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Retiring in Hong Kong as a time millionaire

In her 2016 article in Financial Times, Nilanjana Roy shared her concept of time millionaire as having achieved a set of personal goals. She further explained how successful people guard and value their time so that they can pursue their personal interest. Roy suggested true wealth could be construed as having control of one’s personal time and max it for leisure activities. I can totally relate to this. Since quitting corporate, I do feel I have full control of my time and have been investing my time on people and projects that bring me joy. I may not have all the millions in monetary terms but I do feel I am a time millionaire these days.

The author pursuing her hiking passion at Breuil-Cervinia, Italy

Some friends hold on to careers they no longer enjoy because they feel that is the most secured way to ensure they could retire comfortably. What does retirement mean these days anyway? I am sure many of us will agree retirement does not mean Netflix all day nor daily yum cha with tais tais. To me, retirement means having control of my time doing things I enjoy and being able to spend time with people who matters. I want to stay productive and continue to make some money but not at the expense of sacrificing my leisure time.

The author volunteered for an event to bring homecooked food to the Malaysian Community in HK during Chinese New Year 2021.

Is there a best time to retire early? An old friend whom I have always respected for being financially savvy would always say “Corporate restructuring is the norm these days. Be mentally and financially prepared to leave your corporate job when you hit 50 onwards.” I am with him. Having the option to retire early has been a great blessing for me. These days I get to choose the projects I want to work on. Yes, I make less money compared to my corporate days. That’s ok because I get to pocket in a lot of time and it’s tax free! Money can always be earned but time passed can never be clawed back.

I am not financially savvy and definitely do not see myself as an investor. I do have the option to retire early and currently enjoying myself as a time millionaire with good health. The following are 3 fundamental habits that prepared me and may help you too:

1. Keep expenses low

Housing is one of the biggest expense. Hong Kong is the playground for landlords, developers and financial institutions. Paying a big portion of your salary towards rental or mortgage is putting yourself in a win-lose situation. They win and you lose. You are basically slaving away to keep your landlord, developer and bank shareholders richer.

I cannot relate to the 50/20/30 budget rule where the smallest chunk of after tax income goes to savings. I am Asian. One of my fondest childhood memory was the excitement of my Mom taking me to the a local bank to open my first ever savings account. I brought home a heavy and sturdy looking buffalo piggy bank which I would happily look forward to feel the weight growing after each coin deposit. Needless to say, the savings habit has been instilled into me since I learnt to count. A challenge with this 50/20/30 rule is trying to distinguish between the needs and wants while I guard my savings at 50% rather than the recommended 20%. An easier way to manage monthly budget that works for me is to transfer out x % e.g. 50% into a separate account. This will be channelled towards forced savings and investments. The remaining 50% will take care of all expenditure i.e. daily needs incl. rental and wants incl. holidays. Unless for emergency purpose, do not touch your savings fund.

Skiing is an expensive leisure pursuit which the author only indulged in at the age of 48

2. Self leadership

The concept of self leadership was first mentioned in organisational management context in 1983 by Charles Manz. More recent literature talks about coining personal values while taking ownership of own strengths and desire to achieve one's life purpose. defines self leadership as “the practice of understanding who you are, identifying your desired experiences, and intentionally guiding yourself toward them. It spans the determination of what we do, why we do it, and how we do it.”

The process of practicing self leadership prepare me towards my time millionaire journey. The internet offers countless self help materials, gurus and life coaches ready to help you master the art of self leadership. I resonate well with Steven Covey's 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Do check it out if you have not. These principles are not rocket science. In fact they are common sense that we know but just don't necessarily put into practise. For e.g. Habit #1 - Be Proactive reminds us to focus our energy on what we can control and influence, instead of what we can’t. This means we walk away from things/people/situation that are not within our control.

3. Self care

Focus on how healthy you want to be so that you can continue to do what you love in future. No point having all that money but spending them on medical bills and not the holidays you would rather have. Learn about nutrition and take control of what we feed our body and prioritise time to exercise for healthy aging. The first thing I did after I quit corporate was to get myself certified as a health coach. I wanted to learn and apply the knowledge on healthy aging on myself. The lifestyle changes I made have helped me stay healthier. As a result, I was able to gradually influence family and friends to make the changes they want to in order to achieve their own health goal.


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