My retirement portfolio May 2019

Do I have enough money to retire early?

That has been the most frequent question on my mind for the past decade. Especially when I encounter mind-numbing stupidity at work, or when office politics evidently overwhelm quality work. Sure, I could find another job, but more than anything, I wanted to be rid of the corporate nonsense and just do whatever I like.

On the side, I started cultivating a large number of hobbies and things to do post-retirement, so I wouldn’t feel bored or spend my time in an unstructured manner. I tried mini-retirement 5 years ago and honestly, I did feel at times, so I wanted to make sure I wouldn’t be bored this time around.

With the help of plenty of early retirement blogs, the Reddit financial independence thread, and some research, I started building a desirable investment portfolio suitable for retirement. I studied finance during business school and have been actively reading over the years, but I am by no means a finance whiz. I hope by sharing my retirement portfolio on my blog, I can shed some light on what it takes to retire, and generate some conversations (and tips, please!).

Here’s an overview of my retirement portfolio before I dive deeper:

  • Property - 56.9%

  • Retirement accounts (e.g. 401k) - 11.1%

  • Equity (e.g. stocks) - 9.5%

  • Fixed Income (Bonds, fixed deposits) - 7.9%

  • Equity REITs - 7.2%

  • Cash and money market - 7.4%

    Total = 100%

A small amount (2.6%) that I do not consider to be part of my portfolio is invested in early stage startups.

Also read: The secret to growing your salary 500% in 5 years

Property - 56.9%

I made money in 2009 and 2010 after the financial crisis by picking up distressed assets and selling them for profits within the same year. Because that has been such a large part of my early financial experience, I’ve always had a love for property. On hindsight, that’s not always the best thing to do after 2010, because while the stock market has appreciated by over 50% in the last decade, some of my properties have not. Nevertheless, I am still holding on to one rental property and one investment property. The rental property is rented out to a long term tenant, while the investment property is vacant for now with some light usage over the weekends, as the surrounding areas are not fully developed to be rented out. Both are partially paid up, with relatively low mortgage interest rates around 2.5%.

Retirement accounts (e.g. 401k) - 11.1%

Since I started working, I have been socking away as much money as I could every year into tax-free retirement accounts. It definitely pays to start early because I now have a healthy sum of money in these accounts, growing and compounding tax-free. I invest my 401k and IRA entirely in Vanguard ETFs (VTSAX, VTI). I invest funds in other retirement accounts in dividend generating blue chip stocks.

Equity (e.g. stocks) - 9.5%

I tend to invest directly in shares that I am familiar with. Since I am most familiar with the tech industry, I mostly stick to tech stocks. I have been told that that's risky since I am betting my entire career and investments in the same sector. However, since I have retired, that's probably ok. After all, I can best practice value investing when I truly understand a business’s monetization model and future growth opportunities. Some of the ones I plan to hold for the long term include Amazon, Facebook, Shopify and Tencent.

Fixed Income (bonds, fixed deposits) - 7.9%

To balance the risk of my portfolio, I have started shifting money into AAA bonds. These bonds have a much lower interest rate (around 2-4%), but little to no capital risk. As I get older and move into full retirement, I plan to move more money into bonds and eventually achieve a 50-50 bond, equity portfolio.

Equity REITs - 7.2%

With the proceeds from selling one of my properties, I moved a bunch of my money into equity REITs. I felt that that allowed me to continue to be invested in the property market. I picked a portfolio of stable REITs with high dividends. The historic and estimated annual yield from these REITs is about 6.6%. I also put a small amount in Fundrise, which is estimated to generate 10% annually.

Also read: 10 side hustles you can try while keeping your full time job

Cash and money market - 7.4%

I keep cash for daily expenses as I am still living in a high cost of living (HCOL) area. Once I move out into a low cost of living area (LCOL), I should be able to reduce my cash holdings. I also have some cash ready for scooping up value stocks which I want to hold for the long term.

I make sure to put them in high interest rate accounts wherever possible. My current favourite is the Alliant credit union savings account which provide me with 2.1% APR, no monthly service fees, or minimum balances. I also deposited $15,000 in a Citibank recently to take advantage of a $500 account opening bonus.

Startup investments

Through consulting gigs and my network, I had the chance to invest small amounts in some early stage tech startups I believed in. However, startups only have a 10% of success. Fast forward 5 years and looking at their current business model today, I do not have high confidence that my investments in these startups will add to my retirement funds. I have therefore written off this 2.6% and do not count it as part of my portfolio.

In total, I have 27 times of my annual living expenses today. When I move to a LCOL area (ideally next year), I plan to reduce my withdrawal rate to 3%. As part of keeping myself engaged, I have started exploring the potential of monetizing this blog, and have a few ideas of small, fun things to sell online. I have also been approached for a couple of consulting gigs lately, which take 15 hours a month, and will add to my living expenses, so that might be considered as Barista-FIRE?

It’s clear that I am not FAT-fire, but I am happy with what I have and satisfied that I got to this stage of early retirement at 35. What do you think? Please let me know if you have any tips on how I can reallocate my portfolio.

Also read Stop doing these 3 things today if you want to reach Financial Independence earlier