8 secrets to becoming a Crazy Rich Asian

Becoming truly, insanely rich isn’t just about making more money. These smart financial moves could help anyone go from broke to billionaire.

So, you may not have been born with a silver spoon in your mouth, like the character Nick Young in the movie Crazy Rich Asians. Not only is he the scion of one of Asia’s wealthiest families, he’s also the sole heir to his family’s vast fortune. 
But that doesn’t mean your dream of becoming a Crazy Rich Asian is totally insane! Fact is, it wasn’t rich parents or good fortune that got most (real-life!) billionaires where they are today. Just look at entrepreneur Jack Ma or investor George Soros!

Here are some smart moves and practices of the rich to help you build your own wealth….

Develop good money habits young

Want to hit your financial goals? Start with the right habits – smart ones, as did many self-made millionaires. Singapore entrepreneur Adam Khoo, who made his first million at the age of 26, for instance, has said that saving money is important if one wants to be wealthy. Then there’s self-made billionaire founder of Ikea, Ingvar Kamprad, who was known for his frugal lifestyle, which included flying economy, driving a 20-year-old car and buying his clothes at flea markets.

Eliminate debts

Credit card debts… home renovation loans… car loans…. university loans… It’s pointless stashing money in the bank in the hopes of getting 0.5% interest at the end of the year when you’re paying 3% interest on a loan. To really see your wealth grow, you’ll first need to get out of debt (at least most of it!).

Pay off debts with the highest interest rate and you’ll be amazed at how much you can save. And with more savings, your assets will grow faster with compound interest.

Focus on growing your career

While it’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of promising investment returns that actually make retirement at the age of 45 seem like a real possibility, it’s important not to neglect your career. What you want is to have your investments generate an income for you quietly in the background while you still have a monthly income source: your job. Remember: your salary doesn’t just give you the means to pay for your necessities and little extras every month. Rather, every pay packet also comes with a hidden extra – your employer’s contribution straight into your CPF account!

If you work hard enough, there’ll be annual pay increments (a conservative 2% increase on a S$ 5,000 salary could mean an extra S$1,200!), year-end bonuses, and salary increases of 5% to more than 20% for promotions throughout your career. These earnings could mean making your first million sooner, a more comfortable retirement or a legacy fund for your grandchildren.

Maintain your pre-millionaire lifestyle

So your income is growing but your assets aren’t. How can this be? Meet the culprits: prestigious country club memberships, glittering parties, exotic holidays, sports cars and fancy dining every other day.

We tend to elevate our lifestyle to match our growing income, but consider this: ignoring the call of the high life could mean retiring years earlier than planned.

The moral (and one of the Asian pearls of wisdom that’s ingrained in each one of us): continue to live humbly, even if you earn S$200,000 a year. If you put financial security above status, you can sit back and watch your money grow. 

Stay away from extravagant people

Other than ditching the extravagant lifestyle, you’ll want to avoid spendthrift people. If you’re always hanging around them, it’s all too easy to fall prey to that dangerous habit yourself, resulting in your hard-earned cash going up in smoke faster than you took to build it. Associate yourself with folks who are just as – if not more – conscientious with their money. Not only will those good habits rub off on you, you’ll spend less and accumulate wealth faster!

Remember, the truly rich don’t obsess over outer appearances and others’ opinions of them. They value financial freedom far more than social status and the latest designer shoes!

Diversify your portfolio

You’ve heard it before: “Don’t put all your eggs into one basket”. A well-balanced asset mix can help you earn steady returns while spreading your risk.

If you’re a low-risk person, speak to your financial adviser representative about a savings plan that suits your needs. If you’re ready for higher risks in exchange for potentially higher returns, consider investing.

One way to start is with Singlife’s unit trust platform, Navigator. With your financial adviser representative’s help, you can choose from over 900 unit trusts to build your investment portfolio. Investment funds can come from your bank savings, which may be growing at a paltry interest rate, or your CPF funds. How’s that for making your savings go the distance?

Marry well

No, we’re not asking you to find a gold mine like Nick. Financial alignment doesn’t have to mean that you both have to have the same financial standing. What’s more important is to find someone who’s on the same page as you in terms of financial goals and attitudes towards money.

If your other half is always making the wrong financial moves, you’ll need to have a serious talk with each other. About what? Start by being honest about where each of you stands financially early on in the relationship. We’re not saying you have to exchange ATM PINs, but be open about how much you earn, spend and save monthly, your loans or debts, and your approach to budgeting (if you do budget at all). Also discuss your personal goals (“I want to make my first million at 40”; “I want to retire at 50”, etc), and how you plan to get there.  Then, take the conversation to the next level and discuss your shared financial goals as a couple, how you want to pool your money, if at all, and how you want to split your expenses as a couple.

Build your emergency fund

As the name suggests, this will help tide you over when you fall on hard times such as a retrenchment, so you won’t have to touch your investments or retirement savings prematurely. Start building yours as soon as you begin earning a salary (and certainly before big expenses like a home or children come into the picture).

How much is enough? A general rule of thumb is to save at least 3 months of your salary. Keep it in a savings account separate from your usual spending account, so you won’t be tempted to use the funds. Keep the money liquid for easy withdrawals when necessary. 


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