By Stephen Yong
Not literally on FIRE, but Financial Independence, Retire Early. Totally stoked to have my first client achieve fat FIRE a decade ahead of his goal.
FIRE stands for Financial Independence, Retire Early. It’s a financial goal of most folks to achieve FIRE, whether they know the term or elaborate it in their own words.
Today, we visit the story of my client and his search for FIRE.
Who is Rover & Why FIRE
His name is Rover T (obviously a pseudonym), and this is his story, with me as his financial wingman.
Rover is an expatriate who is working in our Oil and Gas (O&G) industry. As a true industry veteran, he has worked all over the world in places such as the UK, South-East Asia, China, and the Middle East. Or, as Rover likes to say:
I am not sure I can say I have worked very hard. But I can surely say I have worked very long.
From his days in the then lucrative O&G industry, Rover was well-rewarded with handsome pay which he had diligently saved, and had also earned about a gazillion air miles and hotel points from his frequent work travel.
When this story began, Rover was still working in the O&G industry while based in Malaysia on a long-term MM2H visa. A man with simple needs and a good heart beneath his gruff exterior, he has fallen in love with both Malaysia and, more importantly, a special Malaysian lady.
In short though, his main financial goal is to simply be able to retire peacefully and stress-free in Malaysia with his better half without having to worry over affording life after retirement.
Seeking confirmation, Rover wanted to know – is his dream within reach? What else needed and could be done to ensure it?
The Search for a FIRE Starter
Rover, being a man of strategy and vision, decided to take action.
Initially, Rover tried to approach wealth managers at a well-known international bank in Malaysia to talk about his needs and concerns. Unfortunately, he was not well served and was pushed products that really did not meet his needs.
Is it because I only had a visible net worth of only USD1m? (Possibly Rover’s internal monologue).
Rover decided to say “Thanks, but no thanks” and looked elsewhere for how he could get his questions addressed despite this minor setback. Going online, he was delighted to find that a small but thriving Malaysian personal finances online Facebook community. Nice!
Rover sent us a DM and requested to be connected to a licensed financial planner for a free consultation. Our first financial date and meetup was in Bangsar where we talked about his goals, especially on his expectations around retirement. As it was our first meet, our talk was focused on big picture strategy on his financial goals, expectations, and what felt realistic.
“I am living a less stressful life knowing I have a plan in place”
From our initial chat in Bangsar, Rover appreciated the attention to detail demonstrated. He felt understood and believed he would be treated fairly and objectively. With this basis, he believed he could trust in me to assist in his journey towards achieving his financial independence goal. Interestingly, he was pleased to see I did not drive a flashy, expensive car!
Getting FIREd Up!
A.k.a. the Financial Planning Process.
The objective is to have the option to retire early rather than to actually retire. It is an “insurance policy” against events outside your control.
Moving on, we discussed and laid out the plan to look into various areas of financial planning:
Cashflow management now and post-retirement
Risk management key focus on medical coverage
Estate planning including will writing
Retirement planning and to have sufficient funds until age 85
Investment planning including global asset allocation and forex risks
and much, much more.
Rover is a great client to work with. He is earnest and diligent in carrying out all open tasks after each meeting. He pays attention to his own progress and is interested in understanding how each action affects his FIRE-bility.
Even when the pandemic struck and Rover found himself stranded overseas, we still persisted. We switched gears and moved our meetings to Zoom, where we continued to discuss, adjust, and monitor his financial planning progress together.
With a client as dedicated and passionate about his FIRE as Rover was, progress is quickly (by industry standards) noticeable. Fast-forward several months later and we had made the following progress on his finances:
Optimized cash savings and fixed deposits for better returns and diversified currencies
Optimized investments into globally and asset class diversified portfolios at appropriate risk levels
Setup estate planning trust and other investments nomination/gifts to take effect upon untimely death
Reviewed alternative investments including crypto assets
Reviewed financial independence and retirement planning scenarios
While the list may look short, it represents a mountain of FIRE made possible with the hard work Rover industriously put in.
Taking a look at it and comparing it to where he stood when we first spoke in that meeting in Bangsar, it definitely feels good to make real financial progress!
Fat FIRE & the Road Ahead
Thanks to his hard work keeping up with his financial planning, Rover can not only achieve FIRE, but he has achieved it a decade earlier than planned! Plus, his achievement isn’t a lean FIRE (aka shoestring budget) but juicy fat FIRE with a very decent 5 figure monthly retirement lifestyle that is scaled for inflation.
Rover is now officially Financially Independent, Retired Early since January 2021. A happy man, he is enjoying the freedom of retirement in his early 50s with his special Malaysian lady in Kuala Lumpur, from their lovely home overlooking the city, probably enjoying a burger and cold one as we speak.
Rover wanted readers to know that you have to start planning early and taking advantage of all opportunities that present themselves during your working life to the extent that your current circumstances allow at the time. It will makes for a less stressful life to know that you have a plan in place and time will take care of the rest.
He believes that financial planning has given him the freedom to explore possibilities without finances being a constraint. Most definitely a new chapter of life in Malaysia with the love of his life. So let us wish Rover all the best on achieving what many only dream of achieving, fat FIRE!
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