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Is AK a rags to riches story?

Thursday, April 7, 2016

AK has lost quite a bit of weight. 

Many people are amazed.

However, friends who know me well are less amazed. 

Others call it discipline but my close friends call it an obsession.

Yes, AK can be quite extreme and can be obsessed with stuff he believes in.

When I first started life as a working adult, I remember giving myself $300 in pocket money each month. 

The rest of my salary, I saved and invested. 

When a friend found out, he said that I was living in abject poverty. 

I met this friend a few days ago when I was window shopping which is a nice way of saying KLKK (i.e. "idling" in SAF lingo). 

He was waiting for his wife who was doing some real shopping. 

He offered to buy me a drink and, so, we sat down for a drink and chatted.

He wasn't amazed by how much weight I lost because the last time he saw me was probably almost 20 years ago. 

Instead, he said I did not change much and still looked the same except for the white hair. 

Shhh... Don't pitcha lobang, ok?

Anyway, guess what did he ask me next?

"Are you still living on $300 a month?"

I was taken aback. 

I didn't expect him to remember. 

It must have left a pretty deep impression on him.

Instead of giving him a direct answer, I told him how sales people at credit card road shows now bo hiew (i.e. ignore) me because I tell them I am unemployed.

"Aiyoh. How come? You OK or not?"

To his credit, he did not make some excuse to cut short our chat. 

Well, I am sure you know how some people might be afraid of unemployed friends? 

You are not afraid? I am. Haha.

So, I gave him a 20 minutes (ok, maybe 30 minutes) summary of my life in the last 20 years. 

At the end of it, he was wide eyed and almost speechless.


His wife rang him shortly after and he had to go, promising to catch up again soon.

He didn't say anything about me living in abject poverty this time.

Was I ever living in abject poverty? 

I had these for lunch recently.

Financial hardship during my teens, yes, but abject poverty? 

Honestly, no.

However, it might have looked that way to many people, I agree.

Regular readers know the narrative. 

For examples, I rarely bought new clothes and I packed lunch to work. 

Alamak, this guy must be an orang miskin (i.e. poor man) lah.

It wasn't something I thought about at the time but I suppose I rather looked like I was living in abject poverty but wasn't than to look prosperous when I wasn't.

It is important to know and to remind ourselves that it is not how much money we make that defines whether we have money but how much money we save.

So, is AK's story one of rags to riches? 

There will be different opinions but I don't think so.

I think AK's story is simply about a regular guy who wants to have the option to work if he wants to and not because he has to.

Related posts:
1. A common piece of advice on saving.
2. Becoming a millionaire next door.
3. Another personal story of frugality.


Sillyinvestor said...


I would like to know your friend, I think he is a kind fellow. Lol. I bet with u the odds of him catching up with is very low. He is prosperous in his own ways.

FFE said...

Hi AK,

I'm also planning to stop work at the end of the year.

It's does feel a little scary when I think about it.

I definitely will feel more secure if my income stream is as large as yours but I'm gonna make the plunge cause time is running out for me as my kids are getting older.

Siew Mun said...

Hehe, same here. Most people think, I am in poverty, I am given $500 per month by my wife for out of pocket expenses which I saved $300. Now my family is using a hand me down sofa. We learn to shop in Carousell before considering buying new and selling our old stuff in Carousell too.
I have developed additional income streams of mystery shopping, part-time kitchen helper, and participant in clinical research trials on top of my day job and investment income. Seriously, my life is enriched with different wider experiences tremendously which money cannot buy but gained. I considered as effective and effective use of resources that is bestowed on my family.

AK71 said...

Hi Mike,

Oh, I am very sure my friend's heart is in the right place. :)

I am very happy we met by chance and I am looking forward to our next meeting.

AK71 said...


You are right. We are not getting any younger.

After all, time is not something we can make more of.

Enjoy your retirement. :)

AK71 said...

Hi temperament,

I am definitely less tight fisted with money these days.

However, it takes a bit of effort to do it.

Like you say, old habits die hard. -.-"

AK71 said...

Hi Siew Mun,

Another constructive comment from you. You never cease to amaze me!

Yes, if we can use our free time to make some extra money, why not? If we can do this while learning new stuff, it is a bonus. If we can do this while doing stuff we enjoy, it is even better.

Gambatte! :)

SMK said...

like "AK has lost quite a bit of weight."

post, also like.

Anonymous said...

Hi AK,

I like that last part - "who wants to have the option to work if he wants to and not because he has to". That's my motivation too!


Howard said...

Nothing wrong being frugal :)

I have seen too many people (friends and relatives) living on credits even though they behaved as "well-to-do".

Guess we have to change the education system.

FML said...

if $300 is frugal, than my $200 must be extreme poverty? lolz
i reckon i could do $100 if i cook all my meals but also recognize the need to spend to keep our local economy healthy. hence i increase my budget to $300 again :)

i think NTUC foodfare doing a good job keeping food costs affordable. $2~3 mixed rice (2 veg + 1 meat) is very reasonable.

imho, voluntary frugality IS responsible consumption. in fact we don't eat LESS, but only what we NEED. in that way, we don't waste on earth resources.

SMK said...

howard, "Guess we have to change the education system."
not easy. just one parameter and everyone, expert or not, clueless or not, will weigh in their thoughts.

if they succeed, then it is back to cigar butt investing for singapore market.

Potatoish said...

hi AK,

Thanks for sharing the story. Now i feel guilty i choose canto paradise for dinner last night over food republic :(

But that said, yes i agree that we should all have "living" expenses budget daily minus transport that is for food. Time for me to review mine :D


AK71 said...

Hi JQ,

Alamak. Please don't feel guilty.

Like I said before, I was pretty extreme. To many people, I probably missed out on a lot of good things in life. Haha.

Well, I am making up for it now. Definitely more easy going with money these days. :)

eva said...

I think it's great that you are advocating saving. It's true, no matter how much you make, if you spend just as much or more, you will never be any richer. Hmm... I'm one good example !

AK71 said...

Hi eva,

I am sure you can and will become a better saver. Believe in yourself. ;)

WTK said...

AK 71,

You are an excellent example which one can model after. Everyone is different in the starting point for the financial perspective. It does not matter how the starting point is. The most important point is to get started.


AK71 said...

Hi Ben,

Excellent example? Me? Dun liddat say.

I am a lazy fellow.

I think the country doesn't like people lazing around at home like me. -.-"

AK71 said...

From my FB wall:

u say in ur blog u budget $300 spending every month at one point in ur life, approximately when was that?
I trying to do similar but different times and prices increase alot so 300 spending even for me who is single no gf or family also difficult.

Almost 20 years ago when I was a young working adult. Might be difficult now.

Tq for reply. Ya. I was thinking conservatively about 1,000 per month now.

I am not a good candidate to say how much is reasonable these days. Let us see what other readers have to say 🙂

Unknown said...

$1000 per month? Thats only if you need to pay rent. If you are living rent-free with your parents, $500 should be more than enough nowadays.

$4 for lunch and dinner each, $2 for breakfast. $10 a day makes it $300 a day just on food alone.
$20-$25 for the cheapest SIM only phone plan now
$30 for broadband internet
rest of the $100+ for misc stuff like water/elec bills, daily necessities like toothbrush and soap and the occasional indulging and pampering of yourself.'

And sometimes you dont have to spend $4 for your meals, maybe $2-$2.50 at times if you are around a neighborhood with cheap hawker fares.

But the truth is, living like this is not an easy feat when you see your friends around you partying around and all. If so, perhaps you can give yourself an $100 more per month for entertainment, just $600 a month. But you definitely do not need $1000 a month if you do not need to pay any kind of rent at all.

AK71 said...

Hi Janson,

A limit of $300 in pocket money each month was possible for me because I was staying with my parents rent free.

Peer pressure can be an issue:
Are we sometimes forced to be extravagant?"

Human beings are gregarious animals. Maybe, mixing with like minded people helps.

Thanks for sharing your numbers. Good reference for young working adults. :)

Unknown said...

Oh I forgot about transport costs as pointed out by some of your facebook followers... well there is currently a concession for both unlimited MRT and bus rides a month at $120... so maximum u can spend on transport is only $120 a month.

oh well, I guess scrimping on food (making your own lunch, looking for cheaper lunch and dinner, etc) is the only way most people can save more.

AK71 said...

Hi Janson,

Packing lunch to work was something I did for years. ;)

Cindy said...

You started working 20 years ago?

I thought that you were in your early 30s...

AK71 said...

Hi Cindy,

I am so sorry to disappoint you. ;)

I am not a superstar trader or investor. In the world of trading and investing, I am a plodder. -.-"

AK71 said...

Reader says...
I have been reading your blog with interest! You gave good practical advice as well. I am just wondering how you managed to save up so much and so fast in your CPF accounts? If you do not mind me asking, what is your monthly/ annual salary like to reach that level? Impressive stuff!

As an undergraduate, I had some monies in CPF and I do transfer them from OA to SA to tap on the higher interest just like you. My family struggled with finances in my early years and I learnt to be more frugal with money...


AK says...
I started off with a salary of about $30K a year and by the time I stopped working, I was drawing a higher salary but less than $100K a year. Not a stellar career but I was never interested in building a stellar career. I lazy.

I have blogged extensively on the CPF and it is hard for me to give you everything off the top of my head. You might want to use the search box in my blog or go to my blog's right sidebar where I curated a selection of blogs on the CPF.

AK71 said...

Reader says...
Actually AK, I'm quite fascinated by you. I like how you are so simple, content and down to earth. I wish I was more like that. How do you stay that way?

AK says...
I have been through hard times too.
And trauma leave marks on us and we change sometimes significantly and usually forever. :(
We have a choice to make life simpler or not. :)

AK71 said...

On hindsight, I was probably too extreme for many years of my life in allowing myself only $300 in spending money each month.

I was really driven by fear.

A very strong fear of growing old and destitute.

AK71 said...

Reader says...
How much were you saving each month to get to where you are today?

AK says...
Read this blog.

AK71 said...

New reader says...

AK says...
Yes. This blog post on my "holy" bottoms might tickle you. ;p

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