When I Had My First ……

Most of us have an on-going battle with money. And that includes money bloggers like me.

On one end, you have people trying to stop the pain. Their personal finances, mortgage payments and credit card debts have careened out of control. To make matters worse, the negative impact has inevitably spilled over to every other aspect of their lives and they are literally drowning in financial despair.

On the other side, there’s people who understand the rules of money pretty well. Investments, interest rates, compounding effects and the like. For these people, the bigger threat is becoming obsessed with money. On first appearance, money seems to be their servant in life but on a closer look, money could really be the ultimate master instead.

Having experienced both ends of the spectrum, I find the latter to be a much scarier tussle. I am not trying to belittle debts, but for many, fighting an obsession over money is more likely a long-drawn affair right down to the moment when one draws his last breath.

In fact, I am slowly starting to appreciate this ridiculous phenomenon that the more money one has, the more he worries about it. 😕

And here’s a poem that illustrates my limited insight into this issue.

After all, besides providing what is (hopefully) good advice, this blog also serves as an outlet for my pent-up emotions and creativity.  😛


When I Had My First ……

When I had my first dollar
I was just beyond a toddler
Fantasizing about the lollipops I could buy
Kept me weeks on a high 

When I had my first ten dollar
I did what every 8-year-old thought proper
The box of erasers bought within my power
Brought endless fun during recess hour

When I had my first hundred dollar
It was in the form of a PSLE reward from mother
A GUESS watch with a leather band
Worn proudly in my teenage hand

When I had my first thousand dollar
All I wanted was to be popular
Generously paying for drinks and dates
Without consideration for my future financial fate

When I had my first ten thousand dollar
I had tuition clients breathing down my collar
Grudgingly trading more time for money
Hoping to hold the hands of that frivolous sweet honey

When I had my first hundred thousand dollar
It was through a job giving me little pleasure
Succumbing to societal pressure
I slogged harder to accumulate my treasures


What has happened in the last 15 years?
The law of diminishing returns I hear
Every additional dollar I earned

Did not bring me the happiness I yearned

Something had to give
And a sigh of relief was heaved
When I temporarily gave up accumulating more treasures
In exchange for half a year of leisure

A change of attitude I now procure
To keep greed from rising to the fore
Contentment is to look at a dollar with new-found yore
For I realise more money is not the cure

Otherwise things could get worse
When I have my first million dollar


37 thoughts on “When I Had My First ……

    1. My 15 HWW Post author

      Hi CW8888,

      Like you mentioned, I also think it’s good to have an end goal for one to aim at. But when one has reached that number, does bliss descend? Moreover, it’s actually quite hard not to inflate the target (for achievement) when one has reached it early enough.

      Sometimes having an end goal could also stoke the obsession even more as one tries to reach it faster.

      I almost succumbed to the “one-more-year-syndrome” as there was a part of me that wanted to accumulate more to semi-retire earlier.

      Doubt that would have been worth it. =p

  1. Createwealth8888

    The question is still how much is enough?

    For younger ones it is very tough question to answer as their life journey is too far away.

    For older folks who have past data as reference and with one leg in the coffin, this question may not be that difficult to answer.

    With the next question on how much more money to leave behind for others to spend?

    The second question may lead to an easier answer to the first question on how much is enough.

    1. My 15 HWW Post author

      Hi CW8888,

      Thanks for your wise words. =)

      As of now, I would think that I wouldn’t want to leave behind much for my children. But seriously, too early to say for me. Experience tells me that these stuff tends to come back and bite me. =p

  2. WolfT

    When I had my first million dollar
    It was through my investment which Luckily worked.
    Succumbing to my inner evil for thy love of money
    I risked everything to accumulate my next nine.

    1. My 15 HWW Post author

      Hi WolfT,

      I seriously hope this wouldn’t happen to me. Definitely don’t mind having ten million but not willing to become its servant. A case of “I want my cake and eat it too?” =p

  3. Richard

    BALANCE is still the keyword and hardest to achieve when come to wealth/money… But like what the wise uncle CW8888 said lor, it is always good to know what is enough to us!

    1. My 15 HWW Post author

      Hi Richard,

      The problem for many is not “knowing what is enough”.

      A million dollars is a good enough target for most people. But if one gets it in his mid thirties or even forties, then it’s difficult not to chase after more when all his life he has been chasing after the next dollar.

  4. Mickey J

    I must say that this post came at at the right time. As I started writing about retirement, investment and money management in my blog, I find that I do start to get obsessed with my money a little too much.

    1. My 15 HWW Post author

      Hi Mickey J,

      This post was actually written more as a reminder to myself not to keep chasing and not to keep worrying about money, especially when I have more of it.

      A dollar used to make me so happy, but now that I have more than hundred thousand times of it, am I even as happy then?

  5. LP

    Nobody commented on your wonderful poem! I like how you tell your story that when you get progressively more and more money, you feel worse and worse. Very nicely done!

    I’m not sure if you rmb long long long long ago, that I told you one day, you might be so zen about money that you don’t really try to squeeze every bit of your life for just a little more? I think you’re getting closer to what I’m feeling right now, at this point in time. When financial freedom becomes less of a state of being and more of a state of mind, you’ll realised that you want to reach there, but it’s also okay that you don’t reach there.

    You start off the journey thinking a lot about money, but you will end the journey not thinking about money. That’s financial freedom – a state of mind.

    1. My 15 HWW Post author

      Hi LP,

      Thanks for your kind words, especially with regards to the poem. Made some effort to make it rhyme as much as possible. =p

      I definitely remember the comment you left. Made me ponder for a long while then.

      To be fair, I have never set a “hard” monthly budget so you could say I didn’t have to scrimp during those last few days of every month just to make it work. Doing that constitutes a very negative experience which is probably the reason why most people are turned off by budgeting.

      You are right that financial freedom is more a state of mind than the amount you have. Being pre-occupied with growing or preserving your money is a recipe for misery and poor health.

  6. Y

    Dear MY 15HWW,

    It seems not long ago when I had similar thoughts, that ultimately money had too much control over me despite me having control of my financial.

    It is a fine, delicate balance between the master and slave relationship.

    The more efforts, thoughts & time we put in, the less contented we became.

    Comparing to people who are unable to retire no matter how hard they worked, they will certainly envy us, though we envy another group of people, adopting the grass is greener on the other side mentality.

    My current school of thoughts towards financial planning is “Get it done and over with” – Plan well, execute it and spend the rest of my time “really living” it is extremely similar to index investing in investing context. You learn index investing well, know the different class to invest in, know the realistic returns it is able to give you, and rebalance it once every year. That’s all.

    I enjoyed your poem thoroughly.


    1. My 15 HWW Post author

      Hi Y,

      Firstly, hope all’s well with you and your family.

      I do feel privileged to be able to take half a year off work and re-think what I want out of money, and ultimately life. i caught myself enjoying my money less and less as I grew older and older. Pretty screwed up. =p

      I am also becoming more and more receptive to index investing. Keeps one away from checking how the market’s doing every other day.

  7. Jared Seah - SMOL

    Hello 15HWW,

    It’s natural.

    The pendulum will swing too far right, and then swing too far left.

    In due time, we may get the balance just right.

    What we think we know when we plan (or write) about retirement while working may not be the same when we actually “retires”.

    I see your recent break have brought you new insights 😉

    For the past 3 years, I’ve made adjustments here and there. There are no chains holding me back. If tired; rest. If hungry; eat.

    1. My 15 HWW Post author

      Hi SMOL,

      I definitely wouldn’t claim to have found the holy grail to personal finance, investing, money and life. And you’re right, I am adjusting.

      I guess I am lucky that I didn’t persist on in my previous job for another decade to accumulate a million bucks and then to realise that it wasn’t worth it.

  8. PIB

    Balance is key but we often need to “balance” ourselves. For example, eating out does consume a lot of money and its more expensive than eating at home.

    But eating at home would mean having to cook and buy raw materials for cooking a good meal. So should one eat out or eat at home? If friends ask if you want to eat out, do you eat with them or do you just politely refuse them to eat at home cos you know that it would be cheaper?

    1. My 15 HWW Post author

      Hi PIB,

      It’s not easy to achieve a balance, which also makes it a worthwhile challenge to find that “sweet” spot.

      Think more often than not, I would prefer to eat with friends. If budget is tight, suggest a slightly cheaper venue?

  9. Rolf Suey

    Hi 15HWW,

    Amazing written poem. Like it a lot. I got inspire and wrote one below.

    When I had my first sex
    It could not last more than tens of minutes.

    When I had my first love
    It could not last more than few years.

    When I had my first wife (still the same)
    I do not know how long it will last.
    I am not bothered as I will try to keep it going as long as I could

    Quarrels and Laughters are commonplace
    Time dilutes but can also strengthens
    We went through ups and down

    Happiness is the ultimate GOAL!

    Maybe some correlation between how much money we have…



    1. My 15 HWW Post author

      Hi Rolf,

      Interesting take. I gather that love is intuitively quite the opposite of money?

      The more moolah one has, the less value it creates by default? But for love, the longer and more you have it, the better it is?

  10. B

    Hi 15HWW

    Great Poem there by the way!!!

    I agree with what LP had to say. It appears that money make you happy when you were younger only to realize that what you were seeking as you approach the hundred thousand marks in not purely the money. Not to say that they are not important, but it is evident that other factors have creeped in to what you believed as happiness.

    I think you’ve reached your version of financial freedom, or at least are getting by very close to it.

    1. Createwealth8888

      Probably, you may read my blog post on my female colleague. She doesn’t bother to make her money works harder. Just save hard and continue to work is enough for her. The state of mind of financial freedom. Why the need to retire early from day job?

      1. My 15 HWW Post author

        Hi CW8888,

        I have read it. I have to admit I do envy that kind of life. =p

        That’s the best, to be absolutely in love with what you do on a daily basis and to earn so much from it that you don’t have to worry about money.

        I hope I can find that “something” soon.

    2. My 15 HWW Post author

      Hi B,

      I guess many of us appreciate the value of money more when we were younger, when we weren’t really chasing it.

      Money by itself is a pretty much useless thing. It’s the consumption, security and other qualities it helps to create that matters. There’s more and more factors to consider as we grow older and many of us lose sight of what’s really the priorities.

      I do hope that I can become increasingly more zen towards money as I have more of it. =p

  11. JW

    I always say, have a goal in mind on why you’re saving.

    i.e. 100k for that mortgage down payment, 50k for your kids education, etc. Anything extra, spend it!

    1. My 15 HWW Post author

      Hi JW,

      What separates focusing on a goal vs obsessing over a goal is a thin red line.

      Sometimes, two wrongs don’t make a right. Earning it “wrongly” and then spending it “wrongly” doesn’t make one much happier. =p

    1. My 15 HWW Post author

      Hi LadyYouCanBeFree,

      Thanks for your compliments. =p

      Your journey and admirable passive income has also provided great insights for me too!

  12. ladykiller

    It takes a lot of courage to break free from the soul sucking black hole that your life disappears into when you chase money. Most people don’t learn till it’s too late. I think we are too concerned with what society’s measures of success are. However, it is encouraging to note the trend among the new generation workforce that fewer people are enamored by a career in finance than a career in tech startups, which is a perfect real world parallel comparing the priorities of money (career in finance) and the preference for lifestyle and happiness (career in tech, such as LinkedIn, Facebook, airbnb)

    1. My 15 HWW Post author

      Hi ladykiller,

      I think the problem with most of us is we like to compare and go “one-up” on others. If this can be curbed, one is going to lead a much happier life.

      Actually, I think sometimes tech start-ups can lead one to that soul sucking black hole too.

    1. My 15 HWW Post author

      Hi Alvin,

      Glad you enjoyed it.

      Those erasers were important. Together with football, both of them helped me become curious with geography at a very young age. =)

  13. sgpropertyinc

    Haha, what a neat poem. I spent all my money on coloured pens, rather than flag erasers though. Wealth accumulation is not an end in itself. Alot of happiness or whatever security we feel, depends on how we spend it. Sometimes spending on meaningful activities, like donating and seeing the joy on the beneficiary face is priceless.

    1. My 15 HWW Post author

      Hi sgpropertyinc,

      It’s interesting to note that most billionaires are big philanthropists. =)

  14. hy

    hi 15HWW

    I’ve been a silent reader of your blog and some of the more notable local financial bloggers, This post struck me as 1) i will be doing what you have done, take a 6 mth break or so in early 2015 2) i love the poem! it’s always good to see people bring the arts and sciences (or maths, in this case) together 🙂

    with regards to 1), I have to say that I am terrified sh*tless about the uncertainty. yes, it’s something i want for myself, and also partly cos no choice due to the environment I am currently in, but it doesn’t mean that it’s easy to fight conventions, stereotypes and expectations, esp from family and the less progressive people around me.

    are there any tips you can share to help me enjoy this sabbatical better, instead of fretting about every dime and hour “wasted”? thanks!

    1. My 15 HWW Post author

      Hi hy,

      I can fully empathise with what you are feeling right now. Independence is a trait you probably need in abundance as you take on this sabbatical.

      I wrote two posts a couple of months back regarding my self-reflection after 3 months of voluntary unemployment. Hopefully you can find something useful there. Otherwise, you can also look at these recent posts by this blogger: