Welcome to the third interview from FIRE Around the Globe! Not only is it the third interview, it’s the third country and third continent covered – Europe and North America have already been featured. This week, we’re transported to Asia, to talk with our fellow FIRE pursuer, Dawn from Singapore!
Dawn is Singapore’s top female personal finance blogger, who has been featured in the state’s newspapers, radio stations and online media, as well as invited to share her input on various occasion by government agencies. She shares her financial tips and lessons from her investment journey on her blog (www.sgbudgetbabe.com) which has grown rapidly to over 4 million readers in less than 3 years and with over 6,200 daily subscribers.
Q1. How did you first hear about/become aware of the concept of FIRE (financial independence | retire early)?
When I read Mr. Money Mustache’s website and that of other financial bloggers in the United States!
Q2. After becoming aware of it, how long did it take for the idea to take hold and become a plan?
Almost immediately. I grew up in a family where money was tight, to the extent that I had to go around begging friends and relatives for money to fund me just so I could go to university. My mother was retrenched during the Asian Financial Crisis, and my father got a pay deduction as well, so I’ve seen how hard they work just to bring money back for the family. My mother would put up with all her nasty colleagues and ill-treatment just because she couldn’t afford to quit her job! So coming from such a background, I was immediately drawn to the idea.
Q3. Why do you want to achieve FI?
I want to be in a position where money would be the least of my concerns (instead of always having to worry about it while I was growing up), and that I could work on projects or passions that I truly love without having to worry about not having enough money for my living expenses otherwise.
Q4. What’s your own personal strategy for achieving FI (stock market investing, real estate, extreme frugality etc)?
I believe in a four-pronged approach: (i) spend less than I earn, (ii) increase my earning power and income, (iii) be covered by insurance so that my pot of gold will not be wiped out in case of any unfortunate incident and (iv) invest in stocks and bonds for higher returns.
Q5. Do you know how you’d like to spend your time in ‘retirement’?
I have two key dreams that I want to achieve – to become a published author, and to set up my own education centre specialised in English and General Paper which will concurrently offer free scholarships to needy students. Since my living expenses will already be taken care of in post-FI, I can afford to take the income earned from the paying students to redistribute it back to the poor! This is extremely meaningful for me as I wouldn’t have made it through university without the generosity of the school donors who funded my scholarship, and is what I want to do in order to return the favour.
Q6. If you could achieve FI in any country in the world, would you stick with where you are or relocate? (Do you look at anyone in another country and think their path seems a whole lot easier than yours given their location?)
I’m happy and contented to be born and living in Singapore. I believe it isn’t so much where one is based, but what we choose to make out of our circumstances as we strive for FI. However, after I’ve achieved FIRE status, I will relocate to a cheaper developing country where life is much simpler and cheaper!
Q7. Do you think your country has a well-represented community of FIRE folks?
Yes. Singapore’s cost of living has been rising every year, whereas our wage increments have failed to keep up. More people are now becoming aware of the need to manage and grow their money, or else they’ll find themselves having to rely on government or child support after they’ve retired at 65 because they just don’t have enough money to continue funding their living expenses, including healthcare. However, in the female population, the number of FIRE folks is extremely small. Almost every female around me talks about their latest shopping or makeup haul, their hotel staycations, etc. Fewer people talk about finance and frugality, and there are many females who become bitchy towards them as they feel that they’re being criticised for their ways of spending money. Most of my fellow FIRE folks whom I know are almost all male!
Thanks so much to Dawn for sharing with us why she’s on the path to FIRE. I find it fascinating learning about people’s motivations and how their past can shape their future decisions. Stay tuned for next week’s interview, when we’ll be hearing from someone else looking to become financially independent from a wonderful country (and one that I will soon be visiting!!).