Singvestor's awakening

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BRUTE
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Re: Singvestor's awakening

Post by BRUTE » Mon Oct 31, 2016 11:51 pm

reducing amount of clothing has always been a fun exercise for brute. it allows him to justify owning higher quality clothing instead of tons of crap he never wears anyway. currently brute is back up from his lowest ever amount of articles of clothing, but it's still manageable. it makes everything easier.

sounds like Singvestor has it pretty cushy in his job. if the SG economy is really in a bad spot, it might just make sense to search for meaning in other parts of life. exercise, friends, family, the minimalist girlfriend. maybe the economy will allow jumping to another job in a few years, but in the meantime, Singvestor is cashing his checks and finding meaning elsewhere. go Singvestor!

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singvestor
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Monthly update #17: November 2016

Post by singvestor » Sat Dec 03, 2016 8:06 pm

November was a mad month in terms of work. The first two weeks I slacked off but then worked long hectic days for the rest of the month. I made it to round 3 for a new position in a different country with my current company. Outcome is still pending. If I got the job I would be able to bring my retirement forward by a few years, thanks to a cushy delegation package. Fingers crossed!

Chiang Mai

I spent 4 days in Chiang Mai, Thailand. It is a favorite place for so called “digital nomads” and early retirees, but I really do not understand the appeal. The whole city is full of old American guys watching MMA on TV in bars and is crowded with backpackers and tourists. It is not bad, but I do not understand the hype.

I went during the Loi Krathong festival (Wikipedia) where Thais traditionally float little flower baskets down the river and release a bunch of lanterns into the sky, making a wish as they so. This is all I understood about it, about as much as the thousands of other foreigners taking part in the spectacle.

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There was a huge crowd of tourists and the sky was full of yellow glowing lanterns. The next day they could be found all over the city, on roofs, hanging from trees etc.

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Banking.

Monthly goal review:
  • Get rid of all clothes in my flat that I do not wear anymore: partly achieved, recycled 2 bags. My girlfriend got inspired and reduced her clothes by four bags and now has about half as many clothes as me.
  • Try to reduce number of possessions further: failed, need to make a new attempt.
  • 21 days no alcohol: shamefully failed again with only 13 days and gained 1.5 kg (3.3 lbs) as result. Not good. I have to make drastic changes to this. When I feel like drinking beer with friends I will try and go to the gym instead. I was living very healthily the first half of the year and then fell of the wagon. Current BMI is 23.6 but I am normally feeling comfortable only < 23.
  • 12 times exercise: failed, 10 times
  • Finally get back into improving my Chinese: failed
  • Make use of my talent program perks at work to get a coach: achieved, got a coach, he seems energetic so far, full sessions to start next week. Not sure what to expect.
  • "declutter" the mind and come to terms with some old issues: ongoing project with ups and downs.
It is embarrassment, but I am committed to changing.

Savings rate November

Savings rate was not too exciting. I saved a puny 30.1% or pre-tax income or 32.6% after tax.

ERE Scorecard

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Overall saving rate has fallen below the magical 40% to 39.9%. That is far from ideal. December will see a higher investment thanks to the Christmas bonus and will then push the overall score up.

Portfolio update November

Despite political turmoil my portfolio increased by SGD 5,154 or 3.2% to SGD 168,124 (= USD 118,400). This increase consisted of SGD 2,490 and fresh investments of SGD 2,664.

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Investments-vs-Plan

In November I invested SGD 2,664, just a tad over the SGD 2,600 goal. Total investment year-to-date sits at SGD 46,757 (USD 33,000). I have exceeded last year’s investments already now (last year: SGD 46,037)

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If all goes well I will invest more than SGD 50,000 this year which is a nice amount.

Currency mix

Still too heavy on the USD (Hong Dollar is pegged to USD and Singapore dollar trading in a narrow band). Will have to keep adding to the EUR denominated ETFs.

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Dividends received:

None… One of these sad no-dividend months.

Hypothetical monthly income

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Not too bad! SGD 560.

Coast FI age

For fun I calculated the following: If I suddenly decided to stop investing, when would I be able to retire based on growth of current portfolio? Assumptions: 6% annual portfolio growth, 2% inflation.
November result: I can retire at age 86... (unchanged from last month)

Confessions of my ERE sins

Went to Vietnam and got another suit tailored. Costs start at USD 100 for cheaper wool, but I picked nicer wool and bought a suit with 2 pairs of pants for USD 200. Suit is very high quality and timeless looking, so I can wear it for a very long time, provided I don’t get any fatter.

I also got two pairs of work shoes with leather soles handmade for USD 50 each, as well as a pair of moccasins (USD 45).

It is a bit embarrassing really, but the quality is very good and I retired three existing pairs of worn out shoes that I do not wear anymore, to keep the total shoe amount constant.

Outlook

December is a month full of excitement for me as I will be notified of the result of my job interviews in the next few weeks. I am also going to spend 2 weeks with the minimalist girlfriend in the Philippines.

Main targets are: 21+ days without alcohol, 12+ days sport to get into better shape.

On the financial front my Christmas bonus will give a nice year-end boost to savings. Next monthly update will only come on Jan 7-9 as I am not intending to bring my laptop to the island.
Last edited by singvestor on Sat Dec 03, 2016 9:08 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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BRUTE
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Re: Singvestor's awakening

Post by BRUTE » Sat Dec 03, 2016 9:06 pm

agreed that Chiang Mai is a bit anticlimactic. it's nice. but not very exciting. which area did Singvestor mostly hang out in?

regarding the 12+ days of workouts, what about making the workouts much smaller? things like 3 sets of push-ups to failure. that takes about 2 minutes to achieve every morning, easily doable before taking a shower.

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singvestor
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Re: Singvestor's awakening

Post by singvestor » Sun Jan 08, 2017 5:55 am

Hi Brute! I stayed in a central part of Chiang Mai and had to endure endless night market shopping sessions with my girlfriend's friends - maybe that is why I did not like the town too much. Regarding sport: I managed the sport goal better this month, doing body weight training definitely helped. I just did a simple routine of mountainclimbers, squats, jumps, pushups, situps, burpees (30 seconds each exercise, 5 rounds).

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BRUTE
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Re: Singvestor's awakening

Post by BRUTE » Sun Jan 08, 2017 3:07 pm

nice, circle training with bodyweight is good and can be done anywhere any time :)

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singvestor
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Monthly update #18: December 2016 & Full Year Review

Post by singvestor » Sun Jan 08, 2017 8:52 pm

December 2016 Goal review:

21+ days without alcohol: failed (only 20 times)
12+ days sport: achieved (15 times)

In December I spent two weeks in the Philippines and did a free diving course for two days. A very different experience from scuba diving. It requires a lot of focus and switching the mind to a calm state. After some practice it is very easy even for beginners to dive deeper than 10 meters on a single breath. Trained free divers like my instructor can easily do 40 meters or hold their breath for 4-5 minutes, it is impressive.

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Beaches like this one can be found all over the Philippines.

I also practiced motorbike riding on a cheaply rented 125 cc bike and enjoyed it tremendously.

Quick December portfolio update

The value of my portfolio increased by SGD 6,831 or 4.1% to SGD 174,955 (~USD 121,500). This gain was composed of SGD 6,408 in fresh investments and capital gains of SGD 423.

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2016 Goal Review

Total saving goal for 2016: SGD 50,080: Achieved, saved SGD 54,264 (USD 37714)
Target saving rate for 2016: 40.2%: Missed, saved 39.4%

I had higher than expected income but did not save as much as planned. Overall a very solid year though.

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I managed to exceed my monthly investment plan by quite a bit.

Personal life in 2016

Not an easy year for me personally and professionally. From April to December I was really struggling through some old issues. Only now that I am a doing better I realize how difficult it was.
Work was a bit dull to say the least, but I was hardly ever stressed and also had some good times with colleagues.

Full year portfolio update

Couldn’t resist creating a waterfall chart…. ;)

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I started the year with SGD 74,950 and over the year invested a total of SGD 49,641 in fresh funds. Additionally, I received SGD 3,929 in dividends which I reinvested. This year Mr. Market was very nice to my portfolio and it gained SGD 12,310. I furthermore divested my old whole life insurance plan which stupid younger me had signed up for since it was sold to me as some type of fund based pension plan.
All in all, my portfolio increased by SDG 100,005 to SGD 174,955.

Dividends received in 2016

In 2016 SGD 3,929 were paid out to me by my ETF holdings. A nice increase to the SGD 1,571 in 2015.

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In most countries focusing so much on dividends is not a good strategy, but here in Singapore they are tax free. It is somehow very satisfying to receive these payments and it keeps me on track.

Best investment in 2016

I have long limited investing into individual stocks and have kept picked stocks <10% of the portfolio. Soon this share will be reduced to <5% as the portfolio grows. Having said that, I could not resist the 8% dividend yield of HSBC when the stock fell to HKD 46 in Q1 2016. I have met quite a few HSBC people and feel that it is a very well run and great company, so I bought shares for around SGD 7,000 which have since returned +43% including dividends.

I am not planning to buy any individual stocks this year and will focus on passive index funds as always.

Asset allocation

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All on track. In the medium term the share of picked stocks should be reduced. I am quite happy with 25% in bonds and will probably not reduce this much further.

Overall ERE progress 2016

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Overall progress would have been better, but I had to buffer SGD 4,000 to pay taxes earlier, since I might leave Singapore in the near future for a new job with the existing company. Hopefully the contract can be signed this month, but lots of things could still go wrong.
Savings rate of 39.3% is not good and I have to improve this further. A savings rate of 50% should be easily achievable.

Where did the money go?

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It seems like I increased discretionary spending in 2016, but only because I had no other category to slot in the SGD 4,000 I saved for a possible early tax payment next year. Without this effect spending would be constant. Still at a far too high level though!

Hypothetical monthly income at 4% WR

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SGD 583... Slowly climbing up.

Coast FI age

If I suddenly decided to stop investing, when would I be able to retire based on growth of current portfolio? Assumptions: 6% annual portfolio growth, 2% inflation. December result: I can retire at age 85...

Outlook for 2017

So I got offered the job in my current company. Terms are good but the posting is subject to approval by some committee meeting in a few weeks. Chances are good and I might leave Singapore in a few weeks. This might totally change my route to FI and offer significant advantages.

The minimalist fiancée (she said yes of course) would join me and is excited as well.

Fingers crossed!

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singvestor
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Monthly update #19: January 2017

Post by singvestor » Tue Feb 07, 2017 12:38 am

January 2017 Goal review:

21+ days without alcohol: failed (only 18 times)
12+ days sport: achieved (12 times)

I went to China for the Lunar New Year. The country has has changed a lot for the better. I only visited a so called “tier 2” city which tend to lag behind the ultramodern likes of Shanghai or Shenzhen, but there was a lot of change in the air.

While people complained about the slowing economy, new bike sharing apps had sprung up and there were bikes to rent with your mobile phone all over the city. I took a bus which ran completely on electricity and almost silently zipped through the traffic. China is still growing and innovating.
Another cool invention: these automated 24-hour library vending machines. Also pictured: automated bike rental and even some recycling bins in the background. The latter were unthinkable just a few years back.

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ERE Scorecard January

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Saving rate of 30.7% is nothing to write home about, but I am still saving up for the possibility of an earlier tax payment and certain indirect moving costs. I already counted these funds as “spent” even though they are waiting in my bank account.

Portfolio update January

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My portfolio increased by SGD 6,343 or 3.6% to SGD 181,298 (= USD 128,570). This increase consisted of capital gains of SGD 3,564 and fresh investments of SGD 2,779.

Investment vs. Plan

In January I invested SGD 2,779, just a tiny bit less than my SGD 2,800 goal.

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Dividends received

In January I received SGD 871 in tax free dividends, a huge increase from just SGD 159 last year.

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It is quite motivating to see how the dividend payments are slowly picking up steam.

Asset allocation

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All is perfectly in plan.

Hypothetical monthly income at 4% WR

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SGD 604 per month.

Coast FI age

If I suddenly decided to stop investing, when would I be able to retire based on growth of current portfolio? Assumptions: 6% annual portfolio growth, 2% inflation. January result: I can retire at age 84...

Outlook and goals for 2017

I plan to invest SGD 53,000+ in 2017, which would mean to invest the same amount as 2016. 2016 I had received a windfall of SGD 7,500 so it will definitely be challenging to repeat this feat

New job in current company is supposed to be decided in the next few days. If all works well it will allow for dramatic changes and great geographical arbitrage options. If the new job should be improved I will set a more challenging stretch goal.

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BRUTE
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Re: Singvestor's awakening

Post by BRUTE » Tue Feb 07, 2017 1:38 pm

brute loves it when a plan comes together :)

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giskard
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Re: Singvestor's awakening

Post by giskard » Sun Feb 19, 2017 10:30 am

Hey Singvestor, I read your journal and your life in SE Asia seems really awesome. It is especially interesting that you are so close to Thailand, Sri Lanka, ect, and can just go there easily from where you are (all places that would be amazing to visit). I hope you keep updating this as you progress, even if you move away from Singapore.

I know you said you work for a European company and went to school in Europe. Can I ask what industry you are in?

And let's say, hypothetically, I'm a programmer and I wanted to get a job in Singapore and live there (I'm a US Citizen), how your you recommend going about doing that? Just curious and bored with my midwestern life & job.

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singvestor
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Re: Singvestor's awakening

Post by singvestor » Sun Feb 19, 2017 8:32 pm

Hi Giskard, life in Asia is quite fun, but I can imagine that the midwest has a lot of advantages as well. Especially nice, cheap housing, nature... I am in a very boring old industry and my Master's degree is in social sciences. Pretty much a worst case for career optimization, but I was lucky to get a good job out of uni thanks to slaving away in various jobs during studying. Uni was free and terrible, but I am glad I do not have student loans.

Moving to Singapore is quite easy, the best is to find a job first via LinkedIn or even better in your current company. In your scenario I would search out US tech companies in Singapore and then use LinkedIn to find concrete people. You could then call them or write to them to ask for openings, but also for information on the particular industry.

Tech is a very challenging field though. From reading a lot of personal finance forums it seems that programmers in the US can earn huge salaries right out of uni and there is a big shortage in the market driving salaries up. In Singapore this is not the case as many programmers are recruited out of India where a huge talent pool exists. This leads to salaries for programmers being low. The image of tech/programming is not very good here, much opposed to the US. If I were you I would try to go for a more management related role in a US firm which always prefers hiring people from the US (natural bias). There are still very well paid jobs available.

Other than Singapore there are some good choices available: llife is pretty exciting in Shanghai/Shenzhen - if you want to make some dramatic change in your life I would recommend Shenzhen. You could get a job in a heartbeat, but it is only for the adventurous.

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giskard
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Re: Singvestor's awakening

Post by giskard » Sun Feb 19, 2017 10:06 pm

@singvestor thanks for the reply. Pretty interesting to know about programmers in Singapore. You are probably right, I may as well stick around in the states if I am going to continue on in tech!

That is also good advice about getting into management and then trying to get moved over somewhere overseas. That is a possible route that makes a lot of sense.

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Re: Singvestor's awakening

Post by taemoo » Tue Feb 21, 2017 5:57 pm

Great journal, you are making fantastic progress!

Bummer that you didn't like Chiang Mai too much. I've never been but from reading about it, I was hoping to settle there when I FIRE due to low costs, weather, proximity to hiking, food, and people. From your extensive traveling, do you have a recommendation of an Asian country that fits my criteria?

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singvestor
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Re: Singvestor's awakening

Post by singvestor » Thu Feb 23, 2017 2:25 am

Really tricky question, Taemoo! It depends a lot on personal preference. I would recommend you do an extended holiday in a number of shortlisted ERE places. I can imagine a lot of countries which would fit the bill, including Laos (for nature, people, solitude), Philippines (for nature, ocean and warm people), Taiwan (for hiking, sports and culture and the most friendly people in Asia)... Even Hokkaido might be wonderful and is not as expensive as it sounds.

Chiang Mai is not all bad, it is overall a pleasant place but a bit overcrowded with tourists and Western foreigners settling there. Maybe another Thai city might be better - so many places to choose from. I was reading millenial revolution (good blog, silly title) and the author compared leaving chiang mai to amputating her arm. So there seems to be a lot to love about that place.

For me personally the last & only time I felt such strong love for a place was in Greece. It is totally subjective of course...

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BRUTE
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Re: Singvestor's awakening

Post by BRUTE » Thu Feb 23, 2017 8:01 pm

Chiang Mai does have a ton of western tourists, but they're pretty concentrated in a few areas - the inside of the moat and hipster gentrified areas like Nimman. even a 10 minute ride away from those areas, everyone is Thai.

still, it's definitely a good idea to travel around a bit to find a spot that will fit taemoo. hard to judge places via the internet.

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Re: Singvestor's awakening

Post by taemoo » Thu Feb 23, 2017 11:21 pm

Thanks for the great insights singvestor and brute
singvestor wrote:I was reading millenial revolution (good blog, silly title) and the author compared leaving chiang mai to amputating her arm.
I'm a big fan of Wanderer and Firecracker and my interest of Chiang Mai was heightened after their posts. I also follow GoCurryCracker and they showed some love for Chiang Mai.

Yeah will need to explore the region to figure out what fits for me. Thanks again!

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singvestor
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Monthly update #20: February 2017

Post by singvestor » Sun Mar 05, 2017 12:03 am

February 2017 Goal review:
  • 21+ days without alcohol: miserably failed (only 16 times)
  • 12+ days sport: failed (9 times)
I had a lot of business dinners and visitors from Europe, but this should not be an excuse. Missing the sport goal is also unacceptable.
In February I had a business trip to Europe which was fun. I also traveled to Vietnam where I cheaply got three suits tailored that will serve me very well in my next job.

ERE Scorecard February

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Saving rate was just 30.2% as I need to buffer cash for unexpected moving costs and taxes.
This idea proved prudent, as the HR person told me in passing that the company would withhold my last salary before the move to settle taxes.

Portfolio update

My portfolio increased by SGD 4,244 or 2.3% to SGD 185,542 (= USD 131,900). This increase consisted of capital gains of SGD 1,711 and fresh investments of SGD 2,533.

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Investment vs. Plan

In January I invested SGD 2,533, just a bit shy of my SGD 2,800 goal.

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Dividends received
My holdings paid out SGD 276 in February.

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Hypothetical monthly income at 4% WR

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SGD 618.

Coast FI age

If I suddenly decided to stop investing, when would I be able to retire based on growth of current portfolio? Assumptions: 6% annual portfolio growth, 2% inflation. February result: I can retire at age 83...

Financial implications of the new assignment in Europe

I got a new job as international assignment to Europe. This has some financial implications:

Positive implications
- Higher net salary (+5%)
- Rental covered by company (savings of SGD 33,600/USD 23,800) per year
- Some cash payments and reimbursements related to the move
- Generous flight budget for home leave (which can be used for any private travel)
- Small cash payment and education budget for my partner
- Lower cost of living
- Tax equalization

Negative implications
- Need to buy a (used) car as the office is in a remote location out of town (but company will cover a good part of the depreciation when delegation ends)
- Needed to buy suits and formal clothes
- Girlfriend has to find a new job

Overall the new job is very positive for my ERE plans. A significant boost in savings rate can be expected. 50% should be easy but 60-70% would be better. Flight budget and rent free living eliminate my two biggest expenses which is nice.
The assignment will take 3 years and will be a good base for my eventual retirement.

Outlook:

I have about three weeks left in Singapore. It seems surreal, to say the least!

I will miss the weather and cheap food. Exhibit A from this morning: a huge plate of noodles with lots of goodies which the girlfriend and I shared for just USD 2.60! Apart from housing Singapore can be a cheap place to live.

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BRUTE
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Re: Singvestor's awakening

Post by BRUTE » Sun Mar 05, 2017 10:49 am

awesome, brute congratulates singvestor on the new position :) does he care to reveal what part of Europe he's going to?
taking almost $25,000 off the cost of living will be amazing. and to be honest, brute is a bit jealous of singvestor's ability to just hop over to Vietnam and get suits tailored on the cheap.

the hypothetical monthly payout is also slowly approaching numbers where many humans could actually live off of them indefinitely. maybe not in Singapore, but certainly in Thailand.

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Re: Singvestor's awakening

Post by Solvent » Sun Apr 02, 2017 8:02 am

Hi Singvestor, just read through much of your journal. I should've followed it earlier, since I feel we're similar in a few ways. I'm also an expat (but I came to Europe from the Asia-Pacific), similar age, and one of my spending weaknesses is certainly travel.

I look forward to hearing how you go readjusting back to Europe after Singapore.
I must say, the few times I've been to Singapore I've found the humidity oppressive. I'm OK with heat, I'm OK with some humidity, but the times I've been to Singapore it's been the most intense I've experienced. It's right on the equator, and all sea level, I guess.

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singvestor
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Monthly update #21: March 2017

Post by singvestor » Fri Apr 14, 2017 7:39 am

Moving to another continent has been pretty overwhelming, even though it is Europe, my original home. This is why the update is so late.

I am settling in well in the new country (will not say which for now, as it is a tiny country) and so far enjoy the experience. It feels very weird to suddenly live in a luxury apartment in the city center, even though it is paid for by the company. Work is very different from fast-paced Asia and I was surprised to see that I have 33 days of paid vacation days a year. Not bad!

The experience of a new job, intense logistics, foreign language and new lifestyle has been intense to the say the least, but also fun.

March 2017 Goal review:
  • 21+ days without alcohol: miserably failed (only 16 times)
  • 12+ days sport: achieved (12 times)
ERE Scorecard March

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Saving rate was negative as I spent money but did not earn any, as the company withheld my pay to settle taxes.
I have to fix this chart as soon as the final tax calculation is in.

Portfolio update
My portfolio increased by SGD 2,888 or 1.6% to SGD 188,430 (= USD 134,228).


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Investment vs. Plan

In March I did not invest anything. This was the first time in 26 months that I missed my target! Things should get better soon!

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Dividends received

My holdings paid out SGD 378 in March which are still waiting in my account to be reinvested.

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Hypothetical monthly income at 4% WR

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SGD 628.

Coast FI age

If I suddenly decided to stop investing, when would I be able to retire based on growth of current portfolio? Assumptions: 6% annual portfolio growth, 2% inflation. March result: I can retire at age 83...

Outlook:

April is the last month where I have to spend a lot of money, since I need to buy a car as the office is in a village out of town. Seeing the fancy German cars that my colleagues immediately bought (some even bought 2!) when landing here I must admit that for a short while I was tempted. Fortunately, I realized during a boring meeting at work that the EUR 10,000 difference between a “nice” car and a small Toyota are better invested. So a compact Toyota it is going to be!

Sport and alcohol reduction is going well, since I do not know many people and am using sport to reduce stress.

After April I can double down on my saving and investing. With fixed costs drastically reduced I can really start investing and accelerate the ERE progress.

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BRUTE
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Re: Singvestor's awakening

Post by BRUTE » Fri Apr 14, 2017 5:42 pm

how far is the office from Singvestor's home? brute heard Europe is pretty small, so maybe Singvestor could bicycle to work. if sufficiently athleticism/bicycle terminology is displayed, it can give the impression of being a disciplined athlete vs. a cheapskate ;)

net worth close to 200k, sweet! that hypothetical monthly passive income is approaching "actually able to live off of" levels.

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