Earlier last month, Dave and I had the pleasure to meet up with Thomas and his lovely wife, Jasmine, from the popular local investment blog My15hourworkweek. We had a good session together and had the opportunity to host them at our place. During the session, we shared many things, and got to know a lot about this couple, their values, and approach to money. If you are new to their blog, suggest you to check it out, highly recommended!
We thought we would also take the opportunity to do an interview series with them for the benefit of our readers, and to get to know them a bit better, in addition to gaining some insights from them!
1. Tell us a little bit about yourself
Hi, I am Thomas and I write at my15hourworkweek.com. I am in my early thirties, happily married and on track to semi-retire in the next few years.
2. What got you interested in personal finance?
Money was hard to come by when I was growing up. I wanted to be rich and rid of money problems, so I began to read up more on personal finance and investing in my teenage years. When I started working, I stumbled on the FIRE concept and this fueled my interest even more.
3. Growing up, what values were imparted to you that form a core of what you are today?
I used to detest my Mum’s frugality but as I grow older, I actually find myself embracing some of her past habits. One particular value she instilled in me was ‘“Always return anything you borrow in the same, if not better condition”
4. Is there an individual that you wanted to emulate or inspire you greatly?
On the personal finance front, it would have to be Jacob of Early Retirement Extreme fame. 5 years ago, when I chanced upon his blog and book, it was akin to opening Pandora’s Box. I was pretty disillusioned with the 9 to 6 routine and thought there was no way out for at least another few decades.
But he showed me and many others what extreme frugality (a factor we can control) can achieve. I doubt I can emulate or get near to him, but there’s no doubt he’s someone I look to if I feel there is a need to further cut our expenses.
5. Share with us your investment strategies.
Diversification. I don’t think I am a good investor, so I want to diversify my potential incompetence away.
We keep a portion in cash, foreign currencies, gold and bonds besides the typical CPF funds and stock investments.
Even for our stock investments, it’s a mix of ETFs, local dividend stocks and foreign stocks.
6. We understand that you were previously a scholar and had a bright career path ahead. What made you decide to take the less conventional route?
Basically, I took a look at my bosses’ life and realised that I was not interested in going down the same path. Progressing in my career and having access to the traditional perks like condos and a continental car do not really excite me.
The passing of my Mum also gave me an epiphany that our lives can be really short. So I thought it was better to become a self-employed instead with more control over my time.
7. Tell us a bit about what minimalism means to you and how you might have incorporated in your life.
Minimalism to me is about maximising the utility of what you have before reaching out for more. This can apply to clothes, books, living space and even money!
Right now, we are in the midst of decluttering our cupboards and storeroom.
In modern life where excess is more of a problem than shortage, I truly believe that “less is more”
8. Was it hard to transit from a full time job to a freelancer? Did you had any reservations and how did you manage to overcome them?
Of course, the one thing everyone misses the most is the monthly paycheck.
At the very start, I did second-guess myself. However, with a few years of expenses saved up and the support of my wife, I managed to pull through and earn a very decent income within a year.
As a self-employed and freelancer, the most important thing is to put yourself out there, persist and hustle to get gigs.
9. If you have to recommend 3 blogs which you might find useful, what would they be?
Besides Minimalist In The City (Minimalism in Singapore), I would recommend:
We thank Thomas for his time and agreeing to participate in this interview series. It was great to meet him and his wife in person, especially since Dave and I are ardent followers of their blog. They were probably one of the first few bloggers in Singapore that share their expenses publicly and I think that has been pretty inspirational in many ways, the discipline to keep it going, and it provides good idea of the expenses of a young couple living in the heartlands (how many people actually do keep track of their expenses?). What really took me by surprise was the fact that during our meeting, Thomas mentioned that he was previously a scholar. In Singapore, if you are a scholar, it basically means that your future is pretty much well set up (unless you screw up big time in some way). In a nutshell, you are on the fast track acceleration program in the organisation that you are bonded to and is highly likely that you will end up on the management team within a decade. For many, this is probably a dream come true and as such, it was rather surprising for me to hear that he would actually choose not to continue this path, and would rather walk the more unconventional path, and becoming a freelance tutor that he is now.
To be honest, that takes a lot of courage. But as Thomas has noted in his interview above, life is short and you only have this one lifetime to do what you want. Will you rather be caught in the rat cage until you retire (if you do) or perhaps use whatever time you have to pursue the things that you really want to do instead?
That itself, is something that is not easy to execute. And I haven’t met many individuals who has done that. Thomas offers a different perspective in life and we hope that our readers find inspiration in it as much as we do.