Sunday, 24 May 2015

My Personal Finance Story (Part 2) – Everything Happens For A Reason

This post continues from the previous post (Part 1)... 

Graduation Woes

SARs & Debt-ridden
After 4 years of hard work graduating Bachelor of Engineering with honours, I was supposed to throw my mortar hat in jubilation. Unfortunately, the hopes of bright prospects were dampened by SARs epidemic. Furthermore, economy is still licking from the pain inflicted from the 911 attack two years earlier. In a difficult time when many jobseekers include those with work experience, finding a full-time job for a fresh graduate was like finding a needle in haystack. It could not be worst for someone who was shouldering a 40k debt (incl. interest and loan from sister), laden with paying back more than S$600 a month. It took me more than 5 years after graduation to finish repaying my loans. I am desperate to find a job fast! 

The few months serving the remaining of my NS disruption do helped to delay the woes of not having a job after graduation. I was cushioned from the few hundred dollars NS allowances coupled with my tuition income. Adverse circumstances tend make people work beyond one's limit. Every night I will spend hours trying to customize my resumes to the employers’ requirements, hoping to differentiate better against other jobseekers, before submitting the resumes.

I learnt: Adverse Circumstances Carves a Man

My First Paycheck but No Savings! 
For first few months, it is so disheartening when so many resumes sent were not even met by calls for interview or an email reply. Just a month before my NS ended, I was elated that my third interview landed me my first job in oil and gas sector as an engineer. I beat a thick stack of other candidates resumes shown by my superior. Salary was mediocre at $2k with lousy employment benefits and a 4-months bond. But who cares! Getting a job is all that matters then! To read more, refer to my earlier articles “My First Paycheck 11 Years ago compare to Fresh Graduate Salary Today.”

The $1.6k take home salary complemented by my tuition income is just enough for my loans, mum allowance, expenses etc.

BUT it provides no room for savings! 

Earnings Rose So Is Expenses 

30% Salary increment
The job market improved in 2004 and I landed myself my second job in a small local set-up with a salary of $2.6k. In the same year, I also work harder to have more tuition students. With a 30% increment and increased income from tuition, I should either have lots of savings or at least have increased my loan repayment. I didn't! Undoubtedly making my liabilities heavier, I also bought my first car, a second hand one! The only consolation is that, the car is work related and subsidized slightly by company. Still, my expenses further ballooned. 

Wake Up Call for Savings
I remembered there was once in the first year after graduation, I tried withdrawing $50 from the ATM and my bank has less than that amount! I felt so ashamed as a working adult and suddenly realized the need for savings! THIS IS MY WAKE UP CALL. From then onwards, I started to save. While I always discipline myself to save more than 40% of my salary, I have no idea of what is investment, aside from save and buy a HDB flat. The savings in the bank is not even in Fix Deposit and is earning "peanuts" interests from "save as you earn scheme" from Posb bank!

No Financial Literacy
I bought my first few stocks later, but I did not know what fundamental analysis is, and buy based on sentiments and hear-say. Like many, I bought investment-linked-products insurance after being influenced by my agent, without really bothers about what is the fund make up of. 

I was not spendthrift neither was I frugal. I love buying good quality stuffs that comes with a price tag. Because of this, I am often mistaken by friends that I was spendthrift. In oppose to what others thought, my wife always say I am frugal. She commented that I am a good purchaser in value over the price tag. Still, due to my relatively average income then, my finances were tight.

So during the start of my career, my financial literacy level is really low.

Career & Income Growth 

Earnings Growth and Bonus Share Award
The economy picked up and accelerated upwards from 2005 to 2008.  I joined a bigger company and my career and income started surfing the rising tides. Salary growth was exponential but savings and expenses rose too!

Our company was preparing for IPO then. I remembered I was the one physically typing the prospectus for my MD in a meeting room, with the rest of the management team giving inputs. Then some big MNC comes along. Attracted by the lucrative buy-out offer, my two bosses dropped the IPO plan and sold the company instead. It was to be a much better decision as they pocketed combined total of >S$100 Million! 

I learnt: Things do not always go according to your plans. But if you plan and TAKE ACTION, one thing always leads to another!

Employees including myself were given shares. The criterion is to work harder for the next three years to propel the “bottom line” so that our share values can surge. Oil and Gas is booming and we are all extremely excited. I was busy closing big deals until the GFC tsunami came!

Crisis Creates Opportunity
My company was not spared by the GFC, and retrenchment exercise was implemented. Fortunately for me, I was unaffected due to my job role. In fact I was promoted several times during period of crisis as I was part of the team that help maneuverer the headwinds facing the company! 

Nevertheless, I saw people losing jobs, it's terrible! 

I learnt: Crisis is painful but It creates opportunity too!

My First Pot of Gold
Oil prices rebounded quickly after the crisis. Three years soon passed and I received my bonus share payout. It was not as lucrative as anticipated before the crisis but it was not too shabby either, though big bulk of it has to go to income tax payments! 

With the money, I invested in a private property aside from our HDB. But before my investments, I carry out lots of research in property sector and also read a book or two on property investment too!

I learnt: Invest in yourself before any other things!

Setbacks Are The Biggest Trigger for Turnarounds 

I recognised with humility that I am person who learn fast. Even so, I have to learn through the hard ways. The key to the door of my personal finance literacy is through various acute setbacks. 

While climbing the corporate ladder, I ignore my health completely. I collapsed eventually and spend weeks in hospital.

I learnt: Life is vulnerable. We need to prepare for the worst not only for ourselves but for our love ones!

My health recovered fast thanks to a healthy diet and lifestyle later.  Then while at the top of my career, my ambitious appetite expanded further. I took on a bigger role after being headhunted by another company. No different from the stock market, the rise to peak is imminent for a crash later.

My career suffered the same fate. For some reasons, I feel uncomfortable working in the new company despite the good remuneration and authority. Eventually, I make a decision to leave without a job, with hefty family expenses behind me. Although I managed to find the next job fast, it serves as a stark reminder to me.

I learnt: There is no such thing as job security and we need to plan our finances ahead. 

Unlike the GFC, this time I felt it! 

Counter-intuitively, when I looked back today, the setbacks are one of the best things that happen to me. While it may seem a bad career decision, it serves as one of my best learning experiences. Since then, I started to develop interests in investing and blogging, outside my work.

What I Learn

Going through my own journey, I am proud to say that I am much better off today than before. I added more wisdom and happiness to my life. I pursue things that I really want over long term rather than competing with the crowd to chase for the “low hanging fruits”.

Everything happens for a reason. For without being poor, I will not realise the importance of working hard for my earnings. For without being ill, I will not realise the importance of health. For without failures, I will not realise the paths to success!

If we are positive and brave enough to overcome the setbacks, we only live to be a better person. For now, and in my own opinion, I list as follows the essences for a Successful YOU:
  • Know Who you are, What you really like in life, and Work hard for it.
  • Healthy Body, Mind and Soul.
  • Family and Friends’ Support
  • Save for rainy days. Be Frugal Not Stingy.
  • Investments in yourself before investments in equity, property etc.
  • Luck favours those who are patient and work hard with continuous learning capability

"In times when we are doing great, do not be too arrogant and over the moon. It can be that we have not experience the worst, or the success is entirely through randomness, which may not last. 

On the contrary, when we are NOT doing well due to random events do not be devastated and give up. Our time of success will come eventually, that is, if we persist, continue to improve ourselves, have good attitude, positive mind-set..etc.”  - Rolf Suey

Related Posts:
The Seminar of Financial Freedom?生存是技能,生活才是目的! Survivalis "Skill", To Live Life is "Objective"!I am Successful Because I am Capable? Do not be Fooled byRandomness!


  1. Hi Rolf,

    Everything happens for the best! I am in agreement with that :) We just need to see the silver lining behind every setback, brush it off, smile and get up and going again. They say that courage is all about getting up from your falls and try again and again.

    Always be humble. If you're not humble on your way up, you'll be humbled on your way down ;)

    Thanks for sharing your life story - it's really interesting to see the stories behind each person :) Beats those generic 5 pointers or 10 pointers a million times over ;)

    1. Hi LP, replaced “reason” with “best”. You are more optimistic than me! Haha  .

      “Humility” is when you reached another phase of development in your life. Many people try to pretend they are humble, but they are not! They simply love listening to “apple-polishing” remarks. I prefer to hear the truth!

      As for courage, it can also apply to those still searching for their true love! I am saying this to my best friend who face this problem, not to our friend in this blogosphere. Haha

      I wrote in my part 1 “Although LP is not the source blogger causing this viral, I was influenced by his post “why I am interested in personal finance”, sharing his personal finance journey. To me, sharing of personal experiences always educates more convincingly than just infusing streams of theories. Now, let my own story begins as follows.”

      Thanks for the inspiration! 

  2. For many of us our life is tough so it is up to us to make it softer.

    1. HI CW,

      Yes, make it softer on the outside yet harder in the core!

  3. Replies
    1. Hi SeeKay,

      Thanks for dropping by and the kind words.

  4. Rolf,

    Both of us have the same source of inspiration for our writings ;)

    Remember there was a time you wondered why there were so many comments at some blogger's post?

    You have figured out the reason ;)

    No telling/assuming what others should do, or use cheap parlour tricks like listicles - top 10 reasons why; the 3 ways how, etc...

    It's infinitely more interesting to know who Rolf is, what's your opinion, and what you have done!

    I'm impressed.

    You have the courage to share both your triumphs and stumbles! Most will conveniently gloss over their failures...

    1. Hi SMOL,

      "不敢当” for the compliments. You are the Master "shifu"! I am still new... lots to learn in this blogging world.

      Anyway it is still very difficult to figure out how to receive a century of comments. :-)

      But I figure like what you mentioned, it is so important to acknowledge and share the stumbles.

      Be truthful to others, and more importantly to ourself!

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