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Wednesday, January 7, 2015

So how is early retirement at 38?

This is a rather personal post and I need to qualify that all I am writing is from the perspective of someone who has just stopped working for 7 months after 14 years of entrepreneurship. I may feel very differently if it is after 2 years.

And the reason i am sharing is that many people i meet seem to have a glorified ideal of semi/retirement. Also, i realize many entrepreneurs and working professionals seek financial freedom as a key goal in working life. So i want to share how it has been so far and hopefully it will help fellow entrepreneurs get another perspective of life after exit. This will help them in decision making and planning.

Some background is that I have 4 kids, aged 12, 11, 6 and 0.5. I have about 3 key takeaways so far :

1) It is possible to stay reasonably busy but feel less fulfilled.

My days are quite busy. About 50-60% of time on kids and family stuff, 20% on various work items (portfolio mgmt., meeting potential companies for angel investment, volunteer work with SWCDC and ACE etc), 10% on exercise and remainder on leisure activities ( I managed to catch up Walking Dead and 100!). On average, i have 2-3 meetings weekly with potential investee companies or with currently invested companies or for volunteer related work.

After these last 7 months, I feel all this is less fulfilling when combined compared to running a full time business on top of them. Two key differences. First is that I am far less busy and everything is more touch and go rather than digging in and being intimately involved. There is no bone for my mind to chew on daily. Portfolio management has sort of replaced this since i can obsessively track gains and losses and there is an endless amount of analysis to read and learn. But it is not as fun. Second, there is a lack of buzz or excitement that comes from working with a regular team and aiming for a common goal. I used to work in an office with 100 people and interact with at least 10-20 daily. Now it is much lesser and we are frequently not on the same team.

What I do enjoy is working with startups whether as an investor, director or just sharing experiences over coffee with driven coachable entrepreneurs. Currently, I spend most time and effort on DrWealth which has just raised a S$800K seed round and things are getting exciting there. I have also formed regular forums under ACE to help tech startups learn from each other.

2) More time = healthier physically and mentally.

This is a big one for me and is one of two reason why I am not rushing back into business. While running the business, I was perpetually stressed out both mentally and physically. I had a permanent stress cough, bad sinus problems and had difficulty switching off at night. So much so, I would think of financials even while in the toilet! All that changed in the last 7 months. I sleep much better, have spent enough time in the gym, have fallen sick only 2-3 times (used to be almost monthly or bimonthly) and find myself more patient with people. In fact, my cholesterol level has dropped by almost 40 points into normal range despite little change in diet.

3) More time = Present for Loved Ones & People

The second reason I am not rushing back is that having time for my kids and loved ones is fantastic. Throughout my last 14 years of work, I have always tried to spend time weekly with my parents, have daily dinners with kids and generally be there as they grow up. But truth be told, I was obsessed with the business and competing much of the time even while I was with them. Now I find that I am far more present for them. I know and feel alongside their first day of school, their first taste of porridge, and even first PSLE! And this being present extends to friends and people I meet. I find myself far more patient and willing to listen and see things from their point of view. This is great because it helps me control my competitive nature and I believe makes me a nicer person.

So there you have it. Three key changes that happened to me. Will I plunge back into the fray with another startup? Maybe. As usual, it is a matter of right team, right idea and right timing. And it may not be an internet business. Will it be this year? I am letting things happen and will go along with it as events develop. My second kid has PSLE this year, my youngest is very cute (to me) at just 6 months and I have not even done much traveling due to recent family events and the new baby.

1 comment:

  1. Leonard, PurpleClickJuly 21, 2015 at 10:18 PM

    you are an inspiration! bro... thanks for sharing!