Monday, January 13, 2014

Wanna retire early ? Don't be a Philistine !

I was trying to find the perfect word to explain why despite living in one of the friendliest tax regimes on Planet Earth, many Singaporeans still struggle with modern serfdom.

This word is Philistine.

Singapore is full of Philistines.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines it as follows :

a :  a person who is guided by materialism and is usually disdainful of intellectual or artistic values
b :  one uninformed in a special area of knowledge

Philistines are everywhere in Singapore. These are the folks who get upset when someone else buys a car or goes on a holiday. Of course, they will eagerly buy a car or go on a holiday once they get the funds to do so, often with the aim of inflicting psychic damage on fellow Philistines.

Generally speaking, local Philistines do not contribute to the knowledge economy, money is largely made by hustling, which explains the disdain for intellectual values. They are also too lazy to develop any special area of knowledge.

But interestingly enough, Philistines are not dumb - anyone who knows their brands well can't possibly be stupid.

Philistines miss out on two key things when it comes to personal finance:

a) The pursuit of material goods reduces your financial capital which allows you to escape from the rat-race.

b) It is intellectual pursuits which provide the knowledge to really thrive in this economy. i.e. The jury is still out on how Big Data will revolutionize business functions like sales, marketing or HR.

Even though I am retired, I generally don't give a hoot about the guy who drives a BMW and wears a Patek Phillipe. I actively discourage consumerism, although as an investor, I am like a vampire that feeds on the consumption by others.

Introduce to me a 40-something year old geek who understands MapReduce and can build his own Hadoop cluster and he will gain my envy and respect.  I might even buy him a kopi to tap on his expertise.

My advice to folks who aim for early retirement is to eliminate your Philistine friends and start looking for intellectuals to replace them. It's easier to live a non-materialist life if you are surrounded by people who respect ideas more than material belongings.


  1. Hi Chris, good to hear that you are retired from the rat race. That is something we all aspire to. It would be great to meet up for coffee with you and grey one of these days :)

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