We all dream about financial freedom. We all want to keep up our lifestyle after or even before we retire, and to continue enjoying the things we are passionate about without worry about money. But for many people, that often stays a dream. What are the steps to turn that dream into reality?


On contrary to many people’s beliefs, financial freedom is not the same as freedom. Think about it, we were all born with freedom, we did what we like when we were young and our parents took care of everything. But after we grow up and get married, we start to have obligations, we need to pay for our mortgage loans, bills and children education. Suddenly, we are handcuffed.

As a result, you may equate financial freedom with piles of wealth, and retirement with loads of money in your bank account. A recent poll from Straits Times released Singaporeans’ belief that you need $1.38 million just to retire.

Is this $1.38 million really what you need? What if financial freedom is not just built on millions of dollars and it is much more achievable than what you were always told? Let me explain…

If you want to achieve financial freedom and retire early, there are 3 main stages you must go through, they are

  1. Financial Security
  2. Financial Independence
  3. Financial Freedom

Understanding which financial stage you are in is essential to plan for your financial future.

Stage #1: Financial Security

Who are the Top 1% earners in the world?

If I were to ask you this question, your first thought must be people like Philip Ng, Bill Gates, Warren Buffett or other billionaires in the world.

What you might not know is that, according to the IMF latest report, if you earn more than US$4,500 per month, you are already the top 1% earners in the world. Yes, many people in Singapore are lucky enough earning more than most people in the world. In fact, the latest Household Expenditure Survey from Department of Statistics Singapore shows that Singapore’s average monthly household income is as high as S$10,503.


You are already Financially Secure

You might say, “but Singapore is such an expensive place to live”. That may be a common belief but not necessarily true

In the same survey, it shows our average monthly household expenditure is only $5,771. That is only about half of the average income, just like most of the developed countries. If you are a middle-class family, you won’t have any problem to pay for your housing, clothing, food, transportation, recreation, education and health. In another word, comparing to the rest of the world, the majority of the people in Singapore are already Financially Secure.

You achieve Financial Security when you can pay off all your obligations by working. – Ivan Guan


Many people are at the stage of Financial Vitality

Do you indulge yourself at an expensive restaurant sometimes? Do you always have the latest smartphone? Do you travel nearly every year?

I bet most of you do. In fact, many Singaporeans are doing much better than financially security alone. Most probably, you are already at the stage which Tony Robbins called “Financial Vitality” in his book “Money Master the Game”.

Whether you are at the stage of Financial Security or Financial Vitality, that is something encouraging, isn’t it? Aren’t you in a much better financial situation than you thought?

But nobody wants to finish at Financial Security right? so let’s move on to the next step.

Stage #2: Financially Independence

You can achieve Financial Security by working hard, but Financial Independence requires more than just work. You will have to shift your paradigm and adopt rich mindsets.

A true story about myself

When I started to work as a financial consultant more than 10 years ago, I was more excited than ever. I love to meet people and use my knowledge to help people with their finance. I worked very hard, achieved Million Dollar Club title (like Academy Awards in our industry) and was invited to a convention in Sydney by the second year.

I thought I was on the path to financial freedom. After all, that is how the work was sold right? I had this illusion that one day, someday, I will be able to stop working and enjoying the luxury lifestyles I ever wanted. (Did you ever think the same way?)

As you can guess, before that “one day” came, I was burnt out.

By working hard, I was overweight and my health was heading downhill because I did not take proper care of myself nor did I sleep well. My temper became worse by days because I was stressed out at work. Work, started to become a nightmare which I hate and avoid.

One night last year, I met a nasty prospect and I was so exhausted when I was back home. My wife and children were already asleep as usual. I sat by the window, looking at the stars and asked myself:

  • When was the last time I had a family dinner without rushing?
  • When was the last time I enjoyed watching my children play around without looking at my phone and laptop?
  • When was the last time I enjoyed working?
  • When was the last time I dreamed?

You CAN earn more and work less

As fate would have it. It was at the time I picked up Timothy Ferriss’s book “The 4-Hour Workweek”, and this book changed my life. Here is how he  put it.

Life doesn’t have to be so damn hard. It really doesn’t. Most people, my past self included, have spent too much time convincing themselves that life has to be hard.

The New Rich are those who abandon the deferred-life plan and create luxury lifestyles in the present using the currency of the new Rich: time and mobility.

Fast forward one year now, I am still a financial consultant, but my life has been completely rejuvenated.

  • I got to go home before my kids and wife and we have family dinner together nearly every night.
  • I got to workout nearly every day and I reduced my weight by 10kg
  • I am feeling healthier and more energetic than ever.
  • I learned new hobbies such as bridge and fishing and met many new friends
  • I picked up yoga 3 months ago and I am loving it.
  • And my favourite show now is… Glee, which I used to think that I was too old to watch 😀


I have always thought there would be some trade-off between lifestyle and working my butt off, but 3 unexpected things happened to me

  1. I no longer receive work-related phone calls at night or during the weekend.
  2. I enjoy working again
  3. The best part, my income INCREASED!

Guys, I am thrilled to share with you how I did this, be sure to subscribe my newsletter so you won’t miss the posts. Just remember,

You achieve Financial Independence when you are working not because you have to, but because you want to, and you got to choose how you want to work. – Ivan Guan

Stage #3: Financial Freedom

What is the price tag of your dream?

Through my work, I got to meet many people who have been very successful in their own fields. They can be professionals, managers of multi-national companies or small business owners.

Most of them have one thing in common, they all earn very high income, but still “concerned” about their financial future. So I ask them why. Here are some common replies:

  • I need to save a lot of money to buy that condominium I always wanted.
  • I need a few million dollars so I can retire early.
  • I must give my children the best education, that will cost me a bomb.
  • I want to travel around the world when I have enough money
  • I want to be a millionaire!

Are these your concerns too?

Your dream always costs much less than you think

If you think about it, to plan for your financial future is to plan your life, and your life is to work towards your dream. And your dream, my friend, is not the number of digits in your bank account or the length of your asset list.

The truth is that your dream, be it a house, early retirement, children education or travel, always costs much less than you think.

People don’t want to be millionaires – they want to experience what they believe only millionaires can buy. $1,000,000 in the bank isn’t the fantasy. The fantasy is the life-style of complete freedom it supposedly allows. The question is then, how can one achieve the millionaire lifestyle of complete freedom without first having $1,000,000 – The 4-Hour Workweek.

How I did it

Have you dreamed of staying in a condominium near the beach and jogging there every day? I do! I just love the sand, the sea, the wind and now, the fishing.

And today, I have fulfilled this dream. My house is just 500 meters away from the East Coast Park. It is very convenient for my family to picnic at the beach in the weekend now.

During the weekdays, I like to go to Parkland Green for coffee in the afternoon and I always sit at the open air area of the cafe to feel the warm sea wind. Sometimes I go jogging at 5pm just before the evening crowd come.


My children love the swimming pool downstairs and it is a much quieter place comparing to my previous house where there was a MRT track nearby. My office is just 10 minutes drive away from my house and my children can walk to their school. We have a wet market just across the road and many good eateries within one kilometers.

How much is the house worth? Probably $1,500,000 even at this sliding property market. But Here is the thing.

I did not buy the house. I am renting it.

Given nearly every Singaporean family “owns” a house, this seems unthinkable, and many people disagree with it.

You see, I have two choices. If I were to buy the house, my wife and I had to first squeeze out at least $300,000 to pay for the down payment. Then we will have to work our butts off in the rest of our lives for the bank. The mortgage loan will be about $5,000 a month, which is much higher than the rental I am paying, it just does not make sense to me.

I guess I have taken billionaire Philip Ng’s advice that I am not going to let possessions possess me. Why try to own something while you don’t actually own it? As John Wooden said,

Don’t let making a living prevent you from making a life.

You are so close to Financial Freedom

Do you realize that the life you have ever wanted is so close to you? You will be so close to financial freedom,

  • if you did not add that one more property to your asset list while you already have a few
  • if you did not take one more debt when you just finish your existing one
  • if you did not dump all your profits into a new “business venture” while your business just starts to make money

You will achieve financial freedom if you bother to fulfill your dream now, not in the future.

You achieve Financial Freedom when your dream is your financial destination. You are no longer working for money, money is your slave. A life to fulfill dreams is much happier and costs much less than a life to merely accumulate wealth. – Ivan Guan

What do you need to do next

I hope by now you know your own financial freedom is not unreachable and you can start to fulfill your dream now. The mission of this blog is to help you achieve your financial freedom. You can click here to get started and learn what this website can offer you. There are a few things you can do next to immediately improve your financial situation.

4hr-workweek-coverDefine a personal mission statement first. It will keep you motivated when times get tough and help you make the right choices to achieve your dreams and desires.

If you have not heard or read the book “The 4-Hour Workweek”, you can get it from most of the book stores in Singapore or through Book Depository (my favourite online book store).

To help you jump start your financial freedom, I have a FREE gift for you.

Click here to download the first chapter of the book for FREE.

It is less than 30 pages and a quick read. Come back to this blog and let me know how you think about it after reading.

I recommend you to take a look at my other posts about how to use Income Generating Assets such as rental property or REITs to build the foundation for your financial freedom.

If you like this article, the best way to give back is to share it with your friends by clicking the share button below.

Here is my question to you.

What is your definition of financial freedom? How much do you think you need to achieve your dream? I would love to hear from you. Simply leave your comment below and let’s discuss.

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About the Author

Ivan Guan is the author of the popular book "FIRE Your Retirement". He is an independent financial adviser with more than a decade of knowledge and experience in providing financial advisory services to both individuals and businesses. He specializes in investment planning and portfolio management for early retirement. His blog provides practical financial tips, strategies and resources to help people achieve financial freedom. Follow his Telegram Channel to join the FIRE community.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author. This does not reflect the official position of any agency, organization, employer or company. Refer to full disclaimers here.

  • Hi Ivan, nice sharing..this 4 hour ww book is one of the best book I ever read and really change my perception about early retiring..I honestly hated my job now but is stuck here because I have to pay my bills for my family.i hope to get out of this rat race within the next few years..I rather earn less and have more time rather then trapped in a black box till 62yo

    • Hi Jayden,

      I agree with you that it is hard to change because of the financial commitments we have. But it is always good to start something small today.

      Good luck to your financial freedom.

  • Good one Ivan. Live your own lifestyle and not the Joneses. Live and enjoy the experiences rather than accumulate materials or assets. Yes, one would get no further than the crowd he follows. Walk alone.

    Striving for financial freedom is actually a personal goal rather than society’s. Read widely and learn from others esp the how-tos and not the what’s.

    • Thanks Frederick,

      I agree with you that financial freedom won’t be a society’s goals, but we all can just work towards a better version of ourselves. 🙂

  • Hi, my hubby and I are also hoping to gain financial freedom and through luck in property investing, we are almost there.
    Hoping to semiretire in my 40s soon either in Malaysia or Sg. Do visit my blog at financialfreedom.live if interested to know more.

  • very nice read!
    jus a tip : alternative to find a house near the beach where u can jog everyday but dont pay high $$’s is Pasir ris :))

  • Hi Ivan,
    Thanks for mentioning that with US$4,500 per month, you are already among the top 1% earners in the world. It is a good reminder for all rat racers.

    I love this perspective change you do offer. So much dissatisfaction comes from focusing on what we don’t have that the simple exercise of acknowledging and valuing what we do have can transform our outlook instantly.

    By living on less than in the past I can actually enjoy life more. For me financial independence is as much psychological as material freedom, involving shedding my past assumptions about what is “enough” for me and my family to live happily and well.

    What often is not enough yet is time. But then people still trade their time for more money despite really wanting more time. Do we set the right priorities?

    Quite paradox, isn’t it?

    • Hi, Andreas, I totally agree with you that financial freedom is as much psychological as material.

      People trade time for money because we were brainwashed to do so since young. It was built into our educational system. Kind of conspiracy theory of capitalism in my view. 🙂

      • Hi Ivan,
        It’s more than a conspiracy theory. It’s a fact.
        The education system teaches the kids to become “good workers” and earn money the hard way to spend it again loyally as a “good consumer” (helped by the endless marketing campaigns of consumer companies).
        What the education system lacks is financial literacy education. This does not have to be very elaborate, as I believe it boils down to maybe 10 “Rules of Thumb” which make all the difference in ones long-term financial situation.
        That’s why I always remind my kids not to blindly follow the crowd, but to stop and think first and then decide for themselves. Always stay alert.
        I believe one could hardly find any famous/successful person who just followed the crowd. Each of them did something different or unexpected somewhere in their life to get where they are now.

        • Hi, Andreas,

          Yes, totally.

          Albert Einstein said, “The one who follows the crowd will usually get no further than the crowd. The one who walks alone, is likely to find himself in places no one has ever been.”

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