I always get sentimental towards the end of the year. It’s a point in time when I look back to see how far I have come. It never fails to amaze me how many changes can take place in just 1 year until you really sit down and analyse. I will record an account of all the achievements, failures and lessons learnt this year to document my life’s progress. Maybe this would be a useful exercise for you too as well, dear reader.
I will list down and elaborate on the Hits, Misses and Lessons Learnt for year 2015.
Starting the Bf Gf Money Blog
What can I say? Wow. What a journey it has been. The Gf and I decided to start the Bf Gf Money Blog as a couple project to encourage ourselves to manage our finances more wisely. Turns out we managed to inspire many other couples and readers who are on the same journey as us too.
I remembered setting up this blog within a day and populating it with content over Chinese New Year. Ever since then, it has been a truly satisfying journey that I have never once regretted.
Using this blog as a medium, I have managed to reach out to other financial bloggers, investors and like-minded individuals. I dived straight into the world of financial blogging and learnt a lot from the other pros in this arena as well. I have forged partnerships and increased my network through this blog too. I have also learnt more about web development, web design, social media marketing, copywriting and more, from just a year of blogging.
On top of that, the Gf and I have a project that we could work on and talk about together. (In the past she just listened to me drone on about my start-up struggles.) Despite our busy schedules, this blog is definitely one of the defining moments of 2015.
Got the BTO of our choice!
We did not blog about this because of privacy concerns. But come to think of it, I think most people aren’t that boh liao to pry into our private lives anyway. We balloted for a BTO and got it on our first try! (Once again, my legendary good luck strikes!)
Cool thing was, we went to walk the site where our BTO is supposed to be built. We surveyed the area and observed upcoming developments before making our choice. In the end we chose the BTO because of its cheap price, convenience to amenities like an MRT Station, hawker centres, a park, a gym and a swimming pool.
I must also admit that I chose the site because I felt it was undervalued. Hint: the surroundings lacked modern restaurants and franchises like McDonalds or KFC and there was plenty of land available for more developments.
Guess what. The day after we chose our flat, (we were quite early in the queue by the way), our government announced that they would pump in $30M to build up shopping, dining and lifestyle amenities directly across the road from our future house.
Boom! Just like that! Our undervalued property suddenly seemed a whole lot more valuable!
Reached joint couple savings goal of 12k (with balance to invest)
In one of our first few blog posts, I mentioned how the Gf imposed a saving regime on us. It was also an impetus that made us start this blog. We decided to set aside $500 each a month to put into our couple account. This $$$ would be used to pay for future housing expenses, renovations, honeymoon, or diaper and milk powder for future rugrats.
It turned out to be an enjoyable experience for us as we watched how a trickle of a few hundred dollars each month grew to reach our target of $12K.
Actually, we exceeded our target. Other than just saving, I worked to build a side-income which successfully managed to pull in some extra profits for the year 2015. So our joint savings actually exceeded $12k this year.
What did I do with the excess money?
I invested it into Paypal (PYPL), (cos I use it so often), and Ulta Salon Cosmetic and Fragrance (ULTA), (cos the Gf wears make-up). What lousy investment thesis! – you must be thinking… I will do a write-up when I am free bro.
Seems like we are on track to hit our savings goal 🙂
Increased Earning Power with New Skills and New Networks
This year, I finally managed to boost my overall earnings power with new skills and new networks. New skills like marketing, copywriting, blogging and wordpress managed to provide a much needed boost to my current business.
New networks also exposed me to new business opportunities, which in turn led to some extra $$$. Most importantly, this new networks exposed me to much-needed knowledge needed to level-up my investing game.
Also, it doesn’t hurt to have MORE FRIENDS! Cheers to new friends in 2015!
Failed business venture after 2 years of struggling
This comes as a heavy punch to the gut. Not only did I suffer a high five-figure loss, but it also felt like I had wasted 2 years of my life pursuing a goal that did not work out. My partner and I struggled for a year getting the web-based platform up and dealt with several sleazy vendors who kept trying to cheat our money. The platform suffered from technical difficulties for another half a year, and when it finally launched, we had difficulty adapting to the complex coding and functions. As if that wasn’t bad enough, the market was also less than ready to take up our idea after we launched.
We made a big pivot in the business, totally abandoning the first business model. We did it because we felt our skills were not aligned with the goal. In less corporate-speak…. we were basically Level One Warriors trying to fight a Level 100 Boss.
Sadly, after about 1 month of slogging day and night after the new pivot, ( – if you noticed I haven’t blogged for nearly a month!), that too, did not work out. I realised I was spending most of my time micro-managing my partners over silly things rather than advancing the BIG goal. Working together is supposed to make you MORE productive and MORE profitable and if it goes the other way (LESS productive, LESS profits), it’s time to bite the bullet and cut lose the extra baggage.
Again, I take more financial losses and wasted more time in this aspect. I have since made my 2nd pivot, and will be relaunching a solo venture in Jan 2016. *KEEP ON FIGHTING*
Not spacing out stock purchases
My over-aggressive betting has taught me a big lesson this time. Those who follow the blog would know that I can simply summarise this mistake in one word: GoPro.
Feeling high from 60% paper gains within a short span of 3-4 months, I dumped in another lode of cash into the action camera maker only to watch it become the whipping boy of the stock market 2015. Straight after my big purchase at $63, GPRO sank to a measly $18 ( at the time I am writing this article).
I am not feeling so sad over the paper loss. I am kicking myself for my stupidity in over-allocation into the stock when I had absolutely NO REASON to do so. With an outlook of 10 years, there should be plenty of opportunities to slowly average into the stock. I should not have committed such a large portion of my cash balance into a stock. I could have bought slowly, over time, to get it at cheaper and more valuable prices.
I am still holding GPRO by the way, and recently bought a tiny-bit more at $19.
Weight gain. Poor health.
2015 was a pretty bad year for both the Gf and my health. In fact, the Gf was sick almost EVERY MONTH. Sometimes I wonder why she has not been retrenched yet for taking so many monthly MCs…
The Gf has been suffering from lack of sleep due to issues like renovation dust, too many people cramped into her tiny house, noisy neighbours, mosquito swarms, stressed-induced nightmares and what-not. She is also constantly getting flu, sore throat, cough and having neck and shoulder pains. ( I blame her lousy bag for giving shoulder pains.)
I have been suffering from constant fatigue and a seemingly permanent brain fog that makes me forget every small little thing like – car keys, addresses, names of people, tasks to do, paying of bills, etc. I have taken remedial action by popping fish oil pills, eating bananas and cutting down on sugar intake. I was also falling sick every 2-3 months. Fever, shingles, sore throats, etc. My unfix-able, nagging shoulder injury also comes to plague me at least once a week.
I have also taken my weight gain into serious consideration. The waist size that I have been maintaining since I was 18 years old is starting to expand! As I am determined not to upgrade an entire wardrobe of pants, I have become more wary about my diet. Scary thing is, I have been gaining weight even though I exercise 3 times a week. Guess I have to do with less beer, less rice, less red meat, less oily stuff, less fried stuff, and less sugary drinks.
Failure is just another process
Many times I have heard cliches like “Failure is the stepping stone to success” or “We learn from failure, not success”, until I didn’t buy into all this failure-talk. My mindset was to succeed at ALL COSTS. And boy, did it cost me.
By becoming rigid in my mentality and by approaching entrepreneurship with an all-in or nothing bet, I became delusional and started living in my own world. This is dangerous because it blinds me from what the market really WANTS. And who should I be serving at the end of the day, my customers or myself?
I am glad that entrepreneurs invented the word “pivot”. To “pivot” means to change the direction of your business and continue moving. However, each pivot comes with costs (time and money), and entrepreneurs should make sure that there is sufficient proof and data before further investing more time and money in that new direction.
From this big business failure, I have learnt to be ultra-sensitive to the customer’s desires and I have learnt how to pivot. Once I understood the pivot, I realised that I never truly … fail. I had simply just found out what didn’t work, used data and metrics as proof and continued moving in a BETTER direction. Once I understood the pivot, I became extra-cautious with my business assumptions and allocate my TIME and my $$$ wisely to test the market first before charging ahead with a growth hook.
So after a ‘failure’, pick yourself up. Recuperate – not bitch and moan… Then analyse what when wrong, what could be done and what new insights you have gained that can point you to a new direction.
Failure is just part of the process.
You May Lose $$$, But Your Knowledge and Skills Will Make It Back
My income had been stagnant for almost a year until I finally learnt new skills and gained new knowledge to breakthrough and power my business. For e.g, if I did not learn about the pivot, I would probably still be digging a deeper hole to bury me and my whole team in.
So even though I lost a lot of $$$ in the failed business venture, the knowledge and skills I have learnt in the process have helped me claw back 30-40% of the losses by applying said skills in other areas.
I never associated an individual’s earning power with skills and knowledge before. But this year, after picking up new skills like digital marketing, blogging, copywriting, audio-editing, video-editing, web development and web design – I received an immediate ROI on my investment. It has become so lucrative to invest in skills that I now seriously allocate money to this area first before buying my beloved stocks.
Also, back to the fact that my business failures were due to the lack of hard, technical skills within the core team, acquiring skills and knowledge becomes not an optional decision. It is a life or death decision. It is a Breakthrough or Forever-Run-On-Your-Hamster-Wheel decision.
I found that the best way to supercharge your learning is to find out your strengths and leverage on it. And when I say leverage, it means to constantly level-up your strengths until you reach a god-like status where your competitors can only gape at you in envy.
I set aside a time each day or each week where I can read to boost my skills and knowledge. I attend online courses and constantly feed myself with useful articles.
If you want to boost your EARNINGS POWER, you have to constantly Keep.On.Learning.
Your Network = Your Net Worth
I have always hated this word “Network”. To me it always suggests fake friendships for the sake of personal gain. And to me, this is not only sleazy, but also manipulative. My close friends all know that even though I can talk shit about you in your face, when you get into deep shit, I will be there to pull you out of your shithole. (Sorry, I am still buzzed from watching Ekin Chen’s Young and Dangerous last night…)
However, after spending 3 years just head-deep in my business – grinding day-in, day-out, never meeting anyone new, never forging new relationships, my world had become stagnant. Things were changing and I was not noticing. I did not understand the importance of social media. I did not understood the importance of the smartphone. I was stuck in my mediocre investing ways. I was stuck with the same earnings power. I was a frog in a well, unaware of the big world out there.
And that world was passing me by quickly as I did the same old job everyday.
Thankfully, I came to my senses soon and reached out to a mentor, who generously invited me into a network where I found even more mentors! That single action has catapulted my knowledge and earnings power. That single action has brought more joy into my life as I met people from different walks of life, and found more cool friends to learn from and hang out with. I found new friends who dared to challenge my assumptions and force me to look at situations from a totally different angle. I found new friends who gave me new ideas and resources. I discovered possibilities that I never thought to be possible.
On the flip side, I have noticed friends who happen to end up networking their way into a “loser” group and end up soaking up other people’s troubles into their already-troubled life. Real friends never drag other friends down. Be careful who you hang out with.
I never believed that your network=your net worth, but after personally experiencing first-hand the positive effects (and negative effects) of this, I am now a staunch believer. So to all the unbelievers out there, I advise you to convert!
Final Words for 2015
I feel these short summaries of all the lessons learnt don’t really do justice and I may not get my point strongly across, but I will come back to each lesson in more detailed blog posts. 2015 hasn’t been an easy year. It was a bittersweet mixture of a series of small successes and one big failure. But time ticks by, the world spins on its axis and life goes on.
And what an exciting life this is!
How has 2015 been for you? Let us know in the comments below!