Sunday, February 22, 2015

Thought experiment on being FF

What will I do after I have a million dollars? A million dollar is figurative, it might not really be one million dollars. Could be 2 million. The point is, what will I do if I have the financial means not to ever work again?

Quite resolutely and with much certainty, I'll continue doing what I'm doing. I don't hate my job; in fact I like it very very much. There's a lot of meaning and it brings me a lot of satisfaction and joy beyond the obvious financial gains. What I'll do is to reduce the intensity and the duration of my work hours. I think I'll be a little more selective in my students and take in the ones that can benefit the most from me. I would increase the number of students that I help for free or at a very low rate. Perhaps I'll go back and join SINDA and CDAC to help out students.

What else would I do? I'll probably give a lot more money to my parents. More importantly, I'll spend more time with them. Not everything can be solved with money, but those that can be, I should be able to solve it easily without affecting me too much. If I have 1 litre of water, sparing 500 ml of water might be substantial. If I've 10 litre, 500 ml of water doesn't seem like much anymore. My solution to such money woes is to grow big enough to make the problem seem insignificant.

What else can I do? Get a nice mini cooper for my dear wife. It need not even be new (for me, I doubt if I'll ever buy a brand new car), but at least it must be worth it. She likes one and probably find that a very useful tool and nice thing to have and to use in her everyday life. The good thing about having the means is that you can settle all the needs and indulge in a little more wants. Can I afford one now? Sure, it'll be a pre-owned car with 3 year left and it'll cost me 60 to 70k. Is it worth it? Definitely not, hence I'm reluctant to do it despite her numerous attempts to convince me.

At this point, I'm a little flabbergasted. I've a hard time thinking what I'll do with the money. Is it because I'm contented? Or is it because I have limited imagination? It's hard to say. Maybe after not having grapes since young, I started seeing those grapes as sour and eventually no longer want those grapes at all now.

Is there anything that I really want?  I could do with a new desktop, but the problem is that I like old things. The older they are, the more memories of me using the things and hence the more precious it is to me. Says the person who had only 1 mechanical pencil that I used for about 18 years. New things? Cool, but I might not like it. How about more experiences? I could do that. Perhaps more trips overseas? The furthest I've ever been is to Taiwan. Maybe Aussie, but that's because of army, so maybe it's not counted. I suspect I don't really like going overseas. An ideal relaxed day for me is a book in hand, at home, without a care for time and commitments. This will be punctuated by my wife asking me to go out for a short tea breaks at nearby cafe and just sharing a cake or two and watching people and talking about everything and yet nothing at the same time. This can happen anywhere, and especially near home and need not be overseas.

What if I'm financially free but my loved ones are not longer there to share it with me? I'm quite sure I'll bury myself in work. Probably I'll work harder than I ever had, so that I can find more meaning in future days where the sun no longer shines and no cakes and teas ever taste the same again. I'll probably not go to those cafes that we had been together - it'll likely be too painful for me. Oh, very likely I might live overseas and seek a different life altogether.

So typing this post and reflecting, maybe it doesn't really matter if I reach financial freedom at all. Do I need that million dollars to start doing all this? Not really. It'll just be more comfortable and probably it'll feel psychologically more secure. Maybe I can just say screw it and get what my wife desires - a mini cooper. Does 60 or 70k really matter? At most it'll slow me down by 1 year or 2 years, but the important thing is that I get to share something important at the right time with the right person. I'm saying this not just about the car, but everything else in general.

I realised deeply that money isn't very important for me but I'm concerned about it enough to track my expenses daily, invest in the stock market, have money goals and saving goals. Why? Is it because I want to reach financial freedom? I think maybe it's not. You don't see me talking much about financial freedom in my blog and I'm certainly not obsessed about it. To me, the mindset is that if I get it, I get it. If not, life goes on. I'm quite certain I'll be a millionaire though. It's just a matter of when. The trajectory in my spending and earning patterns certainly points me in that direction. And then what?

So let's me totally honest. What I really really want is just security. If I don't address that, even if I have 1 billion dollars in my bank, I'll still feel the same. Can I give more money to my parents now? Sure. Not as much as I could have given if I have a million dollars now, but I can certainly give more.  Can I afford to take up less students and instead do more volunteer teaching? Sure. My earnings might take a hit but that's still okay. I have to think that earning another 1k might not be worth as much as the satisfaction in mentoring a person when I volunteer my time. Can I buy a car that my wife wants? Sure, not a brand new car, but a pre-owned one that we can still use for another 5 yrs perhaps? I'll set me back by a few years, but so what? Can I buy the desktop upgrade that will cost me perhaps 2-3k? Sure, I can, but it's certainly not the priority given my penchant for old things.

That clarifies a lot of things. The difference between me being officially financially free and now is just simply the level of security that I'll have. I should spend more effort relaxing and getting comfortable with spending rather than racking my mind to earn more money.



mini G said...

Bravo, excellent viewpoint on this topic!

CreateWealth8888 said...

Good to be a Pig when we have enough. Either Office Pig or Any Pig?

SG Physiotherapist said...

Great post! Made me think about my own priorities.

la papillion said...

Hi gmgh,

Thanks! I guess this is what they call analysis by first principles. Once I realised that security is really what I'm after, I'll keep asking myself this q - "will get this extra amt give me exit security?"

la papillion said...

Hi bro8888,

I agree. The problem is how much is considered enough. More is not necessary better. There will come a point where there's not much point accumulating more.

If one is still going after more even though there is enough, one is never going to be financially free in the mind!

la papillion said...


Thanks! Pls share with us what's the significance of having money in your life? There's so many different meanings for the same thing. Some could be like me, for security. Others might be for showing off, for revenge, for pride, to be popular and loved, to escape etc etc

What's yours? :)

My 15HWW said...

Hi LP,

Did I inspire you to write this post?

If yes, boy am I glad I did. Great post!

I think from what I have written, subconsciously, besides more security, I am yearning for more affirmation and maybe even popularity from having extra money?

With a 200-300k portfolio now, there's an element of security already and my focus has shifted to making my life 'happier' instead of chasing the next dollar.

Nonetheless, perennial habits are keeping me financially on track. =p

Lastly, happy new year to you amd your family. And hope your journey towards that million dollars becomes a happier (not slower or faster) one.

Singapore Man of Leisure said...


It's wonderful that you shared this counter-balance post.

Indeed, what's 60-70K when you have personally experienced how useful a car is ;)

Especially when we can make someone that matters smile?

The butterfly is getting more and more at peace with himself :)

Sillyinvestor said...

I asked myself this qn many a times, different season different answers.

My most recent answer, I will not let anyone know and live life as it is. Sound really selfish? Maybe, but I do not think I will spend it on anything for myself. I just want to avoid the "curse" of a windfall.

I might secretly increase the money to be channeled to the charity. But I can slowly say yes resoundly as and when they is a request for something. A trip? Ok! A gift? Yes, sure we go.

U want this. Ok. Wah so generous, just bluff I am doing well at the stock market.

When the time comes for "money" at emergencies, the money will come, u want private care? Ok.

At the end of the day. I am dreaming because I dun buy toto. But I though of what I wanted to do with a million or 2. LOL.

SS said...

Hi LP,

Thought-provoking post. Often, I had fantasized about the things I'd do if I had won the million dollar Toto. In the end, like you, all I wanted was a sense of financial security. A million dollars might be a bullet train ride to that stage in life, but I can do nicely walking too.

SGRetailTrader said...

Hi LP,

The way I see it, you have grown to be free from the need to be worrying and obsessing about money, and the focus shifts to other aspects of life, like the case is for 15hww and SMOL as well. And that's how progress in finances should be like, I think.

la papillion said...

Hi 15hww,

Yes! You're the last straw that broke the camel's back ;) I was thinking and reflecting about how different objects have different meanings to everyone, and I was trying to write a post about the different meanings of money when I read your post. That idea latched on and here's the article as you read it - thanks for the straw!

I'm doing exactly as you've mentioned. The habits are already there, I don't even need much effort to maintain that habits because it's almost second nature. I'm chasing after a happier journey and a more exciting journey. I mentioned in previous posts that my first 50k per year savings target is so terrible because I was pulling all plugs and going all in. But last year (and this year), it's all about fun AND hitting the goals at the same time. Same ending but vastly different journey.

Thanks for your well wishes - it's indeed my goal to make the journey much happier ;) We'll see each other again on the other side lol

la papillion said...


I am indeed getting more aligned with my inner self ;) Instead of asking how much it costs, I tend to ask how long is it going to set me down by? If it's an acceptable amt, why not do it? :)

I wouldn't recommend this to everyone though. Inherently, I've great discipline in spending money - so loosening up is the right thing to do. For someone who spends easily, then the opposite will be a more appropriate advice.

We don't see books telling pple to sepnd money, do we? lol

la papillion said...

Hi SI,

Haha, you too? :) I thought I'm the only one who dreams what to do with phantom money! I think it's important to have these thought experiments, because it illustrates what is impt to you. With just an imaginative mind, one can go through 10 thousand different scenario - a monte carlo-ish experiments - to see what are the different results if we try different pathway.

I think money only amplify what pple are really like. If you're stingy, having more money will make you even stingier. If you're generous, having more money will make you more generous. I guess without having any restrictions, you tend to show your true colours!

la papillion said...


You too? I think money is a cover to hide my insecurities. If I see a certain amt in my account, I will feel more at ease. And I know why I am like that - it's most likely due to my childhood.

It's all very interesting. Same goals of being financially free but actually we all have different needs to fulfill.

Let's walk together to that end point :)

la papillion said...

Hi Retailtrader,

That's indeed the case. It's Maslow hierarchy of needs I guess - when the bottom tiers are fulfilled, it's time for the top tier of self actualization. Really, we're all trying to do is be happy. Sometimes, we don't need to earn that extra bit more to do that. Conversely, we can spend that extra bit more to be happier too. All in moderation of course :)

B said...


Excellent piece of post here.

If I am interpreting this correctly, you probably already know that reaching FI or not will not have a different impact on your daily lifestyle so it's more about the security of having more than lesser.

If I may ask this question (and if you are comfortable in answering), have you considered forming a family with kids in the near future? If the answer is yes, then I think this will put a different perspective of that absolute figures for FI or maybe still not in your case. Would like to hear your views on it :)

la papillion said...

Hi temperament,

I'm sorry to hear that. It's only when we face the more serious issues - typically things that money can't settle - that we realise our foolish some of our pursuits of money are.

I don't want to be so poor that I hve nothing except money. That would be a very bad outcome indeed.

la papillion said...

Hi B,

Hmm, not really. I'm reflecting about the foolhardy pursuit of having more. May I really wanting more money or am I seeking something else? I believe I'm seeking something else - and that's security. Basically I'm working so hard and trying to reach FF for the security. Knowing this, reaching FF is no longer about reaching a particular sum of money but reaching a particular mindset.

My verdict is still not out whether I want to have children or not. Knowing me, you'll read it from my blog post as soon as I get clarified.

An9elfire said...

Hello BB, I have also given serious thoughts to "what if I am financially free", because I have already achieved financial independence recently.

We are even doing the same job! I teach at a local school while I am assuming you are providing tuition. I also have no children.

After achieving FI, this is my current plan:

1. Work at my job for a while more, till I achieved certain financial objectives
2. Leave my job sometime next year, to travel for a while
3. Return to Sg and do jobs that I had always been curious but never tried, cos they either pay too little or I were never trained for it eg cafe barista, lead a safari tour, provide holistic financial advice

I also like my current job, but I always wondered at "what if". I have been doing the same thing for so long that my job has defined my life. And I want my life to be more. If I go down the current path, my life will be the same as many other Singaporeans: work till 65, stay in Sg my whole life, then?

So being financially free for me means freedom to do what I always wanted to do. I do not have lofty dreams of changing the world, but I do want my own world to be varied, inspiring and purposeful. Coming from a low income background, it seems that for me to really live the way I want to, i must first become FF.

Just my thoughts. Thanks for inspiring me to write such a long comment :) cheers.

la papillion said...

Hi an9elfire,

Brilliant! You know what, this is exactly what I want to do as well. Maybe not so much about the travelling but certainly about doing all the different kinds of jobs that I thought are interesting to me and good for soul building. I really want to be a cashier, cleaner, security guard and all other kinds of job, if only for a short period of time, to empathise and reflect. That will have to wait till I reached ff though haha

Thanks for commenting! You're another one who had reached ff b4 me and I look up to all of you as good models ;)

B said...

Good and love the comments from Angelfire :)

Thanks LP for your reply.

Anonymous said...

Thanks LP and B.

It is not common to find like-minded people like us, that works toward FF. Just a few days ago, a friend proclaimed to me that she will prob have to work another 20 years before retiring. And we are around the same age. But I started my FF journey 12 years ago, whereas most of my peers are still living month to month.

Another friend said to me "it is impossible to retire in Sg, especially if you have children and not born with silver spoons". While I do agree that the journey will not be easy, I have seen many successful financial bloggers achieved their FF, with family in tow. And that have given me hope that perhaps more are able to do it, with the right attitude, education and circle of influence.

Cheers :) An9elfire

la papillion said...

Hi an9gelfire,

Yes, it'll be harder, but it's definitely possible. I guess it depends on how much you really want it and if you're willing to take the cost to achieve it. Not everyone wants to do it, no matter how much they complain about it, I realised.

Thanks so much for sharing :)