Still going strong

2 years, 4 months ago, I decided to stop working. I tell people it’s because I wanted to explore the freegan way of life and figure out how to make it last for the rest of my life without having to go back to work.

That’s only partly true. It’s just that the real reason is so much harder to explain when you’re in a social setting. So I conveniently gloss over it.

3 years ago, my marriage broke down. I remember writing in my journal on 30 Nov 2016 that “today my marriage has ended”. I was left carrying the shattered remains of my dreams and hopes. Like Humpty Dumpty, I could not put the pieces back together again.

6 months later, my working partnership ended, and I was left carrying the financial liabilities of the business.

The two experiences took place so close to each other that they broke me.

I couldn’t go back to work, pretending it was business as usual. So I did not. I closed up business dealings and cut off the bleed. I should have ended the business then, but I did not have the energy to do it. I just stopped, and let the business continue to stay alive for another 1.5 years more. That was a good decision, because money continue to come in drips for a while more.

I dropped everything else and went on a 2-year sabbatical. That’s how long I figured my savings could last me.

A year later, I moved out and went back to stay with my parents. I should have left earlier. But, as it was with my business, I didn’t have the energy to do anything about it.

I took my cat with me, and gave him a new home, one with lots of freedom to roam and do whatever he wanted. He’s so happy now.

My sabbatical shoud have ended my sabbatical 4 months ago this year. I should have run out of savings by now, but I’m still going strong. Some unexpected income has provided me with more time. I haven’t figured out how to make this lifestyle last forever yet, because I got distracted by Singapore’s food waste problem.

But I’ve resolved my business issues and finally closed the business down. As for my marriage issues, I’m entering the phase where the unresolved issues will soon be addressed.

Right now, these unresolved issues are like a large cloud of uncertainty in my life. It is hard to plan for any future until these are resolved.

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Happy 9th

We would have been nine today. But we didn’t make it.

I dreamt of you last night. Not the you that you are now. But the you that you used to be.

You asked me if I was okay. You looked me over. Then you smiled at me and said,

“Not yet. Just a bit more.”

But I don’t know if I’ll ever be okay.

Happy 9th.

We would have been nine today.

But we didn’t make it.

Online mentions

I’ve accumulated a bunch of media and online mentions in the past year or so. Most of which I put in the Freegan in Singapore Facebook group, or in the SG Food Rescue website. But some of them don’t belong in either place.

I’m just gonna make a post here with all the online mentions that relate to my interests or me. Some people collect Pokemon. I collect media / online mentions. 😛

(16 Jun 2019: Updated this post with some links. I’ll add comments on each later on.)


13 Jun 2019: South China Morning Post

Singapore’s food rescuers salvage expired, ugly food to fight waste

10 Jun 2019: The Straits Times

Home in focus: Going green by saving greens (premium article, PDF here)

1 Jun 2019: Tamil Murasu

Project Food Rescue – Zhenghua IAEC (video)

19 May 2019: Tamil Murasu

விரயம் தடுத்து சமூகத்திற்குத் தொண்டு

6 May 2019: ZB Schools

食物“拯救”行动

19 Apr 2019: Temasek

These Food Waste Heroes are Rescuing Vegetables, One Truck at a Time

13 Apr 2019: MoneySmart

How Much Food Waste is There in Singapore? I Went Dumpster Diving to Find Out

25 Mar 2019: ChannelNewsAsia

Fighting Food Waste In Singapore

13 Mar 2019: The Straits Times

Asean students keen to solve social issues (premium article, jpg here)

28 Feb 2019: The Pride (Singapore Kindness Movement)

She goes out of her way to help an underprivileged family in her neighbourhood

24 Feb 2019: Lianhe Zaobao

小贩中心派丑蔬果 宣扬减少食物浪费 (premium article)

12 Feb 2019: Anthea Indira Ong

Legislating Food Waste. We Can Do More.

12 Feb 2019: ChannelNewsAsia

Anthea Ong on Singapore Food Agency Bill

11 Feb 2019: Lianhe Zaobao

爱心冰箱 人心照妖镜

2 Feb 2019: SG Cares

“The more you give, the less you want, because nothing beats the feeling of giving more and giving freely.”

16 Jan 2019: Suria

Detik 2018/2019 – EP34

17 Jan 2019: The Super Charmed Life

How much of your food ends up in the bin?

Sometimes the media helps get your message out and make it more well known. Sometimes your message helps get the media out and make it more well known. Help them anyway. It’s good karma.

16 Jan 2019: Suria

Detik 2018/2019 – EP34

A Malay current affairs programme on Suria channel. Talks about food waste.

30 Dec 2018: Yahoo! News

Free food in Singapore: Community fridges launch in Dorset Road with free groceries for needy residents

This is the 5th set of community fridges launched in Singapore. It’s catching on.

28 Dec 2018: Business Times

Living life better in 2019

I’m not Mr Tan, but that’s not important. The message is what’s important.

28 Dec 2018: The Independent

Singapore “freegans” share treasures from dumpsters to migrant workers

I don’t know how this one came about, but I think ‘dumpster diving’ and ‘freegans’ help the website to get eyeballs.

23 Dec 2018: Reuters

Singapore’s ‘freegans’ find treasure in trash

The greatly edited article was a disappointment. But their photos were great! You can see them in this MSN article.

30 Nov 2018: Vibes

The Freegan Movement

This isn’t about me, but about the freegan community over in Punggol. What’s outstanding about this media mention is that it’s tacit approval of our activities by the town council there. Which is cool, because town councils in other areas are disapproving and have shut down some of our food sharing points.

23 Nov 2018: China Plus America

They say there’s no such thing as a free meal

This reporter flew down all the way from Hong Kong to do this story. Such dedication!

21 Nov 2018: TODAY

Meet Diljan, home baker, cook, and mummy to her AMK neighbours

This one isn’t about me or us, but I want to include it here because it does mention SG Food Rescue. We support Free Food For All, a charity organisation of which Diljan is a volunteer at. We see her about once a month when we deliver food to her and her neighbours. She’s such an inspiration!

20 Nov 2018: The Smart Local

8 Ordinary Singaporeans Who Hustle At 2AM While The Rest Of The Country Sleep

It wasn’t 2AM. And it was a sponsored post.

8 Nov 2018: 牛牛Babe’s Blog

Towards transforming students into active citizens …

This isn’t a media mention, but Jenson is a lecturer at NUS. He sometimes invites me to go talk to his students about what I do. Apparently it’s inspiring for them.

1 Nov 2018: Superwoman

Ugly Foods Can Make A Tasty Meal Too

I don’t know how we ended up on this one, but it looks like reducing food waste is becoming a fad. Hope it lasts.

31 Oct 2018: RICE Media

The Myth of Expiry Dates, and Other Lessons a Dumpster Diver Learnt in a Year

This is the follow-up article a year later.

21 Oct 2018: Channel 8 News

《晨心诚意》:回收弃菜蔬果 共享惜食

This programme during the news took a long time to film. But I’m pleased with the outcome.

12 Oct 2018: The Business Times

A Good Space helps you help others

I had won $1000 from A Good Pitch the previous year, so they wanted me to say something to promote it again this year. What A Good Pitch really did for me is that it gave me confidence that people would want to fund this idea.

10 Oct 2018: JTC Newsletter

Green Day Out @ one-north

We did this mobile food truck at this event just to try out how it is like. Let’s just say it was a good learning experience for us.

9 Oct 2018: Business Insider Singapore

There’s a new initiative to combat food waste in Singapore – swapping food items in the office

Sometimes I google for my own name just to see what results are shown, and I find some articles that mention me without me realising it.

3 Oct 2018: Class 95

Aww-some News of the Day

Another mention about community fridges.

1 Oct 2018: Mothership.sg

Community refrigerators in Stirling Road filled with free groceries for needy residents

Community fridges are all the rage now.

23 Sep 2018: Secondsguru

Food waste | The why, the how and what you can do, today!

Sometimes interviews are done over email. Not my preferred medium, but sometimes writers don’t have the time to conduct in-person interviews.

19 Sep 2018: Mothership.sg

There are 2 community refrigerators in Yishun with groceries for needy residents

We had been restocking community fridges for some time now, and it was from one of our Facebook posts that Mothership picked up on this. Good things can come from Yishun.

14 Sep 2018: ChannelNewsAsia 

‘I hope people ask why we’re giving good food away’: Giveaway highlights food waste problem

I went to URA for our food waste awareness event and they said to me, “Daniel, the media is here.” Dammit, I wasn’t prepared for it. But oh well, I guess I’ve had lots of practice. They also did a video: Veggie Good Giveaway

And then Channel 8 News picked up on it as well: 志愿组织免费送800公斤食材 望食物浪费问题受关注

31 Aug 2018: Nas Daily

Would you eat this…?

I preferred this video because I’m shy, and I could get other people in the SG Food Rescue community to appear in it too. But really, I thank Nuseir for highlighting our cause and bringing it to greater attention both in Singapore and internationally.

24 Aug 2018: Nas Daily

He doesn’t buy….ANYTHING!

This 1-min video took 6 hours to film, and is one of the most fun media experiences I had. Never in my wildest dreams (or plans) would I have imagined that I would have the chance to not just meet Nuseir in person, but also be included in not one, but two, of his videos. Such an awesome experience!

13 Aug 2018: Lianhe Zaobao 

男子回收路边祭品 拾走200橙引热议

This was Colin’s second foray into the media, and it went international (Malaysia and Hong Kong) by accident:

China Press:
拜好兄弟祭品-可撿走食用嗎?

Apple Daily:
食得唔好嘥?】坡男鬼節一晚執200個橙 自己食仲開心share

7 Aug 2018: LinkedIn Pulse

How a Freegan Shows the True Impact of Food Waste in Singapore

2 Aug 2018: Channel NewsAsia

The Man Who Eats For Free

Why would a particular media outlet cover my story more than once? That’s because they have different programmes which are helmed by different producers. And apparently because I’m interesting. Doesn’t always feel that way until I take a step back and look at my life.

6 Jul 2018: Singaporean Talks Money

Did anyone say free vegetables and fruits? – Experience with SGFoodRescue

Sometimes people come on our veggie rescue missions and have such an eye-opening experience that they wanna blog about it. Sometimes I find their blog posts.

2 Jul 2018: Mothership.sg

S’poreans dumpster dive to save hundreds of pieces of bread dumped by neighbourhood bakeries daily

This shouldn’t have been here. It was completely accidental. We did it just for fun and I posted it on Facebook, and it accidentally went viral and got reported on Mothership. I became more cautious about what I posted online after that. It also got reported elsewhere:

Zaobao:
垃圾桶回收面包能吃吗?

Channel 8 News:
“喂人别喂垃圾桶” 男子从垃圾桶“拯救”数百个面包

15 Jun 2018: The Straits Times

Feeding the hungry with food that is ‘ugly looking’ (premium article)

The Straits Times normally doesn’t cover the same story more than once… but then this is a different story from the dumpster diving one.

23 May 2018: MustShareNews

Filipino Domestic Helper Ships Trashed Singaporean Items Home, ‘Clothes Lohei’ Party Ensues

I wasn’t involved in this. It’s mentioned here because it was Colin’s first foray into the media limelight. Colin is my freegan mentor.

30 Apr 2018: Eco Business

These Singaporeans are moving mountains…of food waste

I love the photo that accompanied this article because it really shows how much fun we have on our weekly veggie rescue missions. This particular photo was taken at the mission to provide ingredients for Feeding The 5000. And 3 days later, PM Lee Hsien Loong shared it on his Facebook page and mentioned SG Food Rescue!

23 Apr 2018: YP SG

He Started Out Scavenging For Free Meals, Now Gives Truckloads Of Food To The Needy

Yeah, that title pretty much says it all. Also, I didn’t know that Yellow Pages had an online magazine.

15 Apr 2018: Frugal in Singapore

Food Waste in Singapore: What SG Food Rescue is Doing & What You Can Do

Frugal in Singapore is run by a friend. Her blog title inspired me to start Freegan in Singapore. It was never supposed to become such a big thing, so I didn’t pay much attention to the name. FML.

9 Apr 2018: CLEO

This Man Spent $8 On Food Last Year, And This Is How

When Cleo asked me for an interview, I was like, “Whuuut?” Why would freeganism or dumpster diving have a place in a fashion magazine?

This article went viral internationally. Various media outlets rehashed this story for their own publication:

AsiaOne:
This man spent only $8 on food in 2017, here’s how he did it

Asian Money Guide: 
This Man Spent Only $8 On Food Last Year — Here’s How

TribunJogja.com: 
Selama Setahun, Pria Ini Cuma Habiskan Rp110 Ribu untuk Makan. Kok Bisa?

Lifestyle Wolipop:
Hidup Freegan, Pria Ini Hanya Habiskan Rp 84 Ribu untuk Makan Setahun

7 Apr 2018: Mothership.sg

S’porean dumpster diver shows where to get free food besides dustbins

I wrote an answer on Quora that got picked up on Mothership and the article went viral. After that I realised that my Quora answers are no longer safe, and that people were watching what I wrote.

25 Mar 2018: TODAYonline

5,000 free meals made from ‘ugly food’ to raise awareness about food waste

This was post-event publicity.

23 Mar 2018: The New Paper

5,000 free meals this Sunday to raise awareness about food wastage

This was pre-event publicity for Feeding The 5000. We supplied the ingredients.

8 Mar 2018: Green Drinks Singapore

Ten ways to be more eco conscious this year

I later learned that Olivia, who started Green Drinks, is a neighbour. We met for coffee (for free, of course) to discuss a Green Drinks session later in the year.

5 Mar 2018: Mothership

SG Food Rescue has collected lots of fresh food, needs your tips for charities who can benefit

This was the first time that SG Food Rescue appeared in the media. Considering that we launched in Feb 2018, that’s pretty good to be picked up so quickly. And unexpectedly. The article went viral and other media outlets also picked up on it:

Coconuts Singapore:
Volunteer group SG Food Rescue collects excess food; calls out for suggestions on charities to donate to

14 Feb 2018: Channel U

Voices 听我说 – EP20

I had Guo Liang in my house. He was very professional, even though he was sweating buckets in my freegan room.

19 Jan 2018: Channel 8

怎么处理不要的物品?

They always ask me to speak Mandarin, but I can’t, so I ask them to subtitle it.

12 Dec 2017: ElevenAsia

You Can Live With Almost Nothing

This was a favour to an acquaintance.

9 Dec 2017: The Straits Times

Causes Week 2017: He goes dumpster diving to reduce waste

The Straits Times is always a pleasure to work with, even back in the days when I was a reporter. Especially so because the photographer was Alphonsus Chern, a friend I knew from catechism classes in church when we were kids. I didn’t know dumpster diving could become a means to cause till this came out.

8 Nov 2017: Yahoo! Lifestyle

Millennials go dumpster-diving in Singapore in the name of ‘freeganism’

Similar to the Zaobao one, this outlet wanted to run an article about this, with a ‘millennial’ frame, so I had to go find a few millennials in our community for them to interview.

30 Oct 2017: Zaobao

财务规划师废物堆里‘淘宝’ 每月可省900元

I wasn’t too pleased with this one. It was more of a case of ‘the other media outlets have it, so we must run a story about this guy too’ kind of thing.

28 Oct 2017: Channel NewsAsia

The man who finds treasure, and the secret of happiness, in the trash

This one was more about me, but the video also included our first, and last, overnight dumpster diving expedition. Good times.

27 Oct 2017: TODAY

Sunday Spotlight: Dumpster divers to the rescue of ‘ugly’ but edible food

This, and the Channel NewsAsia article came out one after another on the same weekend. These are the ones that brought national attention to freeganism in Singapore. The TODAY one is more about the community.

25 Aug 2017: RICE Media

This Man Eats Leftover Pizzas From Trash Cans

This was the first media article about me since I became freegan. It’s the one that started it all. There’s a follow-up article a year later.

How to get free food, part 1

If you could have an additional $400 a month, how would you feel?

Back when financial planning took up the bulk of my time, I was surprised at the lengths that people would do to earn a few hundred dollars more every month. Some would write a book. Some would give tuition. Some would put in a few extra hours every day to get a promotion and pay raise. Some would spend all their weekends at a side job.

So when someone I just met gave me a way to have an additional $400 a month, I jumped at the chance. And it was life-changing. He gave me one project to try out:

Ask your neighbours to give you their leftover food.

He told me that one of his neighbours was on public assistance (PA). PA is reserved for needy Singaporeans who are unable to work due to old age, illness, or disability. Back then, she used to receive $400 a month from the government, $200 NTUC vouchers, and $100 hawker centre vouchers. Being needy, she qualified to receive food from multiple sources, including bread from 7 different sources.

She was never hungry and, in fact, very often had too much to eat. So she would share the food with her neighbours, including this friend of mine. The food he received was actually more than enough for himself, and his two tenants, and he often struggled to close his fridge door because it was too full.

Now when I first heard this, I didn’t believe him. I mean, who would? Do you?

But I kept an open mind, and decided to try out what he said. Back then, I had 3 neighbours with whom I was cordial with. When we saw each other in the lift or in the common corridor, we would wave to each other and say hi. But we didn’t really know each other. Most people in Singapore don’t really know their neighbours, and we were no different.

So it took some courage to approach my first neighbour. One afternoon, I heard her wheelchair backing out of her flat with a familiar ‘beeee-beeee-beeeee’. I opened my front door and went to talk to her. I told her that I was doing a project and asked her if she often had leftover food.

She said yes.

I asked her what kind of leftover food she usually had, and what she did with it.

She said that she receives food from a charity twice daily, because of her advanced age and health. She also had little savings and proceeded to tell me what happened to all the sales proceeds from downgrading her property. She said that because of her illness, she is unable to eat all the food that the charity gives her, which was often about half to 3/4 of what she receives. But she did not want to cancel the daily meal because there was still some of the food that she could eat. The balance? She threw it away.

“Very gek xin (heart pain),” she said. She knew she shouldn’t waste food like that, but what choice did she have?

Could she give me the food she didn’t want, I asked. I had a use for it.

“Oh, you want it? Here, take this,” she put into my hands a packet of rice.

“Thank you,” I said to her.

“No, don’t thank me,” she replied. “I should be thanking you. Because you take the food, I don’t have to waste it.”

I thought about it for a while, then said, “Since you regularly have leftover food, how about everyday, when I come home from work, I knock on your door and you can give me whatever leftover food you have?”

She shook her head and said, “I don’t want to trouble you. Whenever I have leftover food, I will climb in my wheelchair and come to your flat and hang it from your gate. You put one hook there for me.”

Her response overwhelmed me. For the next 15 months, I would receive food almost daily from her. In addition, she would give to me all the fruits and food gifts she received that she could not consume. This included oranges, packet drinks, Milo powder, instant coffee, canned food, and so on.

The one I hated the most was the Yeo’s curry chicken, which apparently is often given to the needy. I hated it because the chicken was full of bone fragments. Most of the time I just heated it up and gave it to my cat to eat. I think charities should themselves eat the food that they give to the needy. No wonder the needy sometimes throw away the food instead of eating it.

Anyway, back to my story.

Encouraged by the positive response, I approached another neighbour. This neighbour isn’t needy. She stayed with her husband but rarely cooked. About once a month, she’d invite her relatives over and they’d talk through the night. She often bought them snacks to eat, but no one (except me) finishes all the snacks offered. So as the host, she was often stuck with a lot of snacks that she didn’t eat. She gave them to me.

She also had a lot of expired food in her cupboards which I asked her not to throw away and, instead, to give it to me. She knew it could be eaten, but nevertheless, preferred to throw them away and buy new ones. I don’t know why.

And finally, she had fruit offerings every day. I learned from her that fruit offerings can be consumed. She normally eats them, but often, especially on festivals, there’s just too much for her. She gave all these to me as well.

She once gave me a pomfret that she bought for Chinese New Year, but never cooked. Many people do overbuy. Then the food is kept in the freezer or cupboard until it spoils. Or it’s just kept. And kept. And kept. Then thrown.

This neighbour felt it was not good to throw away food, but what choice did she have? Now she had a choice. She could give it to her neighbour (me) who would happily consume it.

All my neighbours that I approached were glad that I approached them. For now, they had someone to give their excess food to. They no longer had to feel the ‘heart pain’ of throwing away food that they had too much of. And of course, I was very glad I approached them to. Because I no longer had to spend money to buy food.

With the money I saved on buying food, I now had an additional $400 a month. I was elated.

An untitled post

I realise that I hardly write in this blog, and it’s been about 9 months since I wrote here. The only reason I decided to write a little tonight is because I just renewed the domain name and thought I might as well use it.

Let’s see. What has happened in my life so far?

In Feb this year, I co-founded SG Food Rescue with Judee Tan. It is a simple idea. We saw that food businesses are throwing away tonnes of food every day, and that there are 1 in 10 Singaporeans can’t afford nutritious food. We decided to transport the food from point A to point B.

We got a whole bunch of people interested in this very simple idea. I guess it’s true what they say, the best ideas are the simplest ones.

Right now, we are exploring how to make this simple idea a sustainable one. To be sure, we will need to hire a full-time coordinator by the end of the year. The systems and processes are in place already, so we just need someone to keep things running so that we can explore new things.

But I also wonder if hiring someone will unnecessarily complicate things. Mainly because it introduces money into the equation. Then suddenly, what people have been doing out of goodwill and fun becomes transactional. Is there a way we can keep doing this without introducing money into the equation?

How I go cashless in Singapore

I don’t get what’s the big deal about going cashless in Singapore. Since April this year, I’ve gone completely without cash, and that is a real time-saver.

I admit, the first few times I chose to leave home without it (cash), I was filled with anxiety. What if I needed to buy something and they don’t accept NETS or card? How will I pay for it?

My solution was to remind myself that ATMs are ubiquitous, and I can easily withdraw money anywhere else.

I’ve never had to.

Then again, I’m a special breed of people, because I don’t buy things. More on that later.

One of the fears that people have about going cashless is that they fear that they would not be able to keep track of what they’re spending their money on.

This is unfounded.

Actually, going cashless better helps you to keep track of what you’re spending your money on because every transaction is recorded online or in your bank statement.

If you’re worried that you don’t know where your money is going, let me tell you that you have that problem even now when you’re using cash. The problem is that you don’t even track your expenses today. That’s why you don’t know where your money goes.

I started tracking my expenses back in 2007. First on an Excel spreadsheet, and later, on an expense tracking app on my phone. Every month, I check my transactions against my app to make sure I didn’t miss anything.

Nowadays, I have 10 to 15 transactions a month.

What are they?

  • Mortgage payments
  • Conservancy fees
  • Insurance premiums
  • Long-term savings / investments
  • SP Services
  • Mobile and internet subscription (all in a single bill)
  • EZ-Link GIRO top-up

Sometimes I have 1 or 2 more miscellaneous payments. But that’s about it.

All my payments are automated by GIRO. That includes my bills and my EZ-Link card top up.

Because I track my expenses every month, I know exactly where all my money is going.

That’s the first secret. The second secret is this:

I don’t buy anything.

I don’t eat out because I get free food delivered to my home every day. My neighbours share with me their excess food that they can’t or don’t want to finish. I share with them my excess food — those that they will want to eat or cook. Since I have more than enough food at home, I don’t see the point of eating out.

I’ve only spent $8 on food this whole year, and that was in January and February.

I don’t buy clothes because I get it all for free. When I was growing up, I often received hand-me-downs from relatives when they grew too big or too small for their clothes. Now I get hand-me-downs from people who throw away their clothes not just because they outgrew them, but because they bought too much and have no space in their wardrobe; because they felt like a change of clothes, or because the clothes they had are no longer in fashion.

Did you know that Singaporeans, on average, buy 34 articles of clothing a year, and throw away 27? To be fair, I do the same. The only difference is that I don’t buy the clothes. I mean, why buy something if I’m going to discard it soon? There are better ways to spend money… like buying a home that I’m going to use for many more years to come. I hope.

In summary, I don’t worry about any cashless push, because I’m already cashless.

I don’t worry about not knowing where my money goes, because I track my expenses and I know exactly where it goes.

I don’t worry about money, because I get everything for free.

I’m freegan.

My next great adventure

Hello. I haven’t written in here for over a month. I was kind of inspired to write a blog post after reading an update from a friend’s blog.

I’ve been busy. Busier than I expected I would be. Which is strange, considering my biggest change in my life.

But before I get to that, I think the reason why I was hesitant to write in this blog was that I connected it to my Facebook and Twitter accounts, so that each published post is automatically published on my wall.

I had a big announcement to make. But I didn’t want my Facebook friends to know about it through a post because I didn’t want to deal with comments on it. So I kind of didn’t write it.

Then it occurred to me, why don’t I just disconnect the blog from Facebook? That did it. And that’s why I also disabled comments on this post. If you want to tell me something, then please choose another means of communication. Thank you.

So the big announcement is: I’m semi-retired.

I never really planned for this. My plan has always been to work till I’m 60 years old, before slowing down. But in April this year, I fell out with my business partner after working together for 1.5 years. I don’t really want to say more than this. But basically, it meant that my business needed to change direction.

At the same time, I did a financial check and I realized that my freegan way of life has dropped my personal expenses to about $50 to $100 a month (that’s not a typo, and it doesn’t include mortgage and insurance). In essence, I didn’t need to work for income for a while.

In essence, I didn’t need to work for income for a while. I can last at least 2 years without having any income. But because I do have several small streams of income, I can go longer if I wanted. So I decided to enter semi-retirement. It’s not exactly a sabbatical because I still want to retain my license to serve my loyal clients. But there’s a lot of other things that I would like to learn and do during this period.

What all this means is that I didn’t need to change business direction. I could just stop working for a while. Take a break, y’know?

I decided to enter semi-retirement.

It’s not exactly a sabbatical because I still want to retain my license to serve my loyal clients. But there’s a lot of other things that I would like to learn and do during this period.

For one thing, I want to explore a moneyless way of life. Basically, if I can figure out how to live without using money, I can immediately proceed to retirement. It’s a fascinating way of life and, truth be told, I’ve wanted to do this since before I started my first job. But only now, when I’ve ensured that my financial responsibilities are met, could I attempt such an experiment.

For another, I want to explore other aspects of finance, to put to use the deep knowledge and experience I have acquired in my 7 years of financial planning, and see how I can use it in other ways rather than the way this business is normally done, which is 1-to-1. I want to see how it can be done 1-to-many, or even many-to-many, which is something that today’s technology can enable us to achieve.

So… what have I been busy with?

Well, I went on a couple of holidays in May and June. I spent four days living in Singapore outside my home without using money (except for public transport). I wanted to see if it was possible to live in Singapore without money. I believe it’s possible, but I need to run more and longer experiments. And since each holiday costs only $12 to $15, I can easily do this every month if I can carve out the time.

Then I’ve also started doing pro bono financial planning — working with people who would normally not be able to afford my fee. I’m volunteering with PlayMoolah, a company that I’ve long wanted to work with because the people have such fresh perspectives on the familiar world of personal finance. However, the time has never been right for the both of us. But now, serendipity has led us both to work closely together.

So I guess you could say that I expected my semi-retirement life to be lazing around, but it’s just not in me. Haha! Whatever form it takes, it’s going to be a really great learning adventure!

Should I put $500k into a bank with an interest rate of 13%?

Sometimes I write answers to financial questions on Quora.

The asker of this question added:

In my country, we have that high interest if you deposit that amount of money in a local currency. Our currency has been devaluated by 100% in 20–4–15. I really don’t think that it will happen again in any time soon, as oil prices started to increase and economy is getting more and more stable.

Here’s my answer:

In 2014, a client was about to invest $200K with me. A few days before, news of the Ebola epidemic broke, and he called me. He said, “Maybe we should wait till this epidemic is over before I invest. It’s going to cause the market to go down.”

I told him, “No one knows how the market will react. I advise you to invest now.”

He did.

The Ebola epidemic didn’t make a dent in the market and soon after, it spiked. He was glad he listened to my advice. But really, I didn’t do much. All I did was to be very aware that no one can predict the future, and don’t try to do so.

“I really don’t think that it will happen again in any time soon.”

This sentence will be the cause of you losing money, if any. Because what you have done here is to try to predict the future.

No one can predict the future. Many people will try and most will get it wrong, yourself included. Even if it’s not oil prices, something else can happen to devalue the currency again.

To put money in a bank with 13% interest tells me that inflation in your country is higher than that, and that your currency strength is weak.

These are the two things you need to consider when you decide what to do with your $500K. If inflation is higher than the interest rate, then even with 13%, the real value of your money will continue to decline. Add that to the fact that your currency strength is weak, and the value of your money also tends to decline.

In such a case, you may consider putting the money into a different currency, one that has historically shown itself to be strong and stable. Alternatively, you can consider investing the money in an asset class that tends to retain its value over time. Examples include gold and land.

Take note, however, that this answer addresses your question alone, and does not take into account your overall financial situation. You should seek the advice of a trustworthy and competent holistic financial planner before making any major investment decision.

This article was taken from Lumina Planners, the fee-based financial planning arm of Elpis Financial.

Why do some millionaire Singaporeans still live in HDB apartments?

A few years ago, I accompanied a friend to do door knocking. It’s the first and only time I ever did it — just for the experience. Door knocking is the activity that some insurance agents do to find customers. Other occupations that do this are ice-cream sellers, Christian evangelists, and other door-to-door salespeople. It’s extremely tiring, but the upside is that you get to meet lots of interesting people and hear their stories.

One elderly couple invited us into their flat for a cup of tea. As we conversed, we found out that they recently sold their 2-storey semi-detached house and bought this HDB flat they were now staying in. Their children had grown up and the house was too big for just the two of them. They decided to choose a central location that where public transport was easily accessible. The profits from the sale of the house were invested in bonds and stocks and they lived comfortably off the dividend income. You would never know that they are millionaire Singaporeans just by seeing them at the market.

I now stay in one of those HDB flats that have 3-room flats and studio apartments for the elderly. I wouldn’t say I’m very sociable, but I do talk to my neighbours. One neighbour used to run a business in an upscale residential area in the west where he also lived. He sold off the business and his house to move to this block because of the excellent location. He now takes about 4 holidays a year and is away for 2 months each time. Why have to maintain a big house if you’re only going to spend 4 months a year in it, he reasoned?

Another neighbour is a family of four. They used to stay in Malaysia, but recently moved in here because one child has graduated from university and is working in Singapore. The other child has started secondary school and it was more convenient for her to be living in Singapore.

Every day, there is a community of seniors who gather at the void deck to play cards, chess, listen to the radio or watch television together. Some are not well-off, that’s why they stay in the studio apartments. Some are very well-off, but they also stay in the studio apartments because it makes sense. Regardless of their financial situation, what they all gain from this arrangement is a sense of community. A sense that someone cares for them, is looking out for them, notices when they are absent.

We don’t have kampungs anymore, so HDB flats are the next nearest thing to having a community.

Downgrading often forms a part of a Singaporean’s retirement plan, but this largely depends on the property market cycle at the point of sale. It is important to regularly review your finances and your retirement plan to make sure it’s still relevant.

That’s why I advocate Holistic financial planning.

What personal finance mistakes should everyone avoid?

I’ve been learning about personal finance for 10 years and teaching personal finance for 7. Here are the top five common mistakes I’ve observed:

ONE: Spending more than you earn

I had two friends. One was a lawyer who earned $100K a year and spent $110K. The other was an engineer who earned $60K a year and spent $40K. Who do you think was in a better financial position after 5 years?

TWO: Not having an emergency fund

I had two friends. One took my advice to build an emergency fund which had about 6 months of expenses. The other spent all she had every month because YOLO.

After 3 years of work, both wanted to change careers. The first did so, depending on her emergency fund to tide her over for 4 months while she pursued the necessary qualifications. The other is still stuck in her job because she has no savings.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to creating an emergency fund.

THREE: Not having medical insurance

I had two friends. Both were fresh graduates who just entered the teaching profession. One purchased medical insurance for hospitalisation. One did not, thinking she would not need it.

Both faced immense stress in their jobs and one year later, both had illnesses that required hospitalisation. The first paid from his savings first, and the insurance company reimbursed him later. The second paid from her savings.

Who do you think was in a better financial position?

FOUR: Depending on someone else to manage your finances

I had two friends. Both became widows. One depended on her husband to manage the family finances. The other learnt from her husband how to manage the family finances.

When the first became a widow, her husband left a sum of money for her. It was quickly spent and lost to various “advisers”. When the second became a widow, she was grateful she took the time to learn how to manage her finances.

She now teaches other women how to manage their finances.

FIVE: Not knowing where investment returns come from

I had two friends. They both had some money to invest. They met two advisers. The first sold gold bars which promised 2% return a month. The second sold a safe investment which promised 2% return a year.

They both came to me for advice. I told them the first investment was a scam and the second was legit.

The first friend didn’t believe me and put all his money in gold. He lost all his money when the scam revealed itself a year later. The second friend listened and is still earning 2% a year on her investment.

Knowing how money works and where investment returns come from are crucial to not getting fleeced by the many investment schemes out there.

This article is taken from Lumina Planners, the fee-based financial planning arm of Elpis Financial.