I started this blog with the motivation to share my ongoing journey towards achieving F.I.R.E or financial freedom in Singapore. The initial idea was to start early, invest in dividend stocks and REITs, and build a steady stream of passive income progressively.
My very first investment was Ascendas REITs, 200 units @ $2.56. That is back in Oct 2018 while I was still in uni with loans and no money. Subsequently, I added more shares of Ascendas then Mapletree Logistics Trust and finally Capitalmall Trust during the Black Monday crash in 2020.
Along the way, I have also invested in crypto staking tokens, bought shitcoins here and there. But around mid-2020, I decided to get serious and did a major rebalancing of my crypto dividend portfolio. The 2 staking altcoins that I decide to go all-in is ICON (ICX) and Kyber Network (KNC).
To date, the total invested capital for my REITs is about $7.5k and for crypto staking tokens is about $6k.
Here are the cumulative dividends I have collected from my REITs and crypto. (*Dotted line is estimated dividends from crypto)
1. Crypto Dividends vs REITs Dividends
Even though I started a year earlier and invested much more capital in REITs, crypto returns have completely crushed REITs not just from a DPU standpoint but also capital appreciation.
Not only that, look around at all the REITs. The average yields you can get now for blue-chips are about 4%+ with wobbly capital appreciation. On the other end, crypto staking tokens are seeing massive growth and development and there is just so much upside potential.
The exponential curve in crypto dividends you see above is just the early beginnings of ICX and KNC. ICON has yet to launch so much more things that would drive the price of ICX up. Kyber is a DEX that is launching Kyber 3.0 soon and they give dividends in Ethereum (ETH).
It just does not make sense to me now to be investing in REITs for subpar yields and there are definitely better opportunities out there, especially when you are aware of them.
If you look at any of the Singapore stocks or banks or whatever, prices are a laggard. We are a small country and growth is capped unless businesses ventures abroad. It is just not worth the risk for a 4 – 5% yield with flat line capital appreciation or even a slow decline for some. We should look towards the future 5-10 years down and see where the opportunities lie today.
When REITs used to be trading at around 5.5% – 7.5% yield, the pathway to financial freedom in Singapore is still foreseeable. Now that they are depressed, your capital needs to work harder for an extra 20-30%.
Things have changed and so has my investment philosophy. I am placing less emphasis on REITs now unless yields come back above 5.5%. Else, it is all about crypto now.
2. Beating Inflation
As interest rates fall to zero and even negative, bond rates also fell. Similar to the REIT analogy, it used to make sense for companies investing hundreds and millions of dollars on bonds to earn 5-10% yields on bonds. But does it still make sense now that rates are 0% to 1%? Doing so would mean burning cash as inflation would have eaten up all returns.
Hence you see the trends of investors and companies moving into high-risk assets. Companies like MicroStrategy who has a huge pile of cash are forced into hard assets to hedge against inflation. That’s their primary motivation for going big into bitcoin. To protect their hard-earned money that is evaporating away silently through money printing.
It is either you go safe and burn your cash at a slower pace with government bonds or you search for alternative assets like bitcoin. In my opinion, bonds and fixed deposits are the worst investments you can ever make. 1-2% return with a capital lock-up period of 10 years? Can you imagine the massive amount of opportunity cost lost? And you end up poorer 10 years later due to inflation.
Ironically, the safest things now have the highest-risk and the highest-risk things are the safest. To de-risk is to risk. To risk is to de-risk.
3. Growth Investing vs Dividend Investing
In the past, my mind used to be 100% fixated on dividend stocks, dividend REITs, staking coins and etc. Basically any assets that have cash flow. This has narrowed my scope of vision tremendously and I have passed on a lot of good opportunities along the way.
Now I have awoken to the perspective that financial freedom need not be thought of as monthly cash flow > monthly expenses. You can achieve the same equation through growth investing by cashing out x% of your portfolio value every quarter or year.
Hence, the goal right now is to be a net-buyer. That means to accumulate as much as possible in every dip or just DCA. The bigger and faster your portfolio grows, the more time freedom you earn in the future. Once you reached a certain point, you can start to slowly cash out your profits and use the time to do other things.
Growth investing and dividend investing can be used to complement each other as you collect passive income from dividend assets + additional profits from growth assets. One gives certainty and stability while the other gives alpha and speed.
I would say I have shifted from a 100% all-in dividend investor to maybe a 60% growth and 40% dividend investor now. My capital allocation towards stocks and crypto is balanced out at 50-50 each. But I am placing more emphasis on crypto now as there is just too much going on out there in the parallel world.
Recently I have added LUNA Terra and Mirror (MIR) into my staking assets. And I added even more of both tokens after selling Mapletree Industrial Trust last week. Yields here are way higher and capital appreciation is even higher (I have 2-3x my capital so far, which would take 3-5 years for REITs). Let’s see how this goes by end of the year.
4. Rethinking F.I.R.E (Financial Freedom) in Singapore
And also as you grow older and experience more, you start to think about other things and understand that money is not everything. In the past, I used to be obsessed with chasing this financial freedom dream. It is all about money, money, money when you are young.
But soon later, I come to the realization that what makes one truly happy and fulfilled is not money after all. It is about the process, the hustling, the struggle, the learning, the chasing of goals, trying out new things, getting lost, relationships, experiences and memories.
Having all the money and time freedom in the world is meaningless and can even be depressing if you have no one to spend time with. You hear stories of people retiring young only to come back to work after a few years as they fall into boredom. Hence the saying, “It’s lonely at the top.” Humans have a fundamental need to belong to groups.
In Tim Ferris’s 4-hour workweek book, he talked about how we always have this ultimate goal to achieve. And we think we have to work for decades to reach this destination. Once we finally reached there after sacrificing half of our life, then we realized it is not what we thought how it should be.
He then went on to say we should experiment with our life and try things out in bits and pieces. Most of us talk about financial freedom, travelling the world, could be any goals or dreams, but we rarely have the courage to test out how it really is due to the artificial constraints we placed in life. Even though we can absolutely do so now.
For example, I can just withdraw $15,000 and imagine myself to be financially free for say 3-6 months. What would I do, where would I go? Then note down your feelings and experiences. Many would soon realize that it is a fad, a myth, an illusionary dream. But at least you did not take 40 years of slogging to realize that out.
5. Where To Next?
Now that I have cleared finished my student loans, I have finally become debt-free. I would have more capital to invest and I have started to think broader and look beyond REITs and dividend stocks. I think the biggest upside is still going to come from crypto.
Money comes in different ways and in different forms. It need not be solely from a dividend asset as I initially thought. Investing in yourself and upskilling is one form of money. Buying growth stock and withdrawing x% annually is another form of cash flow. Writing this blog is also money for me.
The thought is what matters. Ideas will naturally flow to you. The mental picture you have about money is 90%. The hows and technicalities only make up 10%.
I will still continue to invest and build up my passive income. It is still nowhere near the goal of F.I.R.E and financial freedom. The idea here is for the green line to cross over the red line. That is the Crossing of the Rubicon. The moment where passive income > monthly expenses. Would expect it to take a couple more years perhaps.
At the same time, I have also realized what matters and what do not. Zoom out and look at the bigger picture. The top 5 regrets of the dying are:
1. Having the courage to live a life true to oneself and not what others expect
2. Not work so hard
3. Courage to express feelings
4. Stayed in touch with friends
5. Be happier
So it is important to NOT stare at the charts, news and numbers your whole life, so focused on making money that you ignore everything else and miss out on life. Letting go and letting wealth flows naturally is easier and faster than burying your head down and obsessing about the nitty-gritty of making money.
At the end of the day, do what matters to you most and minimizes regrets in life as Jezz Bezos lives his.