When I got to know of this book called Freedom, written by a man on the street you and I could relate to, I was curious to find out more. I contacted the publisher, Kanyin to reach out to the author behind the book – Lai Seng Choy. If you turn to the back cover of this book, one of the paragraphs by Lai Seng Choy says – “Change your mindset to bring money to you and to make your money work for you. You do not need to spend time on what you are unwilling to do. Collect enough financial resources to generate inactive income. You may wonder how to get to that stage; I will show you how in this book.”
I want to dig down into this 41 years old man’s mindset, pick his brain and listen to his humble beginnings. Some one who’s been there, done that. I want to learn from like-minded people who are much better than what I have achieved. (How about that for a new year K.I.S.S.S resolution?)
Not only that, I want to to share it with you. In layman talk.
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Lieu Ching Foo: Hello this is LCF on Personal Finance. Today, I have Mr Lai Seng Choy; he’s the author of this new book, Freedom. The reason I asked Mr Lai for this interview session, is because Mr Lai is someone like you and me. He has a full time job; and actually it’s very good to connect with like-minded people like himself because he’s actually very passionate about personal finance & investing– he’s like any man on the street, he’s not fund manager, stockbroker, etc. Mr Lai, welcome to the interview.
Lai Seng Choy: Thank you very much
Lieu Ching Foo: First question – what is your motivation for writing this book? Says that it can be catered for a wide demographics; whether it’s fresh grads, working adult, middle age, or even retirement age….
Lai Seng Choy: Well, actually we’ve seen individual in various demographics working hard for money. As a matter of fact, I was one of them when I started to join the workforce. But then one day I asked myself the question, what’s the purpose of working hard? Is it for climbing the corporate ladder? For higher self achievement? The answers for these questions – maybe they are correct for some senses, but most importantly, is to get paid for what we have been doing – so that we got money, to get what we actually need, or want, as well. So I always wonder, does we have to work hard for money until the age of 55 or even 60? And even by then, I think about whether we still have enough money to retire or not. So how much do we need, in terms of monetary value? Is it enough for us to retire by then or not? So in case we already know how much we need at the time I were 60, maybe we can enjoy life earlier if we could accumulate our retirement funds earlier. When most of my friends actually know I could retire at the age of early 40, actually they keep asking me – how I do it?
Lieu Ching Foo: I could say you are actually retired now, right?
Lai Seng Choy: Actually, not really – semi-retired. I am just in the early 40, I don’t want to just stay at home and doing nothing at all. What I am doing now is actually doing what I like. I like to share what I’ve been doing and I hope for those who have the same mindset, aiming for more free time and all these – or early retirement, so we can have common topics to share together. Actually this is what I am doing now.
Lieu Ching Foo: So, yea, likewise. Myself and a lot of reader actually can learn a lot from your experience. But just to check – when you started doing what you were doing to achieve the financial freedom at your age right now, -when you started that?
Lai Seng Choy: Starting point is about 10 years ago. I was in early 30. I am 41 to be exact. It’s the year 2003. By that time I just fully settled my first house – after settling all my debt, very interesting feeling is that I feel no burden at all. You see what I mean or not? By then I start to learn how to make my money work harder for me. That time I read a book by R. Kiyosaki. It gave me some idea - what my future should look like. More or less I learn about early retirement from the book. I started to think – how do I come up with a plan, so that I can enjoy my retirement life earlier… 10 years ago, I target to have my retirement age at 45. So I thought – how much do I need by the age of 45, and my life expectancy by the age 80 or 85? I just worked it backwards. In the process, I bought a lot of books, I attended quite a number of seminars. I did highlight in my book, those seminars didn’t really convinced me to follow their steps. Most of the seminars or talk – asking you to subscribe something or their services to achieve something.
For me, I never simply believe on anything I heard. I prefer to see how something works.
Lieu Ching Foo: Hands-on right?
Lai Seng Choy: Correct. In this case, when I have the solid evidence that this particular way works, then I would consider to start doing it. This is the way how I do. That’s why in the process, I don’t really take any advice blindly from any expert or advisor. Because it is all my hard earned money. I am not really a risk taker. Should put it as, not an aggressive investor. To be frank, my investment style is rather conservative. I am not willing to risk my hard-earned money to anyone, unsure if they really can make money for me or not. That’s why I am always looking for evidence or proof until I truly believe it, only I follow suit doing it. That’s just how I do things.
Lieu Ching Foo: If I can summarize it all – the trigger point is actually in your early 30s, when you settle some of your debts, I suppose? Where you like this kind of feeling having the freedom every day you wake up…
Lai Seng Choy: Ya ya.
Lieu Ching Foo: While you and I might have the same mindset, not everyone have the same mindset. I mean, They probably want to get rich fast, earn a lot of money but they are actually not willing to learn how to do it. They don’t have the passion to do so. We see a lot of such people in our society now, why do you think that’s the case?
Lai Seng Choy: In my opinion, they lack the long term financial objectives. They never think far. Only look at the current – what they are having now. They just wake up early, go for work very hard, get their pay cheque so that they got money to spend. Spending is the issue here. Higher earning power, meaning higher buying power. So higher buying power is good for a country economy, correct or not? But, if those spending are being spent on unnecessary wants, they are actually delaying their joyful life. We should focus on future needs instead of current ones. To me, I care more about the value of my spending – the return of my spending. I don’t spend for nothing. Meaning, what is the return I am going to get from spending a dollar? Sometimes it could be monetary value – we talk about investment here. It could be non-monetary sense, we maybe spend time or money on traditional massage. It’s spending money for good health – in case for traditional massage. This is the return of your spending. A healthy body keeps the doctor at bay – and you save money in that sense too. So regarding your question just now, what most people don’t have is a goal.
Lieu Ching Foo: You said you have an objective – that is to retire by age of 45, then work backwards from there considering life expectancy of 85. So that is the solid plan you have, you are targeting on that. Most people would only target on what they can enjoy now – instant gratification.
Lai Seng Choy: Correct.
Lieu Ching Foo: Different people have different definition for enjoyment. For you, it is in terms of the intangible – health, happiness and time with family. For some people, focus is only on current ones. For example, they spend on the latest smartphone, so that they are happy for that moment. For you, you said – Hey if I were to spend the same amount of money, on something that gives me happiness, freedom and health, rather than spend something on a smartphone, – happiness may last for few days, you would actually weigh your options – and choose option A instead of option B.
Lai Seng Choy: Yes, Correct.
Stay tuned for Part 2!