Friday, April 07, 2023

I may need to plan for Involuntary Retirement

One medical issue I'm grappling with is that I have dry lips, which means I'm not producing enough saliva when speaking. Dry lips make every lecture I present a chore. Beyond one hour of speech, I have difficulties as my throat becomes dry. The use of lozenges like Fishermen’s Friend can backfire as it makes your throat even dryer. 

I do not know whether my dry lips come from Graves' disease or poor blood sugar control, but I can say that I'm already on medication to resolve this problem. The question is when these dry lips can be solved which can take a month.

If I can't resolve this within a month, I must retool how I conduct courses. If I fail to restructure how my class will be conducted, it's game over for me, and I will ironically be involuntarily retired. I won't be able to teach my ERM class anymore. I also can't find a job that relies on my tongue, which I spent decades honing on public speaking platforms. 

I want to discuss some steps I am taking in case the worst scenario happens this year. 

As expected, my finances are the least of my problems, but I have already started planning for having no income since the end of last year. I've expanded my cash reserves to hold one year of expenses and extended it by three months using the dividends earned this month. For me, the problem is not eating into my capital but being unable to grow it for the following year. 

I can return to the D&D gaming circuit, but sadly the hobby is undergoing massive changes as a new edition is launched next year. The bigger problem is my social life. If I no longer work, what kind of hobbies will I need to fill my time as I get my voice back? I'm also not sure whether I am as sociable when socialization comes without any agenda other than having fun. Nevertheless, the demand for DMs is as strong as ever, and so long as I'm willing to run games, I should be fine. 

The final point I want to make, my biggest fear is what kind of books I will read and what frontiers to explore when I no longer earn anything from work. My favourite books are those on office politics, wielding power, and climbing the corporate ladder. As an employee, I used to devour any of the management books I could get my hands on. It gave me a competitive advantage as I could anticipate changes in management work like the Balanced Scorecard. 

You can guess what happened after that - Financial Independence was the best power move in any office environment as you no longer need to suck up to anyone or fight for the best appraisal. 

You may think that I can subsist on finance books. That is actually quite hard. A lot of finance books are not written with the real objective of helping the reader make money. Value investing, when badly written, are tales of investment victory using esoteric knowledge of specific companies that cannot be transferred into another market context. While I prefer quantitative works, they are pages filled with equations and rarely supplemented with source code that allows verification of the authors' assertions on the stock markets. As an investment trainer, I help clients bridge theory and practice. 

Going beyond one finance books is a big challenge because a good book will give your some direction to code a back tester to verify what the author has said. So reading is really just the easiest step in a long journey to understand how markets work. 

If you leave the realm of money but still wish to engage in personal development, all that remains is self-help. These books are touchy-feely, and I've already read most of the ones which are backed by research. 

This leaves me with philosophy and books where the author engages in intellectual masturbation. While I try to read as many philosophy books as the Economist recommends, I think some philosophers need help. Why do you need so much prose when the ideas can be condensed into a paragraph? Maybe I can get ChatGPT to help me with summaries in the future.

I guess if I really want a solution to my problem, I will need to read deeply into the history and biographies of famous people. I've not explored famous people's stories beyond Erwin Rommel and George Patton. 

And of course there is fiction, if only to finish the Game of Throne series if it ever comes out. 


  1. Become a FA and mange portfolios for your students? Charge them a fee for it

    1. I tried, the fees are too high. Imagine paying $100k every year to run the fund. I need a mountain to back me.

  2. Hi Chris,

    Happy Easter to you and loved ones. Sorry to hear of your Graves' condition. Here's hoping that you will recover from it.

    A senior colleague once told me that we will learn more new (medical) terms as we aged. These are just some of the new terms I learnt from my own experience and from friends : Plantar Fasciitis, Frozen Shoulder, Trigger Finger and Stoneman Syndrome.

    Life's journey is tough. Working life is tough and retired life can be just as tough if not tougher especially from boredom and financial matters. Being financially free or independent is a big step to alleviate the burden but life is more complicated than that.

    Your plan to have one year's cash reserves is a very good move. Successful retirees (such as CW8888 and Mr FIRE Station (from the US)) have 2 to 3 years of cash reserves. As the saying goes, "when it rains, it pours". The big cash reserves is to address the simultaneous occurrence of events that need big and instant cash flows.

    Your fridge, aircon, washing machine, car and water piping system can simultaneously fail and at the time of a market crisis. Things like that have happened to us and taught us that having a sizeable cash buffer is all important to maintain sanity, calmness and not panicked sell anything. And imagine that adding to the above, a loved one meets with a medical emergency.

    So now we have 2 to 3 years of cash buffer, mostly parked into FDs, T-bills and SSBs. We learnt from our own experience but better still if we can learn from others'. We do this even though our (active and passive) cash flow is very healthy. Peace of mind is indeed priceless. On the other hand, stress can lead to illnesses in the long run. So a 2 - 3 year cash buffer is a cheap "price" to pay.

    Wishing you all the best.