Hedging Against A Short Life

YOLO. You Only Live Once.

These are four powerful words commonly used by some of my peers (late 20s to early 30s) to defend their conspicuous lifestyle. Materialism isn’t confined to just the ladies and their Hermes these days. Many of my guy friends do not hesitate to reward themselves with a IWC Schaffhausen or a brand-new Audi A4 after a promotion or a bumper bonus.

After all, life can be unpredictably short, they say. Enjoy it while it lasts.

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Therefore, most of them do not understand why the Mrs and I voraciously saved up >50% of our income during the past few years. With our educational qualifications and the corresponding incomes, it was somewhat an anomaly to stay in a HDB flat and rely on public transport.

Are we short-changing ourselves then?

Many of our friends felt that we were short-changing ourselves in the material sense. To the extent that some felt that “living in poverty” probably contributed to her spate of ill health earlier in the year.

By most of their definitions, we could well afford a luxury watch and even a continental car. (Heck, I could pay for both without taking on any loans, a shocking revelation for most of them.) Instead, I wear a Casio digital watch that is way more accurate and precise with way more functions than a Rolex and we spend less than $100 per pax on public transport every month.

Most people feel that thriftiness and leading a frugal life is actually a form of insurance against a long life. It ensures that we wouldn’t be destitute when we turn 100. But what happens if we hit the sack at maybe 40?

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When you have just won the billion dollar lottery but realise you have 3 months of your life left…

Therefore, friends are asking us to let loose a little.

“You can’t bring your $250,000 into your grave. Spend it and pamper yourself, Mr and Mrs 15HWW!”

A happy life is the best hedge for a short life

However, I really don’t think spending most of your money can become a good hedge for a short life. Correct me if I am wrong, but I just cannot believe that a young person on his sick bed would ever wish that he had driven a BMW 5 Series instead of a Toyota Camry, own a Patek Philippe instead of a Seiko, or stay in a terrace house instead of a 5 room HDB flat in his life.

However, if he had lived a miserable life just chasing after more money, there could be plenty of reflections and then regrets on the death bed.

Unless spending truckloads of money brings you sustained and permanent fulfilment and pleasure, it’s quite pointless. If you want to hedge against a short life, cut out the unhappiness. 

Which is what we are trying to do.

To many, the Mrs and I were taking huge risks when we left our high-paying corporate jobs. At this point in time, our combined income is probably around 50% of what we were getting 18 months ago.

However, to us, it’s really a no-brainer because we were so unhappy in our previous roles. In the modern capitalistic world, work easily consumes half of our life. And if we can find sustainable new gigs where we no longer dread Monday mornings, we felt that a lower remuneration would be a worthwhile trade-off.

Even with a 50% cut in income,  we do not have to live off scraps or cut everything down to the bare bones, of course. But fewer restaurant visits, a smaller house and generally owning less stuff all seems pretty worth it if we could lead a happier life now.

In terms of material wealth, both of us really don’t need a lot to be happy. This sentence probably also applies to more people than not. 

And who knows, by plugging away working hard at what we love, it could all be a matter of time before our income levels soar back again.


23 thoughts on “Hedging Against A Short Life

  1. jared-SMOL


    Seems someone has found his hedge against a short life 😉

    The beauty of language is we have several words to express something similar.

    You can tell the differences between joy and thrill from happiness 🙂

    And as a married couple, I wish you marital bliss!

    1. My 15 HWW Post author

      Hi SMOL,

      I am pretty sure you have found your ikigai!

      Here’s hoping what I think is right is right.

  2. Pib

    I am 36 this year and i find driving stressful. I have only driven once in singapore and i hated it! It feels too stressful for me.

    As for a watch, i rarely wear a watch cos i keep bumping it against the keyboard!

    1. My 15 HWW Post author

      Hi Pib,

      With your frugal lifestyle and a good income down under, you’re definitely on the fast track to FI!

  3. Createwealth8888

    I didn’t wear a watch for a long time and can’t remember when stopped wearing it. Time to leave office is by laptop’s time or any other time is by mobile phone’s time. 🙂

    1. My 15 HWW Post author

      Hi Uncle 8888,

      I still like to have my Casio around with me as I like to time my runs. The competitive spirit is still within me. Part alpha-male.

  4. LP

    Great post! I love it when you counter a YOLO’s lifestyle by focusing on the happiness factor instead of a materialistic one.Stroke of genius 🙂

    Having a short and purpose driven life is way better than one which is long and empty, so since we only live once, why not earn enough, retire early to do the things that truly matters to us, instead of slogging your way to work buying things that we don’t need to impress people who don’t care? lol

    1. My 15 HWW Post author

      Hi LP,

      Guess you can also say that I value my time much more than ostentatious items/Veblon goods. So I am using my current assets to buy myself more time? Or probably more accurate to say that I am using the money to choose how I spend the bulk of my time doing.

  5. B

    Hi 15hww

    Good post here and i think you nailed it a lot down the road when many of your peers are still struggling to find the true meaning of your life.

    Yolo could mean spending your life thrifty in happiness, i wonder why people are linking Yolo to expensive meals or cars.

    1. My 15 HWW Post author

      Hi B,

      If it really makes them happy, who am I to impose my value system/preferences on them?!

  6. Frugal Daddy

    Hi 15hww

    Bravo. You speak my mind better than I can write. You are more courageous in seeking a less travelled path while I am learning the skills to do so.

    See you at the light side.

    1. My 15 HWW Post author

      Hi Frugal Daddy,

      I know you will be there soon! Hopefully, we can still be neighbours by then, although unlikely?

  7. Tacomob

    Looks to me that many of your peers shouldn’t be called homo sapiens (‘wise man’ or ‘thinking man’) but homo expetens (‘wanting man’).

    Happiness has zero to do with materialistic stuff. Just ask the age-experienced. Like what Karl Pillemer has written in his book ’30 Lessons for Living’ after having interviewed 1000 elderly Americans:

    No one — not a single person out of a thousand — said that to be happy you should try to work as hard as you can to make money to buy the things you want.

    No one — not a single person — said it’s important to be at least as wealthy as the people around you, and if you have more than they do it’s real success.

    Happiness is a way of life, a journey not a destination.

    1. My 15 HWW Post author

      Hi Tacomob,

      You nailed it! It’s really a journey instead of a destination. Right now, I am just trying to minimize the frequency of bad vibes, i.e. when I get consumed by anxiety, misery or anger.

      I have found out that working at something that is innately meaningful to me does help my spirits. Next step is to see how often I should do it. 30 hours? 20 hours? Or maybe just 15 hours?

  8. Mel

    Have been following your blog for a couple of months now. Thought this was a particularly succinct post that cuts straight to the crux. Well done and keep it up!

  9. Budget Babe

    This was so articulately expressed and speaks exactly what I feel whenever people ask me why I’m being so hard on myself by saving no less than $20k every year despite having an annual income lower than most of my peers.

    I’ve been sitting on a related post for the longest time, but you (and LP) have just inspired me to finish writing it and hit publish. Here’s my follow-up to both of your articles 🙂


  10. RB35

    Great article! Keep up the quality posts. Sums up how I feel about the current state of affairs of our generation. Im guessing from your posts that we’re kinda in the same age group (late twenties / early thirties). Happiness certainly comes from within.

    Check out this book by Atul Gawande titled Mortality. Sheds a new perspective on the process of death, and brings added meaning to life.

    I think one of the issues I face, and not sure if you feel the same way, is about unfulfilled potential by scaling back on building the nest egg. A potential regret I might have in the future would be not taking full advantage of sailing when the wind is in your favour, and by scaling back now on accumulation, opportunities for new experiences are lost.

    But I guess it’s hard to weigh opportunity cost, so that’s something I find it tough to grapple with and am trying to pin down.

    1. My 15 HWW Post author

      Hi RB35,

      There will always be opportunity costs no matter what we do, or choose not to do. We just hope that at each point in time, we are making the best decision possible. To me, that’s the most important concept I learnt for Economics.

      Will definitely check out the book! Your last recommendation, Livingafi, was superb! I am actually honoured that he is a follower of my blog now!

      In terms of “sca

      1. RB35

        Ah ha! Yes livingafi is pretty awesome. My favourite website now actually. Though that book is pretty jarring instead of entertaining like living a fi. Enjoy.

  11. Rolf Suey

    Hi 15HWW,

    Leaving your corporate job to seek what you really want to do is admirable! What is even more admirable to pursue your own happiness.

    Perhaps your friend totally misunderstand the true definition of life happiness. I dare to say, I am in a position to say that! haha…..

    Nowadays I focus more on myself. If ( just if) my friend is telling me how nice his new watch and new car are, I will be extremely happy for them, not because of the material part, but because I saw the happiness in them! Temporary or long lasting, I am not in a position to judge, but if they are my “FRIEND” (true friend I mean), I always happy for them.

    1. My 15 HWW Post author

      Hi Rolf,

      I like your message! I, too, try to resist from judging too much these days.

      After all, I am not in their shoes. I guess I just need to know myself well enough to choose what to do, buy and be with. 🙂