I don't really admire his lifestyle, but I do admire his courage in daring to live a life so different. I definitely understand what he's trying to say in Point 7. In my experience, people do often somehow expect you to want for yourself what they want for themselves.
You can enjoy retirement on $20 a day
By Narendra Aggarwal - Oct 20, 2006
Not many people are as lucky as Mr Melvyn Chew, who quit full-time work at age 37 to go into semi-retirement.
He decided to drop out of the rat race to opt for an easier pace of life.
Trained as a lawyer, he worked as a legal assistant in a law firm here for just three years when he decided to move on to acting and teaching, which he has been doing on a part-time basis since.
"I started thinking about not having to work full-time since I was in my 20s," Mr Chew, now 42, tells AsiaOne in an interview.
Said the bachelor: "Many people don't want to go to work every morning because they do not enjoy what they are doing. Coming from an acting background, I have many friends who, like me, don't like the idea of being tied down to full-time work.
I don't have a budget. I think I don't really have to work at all, if I keep expenses at this level. But it's fun to do so.
"You do not need a lot of savings to go into semi-retirement. But I made sure that I paid up my housing loan before I decided to take it easy.You don't really need huge savings to retire. I think if you have $50,000 put away, semi-retirement is a workable option.''
Being single helps as this frees him from the financial commitments which a married man would be saddled with. He gets by on less that $20 every day. Breakfast is at home, lunch costs about $2.50, and dinner, $3. Add another $3 for transport. "I really don't understand what people spend on - you do not need much money for
your day-to-day expenses," he says.
He loves cooking, so he doesn't eat out as often. But once a week, he gives himself a treat and goes to "a nice place to enjoy the finer things in life,'' he confesses. And despite his modest means, he has been able to suss out cheap holidays to Chiangmai on $200, Australia for $1,000 and even toured France and Spain for less than $2,500.
As for getting around, he uses public transport. "I live in a small walk-up private apartment, the size of a three room HDB flat, in Novena. So it's very convenient taking the MRT.''
His part-time jobs - teaching business law at Singapore Management University and Nanyang Polytechnic and some acting assignments - provide him enough to get by every month.
"My income is irregular. Some months it is in the hundreds, while in some other months I make a few thousand. I really don't keep track of the money. All I know is that I spend less than what I make.''
But he has to manage his tight budget carefully. "Budgeting to me is a game of some sort, while most people find it a chore and give it up after a while,'' says Mr Chew, but he declined to say how much of savings he has and how that money is invested.
What about the future? And old age?
"I do not worry too much about the future. I am a Christian and believe that God is looking after me''
Some tips from Mr Melvyn Chew on how to stretch a shoe-string budget:
1.You don't have to be rich to retire early. Such a sad fallacy. You simply have to reduce your expenses without really reducing your quality of life. Hence, if you can get along very well on say $1,000, you really don't have to be a millionaire.
2.To be totally retired can be boring and costly. So, it's best to have some work to do. If your work brings in say, $400 a month, you only need $600 from your savings or investments.
3.Decide which are the things you value most, and which give you the greatest pleasure. Go for what is most necessary to you and allocate money to these first, for example, a home, food, transport etc.
4.Be creative. If you are a sociable person, then share a home with someone. Or if you have your own place, rent out your rooms. If not, rent a room. Cook your own meals - that saves heaps.
5.Enjoyment. Very necessary. Otherwise what would life be? If you want to retire on very little, you probably wouldn't have much money here. Well, I decided to be radical. Sold off the TV. No more plays and theatre. But there are many cheap and enjoyable things to do. I've gone on $200 trips to Chiangmai, and $1,000 holidays to Australia. And a one-month trip to France and Spain for less than $2,500. Including delicious food, ballet performances, the Louvre (free first Sunday of the month), many other museums, the French Alps, Gaudi's Holy Family Church, Euro Disney, etc.
6.Cheap enjoyment? The credit card 1-for-1 offers are great.
7.It is also best to keep your careful ways to yourself. Most people don't seem to appreciate that you don't have to work while they do. They'd rather that you were mortgaged to the hilt. Don't let them know your careful ways or they'll use it against you.
8.So, look rich. But don't spend much. Do a bit of research. Take the Crystal Jade restaurants, for example. If you're just having dimsum, go to Crystal Jade Palace. The dimsum there costs about 15 per cent more than the dimsum at Crystal Jade Kitchen. But the service and ambience and general good feeling you get is more than worth it.
9.Oh yeah. a bit about cutting down. Clothes. Fifty years ago, people used clothes till they were worn. Nowadays, people seem to throw away brand new clothes. Well, I have items which are 15 years old. And people compliment me on them. Another thing, if you can do something yourself, then do so. I cut my own hair. So, I only go to the barber once or, at most, twice a year. But make sure doing it yourself doesn't cost you more in the long run, for example, buying all sorts of ingredients just to make a cake that can be bought more cheaply.
10.One more. Turn a hobby into a money maker. I happen to know Thai. And I enjoy teaching. I've been teaching Thai at various community centres - mainly for the fun of it.
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