All posts by Mickey J

20/20 goal setting for 2020

How has 2019 treated you? If you have read my self reflection of 2019, I would like to think that I've been really privileged to have enjoyed growth in both the personal and professional space.

My 2020 goal setting strategy will largely focus on things that worked well for me last year with additional goal targets to achieve even more. That's why I'm calling it 20/20 goal setting this year.

While I try to keep most of the goals measurable but I'm aware that some goals around eating habits can't be measured and is more around developing a disciplined mindset.

I've grouped my goals in 4 categories:

Health and wellness

Over the course of 2019, I've lost close to 20 kg through a disciplined calorie tracking regime. It felt very similar to when I just started tracking my expenses in 2015 where I was a little too strict with myself and it took a few years to change that mindset.

I want to cultivate a better relationship with food this year, by being more mindful about the food I eat.

Here are my health and wellness goals:

  • Continue to maintain a daily 1,500-1,700 calorie-deficit meal plan to bring my weight down to 70 kg.
  • Switch to whole foods (mostly) diet, starting with weekday lunch and dinners.
  • Increase the amount of fruits and vegetables in my daily diet with at least a fruit a day while vegetables should take up half of my plate during each meal.
  • Meditate at least once a week, either by taking classes or on my own with guided meditation apps.

Fitness transformation

Having achieved success in my fitness journey in 2019, I intend to continue expanding my fitness lifestyle and add more exercises/activities that pique my interest. That will help to create a sustainable and meaningful fitness lifestyle.

These are my fitness transformation goals for 2020:

  • Work out in the gym for at least 5 days a week
  • Reduce my body fat percentage to 15%
  • Learn how to perform a handstand without assistance
  • Pick an additional sport activity that I enjoy and become competent in it

Wealth building

2019 worked really well for me in the wealth department as I maintained a disciplined saving process. I intend to continue doing most of the same things this year just because they worked well for me.

  • Maintain an average net savings rate of 70% for the whole of 2020.
  • Continue to make monthly cash top-ups of $995 to my CPF Special Account using CPF's Retirement Sum Topping-Up Scheme to achieve Full Retirement Sum by 2023 (1 year ahead of my projection last year).
  • Continue to make the maximum contribution of $15,300 to my Supplementary Retirement Scheme (SRS) account by contributing $1,275 each month.
  • Continue to stay invested with my globally diversified investment portfolio with AutoWealth this year and keep growing it with monthly investments.
  • Continue to build a secondary investment portfolio for retirement using surplus cash from my salary. This secondary investment portfolio only consists of my NetLink Trust shares at the moment.

Learning and development

The concept of lifelong learning has 2 different meanings for me.

  1. Professional development: To continue learning either broadly or in-depth about subjects related to my work to grow my career and human capital. This will in return, grow my salary in future.
  2. Personal development: To learn either broadly or in-depth about subjects that pique my interest and may not be related to my career. That keep life interesting and rewarding for me as I am acquiring knowledge purely for interests.

For professional development, I intend to pursue the following Salesforce certifications as my company has made the switch to Salesforce Marketing Cloud over the course of 2019 to further my expertise in the platform. As Salesforce is a popular enterprise platform, these certifications will also increase my career prospects in the near future as there is a growing demand for Salesforce certified individuals.

  • Marketing Cloud Email Specialist certification
  • Marketing Cloud Consultant certification
  • Marketing Cloud Developer certification

For personal development, I intend to learn more about the science behind fitness and nutrition. I have not decided on the courses I wish to take, but I'm contemplating to take on a few online courses provided by reputable universities and certifications from a credible fitness organisations such as American Council on Exercise.

Have you set your goals for 2020?

Benjamin Franklin supposedly once said, “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.” Sir Winston Churchill is credited with another saying: “Those who fail to learn from the past are doomed to repeat it.”

What changes do you intend to make in 2020 to improve yourself?

I'd love to hear about your plans. Please share them in the comments section below.

Photo by Estée Janssens on Unsplash

2019: My year in review

I found 2019 to pass me by surprisingly fast. I guess when you have most of the things going well for you, time passes by really quickly. As I'm writing this article, I've already closed off my work year and am clearing my annual leaves all the way till 2nd Jan 2020.

Last year, I wrote about the 5 goals that I wanted to achieve in 2019. In this article, I'll look back at these goals and reflect on my achievements in each of them.

These are the 5 goals that I'm going to be reflecting on and you can click on them to jump to the goal you're interested to read about.

Goal 1: Increase my health and fitness activities

I wanted to cycle at least 3,000 km in 2019. According to my Strava account, I've only done 390.9 km over 11 rides. 🙁  This happened because I failed to bring back my past habit of waking up early to join my cycling group on our morning rides that start at 5am.

However, I managed to pivot quickly after I realised that I wasn't able to clock my cycling mileage this year.

In April, I started applying my discipline way of tracking my expenses on tracking my calories. The goal was to maintain a daily calorie deficit of 1,500 calories so that I'm not overeating and my body would use my body fats (and some muscles) to create energy to facilitate my daily functional needs.

By July, I managed to shave off 10 kg just by moderating calorie intake and avoid overeating. While I was physically lighter, I felt better psychologically too. I even walking up the stairs to my office on the 7th floor as a form of cardio exercise every morning.

I started getting more sophisticated with weight loss, with the aim of losing fats while retaining muscles. I had a bump up on my salary with a salary increment this year and I decided to invest the extra money on myself by signing up for a gym membership at Fitness First.

The result of maintaining a calorie deficit with at least 30 minutes of exercising daily was a further reduction of 10 kg in body weight and shaving off 8.9% body fat to date. I think a 20 kg weight loss within a year is quite impressive given I was able to eat whatever I wanted and not sacrifice on my favourite food.

Goal 2: Remain focused on lifelong learning

Last year, I wanted to continue focusing on learning data science. My interest in that topic waned after I learnt sufficient knowledge to have proper conversations with my colleagues who are working in the data science field. I also didn't see myself going into the data science industry as I didn't like the mathematics side of the work.

Instead, I chose to dive deeper into personal finance and nutrition through workshops and online courses in my spare time.

I attended a couple of personal finance and investment events conducted by Seedly and SGBudgetBabe. The Seedly Personal Finance Festival 2019 was especially enjoyable given that none of the speakers and exhibitors were allowed to hard-sell their products. I got to speak to the folks from Funding Societies to learn more about how their P2P lending platform works and eventually invested $2,000 through the platform. I've earned a net income of $103.93 from the platform so far so that's around 5% of my investment.

I've also benefitted greatly from Dawn's SG Budget Babe Readers' Investment Workshop 2019 where I learnt how analyse stocks based on my investment objectives. That led to me investing in NetLink Trust in March 2019 for dividend income. I got in at 84 cents and the stock is priced at 93.5 cents at the moment so I'm looking at around 11% paper gains. That's on top of the 5.9% dividend yield received this year.

On the nutrition side of things, most of my learnings have been mostly online courses where I learnt more about macro nutrition and how to see food from a different perspective. I was able to apply this to my weight management by allowing myself to eat all kinds of food in the right proportions. This was very useful as I formed a better relationship with food and was able to maintain my weight loss through a sustainable lifestyle.

Goal 3: Achieve a 70% net savings rate

My goal in 2019 was to achieve a 70% net savings rate. While the year hasn't exactly ended, I should be closing 2019 with around 74% net savings rate.

It's worth noting that I did not go on any vacation this year which may knock my net savings rate down a notch.

Maintaining a high savings rate not only means that I managed to control my expenses, but also allows me to have surplus cashflow to grow my investment portfolio.

Goal 4: Stay invested through 2019

When I was planning my goals in 2018, I was expecting to go through a bear market in 2019. I mean, we're looking at the 10th year of bull run in the market. Who knew that 2019 would not only create the longest bull market in history, but also one of the best-performing bull run in the decade.

I know of many friends and financial bloggers who have opted to keep a large war chest of cash on hand to capitalise on a bear market where their favourite stocks go on sale. Unfortunately, that didn't happen and they missed out on a year of bullish returns from Mr Market.

By sticking to my goal of staying invested this year, my investments through AutoWealth achieved 5.75% time-weighted annualised returns this year. The best thing was that there was literally zero effort on my part other than transferring funds into my AutoWealth account religiously every month for automated dollar-cost averaging investments.

Even the one-off salary bonus received this year was invested in NetLink Trust for a 5.9% dividend income had 11% paper gains on the side.

This year, I am also continuing to steadily receiving quarterly rental income from my Cambodia property and the rental income gets deposited into USD fixed deposits at around 4% interest.

Looking at the combined performance from both my investment and rental portfolios, I am content with the returns, given how little effort I spent on managing my portfolios this year.

Goal 5: Top up CPF Special Account for next 5 years

I was able to fulfil the first year of this mid-term goal with a consistent monthly top up of $995 into my CPF Special Account once my salary comes in. I found that being disciplined and making the top-up each month works better for me.

While some may think that topping up beyond the $7,000 that qualifies for tax relief is not tax efficient, I feel that my goal of reaching Full Retirement Sum earlier is more meaningful towards my retirement plans.

I hope to continue topping up my CPF Special Account next year.

Closing remarks for 2019

I've found that I was able to meet all my personal financial goals by automating my savings and investments. It's much more efficient and requires very little work on my part.

Understanding my habits and interests allowed me to pivot my non-financial goals to other directions when the original plans didn't work out. At the end of the day, accomplishing something is always better than accomplishing nothing right?

Stay tuned as I map out my 2020 goals in a later post.

Will you lock up $25,000 to get free mobile subscription for the rest of your life?

Before you read further, this article is not sponsored and the reason why I am using NTUC Income’s VivoCash Prime insurance plan as a reference in this article is simply because it’s way too easy generate an online quotation with relevant benefits illustrations through their online life insurance platform without going through an insurance agent. The sweetener in buying online is that if I choose to buy online, they offer an extended free-look period of 90 days (just in case I get buyer’s remorse later on).

It’s interesting to know that if you’re considering to purchase a life insurance product these days, there are so many different ways to do that.

If you’re allergic to insurance agents like me (okay, there are a few trusted insurance agents that I still consult), you can now choose to buy your life insurance online. Woohoo!

Retirement planning 101

When planning for my retirement, I focus on 2 things.

  1. Build a comprehensive retirement portfolio that does not run out of money before I die.
  2. Optimise my fixed and discretionary expenses to keep them as low as possible without affecting my preferred standard of living.

There’s only that much I can do to reduce my fixed expenses so my alternative was to find additional income streams that provide guaranteed income that can pay for these fixed expenses for the rest of my life.

By doing this, I avoid paying for these fixed expense with my retirement portfolio.

Why I’m considering NTUC Income’s VivoCash Prime product

Long time readers would know that I’m in favour of buying term insurance and investing the rest on your own. That’s why I’m using robo advisors like AutoWealth to invest my money. My mindset remains unchanged.

The reason why I’m evaluating NTUC Income’s VivoCash Prime is because its coverage is up to 100 years old. That also means it will provide me with annual cash payouts till the age of 100. At the age of 100, the policy will mature and return me all the premiums paid and around 22% returns.

For your information, I always plan my retirement up to the age of 100.

VivoCash Prime also ticks the box for someone like me who has commitment issues. Hell, I don’t even re-contract my mobile and internet subscription.

Since I was able to save and pay for my overseas property in Cambodia in cold hard cash within 3 years, I think I’ll be comfortable with minimum 5-year premium term offered in VivoCash Prime.

How I plan to get free mobile subscription for life

Remember that I’m still investing a larger percentage of my monthly savings through various investment channels and I am not reducing my monthly investment budget. This investment strategy to build a decent retirement portfolio will not change.

A recent salary increment allowed me to save an additional $5,000 per year so I’m considering to use this additional money for VivoCash Prime.

I generated an online quotation for VivoCash Prime using NTUC Income’s online life insurance platform with my intended budget of $5,000 for 5 years as the premium terms.

Here are the results.

By paying a total of $25,000 annually for 5 years, I will receive a guaranteed cash payout of $525 each year up till the age of 100. I’m ignoring the non-guaranteed cash payout of $213 at investment of 3.25%, treating that as icing on the cake if I do receive that non-guaranteed payout.

With my retirement expenses projected to be around $40,000 each year, $525 doesn’t look like much in the grand scheme of things. It works out to be $43.75 per month, which is enough to pay for my monthly mobile subscription.

I’m 36 this year and we’re talking about 59 years of mobile subscription fees if I survive to become a centurian, netting $30,975 in total payouts. At any point in time if I were to die, I’ll get all my money back because a guaranteed amount of $28,027 will be paid out as death benefit. That’s around of 112% of the $25,000 total premiums paid.

Does it even make sense to do this?

I know it can sound crazy to put $25,000 into something as frivolous as a free mobile subscription for life. But what if we 10X this? If I set $250,000 aside to receive $5,250 each year, what can that pay for?

In my case, $5,250 could easily pay for the yearly premiums of my health insurance for the rest of my life. What do you think about having free health insurance for the rest of your life, not having to worry about hospitalisation bills, ever?

If you don’t already have an investment strategy to build up your retirement portfolio, you shouldn’t be considering purchasing insurance policies with the objective of income generation to pay for expenses. Your money could be better spent on accumulating capital gains through more aggressive investments.

In my case, I’m already doing many things to build my retirement portfolio.

  • Monthly investments through my robo advisor platform.
  • Contributing cash top-ups to my CPF Special Account through Retirement Sum Top Up (RSTU) scheme to hit Full Retirement Sum in 4 years’ time.
  • Contributing the maximum limit of my Supplementary Retirement Scheme (SRS) account each year.

Considering all the activities above, I feel that budgeting $5,000 per year for VivoCash Prime is only a small portion of everything I’m doing for retirement planning.

You won’t trust Mickey Mouse to manage your portfolio so there’s no reason to trust Mickey J to make insurance decisions for you either. The contents in this article should be considered as entertainment until you do your own due diligence by spending time researching and getting advice about insurance products and make your own informed insurance decisions.

Photo by Oleg Magni on Unsplash

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