You Won’t Want To Be Mr Average!

Even in Primary 1, I wasn’t an average performer, which was largely due to the motivation (fear probably more appropriate) my Mum gave me. She was a stay-at-home mum and spent plenty of time and effort to monitor my school work.

We would do spelling from day till night until I got the entire list of words correct. Moreover, she had really high expectations of me. I would often get caned when I return home with a 98 mark for Math (the 2 marks lost are often due to Carelessness or if you know me by now, a tinge of Arrogance)

My Mum believed that academic excellence would give her children a significant advantage in life. This was also perhaps influenced by the fact that she was somewhat forced to stop her education after Secondary School to supplement her family’s income. She had good intentions, but I did feel miserable at times in those growing up years.

John/Peter/Dumb/Dumber only scored 70 marks but their parents are so happy and rewarded them with the new Sega Saturn. I scored 98 marks but you keep asking me to look up to Albert/Isaac/Top Scorer who were the few who scored full marks. Why can’t you just compare me with the average, that guy Mr Average?

I whined, just like what many of you will also do when incessantly compared to a seemingly superior being. Mr Average seemed like a more reasonable alternative benchmark. However, my Mum continued to ask for more (don’t get me wrong, she was really an above average mother who showered me with lots of love and concern too).

As a result, I have been consistently in the top 5% or 10% of the cohort in academic terms all the way till graduation, which probably also explains why I am doing better than average salary-wise currently. So on hindsight, I was glad my Mum did not relent and continued to benchmark me against higher standards. Moreover, as I grew up, I also realised that Mr Average sets a really low bar, which can easily be cleared by most.

Instead of picking the best seats in the lecture theatre, Mr Average prefers to sit at the back during his undergraduate days. He could then chit chat with Miss Average even though it could be difficult to hear the lecturer clearly. (Seriously, why don’t these people just skip the lecture, I always thought.) He also lacks the initiative to request for a consultation session with the professor even if he has many doubts on the materials taught. As a result, he gets the most average and most common grade: B. If one were getting these grades most of the time, he could struggle to graduate with a second lower honours.

Mr Average also wants to be healthy, athletic and fit. However, instead of exercising at least three times a week, he sits back in his sofa every night with a packet of potato chips and a can of beer in his hands. He prefers to watch drama serials or play computer games till the wee hours of the night, waking up without enough rest and looking like a panda. Drinking coffee/tea/soft drinks more often than plain water, he looks tired, sick and is overweight.

Aiming to be rich and financially independent, Mr Average engages Lady Luck and spends $10 on the lottery every month. If she doesn’t shine on him, he resigns to the 40 hour work week for 40 years. Since budgeting and recording expenses would only make life more painful, he decides to focus on the positive and spends 80% of his income on anything he wants to cheer himself up 20% of the time. The ratio stays the same regardless of his income, be it $2,000 or $20,000. This is Mr Average’s version of the Pareto principles in action.

He is keen on investing, too. However, he needs to have someone around to inform him that the coast is clear or the time is ripe for a killing (he doesn’t know he’s the prey). He believes in the safety of numbers and cannot understand both WHY and HOW personal finance bloggers can save more than 50% of their income and achieve financial independence before 50.

In my opinion, it’s scary to be Mr Average.

Furthermore, it really isn’t that hard to differentiate yourself from him. Spend an hour less on Facebook/Twitter and use that time to study that bit harder to get the B+ or A-. A second upper opens many more doors when you’re looking for a job. Lift your butt from the sofa and start doing some higher intensity burpees thrice a week. Do 20 push-ups before you shower everyday. Sleep an hour earlier and wake up to a glass of plain water half an hour earlier. You would be surprised at your increased energy levels after just two months.

I am also pretty sure our goal resonates with you. Otherwise, you wouldn’t be reading this great blog in office, right? So aim higher. Begin by saving harder and investing smarter than Mr Average. You can then start your own 15 hour work week in due time to work less, and play more. How to do it? It wouldn’t hurt to start off by reading all my posts. 😉


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    7 thoughts on “You Won’t Want To Be Mr Average!

    1. Gin

      Hi there,

      Good writing and excellent posts.

      Just like to share that your wife and you have a great start to a well planned financial life. Just don’t forget to enjoy life as you live it.

      I myself started on a similar journey – noting my expenses and reading up on personal finance and investing. Five years on, it has been a very rewarding experience so far. All the best!

      Gin 🙂

      1. My 15 HWW Post author

        Hi Gin,

        Thanks for your encouragement! High praise indeed for someone coming from a Chinese-speaking background. And hopefully, I will be able continue to churn out useful and interesting posts to readers like you! Always feels great to receive comments so that I know I am not just typing to myself.

        I think the way we live still allows us to enjoy some of the finer things in life (like pretty frequent restaurant visits, an Ipad each and……hot showers!). In fact, the Aug expenses are not looking too rosy at this point in time and I think there’s still plenty of fat to trim. 😉

        Lastly, let’s keep up the discipline and All The Best with your financial goals!

        1. Gin

          I too struggle with expenses – it affects my mood still and is a downside of tracking expenses to a daily basis. I sometimes find myself rationalizing to increase that monthly budget. 😛

          As we consider ourselves as a for-profit company, it must be clear that increasing revenue should be the primary driver for growth – with a tight control on costs. As much as I try to save, the often better (and easier) way is to increase the top line. Investing your time in education, company research, or even climbing the career ladder now will yield more long term returns than cutting $5 on coffee everyday, or taking less taxi rides etc.


          1. My 15 HWW Post author

            Very true. Sometimes, I tell myself that with additional side income from tuition, I shouldn’t be so harsh on myself or my wife and we can afford to be more frivolous with that extra moolah.

            However, I also firmly believe that if many families can live on less than $40k a year, we should really be able to live very well on $50k for now. We are trying hard to experiment and settle on a lifestyle (monthly expenditure) that we are not just satisfied but absolutely grateful for. That way, even if we earn more, we will just be saving more and speeding up our semi-retirement/financial independence.

            We try to do that by getting more value from reallocating our expenses. For example, instead of buying a new hand phone, I sold it and used the earnings to set up this blog. It’s been a worthwhile trade. It was the catalyst for me to start writing on a subject I am passionate about and I realised I really enjoy it whereas the joy of getting a new phone would probably just fizzle out after a few weeks.

    2. jo

      Nice post again. i’ll start with the 20 pushups before shower everyday then.
      After reading several blogs on dividend yielding, passive index investing, portfolio management, it seems like being investment savvy is going to be ‘average’ norm. More and more people are going to be well informed and that’s going to raise the ‘average’ standard. Is retiring at 50 going to be good enough if you wish pride yourself as above average? And what happens even if you reach your goal earlier?
      To others in other countries, it already seems that owning a HDB flat is one of every Singaporean’s life goals. Travelling and seeing more made it seems that we’re a bit myopic in a sense. By planning so much, are we striving to be the best we can or are we just being good at being myopic. I guess as a natural achiever, after ace’ing psle, olvl, alvl, degree, the next step is ace’ing the retirement.

      1. My 15 HWW Post author

        Hi jo,

        Yah, I guess it’s true that more people are starting to be interested in investing at a young age, especially with many new options that are friendly to retail investors.

        However, I sincerely doubt that most people are investing with the goal of retiring very early. It’s not exactly touted as an achievement by the mainstream too. In fact, you could easily be labelled as lacking ambition. Climbing the corporate ladder is the natural and default path after school.