Retirement lessons I learnt from long distance cycling last weekend

I can pretty much consider October as the charity month of 2015 for me, having participated in a few charity events this month and the main highlight is Ride for Rainbows, a fundraising cycling event that is organised by Club Rainbow.

Club Rainbow (Singapore) is a charitable organisation that relies solely on donations from compassionate corporations and kind-hearted individuals to support us in our mission. Set up in 1992, the organisation provides a range of comprehensive support services for the families of children who suffer from major chronic and potentially life-threatening illnesses. Children in Club Rainbow range from newborn babies and youths up to the age of 20 years. They require frequent visits to hospitals for treatment, complicated therapy and long-term medication. On the recommendation of their respective doctors, these children are referred to Club Rainbow for follow-up support.

Ride for Rainbows is a fundraising event organised by Club Rainbow (Singapore) and is into its fourth year. Riders register for the event and have to help raise a certain amount of donations in order to qualify for the cycling event. I registered in the Rolling 20 category and that means I will have to raise $1,000 as an individual rider and then challenge myself to cycle 100 km around the island.

Fortunately, I have generous friends in my social network and was able to raise 80% of the funds through donations. I simply topped up the rest myself to achieve the target. On the event day itself, the 100 km ride actually helped me learn some lessons from long distance cycling that I find very relevant to retirement planning.

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Use the right tools to achieve your objectives

There’s an old saying, “Don’t bring a knife to a gun fight.” I did exactly that when I decided to use my 3-year old 7-speed foldable bicycle and attempt to complete cycling 100 km on the road. I mean, I use that bicycle to commute to work every day so what could go wrong? The answer is, EVERYTHING!

I had trouble keeping pace with the other cyclists who were on their road bikes and they definitely have a more consistent cycling cadence than me.

Retirement planning lesson

Likewise in retirement planning, you can’t invest in low risk bonds and expect your investments to enjoy a capital growth of 7-10%. You need to make the right investment choices, set the right asset allocation for your portfolio in order to achieve your objectives.

Make progressive milestones to reach your goals

I remember during my army days, we had progressive training to increase our running mileage before attempting a 32 km run. I wanted to do a similar progressive training before the Ride for Rainbows event but that didn’t happen due to the haze situation in Singapore. In fact, I had to even stop cycling to work because of the haze and started taking the train to work a month before the event.

So I attempted to cycle 100 km without any training and I was regretting it right from the start. The journey started okay, but towards the 30 km mark, my calves started to cramp. I never knew cramps could come back again after they have gone away. So I was powering through the ride with multiple episodes of cramp on my calves. On hindsight, I would have wanted to be achieve progressive cycling mileages of 10 km, 25 km, 40 km, 60 km and 80 km before the event.

Retirement planning lesson

Nobody wakes up one morning, decides to retire and then retires by nightfall. It takes years of planning for most individuals to achieve financial independence. You need to meet progressive milestones, for example, achieve a net worth of $100,000, then $250,000, and gradually hit your final goal of financial independence.

You meet strangers along the way who want to help you

During the long distance ride, I would have quick chats with other cyclists occasionally when they happen to ride alongside with me. I would receive tips like how my seat is too high and that causes my bicycle to sway side to side as I pedal, for example.

These are very useful tips as I adjusted my seat at the next rest point and enjoyed a better ride. I also received encouragements from other cyclists who saw that I was trying to accomplish the same goal as them on a foldable bicycle and they cheered on me to keep going. There were also other cyclists on foldable bicycles who were pedalling on the same pace as me so we kept edging one another not to slow down. That helped everyone to finish the ride together.

Retirement planning lesson

I had the good fortune to meet strangers who eventually became friends and helped me move closer to my goal of being financial independence. For example, I met this guy through an Internet forum and I learnt from him, how gold prices are affected, their trends and how to invest in gold. My gold investments eventually yielded me a 30% profit when I exited the market.

Work hard to overcome obstacles in order to reap the rewards

Every cyclists love a accelerating down the hill without pedaling. But that is your reward when you actually make the effort to ride up the hill in the first place! When we were riding through the Mandai stretch of the route, there were many hills to overcome. Having done my research on the cycling route, I knew that this was the most challenging part of the entire 100 km route.

I powered through the hill climbs because I knew that it would be a worse torture to attempt to climb the hill at a slower speed. The reward at the end of the climb is a 40 km/h sprint down the hills without pedaling and enjoying the cool breeze brushing against my face.

Retirement planning lesson

The journey of financial independence is never easy. Especially when there is a huge gap between the size of your existing investment portfolio and the ideal size of a investment portfolio that you can retire with. It is a tough hill to climb but one just has to keep soldiering on. The end of that journey will definitely be a sweet one!

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