Recently I caught up with Michelle, my previous ex-supervisor from my corporate job. We met up over lunch at Orchard on a weekday and I was so surprised to see her dressed in her yoga attire. In my back of my mind I were wondering, is she not working??
It turned out that she retired last year (at 48! Really?) and is now enjoying her life at a leisurely, relaxed pace while doing what she loves. She goes for yoga classes 3-4x a week, taking good care of her health, does healthy cooking at home and travelling occasionally with her family.
Michelle spent bulk of her career with a local MNC and worked her way up the ranks to management level. The job paid reasonably well, but the intense work load and increasing pressure eventually caused a negative impact on her health.
It came to a point when she decided that it’s time to stop and focus on her well being instead.
So, how did you managed to retire early? I asked her the big question.
She smiled and said “Actually there are no special secrets, I just took some basic steps consistently over the years. If you can do them on a disciplined basis, you will be able to achieve the same.”
What Michelle did was to build up a portfolio of blue chip stocks and REITS that paid her consistent dividends, and provided the passive income needed to pay for her retirement lifestyle.
Indeed, this concept of accumulating dividend paying assets for passive income is not new.
Perhaps you have heard or read about this strategy too.
But the thing is – not everyone manages to make it happen, for numerous reasons. Some people find it hard to even get started due to fear of risk or may not know where to start from. Some may have bought some stocks one-off or on an ad-hoc basis but failed to continue growing or monitoring it due to hectic schedule.
So I asked Michelle what motivated her to start her investing journey and stayed throughout the course.
“There is a lot of stress working in the corporate world and I know stress affected my health”. Michelle have suffered from eczema since her 20s and it triggers attacks whenever she gets overly stressed.
“I always knew I didn’t want to work forever and I wanted to have the choice to stop work if I wanted to”.
From an early age Michelle knew she needed to invest and grow her money. She started investing in her 20s, speculating with penny stocks but it wasn’t a smooth sailing journey too. She got burnt several times which taught her a painful lesson.
From her 30s, she decided to invest in blue chips stocks after figuring out that they were larger and more stable, and that established companies are less likely to go bust and gave her more peace of mind.
It all starts with Saving
Michelle highlighted that it’s important to save, because that’s where it all starts. “I tell you a secret, I only bought my first LV bag when I was almost 40!”
Setting up an investing habit
“Every year, when I get my bonus, I will make sure I invest it in blue chip stocks.” Michelle set up a habit of saving and investing her bonus, accumulating her portfolio diligently over the years. Towards the later years, she ramped up her savings, investing as much as 60% of her income for her retirement funds.
Eventually, she managed to build up a sufficient portfolio of dividend paying stocks and REITs to generate the passive income she needed to sustain her lifestyle. She became financially free and gave herself the freedom to stop work.
Finding support along the way
Michelle attributed another key factor of her success to having the support of a community of like-minded colleagues and friends.
“I was lucky to have a group of friends at work who were also interested in investing. We would discuss ideas together to grow our money and encourage one another along.”
For example, one of her friends advocated transferring funds from their CPF OA to SA or topping up to SA to earn the higher 4% interest. This was something she did for herself and have been actively recommending her younger colleagues to do it as well. “That’s one of the simplest things you can do!”, she mentioned, especially to those who have no time or interest to invest.
Looking back, Michelle is thankful that she started saving and investing early.
What advice do you have for someone starting out on their investing journey?
“Just take the first step and learn along the way, because if you don’t take the first step, you will never start”.
Michelle believes investing is a worthwhile skill and habit to develop and it’s not that difficult to start.
I believe many busy working women who feel the increasing pressure at work can relate to Michelle’s story.
Like most women during their working years, Michelle faced the challenge of not having enough time, having to juggle between work demands, caring for her children and family needs.
Yet she managed to find a way to prepare for her retirement, so that she now enjoys the freedom of having Time, Money and Energy to live her life fully.
Michelle’s story is an inspiration to me, because she is the proof that it is possible for ordinary working women to retire early. By having a clarity of what we want, to setting out systematic steps early and then following through to achieve it.
You too can Retire Happy!
I believe strongly that women deserve to have a freedom of choice. I sincerely hope that this sharing of a real life ordinary woman’s journey to freedom will inspire you too, and you can take that first step towards your early retirement.
That’s why I came up with a 5 Step guide to empower busy working women like you to take that first step forward towards your freedom and retire happy!
To your Success and Happiness,
This article was first published on Yonghui.sg.