Property Insight > Finance > Can An Employee Become Financially Independent?

Can An Employee Become Financially Independent?

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Recently, I met a couple of friends for a cup of coffee.  Bruce and Clark (fake names, of course) are middle managers who are doing well in the corporate world.

According to them, most employees dream about getting out of the rat race and achieving financial independence.

Let’s not debate too much about the true meaning of financial independence.

For this discussion, let’s just define financial independence as having enough income to pay your living expenses for the rest of your life without having to work.

Here are some of the key points I discovered throughout my journey as a corporate leader and reaching financial independence at age 33.

DON’T COUNT ON EPF

A total of 65% Employees Provident Fund’s (EPF) members have less than RM50,000 in their savings upon retirement. If they spend RM820 a month (which is fairly precarious given our rising cost of living), they can only sustain for five years.

If you are part of the 35% and have savings over RM100,000, don’t get too excited either.  In fact, don’t bother worrying about how much money you will get upon retirement. The monies received should just be treated as ‘bonus’ or ‘upside’. Discounting your EPF savings from your net worth strategy enables you to set more financial goals.

I make it my life’s work to get my money out of EPF as efficiently as possible. I am not trying to advocate reckless behaviour, instead I am only being logical. The EPF’s average dividend rate is approximately 6% in recent years. In all humility, I know how to manage my own money better and generate a rate of return far exceeding that 6% threshold.

WHY BOTHER SELLING YOUR PROPERTIES?

Properties are a great way to build your net worth and for one to reach financial freedom. However, I have met a lot of investors who are always trying to “rebalance” their portfolios.

Having believed their properties no longer have any “upside” or room for growth, they end up selling them to reinvest in other high growth areas.

In fact, they feel that they need to do “something” all the time in order to reach financial freedom.

Sometimes, less is more. The most successful and consistent investors I know have a specialised niche.

They would buy properties in their target areas, stay patient and let the equity compound over time.

If you have a hectic full-time job, it takes skills and time to switch target areas at a frantic pace. That is when well-meaning people may get stuck with mediocre investments — because of their rashness and lack of familiarity.

IF I CAN’T SELL,

HOW DO I RAISE CASH?

Some people may succumb to the tempting but potentially incorrect notion of selling a property with “limited upside” to raise cash to buy other properties with more “upside potential”.

Confession time: I have never sold anything before. I believe the properties in my target areas are sustainable and for the affluent.

Places like Damansara, Petaling Jaya, Bandar Utama and Taman Tun Dr Ismail may not be very exciting but I believe they will stand the test of time.

Will I miss out on other high growth areas? Perhaps. But I have the advantage of focus, time and precision.

I am not interested in selling something for a RM300,000 profit, and then hunt for the ‘new flavour of the month’ to repeat this process again.

I would rather build a targeted portfolio of RM3 million and see its value compound to RM7 million over 10 years.  To me, that’s how wealth is created.

How do I also ‘lock in’ my profit? Well, I am a serial refinancer. Refinancing enables me to ‘cash out’ on my equity without having to sell my blue chip properties.

Don’t you think it’s logical that I keep my blue chip properties to let it compound further over time?

Naysayers will say there are costs associated with refinancing. My simple reply:

(a) Selling your property also has legal, agency and other upkeep costs involved; and

(b) I have focused my mortgages primarily in two banks and have built Priority Banking status over time. That enables me to have a lot of “savings” and “discounts” in my refinancing packages.

The author of Investment Riches Dr Dolf De Roos, who is a prolific real estate investor, bought hundreds of properties worldwide; so many that he even lost count.

Any guesses how many properties he has sold? FOUR. He’s one of the best serial refinancers in the business.

FOLLOW YOUR HEART

Find your life’s true purpose. When we know this, we become more empowered and the path towards financial independence and fulfilment becomes clearer.

People may argue that being able to generate a higher Income enables me to have holding power over my portfolio. But the sad irony is that they never ask how I built my income.

They never ask what motivates me to excel in my career. They do not know it took 12 years of hard work to build a property portfolio I was comfortable with.

I love helping my colleagues excel and inspiring talents under my care.

The same passion allows me to build a progressive career and income.

When I leave the corporate life, I will only choose endeavours or pursuits that allow me to build teams and inspire people.

I feel blessed as many well-intended people have advised me on how to further enhance my wealth, or shared money making strategies with me. A lot of it make sense and I could do it if I wanted to.

But I can’t. It doesn’t feel right. Don’t do it for the money. Do it if you love doing it and the money will follow automatically.

Chase your passion, not money. Be fearless in the pursuit of what sets your soul on fire. The money will then follow.

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