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Friday, November 11, 2016

Year end update : So how is semi retirement after 2.5 years?

This is a slightly indulgent article. Not much to do with entrepreneurship or startups, so bear with me or just skip this entry! It will be relevant if you are thinking of purpose in life or if you have recently retired. I am writing because I do get a lot of curious comments from all walks of life when they hear that i sort of retired at 38+.

Its been slightly more than 2.5 years since I stopped full time work. Last update was done 1 year into retirement. Many people assume retirement when young is all fun and games but actually having no structure in life and no over riding purpose can be difficult. I can be both busy and restless, bored at same time.

Quick summary of what happened since official no work status to give context since June 2014 :

1) Mum passed away in oct 2014 after a brief but painful 4 mth battle with lung cancer.

2) Baby #4 came along in June 2014 and he is so precious and cute.

3) 2 older kids entered teenagehood and secondary school. 3rd one entered primary.

4) Started a business Doctor Wealth using chairman model which failed due to mgmt issues and had to be given a new lease of life via some corporate development work.

5) Between Ning and me, we invested in 8 more private startups (iMoney, metro residences, Worq, aldoktor are public knowledge) and 5 VC in the region.

6) Volunteered for the Committee of the Future Economy, ACE and 2 other govt boards. Started ACE peer sharing groups for startup founders which has helped over 35 startups.

7) Launched a crowdfunding platform for Swcdc. Mixed success in terms of scaling up but still running. So far projects have raised some 40-50k in total.

8) Got healthy. 6 day a week Yoga, weights and jogging routine. Traveled a fair bit but no where near what I would like to or to the places I want to. About 60-70days a year.

9) Built an entire balanced type portfolio over the years and implemented decision making, tracking and benchmarking processes. Met target of beating private bank discretionary portfolios and index benchmark.

10) Created and trained singapores first angel Investing workshop in 2016. So far only 25 pax trained but will do more next year.

I lead what I call a balanced portfolio life nowadays. The logic behind it is that while obsessive and crazy focus is needed to achieve first success in business, it is not exactly great for ones spiritual, mental or physical health. It also frequently leaves family members and loved ones shortchanged of attention and love.

So nowadays I spend around 20% of time on exercise and leisure stuff (reading, tv, gaming etc), 20% on volunteer work, 30% on family activities, 20% on portfolio and finances and last 10% on angel investing related. Each of these activities have specific goals linked to a purpose or reason for why I do them.

Eg. Portfolio is to return min 5% annualized with fund mgmt standard vol and sharpe ratios. Angel and volunteer is to impact fellow entrepreneurs and build a culture of entrepreneurship in sg in my own small way.

Some key observations:

Personal related
1) Losing a parent is very painful. I think of my mum every few days and it truly is a permanent gap in my heart. So if you are lucky enough to have both parents around still. The best sharing I can give is to spend as much time doing stuff with them as possible. 

2) Kids grow up real fast and are loads of fun. Have more of them if you can afford it in terms of time, attention and resources. We have 4 children and without a full time work focus, children, wife and rest of family are the main purpose that drives me.

3) Being present and aware of life as it happens is very fulfilling. In business, we are always projecting into the future. Now I try to focus on the present. Really listen and look at what is before me. A side effect is that I notice more about people and I hope in time to be the sort of person people like having around. Not to get their approval but because life is more fun when others are comfortable around you and share their stories! Being aware also means we become more understanding of others and that most people are just trying. So patience gets developed a bit more.

4) Learning still matters perhaps more so than ever. Since learning new stuff is the reward once payment is taken out of the equation. The other driver is being useful which I cover below. Big stuff I learned about include portfolio thinking, board roles, angel investing and about myself and people in general.

5) Undergone some major personality and health change. Both are connected. I am far less competitive though I can still be triggered to the old mode if I suddenly meet a whole bunch of alpha super successful males. How I overcome this is to remind myself that in the end it's all the same. See learning (1). So if I am lucky enough to get out of the competition while relatively young, why continue? For recognition? For the net worth scoreline? To buy more stuff? This diminished desire to win others coupled with a lot of exercise and nutritious food has resulted in a  healthier me. Sleep much better and smile more and feel more at peace.

Work & Portfolio  related
1) Being useful works. This is my criteria for doing the volunteer and angel work. I try to do stuff that plays to my strengths. But I must admit it is hard to be satisfyingly  useful when one is only occupying an investor or board member role since they are not operational.. My philosophy is that  I say exactly what I think that could be constructive to listener . And those who want to hear more, I am always happy to help further. In terms of being paid, it is strange to suddenly not get paid for all the work I do. But I try to see it as giving back. 

2) Being open is something new I am trying. . Last year I was laser focused on angel and startup work. This year I tried being open to anything. It's a work in progress as all the knowledge and skills I have are tech and startup related. So people tend to pigeonhole me there. But joining some government boards and committees has been intellectually interesting and makes me feel I am doing something useful. Though I must say I am not used to the much more slower pace compared to startups due to the size of the issues and organizations we deal with. I am also hoping to go beyond all this corporate and business type areas. 

3) Portfolio mgmt.   It is a full time thing to do it well. Need to research a lot which fits me since I like to read and pay attention to numbers.. Attitude and psychology matters a lot. Attitude meaning we need to admit we are rookies and so have to learn almost everything from scratch. So far so good and I like the stretch and challenge as the thinking is almost opposite from what an "all-in" first time  entrepreneur needs to do. There is also a lot of tracking involved to know how I am doing.  Honestly, I think few entrepreneurs should do this activity diy  as the traits needed are quite at odds with what make them succeed.

4) Startup investing via angel and Vc investing is quite fun. I learned a lot in terms of how to assess, how to handle post investment and am now waiting to see if all the effort will pay off. Unlike stocks and bonds, this activity is more long term. But I am optimistic it will do the best. This activity is most fun as I also contribute a little in helping the startup in terms of mentality and strategy. The best sort of work is one where you put in time and money and it all works out! I think this is a must do for most entrepreners who have made enough money.

Next year, my goal is to continue what I now do and be open to what life will bring. It may mean full time work in the form of starting a new business, it may not. But I want to make sure I continue adding value to people and organizations around me and also be present for all my loved ones!


  1. Good post and thanks for sharing Der Shing. It doesn't look like retirement to me judging from all your achievements this year. Well done and keep sharing :-)

    1. Thanks for kind comments Aslam. It's 2 years of stuff. Compared to running own business full swing, it's like a quarter worth of work at most!

  2. Inspiring! And food for thought as we enter the new year :)

  3. Thanks for your sharing. Already applying your angle trips n practice.

  4. Great! Hope they are useful to you.

  5. Good sharing and very pertinent points brother! Agree with you wholeheartedly especially can identify with what you say about parents (me too I'm still hurting from time to time), family (though I hope you understand too that there are couples out there who want to have kids but can't due to other reaons other than monetary), and also the meaningless pursuit of unimportant earthly things.

  6. Thanks for sharing. Good food for thought. Being retired gives an opportunity to fully pursue something that you will like to do and probably thats something I am also working towards it.

  7. Thanks for sharing Der Shing.
    Hope you and Shao Ning and your kids are enjoying your Scotland trip.

    I Resonate your personal sharing on especially on point 1 and 3. Yes, parents are the most important and we should spend as much time with them. Ever since my mom has both her knees operated last October, I have put on hold some regional projects as she is staying with me. Taking care of her to full recovery is my top priority. And your point 3 synced with me. Being aware of the presence is important. Yes, business is future focus, but living a life needs to be present. And I'm striving to have that just feel good if people around is comfortable with us so that it open up for stories to be shared.