Don’t Compromise on Your Financial Goals

Financial Planning - Don't compromise on you Financial Goals

What is Financial Planning?

From Wikipedia:

In general usage, a financial plan is a comprehensive evaluation of an individual's current pay and future financial state by using current known variables to predict future income, asset values and withdrawal plans.

You’d soon realise that like many others things in Financial Planning, the definition above is made overly complicated.  

In this blog post, after muddling in murky waters for the past 5 years (e.g. reading countless articles on what is the best bank account to start with, what is the best credit card I should use), I’d like to share with you my simplistic take on what Financial Planning is and the 3 key steps I wished I started with that would have helped me focus on the more important items, putting myself (and my family) in a better financial state.   

So what is Financial Planning to me? It is evaluating what we need to change (e.g. increasing our income, reducing our expenditure, investing more) to help us achieve our Financial Goals in life. 

This can sound very daunting to any young adult and you may begin to wander why there wasn’t a subject or module on this in secondary/tertiary education but fret not, here are the 3 steps (and a excel template) to begin Financial Planning using my 25 year self as an example.

 

3 steps to begin Financial Planning (Excel template provided)

 

Step 1 – List Down Your Financial Goals

 Financial goals are your big-picture (money-related) objectives in life. For example, my financial goals when I was 25 were as follows: 
  • Be able to retire (i.e. be financially independent) by 50
  • Be able to settle down with my partner by 30 (have enough money for engagement, wedding, house)
  • Be able to have 2 kids and fund their educations in local universities without having to take study loans

Some of the above goals may not be important to you (e.g. you may not want to have kids, especially when you find out how costly they can be) while you may also have other goals (e.g. it was always your dream to get that BMW by 35, or to go for a year long backpacking trip at 30). Regardless on what your Financial Goals are, it is key to begin your financial planning by listing what your goals are, so as to know what you want to work towards. 

After listing down your financial goals, the natural next step is to estimate (i) how much money that is and (ii) when you need that money. 

For example, how much money do you need if you want to be financially independent? In my case, I have defined financially independent to be being able to generate enough income from my investments (at low risk tolerance) to fund a monthly expense of $4,000 per month. Hence, this would work out to be requiring $1.6m worth of investments (at 3% returns). See more details in the excel file template you can get at the end of this blog. 

The above is just the tip of the iceberg for setting financial goals, read more here for a full article on how to set your financial goals for the short, mid and long term. 

Step 2 – Project if you are on track to hit your Financial Goals

Based on the data you have today, project if you are going to reach the financial goals you want to achieve in Step 1. As with any projections, this is simply an estimate but is very useful to give you some idea if you are currently on track to reach your financial goals. Once again, you can reference  the excel template provided at the end of the blog post for this. 

There are 3 key components in this projection:

  1. Income (Salary and/or other side businesses)
  2. Expenditure (Daily expenses, Insurance Premiums, Big Ticket items such as down payment for Housing)
  3. Investments (Money to be set aside for investments to reach your retirement goal)

From the above 3 components, you would be able to project your cash flow and check if you would be able to reach your financial goals.

Step 3 – Make adjustments to increase chances of reaching your Financial Goals

Once you have completed Steps 1 and 2, you would be able to check if you are likely to achieve your goals. More importantly, you would be able to evaluate what are the key areas you should work on to increase the chances of you reaching your goals. With reference to the 3 key components in step 2, here are the ways to increase your chances:

  1. Plan for increases in income (e.g. plan to get promoted in current job, find a better paying job, find ways to make income outside your day job) 
  2. Reduce Expenditure (e.g. do you really need an extravagant wedding, or make that car purchase?)
  3. Invest more of your savings, or look for other ways to increase rate of return for your investments

Conclusion

Looking back when I got my first job, I dived straight into details such as what is the best bank account and credit cards to use, what insurance I should get, etc. 

However, if I could turn back time, I would instead start with the above three steps to first make sure I am clear on what my Financial Goals are (i.e. my target board) and what I should focus on to increase my chances of achieving those goals (e.g. focus on starting investing earlier rather than trying to reducing my monthly expense by $50). 

So, take some time to download the excel file (if you haven’t already), and follow the three steps above to identify what are the key areas of focus you should work on to help you achieve your financial dreams! 

Life After School

A glimpse into the future:
Life after School

Like you, I am a product of the Singapore education system. I didn’t really get to make that many life choices before I turned 18. Life was just like a conveyor belt and I was just moving from one section of the factory to the next, with parts being added (whether I liked those parts or not). Choices were made for me mostly by my parents (hi mum) or my grades. Even where I spent my 2 years serving the nation was decided for me.

People making decisions about my life

It is therefore no surprise that a lot of us are at a loss when we are suddenly at the end of the conveyor belt and asked to make life choices for ourselves.

That is why as a yoUNg-CLE here who has probably walked down this path a little further than you have (I wouldn’t say I have eaten more salt than the rice you have eaten, cos HPB would probably frown upon that), I would like to share some of my experiences and perspectives about life after school.

Here are some of the things you can expect as you enter the next phase of your life.

Ever wondered why they put rice in salt shakers?

Getting a job

Unless you’re one of those crazy rich Asians, chances are you will have to get a job.

Should you work for a big corporation, a small start-up or go into public service? What are your career options? We answer all these questions and more here.

Regardless of where you wanna work at, you need to first get your foot through the door. You can read more about the tips and tricks to landing your first job in our guide here.

Not quite the job you wanted or you’re ready for the next challenge? We talk about the things to look out for before you move to the next job here.

Hire me please?

Personal finance

Now that you got your first pay cheque, you know what else comes with it? Bills and taxes. Here is a quick guide from setting up your bank account to paying your bills. 

How much should I save? How do I start investing? Do I need insurance? How do I retire early? We (try to) answer these questions and more here.

Where did all my angbao money go?

Getting married

Whether you have found the love of your life or not, you cannot run away from weddings. Especially when it’s not your own. Sooner or later, you will start getting invitations to weddings like the unending Insta-stories and TikTok videos (is that how TikTok works? I’m just trying not to sound too old).

From your proposal to your wedding to your friends’ weddings. We give you the blow by blow account of what to expect and the expected damage to your wallet in our wedding series here.

Eh? How much did you bao for the ang bao?

Buying a house

Whether you get married or not, you will probably want to buy a house of your own eventually.

Should you BTO? Should you buy a resale flat? Can you afford a condo? We talk about the things to consider before buying your first property here.  

Industrial or minimalist? Vinyl or laminate? How much should you spend on renovation? We discuss the things to consider before you decide to hack that wall here.

OTP? AIP? CPF? TOP? MOP? OMG? BBQ?

Buying a car

We don’t need to tell you that it’s expensive to buy a car in Singapore but do you know how much does it really cost to own a car in Singapore? 

We break down the costs of car ownership in Singapore here so that you can consider whether to buy or not to buy. 

Tesla? Honda? Or lau pok car?

Adulting

Of course there are many many more decisions to make and things to consider than we can fit into one post. 

We know that it might feel daunting having to figure out so many of life’s decisions on your own.  

We don’t have all the answers to life’s questions nor are we here to tell you what to do (you have your mother and/or wife to do that). We’re just a bunch of old(er) young people who want to share the lessons we have learnt on our journey thus far.

We hope that by sharing our stories, you can write your own with greater clarity and confidence. 

LOL*,

Uncle Chua

*Lots of Love

The Importance of Looking Inward

Adulting in Singapore

The Importance of Looking Inward

By Uncle Anonymous

Before we proceed, I want to tell you something very serious.

You don’t really know much about yourself, and what you believe about yourself might be completely wrong.

“That’s not right”, you might say, “I’ve lived with myself for so long – of course I know!”

Say no more.

The case study of a "very stable genius"

I mean obviously this is an extreme case study of what I think to be a severe lack of internal self-awareness, but I sure hope it drove to point home. 

How can we not know about ourselves? That’s who we’re living with all this time! How am I supposed to know myself if I haven’t been able to all these years?

Before going to any of that, let’s set the foundation with a few definitions.

Self-Awareness

Based on There are actually two types of self-awareness – internal self-awareness and external self-awareness. It’s all summarized beautifully by Dr. Tasha Eurich:

Do you see where you are on this table? Which archetype do you belong to?

Dr. Tasha Eurich herself actually has a quiz published that could help you to identify your archetype, so definitely give it a try here.

In general, however, people generally don’t know enough about themselves, or how other people see them.

Regarding internal self-awareness, a Harvard Business Review study found that most people believe that they are self-aware, but only 10-15% of the people studied actually fit the criteria. The gap in what we think, versus reality, is bigger than we think.

For external self-awareness, sixteen rigorous studies of thousands of people in the workplace have shown that your coworkers are more likely to be better than you are at recognizing how your personality will affect your job performance. Your own ratings of your personality traits only correlate at around .40 with the impressions of other people (who know you well).

In short, how you see yourself and how other people see you are not very strongly correlated. 

While both types of self-awareness are important and need to be addressed, this article will focus on how to cultivate internal self-awareness. External self-awareness is addressed here!

Here are a few ways you can begin to look inwards, and hopefully find yourself!

Most people believe that they are self-aware, but only 10-15% of the people studied actually fit the criteria for self-awareness.

Harvard business review

1: Check out your VITALS

A handy overview can be found here, but this is definitely a mnemonic worth remembering. Try asking yourself some of the questions that we have prepared below. Please be honest to yourself and be open to whatever answers you might find!

Values

What are my values?
What do I believe is worth fighting for?

Interests

What do I pay attention to?
What am I curious about?

Temperament

Am I logical or emotional?
Do I plan? Or do I go with the flow?

Activities

Am I a morning or a night person?
What habits make me feel good?

Life goals

What have been the most meaningful events of your life?

Strengths

What am I truly good at?
Which are my best character traits?

It would be helpful to write all of this down, even if you already know the answers by heart!

Also, other things such as Life goals could be difficult to pinpoint at this moment. That’s fine. At least from now on you’ll be keeping it in mind, and that’s all that matters.

Remember, the journey to find yourself is a long one, and there are no hard and fast answers so do not worry if you’re unable to answer a couple of questions. 

You’ll find them eventually!

 

2: Journal

We all have kept a diary or a journal at some point in our lives. I found my secondary school journal recently and it was such an enlightening (and embarrassing) experience seeing the world from the perspective of the 14-year old me!

It isn’t just interesting though – the reason you feel that you’re reading someone else’s writing (even though it’s your own) is because that’s exactly it. You’ve changed and are now a different person! The biggest thing I realized from reading my old diary was just how different I was from 14-year old me, and it led me to think back and reflect on the steps that I have taken, big or small, to get to where I am today.

Keeping a gratitude journal could work wonders for your life

Most importantly, by making journaling a habit and if you write (or draw, whatever works!) in your journal often, self-reflection becomes a default! Over time, you will start to learn more about yourself and your underlying needs and wants. Keep it going and you will be more attuned to your inner voice, and understand yourself more in this world where millions of voices compete for your attention.

3: Question your automatic thoughts

Not just your thoughts, but also your reactions to things and situations that happen around you.

Many of us have a tendency to react to situations with pessimistic, self-undermining and irrational thoughts. If you still don’t know yourself very well, there is a possibility that you end up believing in these negative thoughts and end up making them come true! Even if these things don’t come true, you’d probably end up feeling horrible about yourself.

Learn to “catch” these negative thoughts as they appear, and redirect your mind to more realistic thoughts. Never shortchange yourself! You should always give yourself credit where it’s due. Mistakes are to be expected in life, so also be wary of over-punishing yourself – especially for little things!

Whenever you notice yourself making negative assumptions or discounting positive feedback, “catch” yourself! Take a breath and challenge these thoughts.

I think you’ll find that over time, many of the flaws that you thought to be true was actually just in your imagination! 

Most Important: Be kind to yourself!

Everything starts from knowing yourself and being self-aware! While you learn to grow your internal self-awareness, don’t forget to be kind to yourself, just as you would be kind to others. Forgive yourself for the mistakes you have made, and congratulate yourself for every little success.

Before long, you will find that you are very much in tune with yourself, and I believe that at this point, you would change for the better.

Michael Jackson definitely made a point with “Man in the Mirror” – 

I’m starting with the man in the mirror
I’m asking him to change his ways
And no message could have been any clearer
If you want to make the world a better place
Take a look at yourself, and then make a change

Sorry, wrong generation. But ya I made my point. I mean, MJ made me help him make his point.

 

Stay awesome auncles!

More Reading

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[Free pdf] here's your 2020 self-improvement checklist!

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