The "Untold Story" of My Decision to F.I.R.E at Age 45

What makes me want to stop working in the midst of high career path and promising career advancement? You don’t suddenly wake up and walked into your boss room tender your resignation letter and saying that you want to R.E (retire early) although you have achieved F.I and unless you have other plan like setting up your own business or helping the family to run the business etc.
First of all, allow me to share a few good blog-posts on F.I and R.E  and some misconception of people about F.I.R.E before telling the "untold story" about my decision to R.E. As I mentioned before, to achieve F.I is a must and should be our ultimate goal, whereas to decide whether to have early retirement or not is very personal and depends on individual's wish and circumstances, R.E is just an option.

Once you have achieved F.I, you may decide to carry on with your work if you enjoy and like it very much, you may also opt for doing part-time to have more time and flexibility.  Set your on priority and ensure that you spend and enjoy your time after F.I to the fullest.

There is no right or wrong in this case, so long as it suits your own ways of living and be happy. Life after F.I is just a " Freedom To Choose "...the ways you like to live, play and spend your free time.

“I've made mistakes in the past talking about the concept of financial independence to people who weren't ready to accept them.

It's incredibly frustrating talking to these group of people who seem to surround it with not only negative connotation that they are not acceptable but also refuse to listen to views that other people have.”

My friend (B) recently put up a great article about the misconception of F.I.R.E, his observation about how peoples think about F.I.R.E and also his “predicament” in facing the interviewer who has doubt about his “commitment” towards his new job once he achieved financial independence.

I don’t think this is a matter of commitment rather it is a matter “perception”, as H.R may think that employee who still has much personal “commitment” will stay in the company for a longer period and afraid to job-hop easily. But does it related to job productivity or capability? I’m not sure, but a matter of fact, if you think from the other perspective, people who have achieved F.I could be more aggressive/bold  in decision making and taking responsibility for what decision they made as “they are not afraid of “losing a job”. Job satisfaction or achievement maybe more important for them since “monetary reward” may just be a “by-product” for them to continue working even after achieving F.I.

As I mentioned before, many people may still want to work even after achieving F.I as to avoid “ loss of identity or sense of self or purpose “ in our life. Human as “social animal” need to interact and communicate, we need to have a sense of belonging to avoid “loss of identity”.

Life after F.I could be very much different for those with kids or without kids (or with a partner who has the same aspiration and shared the same value of F.I), else one may feel “boring” easily after a few months of stop working from early retirement.

A friend of mine was really happy and pleased when he was offered an early-retirement package ( with a golden handshake ) due to company restructuring. He really looks forward to his new life and plans on how to enjoy his retirement to the fullest.

Well, for the first few months, he and his wife try to work out some holiday plans together and really enjoyed the wonderful times together. Guess what, a few months later, after his wife returning to work from long leave, he starts to feel bore and realized that he may suffer and slides into a slight depression.  He experienced “loss of identity “ which defined his” job, career achievement, status” and the most important connection to the society. Without peoples surrounding him while most of his friends still working ( except me, but how many times I can “jio him to lim Kopi” as I have my own life and things to occupy ), he lost his sense of purpose and finally choose back to work again.

I have a similar problem when I have just stop working for a few months i.e “Loss of Identity”, you felt proud of being called “Mr S , Mr S “ by your staffs, in the office and chair the weekly meeting, flying in business class, being treated with thousand dollars meal from vendors, surrounded by full of hampers in your office during festive seasons etc…

All these suddenly gone after you decided to F.I.R.E (your boss ). I am lucky that I will be able to find the “purpose of life” in a different way and things to occupy my time. As I mentioned earlier, early retirement with kids or without kids, or whether your partner or spouse also retiring at the same time and sharing the same idea or philosophy of F.I.R.E, make things much different.

Suddenly, you have additional 8-10 hours to spend every day after waking up in the morning. One will really need to have a plan to ensure that you have something meaningful to do, else you may end up like my friend.

Why Most People Is getting Wrong About F.I.R.E

What Everybody Is Getting Wrong About FIRE < from>
"Everybody uses the FIRE acronym because it is catchy and “Early Retirement” sounds desirable. But for most people who get there, Financial Independence does not mean the end of your working career.
Instead it means, “Complete freedom to be the best, most powerful, energetic, a happiest and most generous version of You that you can possibly be.”.....

1. Early Retirement Isn’t Always the Goal

2. It’s About Saving and Investing, Not Pinching Pennies

3. Freedom Is the Goal, Not Money

The "Untold Story" About My Decision to F.I.R.E

Sometimes my friends ask me why I don't do this, do that since I am so free and have so much free-times after stop working since 2015. " You should try to start your own business or pursue your studies in getting more certificate in XXX or Master of YYY..." some told me that.

Well, my response is always the same that: I am just -

胸无大志xiōnɡ wú dà zhì,出处,姚雪垠《李自成》第二卷第三十六章:至于回、革等人,实系凡庸之辈,胸无大志,三年来观望风色,动摇不前。是指心里没有远大志向。

Loosely translated as “ to have no aspirations or unambitious “  :D

As mentioned earlier, people can still choose to work even after achieving F.I, depending on his/her own situation.

At least for me, this is my story.....

Am I suddenly become "lazy and unambitious" or sick of all the work I have been carried out for the past 20 years? that suddenly, my mind shouted to me " I have enough KPIs, Targets, Cost cutting, Strategic Review and meeting after meeting .....for the past 21 years , climbing the corporate ladder. I just wanted to have a simple life and spending more time with friends and family, more exercise, more gaming & Pokemon, reading, enjoy watching movies on NetFlix (which I seldom have such luxury time during my working life), going back to my hometown (spending time with my Mum)."

No...No. No !, that was not how the story goes, I used to be very aggressive and highly ambitious in my career and future. I was the youngest Deputy General Manager in my company ( a fortune 500 and world top 10 shipping company) at the age of 42. I really worked hard to achieve that.

You don't suddenly woke-up and throw in your resignation letter to your boss, saying "Hey !! I have enough of all these bullshit working environment & corporate life, here is my letter !! ", although you have saved enough "Fxxx You Money". 

In normal case, a stressful and an un-conducive working environment will be the "push factors" for the reason of resignation and of course the "pull factors" will be a better prospect or salary package from the company that offered you the new job.

But for the case of F.I.R.E, the "push factors" may still be the same and clear stress, but how about the "pull factors"? You will not enjoy the better pay or prospect from "new company", it is just the meaning of another "life", a completely new "life".

So what makes the change and be the main "pull factor" in this case?

CA 125 Change Our Perspective about Life & Money

What is CA 125?

CA 125 is a protein that is a so-called tumour marker or biomarker, which is a substance that is found in greater concentration in tumour cells than in other cells of the body. In particular, CA 125 is present in greater concentration in ovarian cancer cells than in other cells. It was first identified in the early 1980s, and the function of the CA 125 protein is not currently understood. CA stands for cancer antigen. CA 125 is often measured as a blood test.

A normal and routine body checked up and blood test in 2014 totally change our perception about life and money.  We normally include the “ cancel marker test ” in our blood test.

The report for my wife had shown a high CA 125 level and our GP requested us to go for a further check-up at the hospital. We went to the specialist on the same week and further diagnostic/scan confirmed that there was an approx. 9 cm cyst beside her right ovary. As usual, the doctor recommends for further testing to do a biopsy to determine if it was a “cancerous tumour “ or just a normal cyst. We were shocked and sadden by the news initially and of course, pray for the best with quick test and treatment if needed.
After the surgery, we were relieved and happy to know that it was just a cyst and been removed during the operation.

From there onwards, our perception of “life” changed dramatically …..which lead to our decision to say “ enough is enough” time to take a break and re-think our priority in life, spending more quality time with family and our loved one. Subsequently, F.I.R.E was the biggest decision we made in 2015.

当你在生死边缘走一回 , 你的 人生观 会彻底的改变. 你对金钱的价值观, 也会不一样的见解! ,   变的不是重要了 , 你会比较些精神上, 而不是物质上享.
金钱是幸福生活的必要条件,但金钱并不等于幸福 , 所谓金钱能买到婚姻,但是买不到爱情;金钱能买到高级睡床,但是买不到睡眠;金钱能买到贵重药品,但是买不到健康 珍惜生命,再多的钱 ,也只对有生命及健康的人有意义

Taking this opportunity, I would like to highlight and emphasize the importance of having a good “hospitalisation insurance plan” where it really help/assist in time of need like this. Luckily, my wife has a “rider” which cover private hospital and also pre & post 90 days treatment-related cost. All the cost has been covered and the whole process from testing/scan to the operation was fast within 2 weeks’ time. Other than cost recovering, of course, more importantly, is the time and speed taken from test/scan to having an operation to remove the cyst, imagine the “mental stress” one would have to bear with if such things drag for months waiting for the result and operations.

Why I suddenly want to write this “untold story “ about my decision to F.I.R.E? This is because of Covid-19 pandemic and again, I realized that life is so “fragile/vulnerable/unpredictable “.

Is important to take care of your health and what is the meaning of having more money, but if don’t have good health to enjoy and worse still lose your life due to stress or illness.

As I mentioned, once you have achieved F.I , is up to you if you want to R.E . Every person who chooses to R.E may have his/her own story under certain unique or peculiar circumstances.

How about you? if you choose to R.E, what is your “story” to tell?

Is F.I.R.E still relevant now?

I would think that F.I still is an ultimate goal we wanted to achieve but as for R.E, one will need to plan and think carefully as we have seen dividend been cut or reduced significantly, some European Bank even have to totally suspend their dividend pay-out in order to preserve more cash during this COVID 19 crisis.

You will need to look at your expenses and do a stress test again whether you could survive or have enough cash flow to cover your expenses during this critical time. As for me, a 75% reduction in dividend would still be ok to cover my monthly expenses, without any mortgage outstanding. My biggest yearly expenses used to be holidays or travelling, but now with this Covid19 pandemic, my biggest expenses will be curtailed and back to just our basic and simple lifestyle, moreover , with no eating out at a restaurant and more home cooking food.

With things getting serious and the government just announced more social distancing measures and “ circuit breaker “ to close more workplace and schools from next week onward:  Stay home – Stay SafeStay United , be strong and hope this crisis may over soon, pray for those been affected by COVID 19.

Lastly, allow me to share this interesting video from Bill Gates which he gave in 2015.



Quote Of The Day :

"Freedom is not the absence of commitments, but the ability to choose - and commit myself to - what is best for me."Paulo Coelho



  1. Thanks for sharing your story. Indeed your good planning, saving and invest prudently all these while has paid off. You have the choice whether to go slow, smell the flower or watch the sun rise/ sun set everyday. I am glad you chose it for your family.

    I was in a similar position before. It was difficult to call it a day but then I cannot visualize myself like my parents. They retired old, in their 60s (no choice) . They are unable to enjoy life as they thought they want it to be. Their legs are too weak to travel long and far. They also feel exhausted quickly to do much due to lower energy. They just sit around at home most of the time.

    When I first retired, initially it was difficult to adjust. I felt I was wasting my life. It was after many months of reflection on life that I made my bucket list. Right now, I am accomplishing them one by one.

    Looking back, I am happy that I have made the right decision to slow down. There are so much more in life other than money, status and power.

    1. Hi D,
      Thanks for the comments, I am glad that you managed to adjust your life after retirement n happy to enjoy your retirement life now. Yah... money is not everything, one must be happy n contented with what we have don't always compare with others on what we don't have... Cheers :D

  2. Hi STE,

    How is your wife's health today? I hope she has perfect score for her regular health check-ups. Same for you.

    I see you were a capable business executive with an impressive track record. Although I think it's a pity for a capable person to retire early, I think it's better for him and his employer that he goes ahead to FIRE if he has lost the motivation and ambition for the job. An unmotivated person can't do a good job even if he's very capable.

    I sense that you're a happier man after FIRE :)

    Stay safe during this virus season. This virus forces many Singaporeans to have more family time with their wife and kids. At least something good out of this crisis.

    1. Hi hyom,
      Thanks for the concern, my wife is perfectly ok now, she just have her followed up ultra sound scan last year.. everything is normal.
      Yah...this virus made ppl stayed closer n chance for us to hv more family bonding... although is sad that we see lost of life from many part of the world.
      You too, please stay safe and take care.

  3. Hi Sim

    Thanks for sharing your unearthed story about why you chose to pursue FI and glad your wife is OK.

    And it is also a good opportune time during the Covid to look back to the basic of what's really important to us. If there are one positive thing about Covid, it is that being confined to staying at home means everyone is closer together with their loved ones and being able to cherish this moment which many are unfortunately not able to do so if they are sick or during normal routine time.

    1. Hi B,
      Thanks for the comments, yes, Covid19 made us to think n do some reflection about life ..and as you said, it also force us stay closer and have more times for our family. Slow down a bit ( of course without losing our job) might be good at this point of some planning n reflections... money always never enough..
      Cheers. :D

  4. Hi STE,

    Thanks for sharing your stories. Glad to hear that she is doing well now.

    This pandemic has also hit my hard when one of my family members has to serve the Stay Home Notice due to close contact with a confirmed case. That's when I realise how serious the situation is and the significance of having good health, especially in crisis like this. No amount of money can get you good health.

    Hope that everyone can stay strong and healthy especially during this period.

    1. Hi TBWP,
      Thanks for the comments , yes , indeed , maintaining healthy lifestyle is important in fighting this pandemic. Hope your family member is fine after completing the SHN...
      Stay Home and Stay Strong !!
      Cheers :D

  5. Hi STE
    Good to read yoir post again. I call it a day at 48. Was travelling heavily for 18Y. Some years, I am.on a plane every week. Got really sick of it and said bye bye when there was a coeporate restructuring. Time flies and X yrs has gone by. Nowadays mostly KLKK and see stock market. LOL. Maybe one day jio you drink kopi.

    1. Hi Henry,
      Good to know that you are also on F.I.R.E ! :D , yah, time flies when when we are on FIRE as well, always have plan for next destination to go for short staycation or holidays, other than that , mostly 英英美黛子( in Hockkien) and KLKK :D
      But now with this Covid19 pandemic , will need to stay home & stay safe....sure ! can always jio for "kopi" session once this virus crisis is over.
      Take care !! Cheers

  6. Your FIRE definition is perfect. I told your family story to my wife and that is also time for me to retire :) Ofcourse won't be as rich as you. LOL But Money never enough ! So maybe is a blessing to get golden handshake. Two daughters will keep my time full anyway.

    1. Hi Cory,
      Thanks for the comment, yup , at some points , we will need to think about "money vs life" , of course , money is always not enough with higher lifestyle expectation. Yes, "golden handshake" is one of the good reason to FIRE and spend more time with family. :D
      I am sure you can also FIRE comfortably at this moment , sometimes we just need a strong " pull factor"...
      Cheers !!

  7. Hey you have written an best article. Keep doing hard work success will come to you. I have written an article on High risk investment high returns investment


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