An Epiphany From First Class

First Class

One of the best perks of my job is that I get to pretend to be a rich person.

Well, not all the time of course. Like I definitely did not feel rich these past 2 weeks: Staying late in the office, eating at my desk, slaving over Excel sheets till I started dreaming of VLOOKUP commands, and feeling absolutely miserable.

So I got really happy when I got to take a break from it all to fly First Class to Beijing for a work trip. I sipped a glass of champagne, slid down into the overly spacious fine-grained leather seat, and stared out into the setting sun. “I could get used to this life.” I thought, as the flight attendant poured me another glass of champagne.

Being Rich – Gangnam Style

Fast forward to two days later, I was back in Singapore and pretending to be rich again. This time, I was at the Turf Club, entertaining 20 clients who were rich enough to fly First and Business Class on a regular basis and splurge copious amounts of money betting on horses.

I got talking to one of our guests. She was elegant, Irish, and wore a lovely dress with a tasteful set of pearls. Her husband was a Managing Director in an MNC. I could tell she was actually rich (ie: not one of those executives who gain elite status on their company’s money), because she ordered a Coke instead of alcohol. Classy.

We were watching the horses being led out to the track, when she lamented, “I would love to be rich enough to own one of those horses and not have to work so I could train them every day!”

I stared at her as if Justin Bieber had just crawled out of her nostrils. I thought to myself, “Lady – You get to savor the champagne-filled heaven that is First Class every couple of weeks! And you think that you’re not rich enough???

The Law of Relativity

And then it struck me: Being rich is RELATIVE.

That is, relative to who you compare yourself to. When I was a penniless college student, I used to get jealous of alumni who had real jobs and were earning thousands of dollars a month. Now that I was one of them and wallowing in my Excel-induced state of misery, I found myself getting jealous of people who were earning tens of thousands of dollars a month and flying First Class on a regular basis. But they in turn were feeling jealous of other people whom they thought were richer than them. It was mind-boggling, but it made sense.

The truth is, being rich is just a state of mind.

It really doesn’t matter how much money you make or how big your bank account is. I’m not saying that we should all just be happy in poverty – everyone should strive towards a life where they’re not worrying about making ends meet. But it’s a waste of time and energy to feel jealous of someone else’s (perceived) material fortunes.

Instead, I challenge you to start feeling rich right now. Think about how lucky you are to have higher education when there are millions of people who don’t even make it to high school. Think about how great it feels to have the security of a regular job, three meals a day, and a bed to sleep in while others are struggling to make ends meet.

I know it sounds corny, but we often don’t notice how rich we really are.

First Class

Yesterday, I took my family out to lunch. The restaurant was half-empty, served cheap Chinese food, and there were no leather seats with mahogany trimmings or unlimited quantities of champagne.

But the food was tasty, the company was excellent, and my dad was gleeful as hell because the opposition party had just won the Punggol East by-election. I leaned back, patted my Chinese food-filled tummy, and savored how wonderful life was.

So who needs to pretend to be rich? I don’t. 🙂

Help Me Pick My Title (And More)

So everyone I meet these days has been asking me how my book writing’s been going. So I’d just like to let everyone know right now that it’s been friggin’ awesome.

I blame peer pressure. It started out as a spur-of-the-moment declaration at an Awesome Anonymous meeting to write a small, simple ebook. It has since grown into plans for a full-fledged, analogy packed, complete guide that aims to change people’s lives (or at the very least, get their finances sorted out so they can focus on changing their own lives and the lives of others).

I’m so psyched that I’ve spent at least 3 nights a week working on the book for the past 3 months or so. I’ll blog more on my progress in the weeks/months to come, but first, I’ll need your help to help me decide on 3 things: The title, the subtitle, and the pitch.

I came up with these after going through the results from the recent survey, but I would love to hear your thoughts. Do they stand out for you and make you want to read more? Do they sound as scammy as “How to Get Rich By Becoming Wealthy Making Big Money in Real Estate”? If you saw the title in a bookstore, would you pick it up and/or buy it?

I’ve been blogging free financial advice for close to a year now, and I hope that I’ve helped you out at least a tiny bit in your personal finances. So I’d be super duper grateful if you could take 5 minutes to help me out too. 🙂

This is really important to me, so be brutally honest. Let me know if this is awesome, or if you have a totally different idea on how I should approach this. Leave a comment, or you can email me at cheerfulegg@gmail.com.

Ok, Let’s do this:

The Title

I’d like the title to be something eye-catching and different from the other sleazy investment books out there. I couldn’t really think of a better title other than the subcaption of my blog: Hatch a Rich Life. The word “hatch” is meant to speak to people who’re just starting out in their personal finances, while “rich life” is the eventual goal.

The Subtitle

I’ve got three options for the stuff that’s supposed to go with the main title. I.e:

Hatch a Rich Life: _____;________

Deciding on the subtitle might help if you take a look at the pitch first to get an idea of what the book is about (scroll down). And yes, I know that I use the word “sexy” and “awesome” a lot. I just wanted to convey that the book is targeted at an audience who’s a little cooler than crabby 50-year old men who spend all their time quibbling about “call options” and “stock warrants”. Not that I have anything against 50-year old men..

Subtitle 1. Build A Simple, Sexy, Self-Run Personal Finance System in 5 Weeks

Subtitle 2. A Personal Finance System For Young Sexy Singaporeans

Subtitle 3. A Simple, Sexy, Self-Run Personal Finance System for Young Singaporeans

Pitch

Think of this as what you’d read on the inside flap of the book. I’ll be using this to tell people what the book is about, and why it’ll be awesome for them.

Imagine waking up on a sunny Saturday morning to find that your robot slaves have been working hard for you while you slept. They’ve built up your savings account, paid off your credit card bills, saved you money in taxes, and invested your money into your early retirement portfolio, all without you lifting a finger. With your system taking care of all that boring “financey” stuff, you can now focus on taking over the world, cooking breakfast for mum and dad or… going back to sleep. Life is good.

Forget arbitrary financial advice and random stock tips. Hatch a Rich Life is a 5-week program to master your money and turn your financial life into a system – a simple, low-maintenance system that will put you way ahead of your friends on the path to a rich life.

I’ll cover the surprising truth on why most young Singaporeans are getting poorer every day. I’ll reveal exactly what you should save for and the most effective way to do it. You’ll discover the freedom of spending on the things you love without feeling guilty. You’ll learn how to dominate Wall Street professionals when it comes to investing. And finally, you’ll learn how to integrate everything into a set of autopilot systems that won’t take more than 15 minutes a year to maintain – leaving you time to focus on living an awesome, rich, life.

That’s It For Now!

Okay, that’s pretty much it for now. Again, please be brutally honest and let me know if this is something that speaks to you. Is this what you’d like to read about? Leave me a comment / email me. I’d love to hear from you 🙂

21 Ways Rich People Think Differently

I usually hate Yahoo! Finance, but occasionally they’ll post an article with a grain of truth (or in this case, 21 grains of truth).

It’s titled 21 Ways Rich People Think Differently. I love articles that focus on the psychology of being rich, because hatching a rich life is more about mindset than a bunch of “33 tips to save money” or some scammy investment strategy. You should check out the article for the full details, but here are the 21 ways in summary (with my comments thrown in whenever I couldn’t resist):

1. Average people think MONEY is the root of all evil. Rich people believe POVERTY is the root of all evil.

2. Average people think selfishness is a vice. Rich people think selfishness is a virtue.

3. Average people have a lottery mentality. Rich people have an action mentality.

4. Average people think the road to riches is paved with formal education. Rich people believe in acquiring specific knowledge.

5. Average people long for the good old days. Rich people dream of the future.

6. Average people see money through the eyes of emotion. Rich people think about money logically.

7. Average people earn money doing things they don’t love. Rich people follow their passion. <;;– I don't quite agree with this one. Check out Cal Newport's article on Fast Company, as well as his new book So Good They Can’t Ignore You

8. Average people set low expectations so they’re never disappointed. Rich people are up for the challenge.

9. Average people believe you have to DO something to get rich. Rich people believe you have to BE something to get rich. <;;– Again, the whole idea of psychology trumping a bunch of tips

10. Average people believe you need money to make money. Rich people use other people’s money. <;;– Also don't fully agree with this statement. Most investment advisors will advocate the whole "Good Debt, Bad Debt" argument, but I've seen how leverage can destroy a person.

11. Average people believe the markets are driven by logic and strategy. Rich people know they’re driven by emotion and greed.

12. Average people live beyond their means. Rich people live below theirs.

13. Average people teach their children how to survive. Rich people teach their kids to get rich.

14. Average people let money stress them out. Rich people find peace of mind in wealth.

15. Average people would rather be entertained than educated. Rich people would rather be educated than entertained. <;;– Yeah, you should be reading as much as you can. But more on books like I Will Teach You To Be Rich rather than Twilight.

16. Average people think rich people are snobs. Rich people just want to surround themselves with like-minded people. <;;– I'd also hesitate to jump to this conclusion. I've been reading The Millionaire Next Door, where the author Thomas Stanley shows that the average millionaire is a 54 year-old blue-collar business owner living in a modest neighborhood. He doesn’t look like a millionaire, and he certainly doesn’t hang out with Paris Hilton.

17. Average people focus on saving. Rich people focus on earning.

18. Average people play it safe with money. Rich people know when to take risks.

19. Average people love to be comfortable. Rich people find comfort in uncertainty.

20. Average people never make the connection between money and health. Rich people know money can save your life.

21. Average people believe they must choose between a great family and being rich. Rich people know you can have it all.

Never Take Financial Advice from a Supervillian

I just caught the Dark Knight Rises last week. Okay, it wasn’t a terrible movie, but it’s just riddled with plot inconsistencies that I couldn’t resolve, like (SPOILER ALERT):

1. Why is there a random-ass prison in the ground, in the middle of some foreign desert, with no warden, no food, and a bunch of prisoners cheering each other on? And how did Bruce get to Gotham in like, 2 hours after escaping from said prison?

2. Once Talia dies a terribly unconvincing death, which eliminates the bomb’s mystery triggerman, why didn’t Batman just haul the damn bomb to the sea in the first place? (which would leave him a lot more time to make out with Selina Kyle?)

3. How was Jonathan Crane (Scarecrow in the first movie) planning to exile its rich citizens in the summer? (“You are condemned to exile… by swimming!” Wtf).

Stupidest Supervillian Financial Plan Ever

But the biggest plot inconsistency for a financial nerd like myself came from Bane’s hairbrained plan to bankrupt Bruce Wayne.  (Hat tip to this article from theatlantic.com).

  1. Take over the entire Gotham Stock Exchange
  2. Hack into Bruce Wayne’s account
  3. Buy lots of puts on futures that expire at midnight.
  4. Bankrupt Wayne so he’ll have to read cheerfulegg.com to learn how to get rich again

Let’s examine the loopholes in this plan. First, there’s absolutely no reason for Bane to hold the Gotham Stock Exchange hostage in order to break into Bruce Wayne’s account. A more subtle (and less risky) plan would involve breaking into Wayne’s brokerage, which probably isn’t located within the Exchange. Or better still, hire a hacker to break into his account online – certainly affordable for Bane’s considerable financial resources.

(Okay fine – a scene of Bane carefully keying in his banking token code into gothamnationalbank.com wouldn’t nearly be half as dramatic, and wouldn’t  make for good entertainment.)

Sexy Doesn’t Always = Smart

The biggest thing I’m confused about is Bane’s decision to buy a whole bunch of puts on Wayne’s account. If you don’t know what a put is, it’s a fancy-schmancy financial instrument that lets you profit when stocks go down (yes, they exist). And buying a whole bunch of them means you make a loooooooot of money when stocks crash – which is exactly what would happen if the stock exchange is under a supervillian attack. So Bane’s plan would actually have the opposite effect of what he intended – he would make Bruce Wayne so insanely, ridiculously rich that he could have outsourced the saving of Gotham to Spiderman or the Avengers.

My guess is that the scriptwriters just wanted to include the use of the word “puts” into the plot, because they sound oh-so-sexy. But as I’ve often blogged, the sexy thing isn’t always the smart thing to do. In fact, the unsexiest things you could do in personal finance are usually the smartest moves you could make:

1. Automatically saving a fixed amount every month, increasing it when you have an income increase,

2. Dollar cost averaging into a sensible portfolio of index-tracking ETFs.

3. Automatically paying off your credit cards in full every month to build your credit score, so you’ll get a lower interest rate if you ever need to borrow to buy a car/house/business.

Not nearly half as sexy as investing in hedge funds, or studying things like “delta” and “gamma”, or trading on volatility, or holding a stock exchange hostage, but they’ve proven to work over and over again. As Ramit Sethi often says:

“Do you want to be sexy, or rich?”

It’s Not Always What You See

Came across this picture on Facebook today and loved it. The first of the 19 things your suburban millionaire neighbor won’t tell youOver the long run, you’re better off if you strive to be anonymously rich rather than deceptively poor.

Think that fancyass dude with the flashy sports cars, the country club memberships, and the expensive clothes must be helluva rich? Maybe… or maybe not. Paradoxically, a dude with a multimillion dollar income could be way poorer than you. Just ask the 60% of all NBA players who go broke 5 years after retirement. The mansions, the cars, the private jets – the owners had them all, yet couldn’t avoid bankruptcy.

Your millionaire neighbor? Probably drives a 9-year old car, lives in a modest house, spends less than what he earns, and pays off his credit cards in full every month. Warren Buffett, the world’s greatest investor, drove a humble 2001 Lincoln Town car with a license plate that read “THRIFTY”. He auctioned it in 2006 on eBay for charity, and subsequently bought the most expensive car he ever owned: a $55,000 Cadillac – probably cheaper than most cars in Singapore.

So screw jealousy. You can’t tell how rich people are just by looking at their flashy possessions.  Chances are, you just might be richer than them already. 🙂