5 Lessons I Learnt As a 30 Something Investor

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As a 30-something investor, I sort of had a ‘180 degrees’ change in my mindset as compared to my younger 25+ self when it comes to investing.

For one, I used to spend on gaming, going out with my friends/buddies and dining out in my 20s, especially when I do not have any immediate commitments to worry about. However, it’s a whole new ballgame for me once I head past the 30 years old mark.

The Need to Balance Investing and Life Events

In general, people in their 30s have all these commitments to worry about such as:

  • New House
  • New Car
  • Wedding Bells
  • Aging Parents
  • Young Kids
  • More Responsibility at Work
  • More Health Problems surfacing

I can go on and on but I believe you get the message. To sum it up, people in the 30s are like the patty in hamburgers – squeezed dry in the middle.

On top of juggling all these major events, there is one crucial thing to add to the basket as well – investing for your future retirement. While your parents can support you all the way to University, you are on your own once you step into the workforce. Moreover, its up to you now to plan for your kids’ education as well – *Mindblown*!

With that, I have 5 important rules/concepts which I think can be helpful for everyone to be financially free:

1. Harness the Power of Delayed Gratification

If you were to just have 1 takeaway from this article, it’s the concept of Delayed Gratification. In simple terms, it means resisting an immediate reward in the hope of obtaining a better reward in the future.

A study by Stanford Research (lasting 40 years) known as “The Marshmallow Experiment” found out that people with this quality of “Delayed Gratification” are more likely to succeed in life.

The same applies to both how you spend your money and investment philosophy. If you choose to spend all your hard-earned money on the latest gadget or down payment for a new car, you are wasting the chance to invest them and get more money in the long run.

2. Pay Yourself First

Sticking close to the 1st point is knowing to pay yourself first. In simple terms, it means you save up a portion of your income right from the start before you get to spend the rest. This is in contrast to spending first and saving whatever that is left over.

This concept is simple but incredibly powerful, here’s why:

  • I read somewhere that we all humans have a limited willpower every day and it gets depleted over the day. By adopting the “saving” part first, you rid yourself of having to constantly be reminded that you need to save up when you want to spend on something.
  • Secondly, if you were to save whatever that’s left over, you wouldn’t have much or any left in the end. This happens to many of my friends and I quote one of their statements: “there’s always the next month!” and the next and the next
  • Last but not least, paying yourself first gives you the best feeling when it comes to saving up for a goal be it travelling to Japan or Marriage etc.

A cliché way of saying it is this:

When you pay yourself first now, you are in fact paying for your future self!

3. Investing too tough? Go for Dollar Cost Averaging

Many people procrastinate their investing plans because they cannot stand the mental turmoil of losing their money. Okay – in the investing world we call it being risk averse.

They are also afraid of it because they feel that investing is too tough to begin with and are fearful to take the 1st step.

Well, there is a simple solution – go for Dollar Cost Averaging (DCA).

In simple terms, dollar cost averaging is a systematic, disciplinary plan where you pledge to invest a fixed amount on a regular basis (usually monthly). This strategy allows you to buy more units of the shares or unit trust when the price comes down and fewer units when the price is higher.

The 3 main benefits of DCA are

  1. Avoid timing the markets and takes the guesswork out of investing
  2. Kickstart investing with as low as $100 monthly
  3. Let you stay vested in the stock markets, which usually go up in the long run

You can read more about this strategy here too.

4. Start Investing Early

Quipping a quote of the legendary investor Warren Buffett:

“The best time to invest was several years ago, the second-best time is now”.

Warren Buffet

The context of the quote can be linked to the graph below.

Given a monthly investment of $100, it sums up to a total capital outlay of $24,000 in 20 years.

With 8% annual return compounded monthly, you would end up with $59,295 at age 67 if you start investing at age 47.

That’s an approximate 247% return of the original $24,000 investment.

However, if you were to just start investing the same amount 26 years earlier at age 21, you would end up with $471,358 when you are 67 years old. That translates to 19,640% return with the same $24,000 capital outlay!

In a nutshell, it pays to start investing early and let your investments compound over time. And it doesn’t matter what age you start at because it’s better to start late than never.

5. Leverage Is a Double-Edged Sword

This point is probably more exclusive to me as I had a story to share about leveraged trading.

Being young and impulsive, I was eager to make more money – fast. Allured by the quick money one can make from forex or CFDs trading, I attended several free workshops and started dabbling in these leverage instruments.

For those who are new to financial leverage, it refers to using borrowed to money to bet big with a smaller capital outlay, which levers both your gains and losses. You also have to pay borrowing costs of roughly 5% onwards.

While I was in a roll and managed to hit a high 5-figure sum with just around $20,000 capital, I eventually lost back all my earnings and even the capital due to my high risk-taking. I can still remember telling myself that STI is so low and I doubled down my bets thinking that it cannot go down much lower – how stupid I was at that time.

It wasn’t until much later that I saw this quote from John Keynes which resonated with me so well:

“The Market Can Remain Irrational Longer Than You Can Remain Solvent”

Thinking back, this mistake dealt a double whammy to me: I was losing precious sleep/time trading these leveraged bets and also losing money at the same time. It also dawned on me about what Warren Buffett favourite investing lesson:

Rule #1 – Don’t lose money.
Rule #2 – Go back to Rule number 1.

Conclusion

There is a myriad of things to do as a 30-something investor and one is usually starved of time to just trying to accomplish the daily tasks.

If I were a newbie investor, I would definitely be using my regular income and paying for credible courses/workshops which can accelerate my investment learning curve. With still a long way ahead of me before retirement, I want to make money work for me!

Once I get my financial plans right, I can then truly focus on the life essentials like spending time with my children or decorating my new house – happy that I would be able to set aside an amount for my life events and still retire comfortably when the time comes.

PS; if you’re curious on how to get started in investing, you can sign up for an introductory workshop here! It’s free of charge.

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Bowen Khong

Coffee, reading and big podcast follower.
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