Monday, August 04, 2014

An Empty House

Financial bloggers always use rationality to convince readers. I think there's another tool that is seldom used to persuade, and that is through story telling. I can blog out an article with 5 pointers, complete with reasons and supporting evidence, but it will not tug at the heart strings of my readers. It's emotionally dead and will reside in my blog as one of those useful but useless advice that is repeated ad nauseam.

Let me try a different tack. I'll write a short story instead. Stories are robust because they are open to different interpretations. Stories tug first at your heart, then your mind. Stories let you empathise when rationality fails. This is my first short story with the general theme in personal finance.

The Empty House
This is what he would have wanted.

He sat down in his spartan 3 rm HDB flat and looked at the lonely clock that hung on the wall. In some parts of the wall, the paint had peeled off, revealing the moldy and stained areas.


In another alternate universe, his wife would be eating chicken rice and drinking a cup of kopi-o with him in a quiet coffeeshop downstairs. His 2 kids, boy age 10 yrs old and his sister, 12, would both be taking a 30 min journey in a feeder bus on their way back home from school. Fun and laughter will transform his 5 rm HDB flat into a home, and that is well worth sacrificing his time and energy to earn the income to support his family.

But in this particular universe, he dreams only about that elusive early retirement and the holy grail of financial independence. He lives below his means and yes, he still cycles 25 min to work to save up on transportation costs. All his life, his only mantra is that his passive income exceeds his expenses. That's his sole reason for living.


In a few more minutes, he will be going downstairs to buy his $2 50 lunch. Alone. The uncle behind the economic rice stall knows his favourite dishes; he always order the same repertoire of salted fish fried with bean sprouts and the spongy, orangy tao kua, together with a small heap of rice swimming in a watery, spicy gravy of Chinese styled chicken curry. No drinks. That will burst his daily budget of $10 per day for food. His life is nothing without discipline, frugality and prudence.

During the quieter moments of the day, he will sometimes think that his life is indeed nothing. But this thought only last a fraction of a second and the idea has no chance to take root. He will brush it off immediately. This is what he would have wanted.

It must be what he had wanted.


Anonymous said...

A really nice change! What is wealth without loved ones to share with.. What is financial freedom when you're trapped in other ways...Well done and I look forward to more stories.

Singapore Man of Leisure said...


I raise my glass to you!

We definitely need more story-tellers; less bean-counters ;)

Cheers from the grasshopper.

Createwealth8888 said...

Back to Rediffusion days?


la papillion said...

Hi anonymous,

Thanks for your encouragement :) I'll write more in the future :)

la papillion said...


Haha, I'm just following behind your footsteps, you master story teller!

la papillion said...

Hi bro8888,

We can even go back further in time, where oral traditions is the only way to pass knowledge from one generation to another ;)

Unknown said...

How refreshing, CPF should approach you to write stories similar to these with regards to their Minimum Sum and other matters! Good stuff, I like.

B said...


Refreshing story indeed.

An empty house a fulfilled dream.

That makes a difference to what it is all about.

Derek said...

Hi LP,

Is this based on a true life story? :P

Keep it up!

Investopenly said...

Indeed very refreshing...

Which is better? Happily poor or sadly rich? hehe

YLFOO said...

Guess it is facts tell stories sell :)

la papillion said...

Hi marinabay avillion,

Haha, I'm already contributing articles to their IM$avy site.. so it's up to them to see if they want to publish it or not. These days, I'm too lazy to email them to ask them to publish :)

Thanks for the encouragement!

la papillion said...

Hi B,

Stories can show you what facts cannot. I'll hone by story telling skills by doing more of it :)

la papillion said...

Hi Derek,

Good question! Yes and no :) I don't really know such a person, but if I can imagine it, there really must be such a person around. It's based on observations of real life that I see around me :)


la papillion said...

Hi Richard,

Ah ha, the truth is, we can do both :) It's never a dichotomy in real life :)

la papillion said...

Hi Adarina Robin Foo,

Considering that I've so many new people who commented on this post, I guess it does indeed sell lol

Perhaps this is the best way to reach out to a wider audience who are never really interested in personal finance. By appealing to them, maybe I can do a little bit more to society than just sticking to numbers and facts.

Social experiment at work ;)

Anonymous said...


I love it! I will try it next time even with company analysis... LOL

la papillion said...

Hi sillyinvestor,

Haha, I would love to see you try!