How We Saved $250,000 By Age 28

Even today, I am still blown away by the fact that there are people who follow my writing on this blog regularly. Not to mention the emails which I periodically receive.  

I love fan mails!  🙂 

Sometimes, readers would like to seek my opinion on some of their personal finance issues and I get all excited at being able to offer a little more insight. But more often than not, I get messages like these:

“Yo, 15HWW! How did YOU manage to accumulate $250,000 at such a young age?! I am of a similar age as you and can you reveal your Secret Sauce to Riiiiches?”

And in case you didn’t know, I get into trouble when the Mrs sees these mails! Feeling discredited, she will do a little jigglypuff like this.

jigglypuff pokemon angry pissed frustrated

Yeah, she’s this cute….and pardon me… we just celebrated our 3rd wedding anniversary last month!

After all, the portfolio is a joint effort by the both of us for the past 6 or 7 years. (Seriously, it’s quite impossible for me to single-handedly acquire that stash.) 

Still, the fact that we managed to pile up a quarter of a million at the age of 28 continues to baffle and surprise many. Thus, in the spirit of this blog and to help others on their path to accumulating their first $100,000, we have decided to provide a full disclosure of how we did it. 


 

Part-time Income While Studying (20% Contribution)

After my National Service obligations, I gravitated to becoming a tutor since it was the most fulfilling (being made a greeter @GAP prematurely ended my career as a sales staff) and well-paying job at 21.

I became good at it, took in more students, started teaching at a tuition centre and by the time my first term in NUS started, I realised it would be very irresponsible of me to start dropping students like flies.

Right now, I’m back at what I do best. Helping students as a tutor. Drop me an email if you’re looking for a reliable tutor!

Therefore, while others were busy partying in university or mugging furiously for their 5.0 GPA, I actually became a full-time tutor when I was just a freshman. 

Attending the 5 hours of compulsory tutorials a week and spending the rest of my productive hours helping Primary, Secondary and even JC students, I managed to bring in close to $2,000 on average for the best part of 3 years. 

As for the Mrs, her resume is full of internships and part-time work. From the moment the A Levels exams ended, she made sure she was bringing back some dough during her term breaks. After all, without a boyfriend then, she would have easily became bored during her holidays.  😉

Before we even graduated, I had probably saved close to $40,000 and for the Mrs, easily $10,000 from her part-time work. 

The savings from part-time work contributed about 20% to our stash.

 

Above-average Salaries (30% Contribution)

I started off my career with a local Statutory Board in May 2011, a few weeks after my last exam paper. With a starting pay of about $3,500 and an annual package closing in on $55,000, I definitely thought that I was raining money.

yosub  make it rain money rich iggy azalea

But hey, more money doesn’t guarantee happiness

Within a short span of 3 years, I was closing in on a monthly salary of $5,000 and an annual package above seventy grand. The above-average salary was definitely conducive to building and accumulating wealth. 

The Mrs didn’t have it as easy as me as she graduated from NTU right after the GFC in 2008. Her starting pay as a marketing exec was $2,000 and she only landed it after three months of search.

Nonetheless, after a series of strong performances and upwardly mobile job switches, her annual package was similar to mine by the time I stepped into the workforce.

By early 2014, our combined income was easily above $120,000 and we probably saved an extra $20,000 for 4 years due to having good salaries. 

The savings from our above-average salaries from 2011-2014 helped to contribute about 30% to our stash.

 

Maintain Lifestyles Of A Student (30% Contribution)

If you took away our fixed expenses, which comprise mainly of our mortgage, allowances to parents and insurances, we are probably only spending about $1,000 each a month. It’s probably still a bit inflated if we compare it to most undergraduates but well, it’s still close enough?

actor actress adorable amazing beautiful

Deep down, we are still like kids… reflected by our spending behaviour…

Other than indulging a little on food and restaurants, our spending behaviour is almost exactly the same as ten years ago. We definitely will not take 3 days off work, queue at H&M for some limited edition branded clothing, and dump $3,000 on a bunch of what we consider ugly and impractical clothes.

We still walk alot, take buses and trains, and rely very occasionally on cabs. Although we definitely will not say that we will never own a car, we understand and note that it’s really costly to buy a car in Singapore. Therefore, at the very least, we have delayed getting one and save ourselves a ton of money.

Because we spent $25k less than our peers each year for at least the first 3 years after I started work, we saved an extra $75,000!

Our quite effortless frugality since we got together helped to contribute about 30% to our stash.

 

Positive Investment Outcomes (20% Contribution)

I started investing 5 years ago in 2010 and within a year’s time, I got the Mrs on board. I definitely would not classify myself anywhere near an expert, but I have actively and earnestly sought to avoid big mistakes. If you don’t know how to succeed, at least know how to avoid big failures. 

By not employing leverage, reducing the frequency of trading and having adequate diversification, I have minimized the risk of huge losses. Coupled with a little homework and a huge dose of luck, my first 9 completed trades have yielded a $35,000 profit.

We have been quite blessed in the market so far… and long may it continue!

Adding other dividends, capital gains from other stocks and returns from other investment returns like insurances, saving plans and bonds, we have probably added another $50,000 from investments alone!

The positive investment outcomes helped to contribute about 20% to our stash.


On its own, none of the above 4 factors seemed really that special. Many undergraduates become tutors, there are probably quite a few graduates with a higher starting pay than me, some financial bloggers are even more frugal than us and our overall investment returns are modest at best. 

However, when you weave all these “just slightly unique and above average” factors together, things compound and you get quite an extraordinary result:

A couple at age 28 with more than $250,000.

 

 

On hindsight, the amount meant enough financial security to allow us to take some risks in our life. The Mrs was also able to leave her marketing role half a year ago and switch to something less taxing with a lower pay.

As for me, I could quit a job I had little passion in at the age of 28, take a 6 month sabbatical, pursue self-employment and be more involved in a new start-up.

And of course, more time to write such articles!

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    30 thoughts on “How We Saved $250,000 By Age 28

    1. WK

      Wow what an inspiration! I started investing only a year ago and I’m hitting 35 next year.
      I have 6 months’ emergency fund, am adequately insured, save about $1000 every month. Would you have any advice for me to “vamp up my net worth?” I currently use Standard Chartered to buy stocks every month- have about 10k in ETF, REIT and Spore stocks.

      1. My 15 HWW Post author

        Hi WK,

        Honestly, I think you are doing well compared to most people out there. Since I do not know much about your personal circumstances, I can only say “work at a job you enjoy, stay healthy, earn more and save more!” if you want to ramp up your net worth?

        For investments, if you avoid the major mistakes/obstacles, one should do fine in the long run.

      1. My 15 HWW Post author

        Hi GT,

        Yes, it’s never too late. I am pretty sure there are many that accumulated more than us and with our incomes slowing down, many are going to surpass us in due time!

      1. My 15 HWW Post author

        Hi Uncle8888,

        I take more pride in the saving rather than the income. As for income, even in my heyday, I do have quite a few peers out-earning me by significant percentages.

    2. Jes

      Hi 15HWW,

      I think the lucky thing is not that you have a frugal mentality or a better-than-average job… it is that you got a good Mrs that thinks and works towards the same goal as you! Congrats to your 3 year anniversary and may you two continue to grow your fountain of wealth. 1 million by 35 perhaps? =P

      1. My 15 HWW Post author

        Hi Jes,

        You are right! But that’s not really very “actionable” from a personal finance point of view, so I didn’t write it down.

        1 million by 35?

        Hmm, I am not greedy, would be quite pleased with 3/4 of a million!

        1. yeh

          well, net worth 750k? or cash?

          sure can achieve, trust me.

          we( me and my husband ) achieve 800k cash+equity+investment link at age 34(him) and me(33). but we still owing hdb loan 280k. hahaha.

          so we are still poor:(

          u have more than us while we at 28.

          wish you good luck.

          1. My 15 HWW Post author

            Hi yeh,

            Perhaps networth? In cash is really a bit hard to achieve. :p

            We are sort of shifting down our income-producing gears at age 28, so it’s much harder to predict wealth in the future.

            Anyway, your family is doing really well, definitely not poor!

    3. TK

      Hi 15HWW

      Do you guys have any intention to have kids?
      If yes how many kids?
      For me, I have 1 kids and it contributed 50% of our total expenses per month.

      1. My 15 HWW Post author

        Hi TK,

        We intend to have kids, but such things are also not exactly within our control.

        Wow, 50% is really high. But I can understand how that can happen. I have seen some of my colleagues buying a car or/and hiring a mail after their first-born, so I can definitely empathise.

    4. Budget Babe

      You and your wife truly are an inspiration! I wish I could say the same, but we haven’t been together as long as you guys have and my boyfriend is nowhere as financially savvy as either of you.

      1. My 15 HWW Post author

        Hi Budget Babe,

        I think with your influence, it’s a matter of time before your boyfriend becomes financially savvy!

        One thing for sure, he must take pride that his gf is popular and writes well? 🙂

      1. My 15 HWW Post author

        Hi Frugal Daddy,

        I think that kind of articles will get more traction on social media.

        And I don’t think your case is far off from mine. :p

      1. My 15 HWW Post author

        Hi Cory,

        I didn’t hit 5k, although perhaps another year and I would have done so.

        There are several factors that contributed to a slightly higher pay. Good degree honours, being a guy (NS) & good performance?

    5. cherry

      I never fail to read your blog, am always checking if you’ve new updates!

      Hope to achieve what you and your wife have done by 28 yrs old as well. My goal is to save $100,000 (cash in bank) by 28, hope I’m getting there…

      Will look out for more tips dished out by you 😛

      1. My 15 HWW Post author

        Hi cherry,

        It’s been some time since I have heard from you!

        Wow. $100,000 of cash in the bank. I definitely don’t have that, even now! 🙂

    6. David Lim

      Dear 15HWW,

      To get the math right.
      (a) $20k savings from your combined $120k salary and
      (b) extra $25k savings from spending less than your peers.

      80% net of $120k = $96k take home.
      Less savings $45k = $51k annual spending.
      Divide by 12 mths = $4.25k mthly expenses.

      If both are not working, have to finance these expenses from other income. And on top of that, no mthly savings.

      Would not have been my choice.
      I prefer to work while I’m young and healthy and accumulate wealth for at least 10 years first.

      Upgrade myself with the skills set for a 2nd career so that I would be ready to make a switch when the time comes.

      Notice that you and your missus do not mention taking courses to upgrade yourselves.
      I think you should.

      This is my two cents view.
      Best regards.

      1. My 15 HWW Post author

        Hi David,

        Your estimation is really good! Quite spot on. =)

        Regarding your suggestion, I guess it all depends on personal preference. Granted, your prescription is likely to work better for most.

        Both of us are still accumulating wealth. The wife is working in a 10 to 6 job while I am building up my freelancing income. Not too bad for now and we can probably still save close to $2k in a month?

        I am all for upgrading. But not for the purpose of just boosting my resume. I am keen on taking a language course to further improve my writing and I am spending time learning how to design better websites. Although I will not be certified, I am not that worried as I am still learning new skills.

    7. HW

      Hello,

      It appears you have a knack for earning money ;).

      I’m 28 y/o and since starting work @ 25, accumulating 54k~ in cash savings and 50k~ in inheritance. Not including inheritance, I’ve probably surpassed my peers but you (and your wife) are unparalleled!!

      Having consistent savings is half the battle won in the goal to be wealthier, but a good investment portfolio which can sustain my lifestyle (at least the basic expenses) and some growth, will.

      Here I am faced with a tricky issue which I’m hoping you might be able to provide counsel… I consider myself to be a conservative value investor, having some success in finding diamonds in the rough in the previous 2 years. However such opportunities gets rarer, presumably due to pervasive inflationary monetary policies.

      My question is, with all this cash on hand — assuming equity prices will be soaring at their “new normal” for some time, how best to deploy this?

      Regards,
      HW

      1. My 15 HWW Post author

        Hi HW,

        You will probably surpass me soon, as long as you keep working!

        A good investment portfolio is indeed helpful. If you can keep on finding “value”, then there isn’t a worry about deploying your money. And with the current market downturn, it might not be that hard?

        Anyway, I realise that I might not have the temperament and interest to become a value investor in the long term so I might be shifting more towards a passive investment style.

      1. My 15 HWW Post author

        Hi,

        I do know about Financial Samurai but somehow his writing and journey doesn’t strike a chord with me unlike MMM, Jacob from ERE, BNL or LivingaFI.

    8. D

      i just wanna check.

      if bank account plus CPF ordinary account sum up to be 240k at the age of 32.

      On the right track?

    9. D

      What do you think of the Bank of China’s Smart Saver account?

      Is it a good switch from OCBC 360 account / UOB One account?

      How about the recent news of Maybank closing 27 branches in Malaysia?

      Do you think it will affect Singapore’s Maybank?