Friday, September 14, 2018

Are you a free agent or a prisoner ?

[ Workshop preparation at the final stage is really intense and I think I got my third bout of flu in two months. This is a light weight article for the week-end. Maybe I'll do a more hardcore article on Sunday. ]

So I ended up watching Crazy Rich Asians with my mum and I loved it. I even started listening to the sound track which is perfect. Can't wait to see Katherine Ho's cover of Coldplay's Yellow in our local karaokes.

My wife said that I enjoyed the movie because I aspire to join the ranks of Crazy Rich Asians. I think that's not the point. The point is that the movie shed some bits of light into the lives of the uber-rich in ways that do not make ordinary mortals really want to be like them.

Instead, I think the real question is what can money do for you ?

Can it turn you into a free agent or a prisoner ?

The obligations of old money and familial relationships forms a prison around Nick Young and even threatened to draw Rachel Chu into it.

This is not the kind of reason why people seek financial independence. I don't want to be rich so that people will threaten by wife with a dead fish on her bed.

Money is a tool to be free.

That is why "F*** Y** Money" is such a powerful message to Singaporeans who have to report to a boss that they not necessarily look up to.

A financial independent worker and an ordinary worker can work for the same job and perform the same tasks but there is a fundamental difference between them :

The Financially Free Worker has the option to quit and seek another job. He does not have to endure a tyrannical boss.

The ordinary worker needs to think twice because he has obligations if he becomes jobless. He is a prisoner chained to his workplace.

[ Digression: Sometimes I wonder whether local Law Schools should keep on accepting high SES kids because they are the the ones who are most likely to be able to say no to a highly intense workplace and demanding boss. ]

So to me, Crazy Rich Asians is a cautionary tale.

Old money is stifling. Nick Young was supposed to be married to his equal and be stuck in this milieu for the rest of his life. If you read all the books, Eleanor Young was a victim too. Until that pivotal Mahjong scene, all that money in the world cannot give Nick the freedom to be with who he loves.

On the other hand, new money is free. Goh Wye Mun played by the hilarious Ken Jeong is much looser when upbringing his kids Peik Lin and PT. I have a special affinity with PT in the story because he seems to channel Singapore geek demographic. PT is also likely to turn INCEL in spite of all his wealth.

F*** Y** money can turn you from a prisoner to a free agent.

But you need to exercise caution.

Newer reports are showing evidence that employees with a Plan B tend to be less productive at work.

Being able to achieve passive income that exceeds your expenses is a binary test. Either you can or you cannot live on your passive income without digging into your investment capital.

Transitioning from a prisoner to a free agent is not binary.

You transition slowly as you gain more mastery over your money. My biggest fear is that folks who try out FIRE start losing their motivation before they are fully free from the workplace.

Perhaps the solution would be to use an absolute return portfolio and grow it until it is large enough to be converted into a dividend portfolio that pays all your bills at a later stage.

It may solve the motivation problem by making Plan B less obvious to the investor.


  1. Hi Chris,

    Such option is easy for me in my prespective. I am a simple peasant who live a simple life on my terms. Luxury items are not of interest to me. I prefer to enjoy the moment such as walking in the park and enjoying the view. Go to the beach and enjoy the see breeze is an enjoyment for me.

    I consider myself as a simple peasant of free-will.


  2. This makes you freer than 90% of your fellows !