As my university life is coming to an end in a month time, I would like to reflect on what I have done for the past three years.
Signing on in 2016
I will start from the time when I decided to sign on as an Army Officer in February 2016. That was probably the largest decision I had to make as a 22 y.o. grown up. There were two main reasons why I wanted to sign on.
Firstly, being in the military career really helped me in building my confidence and leadership capabilities. To me, leaders are made not born. To be a great leader, you have to push beyond your own limits and learn continuously from others and your own experiences. Rank is what you wear, respect is what you earn. Even though we are commissioned with the rank, it does not mean that we are superior than others. It just means that we have to take greater responsibility for the work we deliver. The military is actually a pretty great platform for learning how to lead.
Secondly, I would be financially comfortable for at least the next seven years from the moment I sign on. The organisation would pay entirely for my university school fees ($30,000-$40,000) and provide me with a yearly allowance of $12,000. However, I had to be bonded for four years after I resume service on May 2019. This made me think very hard as I did not want to make a decision that I would regret afterwards.
At that time, I had learnt about investing, the effect of compounding and the importance of having a larger initial capital. As Charlie Munger said, “The first $100,000 is a bitch, but you gotta do it. I don’t care what you have to do—if it means walking everywhere and not eating anything that wasn’t purchased with a coupon, find a way to get your hands on $100,000. After that, you can ease off the gas a little bit“. To have a better understanding of the importance of initial capital, an investor friend of mine, Kelvestor.com, wrote a recent article ‘The Harsh Reality’ with this formula,
With the stable cash flow from my salary as an Army Officer, I would be able to build a larger initial capital to grow my wealth during the four years of bond. That was when I made up my mind and signed on.
Building foundation in the first year
In Aug 2016, I disrupted my military service and started a new chapter of my life, the university. Being back as a student after working in the military made me realized how much freedom I have. Unlike in the military where I had to devote a significant amount of my free time to work, a student basically have all the time in the world to learn new skills other than their usual curriculum and lectures. At the time, I knew that the next three years of my university was going to be a great opportunity for me to learn something useful.
To ensure that I do not neglect my studies, I focused solely on my academics for the first year of my university. The first year of university is usually the best time to build a stronger foundation in terms of knowledge and academic results (Cumulative Accumulated Points, a.k.a CAP). At the same time, I spent time fostering relationships with friends that I have met in NUS. I was fortunate to be able to gain 6-7 university friends that I consider to be close with.
What is university if you didn’t experience the hall life? Since that was what almost everybody said, I decided to give it a try. However, I realized that staying in hall consumed two of my precious resources, energy and time. Late night activities were fun but I couldn’t focus on my task the next day as I was exhausted. The amount of time that I have with my family was cut short and I didn’t feel good about it. Hall life wasn’t what I was looking for, so I went back to my original lifestyle where I had more time to learn new skills.
Exponential Growth Year
As I embarked on the second year of university, I knew that it was time for me to pick up a skill that I always wanted, investing. In Sep 2017, I made a decision that was criticized by some of my friends and family, that was to sign up for a $4,000+ investing course. It was a relatively large amount for a student without salary but I was determined to learn. It turned out to be a life-changing decision as I discovered the concept of value investing which even be applied to our daily life.
Besides gaining knowledge from the course, the friends that I met through the course was much more valuable. I was able to learn from them directly and I had the feeling of exponential growth in terms of wisdom/knowledge in the field of investing. The excitement I felt after every discussion was beyond words. Thanks to them, I was able to grasp the fundamental concepts and use them even until today.
2017 was the year I picked up the habit of reading. Reading, it is definitely a skill and a habit that everyone should have. I didn’t like reading until I started flipping through investment books, and one of the books that sparked off this habit was “One Up on Wall Street” by Peter Lynch. Ever since then, I stopped gaming and used that time for reading. Here is the list of books I have read till today.
The end of university life
As the end of university approached, I had a realization that academic results shouldn’t be a priority in life. Although it is good if you are able to achieve good results, but it does not define your future. What matters more are the skills you developed in the midst of your education. Skills like time management, leading a team for projects, negotiation, being able to resolve conflicts etc., these are the skills that will last a lifetime.
I would like to end off this post by writing down a goal for my upcoming four years with the military,
My main goal for the next four years is to become a better leader, a better person, and at the same time building my wealth by saving and investing consistently.