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The journey to financial freedom: My personal story

I just read the book Financial Freedom: Talks With People Who Don’t Have To Work Anymore.

The author Gisela Enders interviewed seven Germans who generate enough income from investments to cover their living expenses so they no longer have to work for money. It was originally written in German and being translated into English. (Which European will talk to strangers about their money except the Germans?)

It was a good read and I could fully resonate with the experiences and views of the financially free people featured in the book.

The real meaning behind financial freedom

There are three things to prove that you have attained financial freedom:

1. You no longer have the need to work.

Financial freedom is not equivalent to wealthy. It simply means your current and future expenses can be covered by your income and savings, so you don’t have to actively go out to work.

On the contrary, if you are rich but you are still tied up with work all day long (whether you need or you prefer to), that is not financial freedom. You may have the financial means, but you don’t have freedom.

If you can’t keep your expenses low, or you are forever money-rich time-poor, you can never have financial freedom.

So what’s the point of being rich with lots of money and luxurious things if you can’t enjoy them? Aren’t free time and health all we need? – Alex

2. You spend time the way you like.

When you no longer have to work for money, you don’t have to sell your time to an employer or your employees. Instead, you spend time with people you care, for projects you like and things you value.

If you have to earn money, you have to devote the best years of your life and the best hours of your day to someone else’s dreams, not your own. I want to devote my time to the people I love and to my dreams and projects. – Mr. RIP

3. You don’t think about it anymore.

Financial freedom used to be a topic very close to my heart. It was my goal many years ago when I was juggling a full-time job and investing in properties.

Now this idea seldom crosses my mind. Financial freedom is similar to goals in education, relationship, money and health. After you accomplish your goal, you don’t think about it anymore.

Essentially, financial freedom is merely a state you’ve reached in which you don’t have to think at all – or only very rarely … It’s basically the same as health. We don’t talk to other people how healthy we are. We only talk about our health when we get sick. – Alex

How people achieve financial freedom

By coincidence, the seven interviewees were motivated by the same purpose to achieve financial freedom – to be free of a full-time job so that they can have more time for themselves and their families.

They succeeded by doing two things: disciplined saving and prudent investment in real estate, dividend stocks or their businesses.

All of them accumulated their wealth the most traditional and boring way – saved hard (at least 50 to 70 percent of their income) and invested in assets they are familiar with.

For those invested in properties, they bought undervalued properties in Germany (their own country) under their names or with their spouse. Then increased the rental value and managed the tenants during spare time.

Note that none of them become financially free after attending thousand-dollar property seminars; purchasing overseas properties marketed by property agents; investing in many properties with a group of people; buying multiple properties with no money down; or selling their own home to buy two investment properties for each spouse with high leverage.

As I said in my book No B.S. Guide to Property Investment, “Till this day I have yet to know anyone who really became a millionaire by joining any unproven get-rich-quick program or investing in any high-return overseas venture”. Only marketers of these deceiving schemes become rich themselves with easy money from naïve buyers.

My path to financial freedom

I was a very good saver. Since I started working, I always saved 70 to 80 percent of my salaries. (I shared my personal tips on how to speed up savings to invest in properties in the Buying My First Private Property Online Course.)

After relocated to Singapore in 1998, I began looking for undervalued properties and was actively buying from 2002. I paid my rent and expenses with rental income from the tenants and saved up most of my monthly pay.

Then I got married. I was grateful that my husband had a much higher income and he was the breadwinner of our new family. With no bills to pay and passive income from tenants, I saved up 100 percent of my salary every month.

I knew I don’t need full-time employment anymore. But everybody else was working. Besides, I like my job and I was too young to retire.

Life was still the same. When you are used to frugality, you live a simple life without feeling deprived. As Robert Kiyosaki said, “the key to life is to be happy with or without money. Money only magnifies who you really are.” You can be a millionaire without changing your lifestyle. The only thing that changes is the number in your bank account.

Soon our first baby arrived. Life became very hectic with going to work, traveling for business, and taking care of the young one. When my properties doubled in value, I figured the capital gain, together with my savings, should be enough for retirement.

I started selling my investment properties one by one before the birth of our second child. This time I didn’t want to miss any growth milestone of my baby. Spending my precious time dealing with tenants and repairs was the least thing I want to do.

Learning, researching and finding gems in the property market are fun. Managing properties and being bothered by the hassles are not.

I’d always wanted to share and learn from other property investors. So I started a personal property blog, wrote a book and set up a property club for learning and networking of like-minded people.

But I hadn’t given up working full-time. The pay of my management job was good. We all know why we work for big companies. People treat you well because of your title and the company budget you hold. Power and social status make you feel good. On the flip side, you trade in your time to bring in profits, fix problems and deal with politics in the company.

One day, I had a heart-to-heart conversation with my sister who is a clinical psychologist. I lamented my lack of time and frustrations at work. Her advice was a wake-up call for me.

“You are most likely in the second half of your life. The reason you work shouldn’t be about money or recognition anymore. Do you know what your passions are? Have you maximized your full potential? How do you know you still have time to do what you really want to do?”

That night I dreamed of myself standing in a very long queue. When it was finally my turn, I heard a voice calling me.

“Vina Ip, step forward and answer three questions.”

“For all the gifts you have, did you make a positive influence in anybody not blood-related to you?

For all the opportunities you have, did you make the world a better place before you leave it?”

For all the time you have, did you make a difference in your family, community, country or mankind?”

I didn’t know how to answer, so I whispered, “Could I have more time?”

“What do you mean more time? Do you see we have a long queue here? Next.”

That was 1 ½ years ago. Since then, I decided to live my life with financial freedom.

Sometimes you keep searching for something without realizing that it is already in your hand.

To be continued…

Sorry I keep talking about myself and forgot to mention how I resonate with the experiences and views of the financially free people covered in the book. Let me share the following in my next blog post:

1. What is life like after having financial freedom?

2. How do financially free people work?

3. How do they spend their money?

4. What do they do with their money?

5. What do they value most?

6. Why do they want to find like-minded people?

Don’t waste time and money attending any property seminar about owning multiple properties with no money down. Sign up for the Property Investment Finance and Profit-Risk Analysis Workshop to learn from Ku Swee Yong how to evaluate and finance property investments. Sign up today before we run out of seats!