to SGUnited Jobs & Skills initiatives, including SGUnited Traineeship resources. 

It would be useful for fresh graduates who are uncertain about their career path, or mid-career professionals looking to explore a new area.

It helps you broaden your perspective and think deeper about your interests.

Seeing a Career Coach

The LifeSG app can also direct you to resources for you to meet with a career coach who can give advice on a career plan, and give you tips on job searching and interviews.

If you have been out of the job searching market for awhile, it may be challenging to figure out how to update your CV or how to conduct yourself in an interview.

A career coach can help with all of this useful preparatory tasks so that you are equipped to find a job that meets your Ikigai. 

 

LifeSG App

There’s a whole range of resources on the LifeSG app for job-seekers of all ages.

You can also manage all your government applications, deadlines and appointments, and get notified about the latest government schemes, benefits and events relevant to you.

The government has a wide array of resources for job-seekers, and LifeSG App makes it easy for you to find them.  

Closing Thoughts: The world is changing very quickly

As I like to say on Financial Horse, always look forward.

Make sure you’re not fighting yesterday’s battles. What worked in investing 30 years ago, doesn’t work today. The same goes for your career, which is a pivotal pillar in wealth building.

In the previous generation, you could pick an industry, spend the next 30 years working your way up the corporate ladder, and retire comfortably.

As long as you were reasonably hardworking and had good people skills, you had a good chance of success.

That worked then. Whether it works today, I’m not so sure.

The idea of picking one industry to work in for the next 30 years seems challenging, when you think about how quickly the entire world is changing.

Today, flexibility and nimbleness are the name of the game.

You want to be quick on your feet, and get ahead of shifting trends.

It is thus important to be able to access the right support to equip yourself with the right information and resources to take charge of your career journey.

Just like how we emphasize on taking charge of your investment journey on Financial Horse – you should also be proactive about your career.  

It’s the single biggest activity you spend your waking hours on, and the first pot of gold can help you level up so much quicker in your financial journey.

So be open-minded and adopt a multi-pronged approach to building wealth. Nurture your career, save diligently and invest intelligently. This will help put you in an excellent position for your future.

Your future self will thank you.

Note: This post was sponsored by Workforce Singapore (WSG). All views and opinions expressed in this post are from Financial Horse.

10 COMMENTS

  1. While the article is nice and useful for many it does not answer the question of the FH reader at the top of the article.
    She/he already has the topic of this article covered and has very good expense/income ratio and now is looking for advice on how to best invest his savings – not on how to find another job.
    🙂

    • Think you missed the point of the article. The reader wants to invest in order to be financially secure. While learning to invest is good, one should not be just tunnel vision towards one single thing. Because as a fresh grad, she will probably gain more upside from increasing her income first.

      • I think it is you who missed the point of the reader.
        She already has SGD 2,700 net per month accrued each month of which she invests only SGD 400 and SGD 2,300 are simply wasted in savings account.
        She rightly wants to invest more of her savings and asked for assistance with that:
        “I want to step up my investments and perhaps invest in higher risk products to get more upside, but I’m afraid of making the wrong move.”
        In reply this article suggests to increase her income even more… But she can’t invest even what she already has.
        If her income grows even more her issue will get even bigger.
        So what am I missing here?

        • Hi Maxim,

          Thanks – I reread the question and article and you are right. I might have misread the question slightly.

          I meant the article more as to way to say that there’s 3 parts to building wealth – making, saving, and investing. Saving and investing are important, but so is making more money. Especially for younger readers, where the potential to increase their earnings is high.

          I will share my views with this reader directly, and will look into doing a new article to address the investing question.

          Cheers.

          • Absolutely!
            You are right that without all three pillars (savings, income and investment) it is impossible to achieve financial freedom. And by maximising results of each one you’ll be able to achieve the best and quickest results.
            The article is great. Another article on the third pillar combined with this one will make it more or less a complete guide to success.
            Well done!

      • Hi owq,

        Yes! – that’s exactly what I meant with this article.

        But I suppose I did miss the question about investing. Will look to do a new article to address this aspect. 🙂

  2. Hi FH, I usually really enjoy your articles but was quite disappointed by this one which, in a too obvious way, looks like an advert for LifeSG. I would have been more transparent to add the sentence saying it is sponsored by Singapore Workforce at the beginning of the article instead of at the end (which some/most readers might skip). I don’t blame you to write sponsored articles but would have expected more transparency and will read the next articles with much more suspicion.

    • Hi there,

      My sincere apologies for this.

      Thanks for the feedback, I have added a disclaimer to the article at the beginning to share that it is a sponsored post.

      Going forward – all sponsored posts will have a similar disclaimer at the beginning.

      Hope this helps.

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