How A Poor Kid Got To A 1M Investment Portfolio | Tips & Principles Of Building Wealth

This is not a rags-to-riches story but I hope to share my journey of getting to a million dollars investment portfolio and may you find some of the tips useful or inspiring to start working towards this target.

I have a confession to make first. At this time of writing, my portfolio value is down by 60%. However, this post is mainly to share how I got to the 1M mark, rather than deep dive into the investing mistakes. For the latter, I have actually shared the lessons learned in these posts below:
Happy 10 Years Of Investing | 348k (Realised) Profit, 635k (Unrealized) Loss & 10 Lessons Learnt
What Is Worse Than Having A Portfolio With $618,800 (Unrealized) Loss?

Family Background

I grew up in a low-income family where both my parents were blue-collar workers. My parents were always working and I was alone at home most of the time during my schooling years. Despite having to work on weekends for their second jobs or OT, we barely had enough for our family. We never had any holiday trips in over 2 decades, except for a short trip to Thailand.

However, my parents’ hardworking demeanor and grit taught me one thing about life, that is, it is okay to be poor, but as long as you are willing to hustle hard, you will never die of hunger. They proved this by working extra hard to make ends meet and we have not relied on government subsidies back then.

Working From A Young Age

I started working when I was in Primary school during the school holidays, where most of my friends and classmates were having fun in theme parks and Disneylands overseas. It was a food packer job at my Auntie’s food factory and I was paid $10 per day.

Subsequently, I worked various jobs during my school holidays and the pay increased from a few dollars per hour to tens of dollars per hour. The most lucrative job was teaching tuition where I was earning up to $50/hr. The pay was good and I continued even after starting my full-time job as an IT Professional.

During my schooling days, I also earned scholarships and bursaries for that extra bit of cash coming in to help with the family expenses.

I learned this lesson from many successful people: Hustle when others are relaxing and enjoying life so that you can relax and enjoy life when others are still hustling.

Frugal Lifestyle

I think an important reason why I can build my wealth is that I really try to live within my means. Firstly, I do not own any expensive watches because I basically don’t wear a watch (I reckon that a watch does not look nice on me because I have a really small wrist). I live in an HDB flat that is just big enough for my family’s needs. I do not own a car but every time I need to bring my family out to places that are inaccessible, I rent a car. I bought quite a number of new clothes from G2000 when there was a sale and have been wearing them for work for the past 15 years. My phone, Samsung S4, lasted 6 years before it died recently. In essence, I do not have any expensive hobbies and do not have a desire for cars, private property, or gadgets.

I know some people may question what’s the point of living such a miserable life where you can’t bear to spend money on yourself. The truth is, I don’t find joy in these material things and have never felt that I was suffering because I do not own expensive branded stuff. Since 10 years ago when I turned 30, I have found ways to be happy in the little things that are inexpensive, such as helping people and serving the community. The memories that I have had in the past 10 years are priceless. I even wrote a motivational book on finding happiness.

Maybe I grew up without much exposure to these material things, so I do not crave them when I finally entered the working world. It is a blessing in disguise as less spending on luxury items meant more savings and more money available for my investment capital.

Earning Money From My Passion

I remembered making money from my passion from a young age. My most expensive hobby when I was a Primary School kid was collecting the shiny Dragon Ball cards. However, I was also selling them to my friends and other collectors so that I can earn more money to sustain the hobby.

When I started working, I got very interested in fish keeping and set up 4 feet planted tank at my parent’s place. I then took a step further by breeding my fishes and selling them for money, I have bred guppies, discus, shrimps, and even moss to sell them to fellow hobbyists when I advertised in the fishkeeping forum. I bought a 2nd hand IKEA wooden rack and set up my breeding tanks and managed to make a couple of thousand dollars throughout the whole fish-keeping journey.

Between 2013 and 2019, I was consistently writing motivational articles on Facebook to help friends cope with negative emotions and live a meaningful and fulfilling life. Spur on by encouragement from my friends to write a motivational book, I finally embarked on the book project in 2017 and spent 2 years building the book from scratch and publishing it in 2019. I managed to sell 1000 copies of the book and earned some money, which would have been more if I did not donate part of the proceeds to charity or gave away 400 books to schools, libraries, homes and mental health institutions.

If anyone is interested, you can download a free copy of Volume 1 (total 3 volumes) here:

I think the above are some examples of how you can make money out of your passions and hobbies as it does not have to be one way of pouring money into them. You may earn some money while you enjoy your hobbies and passions in life.

Climbing The Corporate Ladder

The best things that came out of my education journey were meeting many great friends, forging memorable experiences and that piece of certificate that was collected at the end. I worked very hard during my Uni days and had zero hall life but I eventually graduated with 2nd Upper-Class Hons in Engineering. While my first job in civil service is somehow unrelated to what I studied, I was able to be emplaced on a different career path due to my qualifications.

In the first 5 years of my working life, I worked extremely hard to climb up the career ladder and was promoted twice during this period. The pay was competitive and together with the bonus package, I was able to raise money for my investment capital (since I lead a frugal lifestyle).

Identifying My Strength

I realise that in order to climb up the corporate ladder, you do not necessarily need to know everything. What’s more important is how you play to your strength and let your management notice you and appreciate your talent.

Being an IT professional who is not too interested in engineering stuff, I still manage to rise through the ranks because I have shown my other strengths in my work. For example, I was able to take on many projects at one day and coped well in a stressful environment, I was good at building relationships with my customers and they in turned gave me good ratings in the feedback forms, which helped me score point with my management. I also seized on the opportunities to excel in roles (e.g. secretariat duties) where others treated as no-value work.

Major Expenses

The road to accumulating 1M investment portfolio was hindered by major expenses while I accomplished life milestones such as getting married, buying a flat, having a child. I bought my HDB flat at a period where it was the seller’s market, supply was low and demand was high. A 30-year old in original condition was asking for as high as 60k Cash-Over-Value (COV) just purely based on location.

While there was baby bonus from the government when a child was born, it is never enough to cover the expenses of raising a child. Lastly, the biggest hurdle was that I am the sole breadwinner of my family and my spouse has not been contributing any income to the household for more than 10 years. That means I paid for everything (the major expenses listed above and the many smaller expenses of daily life) instead of sharing 50-50 like what many couples do.

Investing Journey

While my job and salary set the foundation of my investment capital, it was through investing that I managed to reach the 1M portfolio now instead of many years later.

This is how my profits (realized) grow every year for the last 10 years:

If I had not earned a net profit of $348k in my 10 years of investing journey, I would probably still be stuck at the 650k mark right now, if I had put my money in the bank.

I have written a separate article on my 10-year investing journey and the 10 lessons learned here:
Happy 10 Years Of Investing | 348k (Realised) Profit, 635k (Unrealized) Loss & 10 Lessons Learnt

Let’s look at some of the major wins that helped to accelerate my portfolio growth:

When I looked back on the bigger investing returns, I realised the biggest returns come from those profits made from selling shares that I bought when the prices were lower. So, it is important to understand the companies that you are buying into and buy them when they are undervalued. Over the long term, they are going to bounce back to their true value and when the time comes, you can choose to take profits on them and grow your capital. For example, I have made over 80k profits from the bank stocks (that I bought during the pandemic) over a period of 1 to 2 years. While waiting for the stock prices to recover, I received dividends as well.

I also made good returns through options trading and have shared the earnings made from options trading in another thread:
1st Year Options Trading Recap: The Journey Towards SGD$217,509 Profits In 2021

Concluding Thoughts

I think to get to the 1M mark or whatever target that you have set, you must find ways to generate more income or cut down on your expenses. Investing is a tool to help us grow wealth but it comes with its risk as well. Options trading has made me great profits but when the market crashed, my portfolio value also plummeted.

There are great companies like the Singapore banks that are stable, have good fundamentals, and pay a decent dividend as well. However, you cannot expect them to have high growth, for example. you can’t expect DBS to be the next Tesla because they have more or less past their exponential growth stage. The only way to still profit from these stocks is to buy them when the market crashes and sell them when the market peaks with optimism.

It will be good to keep some spare cash in safe assets such as the Singapore Saving Bonds that are currently (July 2022) at their historic high payout of 3% yield (average over 10 years), so that you can redeem them to buy the dip when the stock market crash, which there will be in the decades ahead.

The less risky method of growing wealth is to take on more side hustle (sideline jobs) but that comes at the expense of your time and possibly, your health if you overworked yourself. However, as I have shared above, you can always think of ways of getting more out of your hobby and passions so that you enjoy what you do and get paid for it.

Lastly, I think one very important question you need to ask yourself is this, why do you want to get to the 1M savings/ capital? Is it that everyone else aspires to do that so you want to do that too? Does 1M ease all your insecurities in an ever-changing world with plenty of uncertainties in the future over your job or financial situation? Does reaching 1M makes you happier or still make you feel insecure and want more? Does money solve all the problems that you are facing now or there are deep underlying issues that you have to address?

It is easy to think once you get to a target or milestone, say when you become a millionaire, you will be at this wonderful place where you are financially free and life is going to be perfect thereafter. If you think this way, it is going to lead you down the path of great disappointment. Because if this is true, then the millionaires are the happiest people and the poor people are the unhappiest.

Check out these 2 article headlines for context (both studies published this year):

We have so many rich people in Singapore but we are not among the Top 10 happiest countries in the world. That goes to show that money does not solve all problems and cannot buy all of your happiness.

I hope this article is useful to you in some ways or has given you some food for thought, be it on how to grow your wealth or the significance and purpose of attaining the target that you have set. I wish you all the best, in investing, personal finance, and living a meaningful and fulfilling life.

*** FREE RESOURCES ***
Keen to learn about options trading but do not wish to pay for expensive courses, this newbie guide will help gain the knowledge and fundamentals to understand options better. And it’s totally free!
The Newbie’s Guide To Options Trading

The LEAPS Strategy has helped me make more than USD120,000 in 2021. Here’s all you need to know about this strategy that can help you increase your wealth exponentially:
The Ultimate LEAPS Options Thread

Looking for ideas on what stocks to invest in or which stocks to trade? You can take reference from what I have been buying or selling. I try to update them as soon as I can in this section, as well as share my thoughts on executing these trades:
MY TRADES

If the bear market in 2022 is making feel depressed as your stocks come tumbling down, read this article to find out how you can use options trading to help you claw back some of your losses as you await market recovery:
How I Do Earn Even When The Stock Market Is Bearish?

Also, check out my trading strategies in different market conditions, whether it is bullish, bearish or volatile:
How Not To Lose Money In Trading? | My Trading Strategies For Bullish, Bearish And Volatile Market

I watched tons of videos on YouTube since 2020 and if you are wondering if there are any useful channels that you can subscribe to for learning market trends, TA, FA, check out this compilation here:
My Secret Weapons For Options Trading: I Watch These YouTube Financial Channels Every Day

I concluded my first year of options trading with more than USD160k of gain, see how I do it and the capital I use for every month to give you a sensing of the percentage yield I get out of my gains:
1st Year Options Trading Recap: The Journey Towards SGD$217,509 Profits In 2021

This blog is as authentic and as transparent as I can share, I do not just show the wins and hide the loss. I have made some very bad decisions in the first 8 years of investing and paid a huge price for them. Here is the loss I have accumulated during these years. I hope you learn some lessons from my mistakes.
I Cut $135,715 Worth Of Losses In The Last 1.5 Months

Want to learn more about Technical Analysis (TA) but find it difficult to grasp the concepts? This article brings you TA at a glance, and helps you understand key terminologies, indicators, and techniques used in TA to equip you with the knowledge that can empower you in your investing/ trading journey.
The Newbie Guide To Technical Analysis (TA)

Excited to start your trading journey or perhaps try out with a paper trading account to build your confidence in trading? Check out this step-by-step to help you get started:
How To Buy Options on Interactive Brokers (Step-By-Step)

After accumulating more than 600k of unrealized losses on my portfolio, I wrote this article to encourage friends and investors who are also losing a lot of money to the market.
If You Are Feeling Depressed From Losing Lots Of Money In The Stock Market, Here’s An Article For You

Follow me on your favorite social media platforms, FacebookLinkedIn, or Twitter, to get notified of my latest blog posts. Or join our investing/ trading community at Telegram to exchange ideas or ask questions relating to investing/ trading.

2 thoughts on “How A Poor Kid Got To A 1M Investment Portfolio | Tips & Principles Of Building Wealth

  1. Thanks for sharing very detail post. Agree about having side hustle to boost your income and help grow your portfolio faster.

    Like

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