Thursday, 30 June 2016

Case for or against higher education

The next post after this is likely to be an end of the month and end of the first half of the year financial update. It should be an interesting one given how Brexit has shocked the foreign currency and stock markets. Given the number of articles and commentary on the impact of Brexit, I have refrained from writing about it since there is little I can value add on the topic.

Nobody knows what's going to happen and history will be the best judge of whether this turns out to be the right or wrong decision. In time, I would be able to better assess Brexit's impact on our asset portfolio but I will continue to stick to our dollar cost averaging investing strategy for now. After all, I would expect the markets to get more volatile and it makes sense not to make any drastic changes to our investing strategy.

Back to the focus of this post regarding my views on higher education. As I have mentioned before, I read the blogs of personal finance bloggers in US and Canada frequently. It's fascinating to read about the challenges, habits and lives of these personal finance bloggers because although our aims are similar, the problems we face can be very different.
What stood out for me was this issue of crushing student loan debt in US and Canada from the pursuit of higher education. To be honest, it does not appear to be as significant an issue here in Singapore and I reckon it's due to the government's attempts to keep higher education affordable for Singaporeans.

Given how Singapore is a small country with no natural resources, developing our human capital via education is a top priority and this has contributed to our economic success. It has never occurred to me before until I read about the student loan debt horror stories in US and Canada that made me realise how the government's efforts to subsidise higher education and keep it affordable has benefited us.

This got me wondering about the purpose of higher education and the impact of its consumption as a public good. In short, is higher education still relevant in the modern world and has my views on it change after working?

Importance of bachelor's degree

We have been taught in Singapore since young that it is essential we attend a university and obtain a bachelor's degree. In fact, our bachelor's degree should preferably be in an area that has a direct link to an occupation that pays well. As you can see, the focus is less on an area of study that interests you but one that has potential career benefits.

As Singapore is a small and young country, entrepreneurship and self-employment are only just starting to be an acceptable way of life for working adults. It's still not encouraged because of social norms and an entrenched mindset of a fear of failure. As such, we take a practical approach to higher education and you can see how my wife and I ended up study accounting at university.

An accounting undergraduate degree is one of those degrees that has an average duration in terms of time taken to complete but offers you access to a number of entry level accounting jobs in a variety of industries. It is also less costly than the other "professional" degrees such as engineering, law and medicine.

Although accounting as an area of study is not as interesting as other fields, I have often wondered whether taking the pragmatic approach to higher education has helped us in our careers. We might not be as passionate about our jobs but we enjoy aspects of the work and the above average pay has gotten us a financial headstart.

Would it have been better for us to pursue an area of study and work that we are more passionate about? Then again, what do we know about our passions at such a young age when making such an important decision?

Professional accreditation

When you work in accounting, there is arguably a need to obtain professional accreditations to be promoted to manager level and above. In this case, it's not as much of a grey area especially when your firm is willing to sponsor the costs of these professional accreditations.

Our professional accounting accreditations were sponsored by our respective firms and the benefits of higher remuneration and career level are more obvious against the minimal costs that were incurred. However, studying while working was one of the most challenging things we have done and it really turned us off higher education. Unless we are being paid to study, is the pursuit of higher education worth it at this stage of our careers?

Relevance of Master's degree

Because of our experience, our view is that a full-time master's degree is now of little relevance to our career and personal development. It is a good way to increase your professional and social networks but offers little in terms of career advancement when compared to the costs of study.

Unless we are planning to change careers, a full-time master's degree is more of an opportunity to take a break from work and experience the life of a student again. It's less about the pursuit of knowledge but more about having another life experience elsewhere. We don't expect a full-time master's degree to change our life but to enhance it now that we will appreciate the experience more.

Ultimately, it's important to weigh the costs of higher education versus its benefits. It's not sufficient for you to just study what interests you without considering the payoff because you might end up paying a steep price for your decision.

Sunday, 26 June 2016

Hopes and plans after turning 30

After looking back at my life on turning 30, this post will be about my hopes and plans after turning 30. This is the start of my next decade and 10 years is a good time frame to set long-term goals and come up with ways to achieve them.

Career path

I used to do mostly tax compliance work when I was at accounting firms in Melbourne and Sydney. Now in Singapore, I'm doing mostly tax advisory work and much less tax compliance work. My wife has navigated herself to a projects role within the bank that utilises more of her strengths and allows her to have greater engagement with other teams.

Although our current jobs are more interesting, we have become more vulnerable to job cuts due to the nature of these roles. In a recession, there is less of a need for tax advice by firms and banks are more likely to reduce budgets for projects. Our higher job satisfaction has come at a cost of increased retrenchment risk.

We do think about how our careers would develop over the next several years and what we would like to work in. If I continue to stay in the tax field, I might consider moving in-house and work in the financial industry or another industry that interests me. My wife would most likely stay in the banking industry but move to other projects or technical roles.

Having children

We are starting to get asked by our families and relatives when we are planning to have children. This question is inevitable given the number of years we have been together. It could be because my wife and I have gotten used to living by ourselves over the years but we don't see the rush to have children.

It's a big life decision and the timing of it will have a significant impact on every aspect of our life. Financially, we would have to budget for the high costs of having and raising children. Socially, we would no longer have the flexibility to go for gatherings and holidays on a whim. Professionally, we would have a greater need for work-life balance in our jobs.

It would not just be the both of us anymore and I must admit that this scares us. Given how a big part of our relationship was built on us moving cities and travelling around the world to look for new experiences, you can see how the impact of having children worries us.

Although we know that having children in itself will be one of the most amazing experience we will have and these may seem like trivial considerations in comparison, we will never know what it will be like until we take that step.

Investments

Our ETF, Share and Other Portfolios have been growing at a decent pace but we should be looking to accelerate the growth of the ETF Portfolio. ETFs are really starting to become our preferred choice of equity investment the more volatile the markets get and the shorter the industry lifecyles become.

Interest and dividend income have been increasing with each year but I reckon we are holding too much cash in our asset portfolio for interest income to be greater than dividend income. This might not be a bad thing in view of recent events but definitely not a good thing in the long run. We are looking to utilise more of our cash for equity investments and expect a higher proportion of dividend income going forward.

We still think it's important to have exposure to USD, GBP and EUR in our ETF Portfolio again in view of recent events and will continue to invest in the ETFs listed on the London Stock Exchange. This might change if even more significant events occur down the road but we shall have to wait and see.

Retirement

At this stage, our goal is to grow our investments to a point where the monthly passive income equals or exceeds the monthly expenses. This allows us to achieve financial independence and we aim to do this by the end of the next decade. As such, retirement funding is not as high a priority for the next 10 years.

Granted, financial independence does translate to a form of early retirement but as I have mentioned in previous posts, we tend to view our retirement funds separately. We try to ensure that our CPF account balances grow consistently with each month from employer and our contributions despite using our CPF-OA for housing expenses and CPF-MA for medical expenses at times. Other than that, we don't intend to invest our CPF monies or do much else in this space.

Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Reflections on turning 30

I'm turning 30 this weekend and my 20s will be officially over by the start of the new week. It's nothing quite like watching the first digit of your age turn that gets you into a reflective mood. Besides, I have been writing quite a few personal finance posts lately about income, expenses and investments.

I thought it would be fun to write about my reflections for the past decade. I'm going to try writing these points in a chronological order as I take a walk down memory lane and I will also include life lessons that I picked up.  My next post, probably after my birthday this weekend, would be about my hopes for the next decade and allow me to stretch my mind to the future.


Reflections

Studying overseas

I had the opportunity to study overseas in Melbourne for my undergraduate degree and I continue to be grateful to my parents for providing me with that opportunity. Even though I was able to obtain a partial international student scholarship, it still required me to tap into the family finances for funding.

Having to learn how to live by myself, cook for myself and make new friends while in a foreign environment was one of the toughest things I had to do. It really showed me how sheltered I was despite me thinking I had grown up after National Service.

Life lesson: When you are young and live with your family, learn how to budget, shop for groceries & household items, cook healthy meals and wash the dishes & clothes even though there is no need to. Don't wait until you are forced to do so when you are older and living by yourself.

Staying on after graduation

It goes without saying that one of the best things that came out from studying overseas in Melbourne was that I met my wife at university. We studied hard, played hard, made friends and had a good time during our undergraduate years. In our final year, we had to make the decision whether to stay on in Melbourne or return to Singapore after graduation.

It was 2009 and the impact of the global financial crisis resulted in many accounting firms and banks in Australia reducing the intake of their graduate programs. Gaining a position in the graduate program was a good way for an international student to obtain PR, work full-time and stay on in Australia after graduation.

As you can imagine, many international and local students applied to these graduate programs in their final year and competition was stiffer than usual due to the bad economic conditions. Job prospects were bleak and we were getting rejections constantly.

If neither one of us could obtain a role in these graduate programs, it was still possible to find entry-level jobs but it would  be more difficult and required us to apply for them after graduating. We were young and looking for work while unemployed in a foreign country didn't sound appealing especially when we had the choice to return to Singapore and be employed almost immediately.

I was of the opinion that we should stay no matter the outcome but my wife wanted us to return to Singapore if we couldn't land the graduate program role. Stress levels were already high with academic pressure from having to clear the final year modules and it got even worse with us fighting about what we should do after graduation.

My memory of this period of time is one of the most vivid among our many experiences in Australia. You could say it was a bad memory for many reasons but what happened here was actually our turning point. I had just been rejected for the last graduate program I applied to and my wife had not heard from the last graduate program she applied to in weeks.

The phone rang in the morning at 9.30am and we were still sleeping when my wife took the call. We were up late the night before studying for a test and I remembered her being groggy when answering the phone. This turned into stunned silence before she started smiling widely and thanking the person on the other line to accept the position.

I always think to myself when I look back at this on how one single event can change the course of the lives of two people. To be honest, I still have no idea whether we would have stayed on if the person had called with news of a rejection.

Life lesson: Have fun at university but remember that what you study does impact your employment prospects after graduation. Job search is like hitting your head against the wall until it or you breaks. Luck is when the wall breaks first.

Working in Melbourne and Sydney

Having worked in Singapore for more than two years now, I can safely say we were fortunate to have spent our first four years of work in Melbourne and Sydney. The work environments were friendly and conducive to learning. The working hours were decent and we got off on time by 6pm and latest by 7pm.

We still hung out with friends from our university days during the weekends but got along well with our work colleagues. Since we had no family, we had to find ways to entertain ourselves during the weekend. We spent a lot of time driving out to places like Mornington Peninsula, Great Ocean Road, Yarra Valley, Blue Mountains, Hunter Valley etc for day trips and to various suburbs for brunches, lunches and dinners.

Life lesson: If you ever have the opportunity to work overseas in a city or country that interests you, take it. It might not be a life-changing experience but the fact that you will be doing many things that are different from before will change your life somewhat.

Buying an apartment

We bought an apartment in the East several years back close to my parents-in-law for investment/home ownership purposes. If we weren't back in Singapore by the time it was completed, we were planning to rent it out. Since the apartment was completed around the same time we returned to Singapore, we decided to move into it before our wedding.

Due to the apartment's proximity to my parents-in-law's place, we carpool into work and get to enjoy home-cooked dinners on weekdays and even on the weekends. If we decide to have children, it would be convenient and useful to have additional help available.

We didn't buy a BTO from the HDB or EC because our combined monthly gross income was above both income ceilings at that time. They were including our monthly Australian PAYG tax in the combined monthly gross income calculation and the Australian dollar was stronger than the Singapore dollar then. We got frustrated and didn't explore the option of a resale flat properly.

Although we get to enjoy several benefits from staying in our current apartment, the monthly loan repayment on the mortgage is about 25% of our combined monthly gross salary. This goes up to about 50% if one of us loses our job or stops working. It would have been lower if we bought a resale flat or EC and even lower if we bought a BTO.

Life lesson: Buying a property for investment or home ownership is one of the major financial decisions you will make in your life. Think hard about the value you are getting versus the price you are paying and make sure you buy what you can afford. 

Returning to Singapore

We made one of the biggest decisions in our lives to return to Singapore in 2014. After all, we had already built a life in Australia with friends and decent careers by then. In fact, we continue to get asked about this when we share our story.

The truth is, we were getting bored in Australia and wanted to try something different. My wife and I had transitioned through the phases of undergraduate study, graduate level work and experienced level work together and found ourselves growing & maturing each time. However, each phase happened in Australia and we found ourselves wondering what it would be like to work and live in Singapore.

Since we were planning to get married in 2014, we took the opportunity to return to Singapore to build a new life for ourselves. We worked longer hours and found ourselves getting re-acquainted with old friends who had drifted apart over the years. We made new friends from work but it does get harder to change social circles as you get older. We also had to adjust to having family obligations and spending more time with our families than we were used to.

This is basically where we are at right now. In terms of our personal finance skills, we learnt the basics when we were living in Australia but only got to a more advanced level when we returned to Singapore. I guess when you are back in a familiar environment with more experience and skills, it is possible to achieve more since you have to worry less about your day to day living.

Life lesson: Don't be afraid of change and taking risks. It's almost always a good thing when you get to the end and look back.

Thursday, 9 June 2016

Increasing income vs cutting expenses

The previous post on our average monthly income & expenses in Singapore is useful in providing a context for this discussion on increasing income vs cutting expenses. It was a big step to reveal those figures but should be a good reference point as we update them going forward for changes in our lives. It's always interesting to see how our income and expenses will evolve over time.

Now that you have a better picture of our monthly personal finance position, it's time for me to write about a topic that has been on my mind since we started tracking our net worth in Jan 2016. Should we focus on increasing income and/or cutting expenses?
Increasing income

This is going to come as a shock to some people but our undergraduate degree in accounting and our occupations as accountants continue to be two of the best decisions we have made in our lives.

It was our undergraduate degree in accounting that provided us with the platform to obtain Australian Permanent Residency after graduating in 2009. Being Australian Permanent Residents definitely made it easier to live and work there instead of returning to Singapore after graduation.

As accountants, we already have a basic understanding of income, expenses, assets and liabilities. Hence, applying these concepts to our personal finance situation was less difficult. Our field of work also provided us with the opportunities to work in Melbourne, Sydney and Singapore as the skills and knowledge are transferable across the industries and firms.

Our experiences in these past 6 years have made us realise that it was the increases in salary income that contributed the most to our wealth building journey. When you have just started working, your salary is most likely your biggest source of income. This will probably be the case for many years unless you take the time and effort to develop other sources of income that can replace your salary income.

However, we have noticed that it can be difficult to develop these other sources of income in our initial years of work. This is the period of time where we pick up our technical skills and knowledge, which requires a certain level of focus. We obtained our professional accounting accreditations during this time and got to broaden our social and professional networks.

We definitely had the time to build up side hustles and investments if we wanted to but most of our focus and effort was spent on developing ourselves to increase our salary income. This has worked out for us so far and has contributed a great deal to where we are today.

Now that our salaries and assets have reached a certain level, we are in a position to decide how to increase our income going forward. Should we continue to focus on increasing our salary income or build up another source of active income or allocate even more cash funds to accumulating financial assets that increase our passive income (dividend and interest)?

Other sources of active income

I have considered driving for Uber/Grab or tutoring on a part-time basis as other sources of active income. To be honest, unless there is a big push factor (e.g. job loss or medical emergency), I wouldn't take the time and spend the effort to explore these options over the weekend. Our jobs can be demanding and recharging over the weekend while spending time with my wife keeps us going for the next week. Not the best idea for me to drain myself out even more to earn additional income.

I also considered doing freelance writing or finding a way to monetise this blog going forward but realised that I like writing for myself at my own time and on my own terms. I might change my mind eventually but would like to keep my personal finance writing interest as a hobby for now.

More passive income

I seem to be left with investing more of our cash funds to ETFs, Shares and Bonds to increase our passive income. We are already doing this but it depends on market opportunities and we can't rush the process without getting ourselves into a financial mess. Patience is key when it comes to investing and I practise it often to avoid overstretching our finances.

Job security

Given the deteriorating economic conditions in Singapore, there is limited scope to increase the salary income in our current jobs unless we take the risk and move industries or firms and negotiate for a higher pay. How likely is this going to happen if there are job cuts everywhere?

Even our own job security is at risk if it continues to get worse and I'm starting to understand how easy it is to get stuck and feel stagnant in our jobs as we get older. Increasing our salary income has worked for us so far in our 20s but would it have the same effect as we enter into our 30s given the ever shortening job lifecycles?
Cutting expenses

I must admit that we have never been good at cutting expenses as a means to building wealth. In Melbourne and Sydney, we rented apartments that were located in the city so we could walk to work and meet up with our friends and colleagues easily. This resulted in us paying a higher rent than if we were to rent apartments located in the city fringe or suburbs.

We had broadband, cable TV and mobile phone plans subscriptions. We bought groceries to cook our meals at home on weekdays and ate out on weekends. We bought our morning coffees and had drinks with colleagues on some work days while buying our lunches on most work days. We had staycations at hotels, did day trips and travelled overseas often using our annual leave and public holidays.

Percentage budgeting approach

We did use a percentage budgeting approach to our net monthly income i.e. 33% accommodation & related expenses, 33% living & entertainment & travel expenses and 34% savings. That's how we managed our expenses and although we did make an effort not to overspend to leave ourselves with about 40% savings in some months, we never really focused on making significant cuts to our expenses.

Even now that we are back in Singapore, you can see from our average monthly income & expenses that the percentage budgeting approach has stayed roughly the same. There was some level of lifestyle inflation but almost always within the percentages we have set out.

When I read other personal finance blogs, I know it is possible for us to try and cut our expenses significantly to increase our savings rate. But it's just not our preferred approach to building wealth. We realised at some point in time that our potential to increase income far outweighs our ability to cut expenses. This is not to say we enjoy working but we do acknowledge the benefits work has brought us.    

Ultimately, you have a limited amount of time, energy, focus and your effort is better spent on what works best for you. The 30% to 40% savings rate has gotten us this far and we probably wouldn't try to increase this to 50% unless again there is a big push factor (e.g. job loss or medical emergency). It could be laziness for us to wait for life to decide such important matters for us but what's wrong with enjoying our lives while waiting?

Saturday, 4 June 2016

Monthly Income and Expenses

I have been reading the monthly income and expenses reports of personal finance bloggers around the world. It's always an interesting experience because you get to see the impact of different tax systems, employee vs self-employed income differences, retirement fund scheme contribution variations etc.
In the interest of contributing to the global personal finance blogosphere, I might share our average monthly income and expenses report in Singapore. The figures in the report are not exact and not for any specific month. Instead, these figures represent the monthly average since we started tracking our net worth in Jan 2016. For illustrative purposes, the current foreign exchange rate is S$1 to US$0.72. 

I will include commentary on each item to provide some context to these figures as applied to our specific situation in Singapore. I should note that the figures may vary widely for another working couple at our age (30 and 28) in Singapore employed in similar or other industries. This is due to differences in level of experience, field of work, family and personal circumstances etc.


Salary

The amount of S$12,000 represents our combined  monthly gross salary from being employed full-time in the accounting and banking industries. It also includes our annual bonuses (about 1 month gross salary each) averaged across 12 months.

The annual bonus is a big deal in Singapore and I was quite surprised by it when I first returned from Australia. I never received an annual bonus while working in the same accounting firm in Melbourne and Sydney. Then again, the base salary tends to be higher in Australia compared to Singapore, which probably made up for it.

Given that we have been working for about 6 years in the same fields, S$12,000 is probably a reasonable combined amount to be pulling in considering we work the average number of hours each day in Singapore i.e. 9am to 7pm.

Dividend

The amount of S$500 represents the distributions we receive from our ETF and share holdings. Dividends paid by a Singapore resident company are tax-exempt under the one-tier corporate tax system when received by an individual. Hence, most of our distributions are not included as taxable income in our annual personal income tax returns.

Interest 

The amount of S$500 represents the interest we receive from our corporate bond and cash holdings. Interest paid by approved banks and debt securities in Singapore is tax-exempt when received by an individual. Hence, most of our interest earned is not included as taxable income in our annual personal income tax returns.

Mortgage 

The amount of S$2,700 represents our monthly payment on our housing loan at the current interest rate of about 2.2%. This gets adjusted every 3 months based on the prevailing 3 month SOR + 1%.

CPF Contributions

The amount of S$2,400 represents the 20% of our combined monthly gross salary of S$12,000 that is a mandatory employee contribution into the national retirement fund scheme - Central Provident Fund (CPF). This ensure that each Singaporean is contributing to his/her retirement as long as he/she remains active in the workforce.

Credit Card Bills

The amount of S$2,300 represents the monthly bill payments we make on all our credit cards. We try to charge most of our expenses to credit cards to get cash rebates. In fact, this is how I contribute funds to my parents as well even though I no longer live with them - by letting them charge the family utilities, cable, broadband and groceries expenses to my supplementary card.

Cash Payments

The amount of S$800 represents the cash payments we make on expenses that can't be charged to our credit cards. This also includes cash transfers to our parents as monthly contributions and cash withdrawals for exchanging to foreign currencies when we travel.

Income & Property Tax

The amount of S$500 represents the monthly income tax and property tax interest-free instalment that we pay to IRAS. Singapore's personal income tax rates are low compared to the rest of the world. I can use the calculation of our annual tax liabilities as an example.

Our individual annual gross salary is S$72,000 (i.e. monthly gross salary of S$6,000 x 12 months). Taking into account the mandatory employee CPF contribution is tax deductible, each of our annual taxable income is S$57,600. The individual annual tax payable is about S$1,782 (i.e. effective tax rate of 3.1%).

This is one of the main benefits of working in Singapore. If you think about it, the mandatory employee CPF contribution not only increases your retirement funds but also decreases your tax liability. In addition to already low personal income tax rates, you can see how it helps by adding to our asset portfolio and provide us with more cash on hand.

Property tax rates on our owner-occupied apartment are progressive and applied on the Annual Value of the property. For an average 2-bedroom apartment like ours, the annual property tax is S$800 (i.e. effective tax rate of 2.9%).

We can pay our annual income and property taxes via an interest-free monthly instalment plan for a year, which reduces the drawdown of our cash holdings since the monthly amount payable is deducted over the next 12 months.

Maintenance Fees

The amount of S$300 represents the monthly maintenance fees we pay to our apartment complex property manager. This covers the cost of maintaining the general health of shared facilities, day to day costs of the facilities' upkeep and long-term structural costs.

Savings

Our average monthly savings rate is 30.8% and this leaves us with S$4,000 as savings at the end of each month. We allocate this amount according to our asset allocation strategy to try and generate proportionate growth across our entire asset base. That way, we are less likely to neglect one of these aspects of our asset portfolio -  investment, retirement and cash. 

Wednesday, 1 June 2016

Monthly dividend income hits S$1,000

Once in a while, I write these numerical milestone posts to celebrate certain achievements with our asset portfolio and passive income. It's a long and tough journey to financial independence and these results keep us motivated to keep going.

Previously, I wrote in April 2016 about our monthly passive income exceeding S$1,000. This takes into account the monthly dividend and interest income that we receive. For May 2016, our monthly dividend income has exceed S$1,000.
We only started to aggressively build our Share portfolio in late 2015 & early 2016 and most of the holdings pay their dividends in May 2016. It made sense for May 2016 to be our first big month for dividends but I wasn't expecting it to hit S$1,000 so soon. Anyway, we have not re-invested these dividends yet due to the recent rallies in the global stock markets.

The more volatile the equity markets, the more closely we stick to our dollar cost averaging investing strategy. In any case, it is difficult to be successful at market timing over the long run. How would you know whether this is a good or bad time to invest if you have no way of knowing what the future holds.

Positioning of Asset Portfolio

Going forward, this is how we have positioned ourselves. We have a sizeable ETF & Share portfolio that generates dividend income and the amount varies according to the state of the global economy. Recently, there has been dividend cuts for a number of our holdings but we have made up for it by taking advantage of price weaknesses to accumulate more ETFs and shares. We always keep ourselves vested in the stock markets no matter what the state of the global economy is.

The investment cash & bonds components of the Other portfolio and remaining cash on hand generates interest income, the amount of which has been greater than our dividend income so far for 2016. The wholesale life policies and retirement funds (CPF and Superannuation) do not generate income that we can use now but their values grow slowly over time with regular contributions regardless of market performance.

It's good to know we still have the CPF and Superannuation for retirement if our investing strategies blow up in our face. This is the main reason why we don't really invest our retirement funds in equities and keep them separate from everything else.

Scenario Analysis

If the global economy enters into a severe recession with stock markets tanking, we would re-direct a significant amount of the investment cash and remaining cash on hand into equities. The short-term performance of our ETF & Share portfolio would take a hammering and we are not going to like it. However, the subsequent market recovery will accelerate the portfolio growth if we can hang in there and not give up.

If the global economy stagnates and stock markets track sideways, we will continue with our normal drawdown of investment cash and dollar cost average into equities. This scenario does nothing for our mental state and we end up waiting for something to happen most of the time.

If the global economy booms with stock markets going into bull runs, we will slow our drawdown of investment cash and let the cash holdings generate more interest income. Since we not planning to withdraw from our ETF & Share portfolio anytime soon, it would be nice to see the value increase but this has little long-term impact other than making us feel good.

There you have it - our strategies for the 3 possible scenarios. Writing them out is the easy bit. It's implementing them that takes a lot of self-belief and discipline. During the most recent bear market in early 2016, I felt fearful and terrible when purchasing more ETFs and shares. It's hard for any external positive reinforcement when you are surrounded by all the doom and gloom. And the severity was no where near the Global Financial Crisis in 2007/2008.

In times like this, there is only internal positive reinforcement and faith in the strategy you are undertaking. I'm sure such a time will come again and I can only hope I use it for wealth building and not wealth destruction.