Multi-Millionaire…we hear about it all the time and we certainly all have the goal of eventually becoming one in our lifetime. Of course I’m at the very low spectrum of that range, but I was also told if it isn’t 3 or more, it can’t be considered multi (famous Chinese saying – 無三不成幾). I’m not going to lie, I didn’t go through 20+ years of education in hopes of not living a better life and earning a high income in my career. But that precisely is the main problem of why most of us will never hit that goal over the course of our lives. Earning an income by working for a company as an employee is often not enough to achieve the status of a multi-millionaire. Sure… over many years of saving, you will eventually become a millionaire when you are maybe age…45-50? But let’s start off with the definition of what defines a millionaire. In order to be classified as a millionaire, you have to have $1MM in net assets which means owning a $1.5MM home doesn’t count unless you have less than $500k in debt/mortgage on it. Being in a tax heavy country like Canada, it is much more difficult to become a millionaire than being in a tax FREE country like Hong Kong. Though I always like to counter the fact that the living standard/expense is also MUCH MUCH MORE in Hong Kong than Canada, which kind of balances out.
Let’s get one thing straight before we move on. I’m not writing this blog to “brag” about my wealth…in fact over the past 1-2 years the more money I earned, the less I wanted to display it – it’s ironic, but trust me it’ll probably make sense as you read on. The main point of this blog is actually to share my journey and what I learned throughout the years that may be helpful to you or open your eyes to rethink your goal of trying to chase the empty goal of becoming “rich”. How much is $1 million dollars anyways? The word has been tossed around so frequently that we often underestimate how much money it really is. If you have a $100,000 salary (which is pretty good and above average if you ask me), how many years will it take for you to save $1MM? Breaking it down really quick for you.. You will pay about 30% of it in taxes and let’s say you live a modest life style in which you spend $1,000 a month on daily expenses and food and you pay a $2,500-$3,000 in mortgage a month. That should leave you with approximately $2,000/month to save. Assuming you don’t drive a fancy car and don’t go on lavish vacations AT ALL, you can save $25,000/year. So if you can save $25k a year, how many years will it take you to save $1,000,000? …. 40 YEARS! I know you are all going to say…well you can invest your money in the stock market and I can earn more at my job over the years…YES! 100% agree, but please remember stock market can go up and it can also go down…AND don’t forget your best friend INFLATION!
A bit about me…I started re-selling sneakers 8 years ago because I felt like my 9-5 career wasn’t enough for me.. I was still a kid out of university thinking that if I worked hard at my job I will naturally ascend up the corporate ladder and eventually get my six figure salary. This is what I have learned from school and this is what I had been taught by my parents for the my first 24 years of life…they have to be right, right? Maybe I was just a little naïve or unlucky that the job potential wasn’t there at the corporate bank job I was working at and I still remember my first role was paying me only $48,000/year – clearly not enough to survive. Being fresh out of school, I didn’t know anything…I didn’t really even care what my career was as long as it paid well. The idea of entrepreneurship was definitely not on the table at the time because you don’t pay $60,000 for a 4 year undergraduate degree to risk your life at something that isn’t certain. I always believed I should play it safe and go for the sure deal and that is get a good education and get a “good” job that pays well and you will be set for life. Clearly that didn’t work out for me LOL. Moreover, I never averaged over 80 in school. I was always that that B to B- student that really had to push myself 2x times harder just to barely meet the average. Let’s just say school wasn’t really my thing, but I still ended up getting an undergraduate degree and getting my CFA designation (which by the way took much longer than most smarter kids). I was in probation on my 1st year of university with a stunning average of 68% and took me 5 long years to get my CFA, in which it took most people 3 years.
Back to re-selling sneakers…I only started reselling sneakers because I felt my daily corporate job failed me in the sense that they gave me false hope. Let’s just say they totally violated the concept of work hard = success. So at the age of 26 I just realized I spent my whole life getting an education that put me in the same rat race as many others. And for the record, I was just coming off a long relationship break up and my life was basically in limbo because I didn’t know what I wanted to do at the time. I had a ton of spare time and I decided to buy some old sneakers I had to sell off before going off to university. It didn’t take me long to figure out that there was a lot of potential in re-selling sneakers. By the way…re-selling wasn’t a big thing back then unlike today. Anyways, I basically bought all the sneakers I wanted back and resold them in less than 2 months because I quickly realized I didn’t really need the sneakers to begin with. Maybe I was older and wiser because even though I wanted to have them back from a nostalgic perspective, I really didn’t need to have more than 10 pairs of sneakers. So I repeated the process over the next few years of constantly buying and reselling sneakers to make small profits. I know they may be small profits, but don’t underestimate the power small profits when you can repeat it many times.
I maxed out every line of credit and credit card I could to invest all the capital I could possibly can get my hands into sneakers. I sold ALL my stocks and dumped it into sneakers. TRUST ME, my family thought I was going crazy buying that many sneakers. I was very wary of how people looked at me when I was younger and hence I kept my re-selling habits VERY LOW KEY and not many friends knew I was doing it until maybe my 4th year in the business. For the record, I didn’t officially incorporate my business until the 3rd year because that’s when I was making a little too much money to hide from the government – but that’s definitely a whole story on it’s own at a future date. The reason I kept it as a secret is I didn’t want them to think I’m spending so much time “playing” with sneakers, when I should be doing more “adult” things and investing with stocks.
Many years have gone by and the business became better every year. I bought my first Porsche sports car at the age of 31 and bought my second Porsche at age 32. My home is basically paid off if I wanted to, but I decided to keep a mortgage on the home just because credit is cheap with low interest rates and I can use the cash for better business investing opportunities that can earn me much more than 2.99%/annum. I’m now 34 and being able to get where I should be when I’m 55, let’s just say I took a bullet train in life from the financial perspective. Though it seems like I took a time lapse in life, it sure didn’t come easy. Over the years in business of re-selling sneakers, I have hit countless hurdles that I had to overcome. Though I never really hit 1 major hurdle where I had to tell myself to give up because at the end of the day, I was lucky to find a business where I still love what I do. Entrepreneurship is very different from a structured 9-5 job and it would be an understatement if I said being an entrepreneur is easy, but it is extremely rewarding in the sense that the relationship of work hard=success remains true. Yes, your destiny is still at the hands of the market, but it’s still something you can very much control and dictate.
What defines “RICH”? Is it the countless things you can buy with money or is it the feeling that you don’t have to worry about money? For the record, I did not come from a rich family, in fact we were quite poor. Though I was lucky enough to not be at the very bottom of that spectrum, but it was enough to make me understand the fact I never want to be poor again and perhaps my childhood of not being able to get what I want shaped the work ethic I have today. Like they always say…if you are able to get everything you want and have every materialistic thing you can get your hands on, what else is left for you to chase in life? Sure enough I’m now in the position in life to be able to buy every single sneaker I wanted to buy or upgrade to a faster and more expensive sports car if I wanted to, but what’s stopping me?
Ironically…and let me put this in the most simplest shape and form I can possibly can. Once you have money and get what you want in life, you will soon realize they don’t have any substance in your life. To put this into context. The reason I bought my first 718 Porsche GTS when I was 31 is because that’s what I always wanted as a kid. I always wanted to be able to buy my own sports car because it was a symbol that I officially made it in life and I’m “successful”. But crazy enough after having it for nearly 2 years now…I barely drove the damn thing and sometimes I just prefer to drive the less fancy car just because it’s such a pain in the ass to get in and out of. I always wanted the Paris Dunks sneaker in my collection and now that I have not just 1 pair, but 4 pairs…what next? It’s crazy to say that all the materialistic things we all think we want in life, actually doesn’t have any substance in life or atleast what I call temporary happiness. It will make you happy for a few days/weeks, BUT your body/mind will naturally ask for what’s next.
This is the grand slam point I want to point out for today’s blog. I don’t know how else to put it, but I guess what I want to say is I consider myself extremely lucky that I got to experience this early on in my life. Imagine spending the next 20-30 years chasing what I thought I wanted in that sports car to later realize that what I have been chasing so hard for many years in my life was something I never really needed in life. I was fortunate enough to experience this first hand and early on in life that chasing the substance-less goal of buying what I want with money is actually not my real goal in life. Had I figured this out when I’m 55 that I just wasted majority of my life chasing something that is empty, while working a job I absolutely hated…I think I would be pretty depressed…perhaps that’s what they call a mid-life crisis? I’m certainly not the first person to say this, but i’ll say it again….money won’t buy you happiness. For me, I finally realized that I’m happy not because I have enough money for me to retire today or buy whatever I want, BUT rather I’m spending my life doing what I love doing and building a business to make it better everyday. Running your own business is extremely challenging and perhaps that’s what we strive for as humans…we are born to solve problems and the fact that I get to solve problems I want to solve and get paid well for it is perhaps the life goal we are all searching for. It’s not the money that we want, but rather it’s the process of how we get it is what makes us truly happy in life.