How to Save $100,000 by 30? Life Lessons from Woke Salaryman

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Happy Labour Day Everyone! What better way to enjoy this holiday than to have a chat with our buddies at The Woke Salaryman!

Financial Horse sat down with Rui Ming and Wei Choon from Woke Salaryman, to hear more about their philosophy to life.

As it turns out, there is no such thing as an overnight success.

How did Woke Salaryman come about…

Rui Ming:

Both of us started in the marketing space, so we initially wanted to create content-workshops for our clients.  

I wrote the first article about saving 100k and asked Wei Choon if he could help me out with the graphics, because I think visual storytelling is very impactful.

The post went viral and the rest is history…

Woke Salaryman is like if we had a prodigious kid who is a genius piano player at age 8, so suddenly we (as parents) have to become agents, and our life is now dictated by this new turn of events.  

An Overnight Success?

Rui Ming:

Woke Salaryman is actually the result of many other projects we started that failed to take off. I would say it’s almost 11 years in the making from all the stuff we did before.

Wei Choon:

Before Woke Salaryman, I had my own comics page that goes viral from time to time but not on the scale of the Woke Salaryman.

Rui Ming also used to run a travel blog in university – I actually helped him to design a banner for that as my first paid gig. He was basically trying to Instagram before it was a thing.

Ultimately, you learn from failures, so all the stuff we did before, it really helped us to make Woke Salaryman.

There’s really no such thing as overnight success.

If you don’t have the right mindset and the right discipline, you will not be able to maintain your successful status, like how most lottery winners lose all their money in a matter of years because they don’t have the right mindset. 

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Quitting your day job to pursue your dreams?

Wei Choon:

I’m not a person who takes risks, and I know I will back-out if I don’t have a concrete plan.

Before I made the decision to quit, I set out a list of goals. I told myself that if I achieved them, I would have to take the plunge (no excuses!).

This included having an emergency fund, paying off my student loans, and also being able to earn an income from the Woke Salaryman.

Rui Ming:

After going viral, we were super happy but we weren’t really making any money.

Fortunately, our first sponsored post came much sooner than expected, and it actually came from CPF Board.

This was a huge deal for us. To get approached by an institution that was so reputable.

But like Wei Choon said, we had to have a plan first. We had to save funds for the business to last us at least 6 months.

Also, as our content started to reach more people, I quickly realized it wasn’t sustainable to run Woke Salaryman and work full-time. It would be selling Woke Salaryman as a company short and also not being fair to my bosses. Thankfully, my boss was super understanding when it came time for me to quit (shoutout 99.co!)

No more 9-5?

Wei Choon:

I always fantasized about being self-employed, but I’m quite a procrastinator so I descended into a quite a messed-up timeline like Hunter S Thompson (a writer known for his odd schedule).

Because I play this game called Rust in the wee hours of the morning, I started to lead a very unhealthy schedule which wasn’t sustainable. 

Eventually, I forced myself back to a 9-5 schedule.

Rui Ming:

Yes, at first was I was just working working non-stop into the night, including weekends, which I think my girlfriend was not very pleased about.

Because I saw us as a start-up and you have to pay your dues. But eventually, for my own sanity and productivity, you do have to impose a schedule.

On Saving 100k by 30?

Rui Ming:

I still stand by my article. Saving is the most impactful when you’re in the early part of your journey.

Once you reach 100k, this will allow you to take more risk (for example, investing) which will result in higher reward, but before that, saving plays a big part.

I think the one thing that I will change is that I couldn’t see the employers’ point of view.

I worked in advertising, and I used to complain about how I was being underpaid, as I was being paid a very small amount compared to what they were charging clients.

But now as a business owner myself, I see the bigger picture.

Also, I became more aware of supply and demand, because obviously there were a lot of other people who could do the same job I did, which is why they paid me that amount.

Wei Choon:

I agree. I had a similar incident where I was earning 1.6k as a junior web designer. I accidentally saw one of the invoices that that they sent to a big client, and the invoice was like 22,000 for something I did.

But now I look at the macro perspective. For instance, the company has invested into a lot of frameworks and resources in order to be able to get these big clients who will pay this kind of money.

Back to the 100k by 30, one thing that resulted was that many people started to use this as a benchmark, and I really have to repeat again and again that it’s not something everybody should strive for.

Ruiming was just sharing his personal journey (and it was certainly difficult, he made many sacrifices to achieve that goal).  It’s definitely not to say that if you don’t achieve this goal, you are doing something wrong.

FH challenges Woke Salaryman to $1 Million by 35?

Rui Ming:

Haha maybe, I could be on track.

But ultimately for me, my lifestyle has remained relatively the same.

I know that the good times will not last forever.

Maybe lawyers and bankers, they have longer (to earn big bucks). But fighting in the media industry – Titans rise and fall and die like flies.

So, I’m always preparing for the worst. I’m always thinking ‘Winter is Coming’.

One thing that helps is that I do a lot of hiking and camping.

I’ve learned that to be happy, you don’t really need a lot of things.

Also, I think maybe because it just happened so fast, I just didn’t have time to inflate my lifestyle.

The Bromance is Real…

Rui Ming:

The other thing is that Wei Choon always keeps me in check. He’s a very grounded person. So if you say you’re the average of the people you hang around, then yeah he definitely helps me stay grounded.

I’ve never wanted to be rich just to be rich. I think my goal is just to achieve a nest egg so I can lead a humble life.

My goal is to be “Barista-FIRE”. So I have enough funds to do a not-so-lucrative gig, maybe create a bicycle brand that just breaks even. Also Covid has made me realize that life is unpredictable.

Wei Choon:

In the pursuit of money, it’s easy to forget why you’re chasing money in the first place. This happens to a lot of people, maybe they grew up poor or they want to solve a problem with money.

But when they solve it, they just have the reflex of chasing money because I chased money one time and it helped me get out of this situation. But then after that, it just becomes about chasing money.

It becomes a very hollow pursuit, because you don’t even know why you’re chasing money. I still caution Rui Ming now and again, and I like to think of this quote:

“Beware that, when fighting monsters, you yourself do not become a monster… for when you gaze long into the abyss. The abyss gazes also into you.” ― Friedrich W. Nietzsche

Being a True Friend of Singapore Society

Wei Choon:

Cancel culture is definitely a thing content creators have to contend with these days.

We’ve had some missteps before like the PMD thing, where I wrote the post from an emotional place and people said we were insensitive, and we learnt a great deal from that.

At the same time, I hope that we always have this sense of being a true friend. A true friend will tell you what you need to hear, and not just what you want to hear.

We want to be true friends of Singapore society and sometimes this means that we might have to be a bit more blunt or not so nice, but it’s a balance. 

We want to be true friends of Singapore society

Rui Ming:

Yes, I think we should always be honest. It’s very easy to say things & use the same few buzzwords to get a lot of shares online.

But ultimately, who is actually helping the people, where are the resources that are going to help the people – we want to draw attention to that. 

A lot of people just talk about it, they don’t actually do anything about it. So my main focus is on what is actionable.

Are Woke Salaryman Investors?

Wei Choon:

For me, I focus on building my foundation levels first. Have 6 months’ salary saved, have my insurances settled etc. I’ve started investing into local ETFs, and am looking to diversify into global ETFs. Down the road, I may think about individual stock-picking.

I think it’s good to start with the basics first, don’t just jump straight into the highest level of speculative stuff.

Rui Ming:

I believe in investing in the country you live in. So I do think the STI is a good place to start. I also buy global ETFs, and invest in overseas markets like China.

I also dabble in crypto. However, I don’t intend to invest more than 5% of my net worth into crypto as fundamentally it’s still a speculative asset and I still want to sleep at night. 

Beyond that, I also started venturing into property investing.

I bought a new launch that will be rented out in 2023, and I’m currently renting a HDB flat. Besides the arbitrage, the good thing about this is that you’re not tied down for five years.

Advice to your 18-year-old self?

Wei Choon:

When I was 18 years old, I was super idealistic and I really wanted to live my dream as an animator in Japan because I love anime.  

I was so naive and was willing to take any job, at any pay, as long as I could do what I loved.

I thought that if I was not able to make money, then so be it. I will starve and I will go live in a hut and make paper and pencil animation.

But ironically, chasing money for a while allowed me to get a pretty good salary, save up six months, and now I’m working full-time on the Woke Salaryman, which is pretty damn close to what I wanted to, which was visual storytelling that had real impact.

So I would say it’s ok to chase money for a while.

Ironically, Chasing Money for awhile allowed me to get pretty damn close to my Dream Career 

Rui Ming:

I would tell myself that I’m not entitled to independence. For a while, I was angry with my father because he had a lot of rules and I was living in his house.

Over time, I’ve realized that whoever pays has the say. This is how the world works, and it’s the same with living with any landlord out there.

The price of independence is not cheap. So if you really want to have unlimited freedom, then you have to earn it.

In reframing my mindset, I learnt to approach the world better. I have also improved my relationship with my father a lot after I moved out. Now I understand where he’s coming from, and the tough love he’s given me, and I have a lot more peace in my life. 

The price of independence is not cheap. So if you really want to have unlimited freedom, then you have to earn it.

Rapid Fire Questions

Favourite Emoji

Wei Choon: 🤔 The chin rub.  

Rui Ming: 😂 I use this in all situations, for instance when I’m late on a content deadline 😂

Spirit Animal

Rui Ming: A rat. I think my biggest, strongest trait is adaptability.

Wei Choon: Octopus, they’re not incredibly strong, but they are extremely adaptable, they can blend in very well, they can hide & they can camouflage. They can also squeeze out of a tight situation.

Best Purchase

Wei Choon: The graphic tablet that I use currently at work (got it second-hand from carousel) and it is a very good digital drawing tablet.

Rui Ming: My bicycle.

When I’m riding on the road, I feel that I’m more comfortable with going against the norms of society.

I guess it started with why should I buy a car? (Bicycle is so much better!) And why should I stick to the conventional path of buying a HDB and then upgrading to a condo?

The bicycle reminds me of that train of thought, and being comfortable with unconventional decisions.  

[Comment below if you think it’s time Woke Salaryman gets a bicycle sponsorship! 🚴🏻‍♀️]

When I’m riding on the road, I feel that I’m more comfortable with going against the norms of society.

Netflix Recommendation

Rui MingAttack on Titan [FH: we’re big fans too!]

Wei Choon: Wild Wild Country (When a controversial cult leader builds a utopian city in the Oregon desert, conflict with the locals escalates into a national scandal…)


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