I have recently heard a talk by a well- known investment fund manager that has changed my thinking regarding Risk Management. Traditional wisdom is that High Risk means High Reward and Low Risk Equals to Low Reward. This is still probably majority of the financial analysts who will advise you. The argument this fund manager made was that if the product is perceived to be high risk, in itself it cannot be of high reward as the chance of losing is great.
What distinguishes a good investor from the average is that a good investor is willing to take calculated risks when others are afraid to make. As an example, whenever there is a market crash, everyone dives for shelter because of the fear factor. Many of the best stocks are actually at a huge discount. By rational analysis, these stocks should be of lower risk and higher return. The potential for profit will be much better once the market picks up.
Lately I have invested in some disruptive and innovative companies that potentially can change the way the world works. Technology such as artificial intelligence, robotic, next generation internet, 3 D printing, energy storage etc. As many of these companies are at their early stage of development, the growth potential is significant. In order to do this investment successfully no doubt you will need to undertake thorough research to become knowledgeable of the latest development. There are also successful actively-managed ETFs that will do the research ground work for you. Many of these ETFs have managed to out-perform the S&P 500 by a significant margin.
The reason I want to highlight this point is that there are many different styles of investment you can pursue and that no one style is better than the other. The key is that you have to be an obsessive learner and be ahead of the curve at all times. Secondly, adopting an element of diversification will definitely spread your risk to a more acceptable level. My main objective is to suggest each of us to apply a long term investment strategy to financial independence rather than a short term approach. Moreover, one should never under estimate the power of technological advance and innovation.
A Misconception to Financial Independence
There is a lot of misconception about the path to financial independence. Many might think you need to be a financial expert or you need a high salary. The reality is far from the truth. I like to share a personal story.
My domestic helper will be retiring very soon after working with us for 15 years. We had a good working relationship and we are grateful for the good service she has provided us. I am therefore interested in her personal well-being. When I asked regarding her future outlook, she was very positive. She has become financially independent and can look forward to a happy retirement. What happened is that she has saved up her monthly salary all these years; and use it to buy a small plot of farm land every time she has saved enough to do so. She then rented out each plot of land for people to plant vegetables. Over the years, she has generated enough passive income to have a comfortable life for herself.
The ideal outcome for financial independence is to create a stream of passive income that is greater than your expenses. If investment is based purely on capital appreciation, the level of risk can be higher whenever there is a major correction or worse, a market crash.
This story has highlighted that you do not need to be a financial expert nor a big salary earner to secure your financial future.
The Book That Has Changed My Life
It must be over 15 years ago, I was on my way back from Australia. I had a frustrated weekend having to fly to Sydney on a Friday night to conduct a one-day meeting and then back to Hong Kong on a Sunday morning. It was becoming a routine and I was feeling stressed. While on the plane I picked up a book recommended by a good friend. The book is “Rich Dad, Poor Dad” by Robert Kiyosaki.
The essence of the book is that one must find ways to become financially independent. It highlights the importance to plan your future and do not become a slave of the corporate world. This book had a profound impact on me that I immediately made the decision to become a financially independent person as soon as possible.
I understood my situation cannot be changed overnight. Through taking one small step at a time and becoming more prudent in spending and making investment on a regularly basis, I achieved financial independence after 10 years. I continued to work as an employee but having the self-reliance and financial freedom to quit at any time.
Many of my friends and business contacts have also read the book. However, the emotional impact on them is not as high. If I ask what they think about it; most will say it has an interesting concept. The number of people who will commit and work on implementing a concrete plan is few and far between. The main reason is the lack of a strong desire. Knowing is one thing, understanding is another but acting and committing is a different ball game.
A Mental Trap You Must Avoid
Although I enjoyed my work and had a good career, it also had its drawbacks. I had created a mental trap that I could never spend the needed time to look after my personal interests.
Throughout the years, I have come across many executives in their late forties who have been affected by corporate restructuring. During my coaching, I will frequently get to hear about their finances. Many would look concerned. Some claimed their savings would last only 6 to 9 months. If they could not find a new job sooner, they would be confronted with significant hardship. I found it troubling as many executives had large expenses and families to look after. I often asked why they did not allocate more time on personal finances, the answer was always “too busy” and the cases are far too common.
Your First Step to Financial Freedom
All road to success starts with the first step. The failure to act is our biggest obstacle. Every time you want to achieve something there is always an inner voice telling you that it is too difficult and the risk is not worthwhile. As human, we always like to stay within our comfort zone. I like to go for a run or a hike in the morning, but I always have an inner demon telling me that the weather is not good, you did not have a good sleep or you can always do it tomorrow.
A very inspiring book by David Goggins “Can’t Hurt Me” gives me the motivation every time I feel like giving in to my weaker voice. This is a great book that tells how someone with a very humble upbringing can achieve extraordinary success. David was once a depressed, overweight young man who grew up to become a U.S. Armed Forces icon and one of the world’s top endurance athletes. He shares his astonishing life story and reveals that most of us tap into only 40% of our capabilities. The Outside Magazine named him” The Fittest (Real) Man in America”. This is a book I strongly recommend to anyone.
As a first step to planning your financial independence, start asking yourself the following questions:
How much passive income will I need before I can become financially independent?
What are the unnecessary expenses I can reduce and put it in my investment fund?
What proportion of my salary do I need to allocate for my investment fund?
What should be the asset allocation on different investment categories?
What are the skill gaps I need to fill before I can start the journey?
As I was negligent in the past, I was able to identify almost immediately ample opportunities to fine-tune my situation. By transferring low interest products to higher interest products, I was able to improve my financial cash flow in a short time. Although the initial amount was not substantial, the savings accumulated on a compound basis over years can be significant.
A Simple Rule - "Do not invest what is left after spending but spend what is left after your investment"
This is what many gurus like Warren Buffet have taught me.
Start allocating 10 to 15% of your income every month for investment as a starting point. As you have generated more income, you can increase the amount and percentage by allocation. The power of compounding is significant. A low interest of a few percentage point when compounded over a long period can have a huge effect.
If you can start early, you can easily achieve financial freedom at a younger age.