Syfe your Financial Freedom roadmap

When I attend financial events held by corporate companies these days, part of my assessment is whether they are in it just for the money, or genuinely there to help make a positive impact on or return good to society.

Some hold a trial workshop or package it as a training session, yet with 90% of the time spent on the product and 10% on the lesson. The worst of the batch upsells the product and constantly remind you to be in it till the end, or lose out. Syfe does it a little different.

I have to say upfront once again that i am not sponsored to say this, and things that I do not believe in are neither written or discussed. I believe that it is for the greater good that more people hear about it.

So I went for a FinLit workshop organised by Syfe on 5 December, “Your Financial Freedom Roadmap” to

  • Evaluate your financial health and set specific financial goals
  • Create a budget and savings plan you can commit to
  • Implement an investing strategy to achieve your goals
  • Review your financial plan

In case you haven’t realised it, Syfe does have a product — it is one of the 11 Robo-Advisors up to date. Syfe spent only 4 and half mins somewhere mid-session talking about their Digital Wealth Management platform — if you had went to the washroom and back during this time, it would have been oblivious to you that this was a regular FinLit workshop.

SyfeConnect is akin to their education arm and they occasionally post new workshop details here.

Sebastian Sieber, Partner and Head of Distribution Syfe

The class size was small and cosy. We had good interaction with the speaker and CEO with some of our burning questions on personal finance management. Concepts discussed were not new; it is interesting to learn how different organisations try to impart savings and investment, and financial planning from a different perspective. I would not be sharing the slides as they were classified proprietary to Syfe.

Rather unassuming gentleman who seated beside me, was actually Founder and CEO Dhruv Arora.

What I really like about the product is the fees. While some robo-advisors charge asset management fees based on your daily average portfolio size for that time period, Syfe calculates the same fees on a daily basis and bill at the end of each month. Anytime you withdraw your balance, you only pay for the days your money was managed by Syfe.

Currently, only Cash is available as a mode of investment. But stay tuned, SRS funds is in the works as another investment mode — we are looking forward to 2020 for more good news.

Back to fees on portfolio size, the mid- and higher- tiered lower fees of 0.5% and 0.4% is easily reachable with $20,000 and $100,000 assets under management (AUM). This is in comparison with some other robo-advisors who will require you to have at least a few hundred thousands or even millions of dollars vested to enjoy the more competitive rates. Do note however, that there are still other fees to take note of:

  • ETF Management Fees reflected in prices of ETFs average to about 0.15% (charged by ETF manager)
  • Currency conversion charge at 0.10% on amount converted (charged by Broker SAXO)

As usual, I don’t get any referral benefits for posting a picture. If you assessed that you are interested in Syfe, there is a sign up bonus above. You could drop an email to for more information.

If interested, you may wish to have a closer look at Syfe website.

Round-up for Nov 19

November was a good month. I had a few coffee sessions to meet up with co-founders or key persons in various FinLit / FinTech companies. The general consensus is that more could be done to raise the Financial Literacy level in Singapore via collaboration across the industry. I guess this common goal could do better by getting traction and attention, rather than be silo-ed within each corporate setup.

I attended a few events as well, namely

  • Seedly Personal Finance 101 (19 Nov)
  • Endowus Make your money work for you: CPF, goal-based investing (27 Nov)
  • *Scape Meet the Masters: Retail Entrepreneurs (28 Nov)
Seedly Personal Finance 101 (19 Nov)
Seedly Personal Finance 101 (19 Nov) Panel Q&A
Endowus Make your money work for you: CPF, goal-based investing (27 Nov)
Endowus Make your money work for you: CPF, goal-based investing (27 Nov) Panel Q&A
*Scape Meet the Masters: Retail Entrepreneurs (28 Nov)
*Scape Meet the Masters: Retail Entrepreneurs (28 Nov) Panel Q&A

With that much young blood and passion in the community, I don’t see why the more experienced and young can’t come together and trade learning experiences and ideas. I personally was impressed by the number of young adults who is willing to take the plunge in the far end in the never-say-die spirit.

Let me learn from you, as much as you might learn from me. A quick round-up for November 2019.

Top 10 reads for November 2019

What Schools won’t Teach – Financial Literacy – 1940 views
Why are CPF LIFE monthly payouts for BRS, FRS and ERS not proportional? – 1594 views
CPF Balances Update – November 2019 – 1416 views
Understand 10 Investment Metrics before you BUY or SELL – 1257 views
Reading a Stock Quote – 1055 views
A good Investment Journey – 957 views
Embarking on my $2 a day challenge – 812 views
Living on $2 a day food challenge – 762 views
Are you Poor, or not? – 752 views
52-week High and Low investment strategy – 687 views

Money 101

The importance of money is undisputed for basic needs and essentials. You need money to sustain life, such as food, shelter, basic healthcare and an education. You use money to buy security and safety for your family.

This highlights the necessity to understand and be control of your own personal finance. The money you earn, save and invest for a better financial future is your own responsibility — you have to ensure that your “leftover” suffice from the day you retire till the day you expire.

The younger you start taking serious actions for your own personal finance, the higher probability you will be financially stress-free even after you retire.

Planning for the Future. All of us have major goals in life, whether it is for a wedding, to buy a home, for children’s education etc. The cost to fulfill these major goals are unlikely to happen overnight. To ensure that you have sufficient funds to achieve these goals, you should set and work towards clear financial objectives.

When we retire, some of us are probably at a stage where we cannot trade labour for money. You might be too old or ill. Ensure that you have enough to take care of your healthcare expenses and essential needs in your golden years.

To do all of the above, we invest — whether it is in your career, physical health, financial health, knowledge or just monies make more monies.

Treating money right. Money could be a double-edge sword. When used correctly, it elevates the well-being for you and your family. The steps to treat money right could be very simple. Protecting your money means to control the urge to spend unnecessarily items or only invest in instruments/markets you understand. Multiply your money by working out different income streams. When the net cashflow becomes positively high enough, you can live off the returns your money earns without trading your labor. You would then have the ultimate flexibility to do what you want yet meeting your needs.

Treat money well. Respect and use money well and it will empower you to pursue your dreams. By taking care of your needs, you can indulge in your hobbies or passion in life. The steps that we see above are not new. It has been repeated time and time again, but somehow the majority of them have not been internalised within us.

Conclusion. Money is something you will always need. While the building up of good personal finance habits may seem like a hassle, the potential positive outcome more than justifies the effort of doing so.

Why wait to take charge and stay in control of your personal finance? Have you done your part today?

What is your Retirement Sum?

No, this is not about your CPF Retirement Sum. But really, the amount of money you need for your retirement. Some of us have a fuzzy idea of the amount that we need. When we work backwards, it translate into fuzzy numbers that we need to save or invest each month. Retirement fuzzy logic.

The issue is, not all of us are programmed this way. We need firm inputs or data — if I spend X dollars a day from the day I retire, I need to save Y dollars each month today minimum for at least Z number of years. That is the purpose of today’s discussion.

So imagine the older you is chilling and taking in the sights of the Singapore skyline. How would you advise your younger self?

Rule of 25 towards Early Retirement

The general rule: Save 25x of your annual expenses and you are ready to go, financially free. This ignores other potential sources of retirement income, such as private annuities or CPF retirement funds. You might not have access to the above anyway, if you are considering to retire early. Do note it is a general guideline and may not work for everyone.

For instance, if you spend $100,000 a year, you will need a $2,000,000 nest egg minimum to retire. Retirement’s main goal is to die before our retirement funds equals zero or phrased in a nicer way — longevity risk.

The Rule of 25 is also the 4% Rule, or the 4% safe withdrawal rate. It assumes that the retiree can withdraw 4% of their investments in the first year and increase amount in subsequent years by inflation rate. Traditional calculation says that this withdrawal rate is just about right; you can spend about 4% percent of your investments each year and most likely never run out of money. There is a reasonable chance of dying before retirement funds equals zero.

Early Retirement Grid – First Perspective

Credits to Four Pillar Freedom

This grid maps the number of years to reach financial independence based on your current annual income and annual spending. The assumptions are:

  • No other savings
  • Withdraw rate of 4% each year after reaching financial independence
  • 5% annual returns on investments

For example, suppose your take-home pay is $50,000 after taxes. Your annual spend is $30,000. From the grid, you will take 21.6 years to reach financial independence. The more you earn and less you spend, the lesser number of years you would require to reach financial independence.

How did we arrive at that number? You have $20,000 net to invest each year and assuming a 5% annual return on your investments, 21.6 years is the time to build up a retirement nest to suffice withdrawing 4% of your portfolio each year and never go broke. Once again from the grid, when you cut spending by a mere $5,000 – $10,000 each year, you do yourself a favor by largely decreasing the amount of time required to reach financial independence.

Early Retirement Grid – Second Perspective

Credits to USA News Goup

This grid is from another perspective which maps the number of years to reach financial independence based on your current annual income and monthly savings. The assumptions are:

  • No other savings
  • 7% annual returns on investments
  • Lifestyle remains the same in retirement

For example, suppose your take-home pay is $50,000 after taxes. You save $2000 of your monthly salary (out of $4167 or 48%). From the grid, you will take 16.0 years to reach financial independence. The more you earn and save, the lesser number of years you would require to reach financial independence.


The takeaways are to either strive for a higher income (or multiple streams of income), spend less, save and invest more. This concept is something that we have been stressing upon. It is not new — we just have to find time and make the effort to internalise within us. Start from your end goal and work backwards and do not procrastinate while time is still your friend.

Are you well on track?

How ‘little’ does 0.50% an annum make?

Many investors vested in the various financial markets have a short-term mentality for gain’s and losses — geared towards a week, a month, a quarter, a year, or maybe a few years. This pales in comparison to long-term periods of 30 to 40 years. You can guess where i am coming from now. From now to retirement age, that half a percent extra on an annum basis might make or break the eventuality of living off your portfolio.

How did my portfolio compare to the benchmarks THIS YEAR? What did Equities do THIS YEAR? How did the S&P 500 fare THIS YEAR? It’s all about the short-term.

We often head to the grocers for our weekly shopping. Say your spend for this week is $201 instead of $200. Or you buy a new car for $201,000 instead of $200,000. The differential cost that we see here is not large. However, when we actually apply this same concept to investing, a difference in 0.50% per annum does make a HUGE difference when we factor in power of compounding over a long period of time.

We will use facts later to justify, but take my words for now. Do you know that the opportunity cost for this small 0.50% differential interest rate per annum would equals almost as much money to 40 years of capital contributions?

Imagine Sam, a young adult age 25 who has a 40 years time-frame for investment till he retires at 65. He injects a very modest $5,000 capital per annum into his portfolio.

$5,000 yearly capital injection, at 7% compounded growth

$5,000 yearly capital injection, at 7.5% compounded growth

A portfolio at 7% per annum compounded growth ends off with $1,142,920 dollars At 7.5%, the same portfolio ends off with $1,311,724 dollars. The difference? A cool $168,804 (or 12.9% more) which may or may not be in your pocket.

Fast forward to age 65, Sam is now retired. He draws down $75,000 yearly while his portfolio still earns 7% per annum. The estimated portfolio size remaining after 20 years at age 85 is $1,132,851. If he draws down instead $85,000 yearly (higher amount) from a portfolio which is otherwise 7.5% per annum (higher compounded interest), the estimated portfolio size is instead $1,615,043 after 20 years.

We once more fast forward to Sam at age 90, who revealed that he had actually done this investment all these years for estate planning purposes and has not touched a single cent for 65 years. At 90 years old, the 7% portfolio would be worth $6,203,121 while the 7.5% portfolio, $7,999,338. A good difference of about $1.8 million!

While internalising the concept for a half percent difference in return when investing, it is also prudent to invest in investment instruments that you understand and able to stomach the risk appetite. It is also rationale to expect a realistic return from the investment instrument vested or the diversified investment portfolio put together.

Is a 0.50% difference too ‘little’ for you?