Millionaire Interview #7 – Financial Imagineer
Hello dear reader and welcome to the seventh blog post of the Millionaire Interview Series, this time being for Financial Imagineer.
As this blog’s domain name suggests, my personal long term financial goal is to reach a net worth of one million euros, or in other words, become a millionaire.
In addition to self-educating in topics as finance, and summarizing my learnings on my millionaire mind series, I am keen on acquiring knowledge from other people’s experiences, especially from those who are self-made millionaires.
So, what is this Millionaire Interview Series about?
Every interviewee will answer a set of questions, which aim to collect information from several millionaires around the world. These questions will be all be pretty much the same for everyone.
My goal is to analyse and find common patterns, behaviour, careers, lifestyles, mindset, hobbies, or any other aspect that may come across and learn from all of it from a personal experience point of view.
I hope you can learn something new or help you in taking better money decisions.
If you’d be interested in being interviewed please get in touch with me by email tony (at) onemillionjourney (dot) com or a message me on Twitter.
- Millionaire Interview #1 – Finimus (The UK)
- Millionaire Interview #2 – FI Heroes (US)
- Millionaire Interview #3 – Perpetual Money Machine (US)
- Millionaire Interview #4 – Steve Adcock (US)
- Millionaire Interview #5 – Contrarian Saver (US)
- Millionaire Interview #6 – Educator FI (US)
Meet Matt from Financial Imagineer
The seventh interviewee is Matt, a financially independent dad and a husband born in Switzerland who used to work in the private banking sector. Matt is a personal finance aficionado who enjoys writing about the topic on his blog Financial Imagineer. You can also find him on Twitter and Facebook, where he engages with like-minded peers and offers inspiration to Financially Imagineer your life.
It has been a while since I last posted a millionaire interview. The reason for this gap is the lack of non-American millionaires. Out of 6 interviews, 5 were based in the US, and since I wanted these series to take a worldwide range I thought to pause it until I would come across with ideally a European based millionaire.
This is when Matt comes in.
I like Matt’s history not only because he is European, but because his background is different and worth taking the time to read, especially for the personal finance community.
Have you ever met anyone who has taken part in the “Who Want To Be a Millionaire” TV contest and actually get a nice chunk of money?
Possibly not, right?
Then, without further ado, let’s enter to the entertainment and learning zone captained by Matt from Financial Imagineer.
Introduction About Yourself
How old are you?
I’m 41 and will turn 42 later this year.
What’s your nationality?
Where do you live?
We live our life between Singapore, Switzerland and Taiwan and travel a lot if not for Covid.
Are you married? (If so, how old is your spouse and when you married?)
Yes, happily married since 2007, my wife is 3 years younger than me.
Do you have any children? (If so, how many and how old are they?)
Yes, we have two kids, currently 7 and 9.
What do you do for a living?
I used to work a private banking job helping wealthy investors navigating the seven capitalistic seas. After two decades in the field, I’ve managed to build my nest egg sufficiently large to support our family from our own investments. That’s when I’ve quit my 9-5 in 2017. As in 2021 I’m currently still helping a handful of good clients as an independent wealth manager and spend time working on my blog “Financial Imagineer” in order to spread financial literacy to empower a wider audience making their dreams come true, financially Imagineering their lives, using the lessons I’ve learned with and from my more than 140 multi-millionaire clients.
Determining how wealthy you are
In this section, I would like to find out where you stand along the wealth continuum, or in other words, if you are a prodigious accumulator (PAW), an under accumulator of wealth (UAW) or just an average accumulator (AAW). More about this on wikipedia.
What’s your net worth? Please include debt details if applicable.
We do own a nest egg sufficiently large to support ourselves, we also hold real estate in three locations which allows us location freedom.
How much of your net worth is inherited?
My dad passed on a large amount of financial literacy. Luckily he and my mum are still around and we still chat a lot about personal finance, money and wealth management. He used to be in banking as well and inspired me by ditching his 9-5 when he was 50.
Could you please tell us what’s your pre-tax household income from all sources, except inheritances and how it has evolved from your first earnings until now?
Having made my first salary as a newspaper boy, I’ve learned how to earn, grow and invest from an early age. Back in 2001, I’ve managed to supercharge my net worth with a six-figure windfall which allowed me to go about life slower than others. Thanks to that event I ventured out to work and live abroad and soon realised my investment returns are above my salaried income. Later on, thanks to having learned to converse in Mandarin Chinese, more doors opened and I managed to 10x my take-home pay from 2005 till 2015 while maintaining a relatively frugal lifestyle compared to peers, socking away the difference and putting it to work eventually.
Sources of income
Please, would you mind telling us what are your main sources of income and how much they contribute to your pre-tax income household? (Day job, side hustles, businesses, dividends, interests… from you and your spouse).
I’m a huge fan of multiple streams of income,I’m still receiving income from my clients, but also receive dividends, interest payments, rental income and my portfolio of assets including equities and real estate kept increasing over the past few years. Since the passive component of our income would suffice to maintain our life, we re-deploy surpluses into the nest egg, for now, feeding the future passive income machine even further.
Approximately, how many hours per week of your time is required to maintain this income level?
I usually read a lot, keep myself informed and talk with many people about different things every day. My consultation time is the result of all the other things behind. Now, how much of which you like to count as work and which parts is not hard to say. I enjoy my life set-up particularly due to the maximum amount of freedom that I could untap through it. In the end, all my clients care about are the results.
Have you had any period with a significant lower stream of income due to a career or occupation change, incapacity, illness or any other bumps on the road you encountered? (If so, what did you do to overcome the situation?)
From 2012 onwards I’ve built very intentionally towards financial independence and the most interesting moment was the time after “cutting the cord” from the feeding big corporate mothership in 2017. We have calculated everything and tested it out before “getting real”. The moment I’ve quit my last job was also the moment from which I’ve always depended on my own income sources ever since. Despite many months of preparation, it was still something we had to get used to in the end. In the meantime, we got used to living on much less while earning much more. It’s interesting how these things work sometimes.
Do you spend time or money looking for new opportunities to boost your income?
There’s a saying that goes something like —“if you’re working full-time, you’ll never have time to earn real money”—, this is so true. Being comfortable and fine in your 9-5 is okay, however, if you never try to unlock additional income streams outside your job, you’ll never know if you could actually do it. If you cut your job at one point, you’ll have a lot more time to try. And if you’re financially independent, you can even give yourself a budget to fund and go after new projects. A time and a money budget. It always takes time as well to look and execute new opportunities. But this is what makes life exciting!
Savings, expenses and purchasing behaviour
How much of your pre-tax household income do you save and how it has changed over time?
When I worked for the first time in Taiwan, my income went 1/3 into housing and food, 1/3 into Chinese classes and 1/3 into savings. Later on, this ratio changed. Once we got married it was 1/3 housing, 1/3 food and German classes for my wife and rest saving. Only from 2012 onwards, I managed to increase the savings rate more towards 50% and also boost my passive income streams higher. By 2017 we could totally live off the passive income streams and do whatever we pleased with the salary income parts. This was the time for us to pivot. The more income you produce, the lesser percentages your “needs” will cost you and the more you can focus on your “wants” which can be savings, investments, travel or anything else!
Do you have a budget, pay yourself first or track your expenses? (If so, how much time do you spend on it on a monthly basis?)
I used to have the pay myself first set-up, which I found super helpful to build wealth. As for budgeting, we used to put fixed amounts into certain accounts which became our budget allowances for food and other things. In order not to encourage total spending-off, the money left after one month was “unlocked” to go into other goals as well. We did a few times so-called “spend as little as possible” months to see our bottom line and priorities. If you do this every once in a while, you might not need a traditional budget per se. I’m doing a budget overview maybe once a year, mainly using the compounded spending amounts which are visible on my credit card overview. That’s also as detailed as we get.
Do you remember how much you paid for your first home and what was your household’s total annual realized income at that time?
When I was 19 years old I moved out to a city apartment together with my girlfriend, we paid around $1,050 per month for our flat. Together we earned around $6,000 monthly while I was a college student working three jobs on the side.
Is there any category where you don’t mind spending more money into? (travelling, education for yourself or your kids…)
If possible, we like to not overspend in any category. However, we do like to travel and enjoy some luxuries like a better camper van, a better rental car and good food while on the road. We usually use credit card points to travel hack as much of the actual travel costs away and have more cash to spend on the trips. However, the past 1.5 years was a very “travel-poor” period of time, and we managed to save a lot more, also increased our reward points and miles accordingly!
What’s the most expensive piece of clothing and the motor vehicle you’ve ever bought?
The most expensive piece of clothing was a tailor-made suit for my job which I had made from my favourite tailor in Taiwan, it is simply an awesome suit that I stopped wearing regularly though from 2017 onwards. The most expensive motor vehicle is the current Toyota Avensis second-hand car which set me back around USD 12k, it’s 6 years “old” and had around 100,000kms on the odometer, a bargain I’d say!
What’s the current value of all your motor vehicles?
I’d reckon I might still get around USD 10k for my Toyota, but it’s not for sale!
Investing strategy and behaviour
What’s your net worth asset allocation?
We got a big portion in real estate, roughly 50%. The rest is in investments such as mutual funds, ETFs, shares and our own AMC with an exciting momentum strategy.
What’s your investing philosophy? Do you stick into any strategy? (If so, do you change it often?)
Before buying, understand! For 80% of our holdings: Buy for the long run, for the rest, look at more tactical ideas and get exposure to new things regularly. Then review monthly. Keep core, adjust tactically and keep feeding the engine!
How much time do you spend planning and tracking your investments on a monthly basis?
Please do not take me as your benchmark, but since this is my passion, hobby and profession, I’m happy to confirm that I do spend about 2 hours per day at least on this part. And I reckon it’s totally worth it.
Do you follow the markets and media closely and trade accordingly? Are you an active or inactive trader?
I do follow markets and media very closely, this doesn’t mean I do what the media propagates, but understanding what’s going on it super important in capital markets. I’m mostly a passive investor and an active trader for the respective parts of my portfolio, core vs. satellite.
Do you hire any professional financial and tax advisors, lawyers or accountants? (If so, what’s the annual cost of it?)
No need, since that would be me already. I am a professional wealth manager by training. Free of charge!
Tell us about your best investment.
My best investment ever was when I put some of my cash into Microvision shares in the late 1990’s. The ticker is MVIS. Just go back to the late 1990’s and early 2000’s to see how high it flew. This thing allowed me to purchase my first second hand car, move out of my parents home and encouraged me to study financial markets more. It was on fire. Luckily I sold some as long as the party lasted back in the early year 2000. Look at the chart what happened from March 2000 onwards though. As of now I’m no longer invested in this share. It had some interesting moves recently again though.
And the worst one?
The worst investment was buying a few Nokia call contracts in 2001. They never made it. All gone.
What would be your investment advice to anyone who wants to build wealth today?
Invest into your education first, build your understanding of how markets work, get an experienced mentor and learn. Invest primarily into yourself in the beginning. Don’t get discouraged when markets go against you, stay the course and take temporary losses as “tuition fee”. You will only learn more and keep getting better if you keep going. Start there, then improve your tactics and plan and keep feeding the engine!
Are you a goal-oriented person? Do you have a net worth target number?
I used to have a net-worth target for a long time but stopped having one after 2017 as we have reached “enough”. Somehow, the net worth kept increasing nevertheless even after 2017. I believe once you live life a certain way you will get accustomed to great habits which will take care of the rest eventually.
Do you follow any specific morning routine? How do you spend the first hour of the day?
My first hour of the day is usually a good cup of coffee and reading what happened overnight. Digest this during breakfast and then get started into the day.
Is there any specific goal or habit you would like to mention?
Living a rich life doesn’t have to mean you got a monetary goal, it could also mean spending time with kids, taking kids out for walks and going on excursions with them. My personal ambition is currently there. Habits? Keep learning, keep doing, learn by doing and grow! When was the last time you did something for the first time? I’m by nature a curious person and like to expose myself to new things and am generally a fast learner. If you are starving for new information, listen to great podcasts during long walks or drives, you’ll become better “on the go” anyhow.
How do you view money? What does it represent to you?
Money is a tool for me, it’s an enabler. It represents freedom. I try not to look at it as a scorecard or a goal in itself, it’s more interesting to understand what you could do with your life – regardless of where you stand with money.
Did your parents provide you with economic outpatient care? (If so, how much was gifted to you?)
I like this term, it reminds me of the book The Millionaire Next Door, I’ve received some monetary gifts from my parents, yes, but it’s not the “outpatient care” kind-of-thing.
Do you consider yourself financially literate? (If so, please could you tell us how you got the knowledge?)
Yes, that I would consider myself. I learned a lot from my dad, I got exposed as a toddler to stock guides already and grew up with all things “money”. I’ve worked in banks since age 16 and worked myself up to becoming a Wealth Manager advising the ultra-wealthy in Asia from Singapore by age 32. While I learned my technical knowledge while studying for my Economics Masters’ I’ve added the practical and entrepreneurial sides from chats with hundreds of the super-wealthy people I’ve had the honour of advising and serving during my career.
Tell us about your hobbies and how you like to spend (free) time and energy.
My hobbies are travelling (if Covid allows), exploring, blogging, making pictures, connecting with like-minded people, having deep talks with intelligent and interesting friends, cooking, sampling good food, beer and wine. I listen a lot of podcasts, more than I actually read books, but I read a lot of blogs and online content. Every once in a while I find myself playing Nintendo or watch something intentional on Netflix as well.
Your concerns, fears and worries. Can you tell us a bit about them? Is there anything you are especially afraid of?
I’m pretty much beyond fear now. The most worrisome parts are health and the time left to me to be a wonderful role model for my own kids, though. I’m not afraid for them, but like to be the best version of myself to inspire my kids to live their own best lives once!
Who do you hang out with? Where do you hang out? What’s your environment like?
We usually spend each year a few months in Taiwan, some in Singapore, and I’m in Switzerland as well sometimes. I like to hang out with inspiring people from and with whom I keep learning how to become a better version of myself and do more interesting things together. Hanging out points would usually be our Jacuzzi in Singapore or SPA in Taiwan, go on some excursions together or meet up at each other’s homes mostly for the time being. I try to keep my environment inspiring and leave a lot of “free space and time” for new ideas to prosper.
What is your mindset like? What do you think about on a daily basis?
The main point is how to be a better father and husband, then how to share my lessons learned with a larger audience – that’s what the Financial Imagineer Blog, Twitter and Facebook is for, and ultimately how to live an inspiring life in a way that when my last moment would come I could easily say: no regrets!
Tell us three books you think any wealth accumulator must-read.
If you like to read more about how to accumulate wealth and live a better, richer life, please read: “Your Money or Your Life”, “The Simple Path to Wealth” and “The 4-Hour Workweek”, I could list many more here, find a selection in the book recommendation page of my financial Imagineer website!
Becoming a millionaire is a common people’s dream. Can you see any pattern that some millionaire dreamers follow, and you think it isn’t the most appropriate? What would you like to advise them?
Yes, for sure!
The gap between achieving something outstanding is usually in the ability of seeing, Imagineering something that is not visible to others. Once you have learned to see the world from different perspectives with different points of views a multitude of possibilities will emerge and taking strong determined action on those will make the difference between the ones who only dream about a different life and the ones who imagineer their life! You got to have the ability to see what others can’t, then motivate yourself enough to actually take action to go after your dreams, I like calling this part: Learning how to dream with your eyes wide open! Obstacles could be not having enough inspiration, not thinking out of the box, not believing in yourself or having the wrong set of friends. At one point in time each and every of my very successful friends had to take a “leap of faith” and jump from an ordinary life into the unknown, overcoming the fear that holds the majority of people back from living an extraordinary life.
How to do this? Start small, learn, improve, master and keep exposing yourself to new things every once in a while.
Anything else you would like to add?
We only live once, you will not get a second chance to live a better life. Make THIS life that you live now your best life possible. Don’t start with a money angle to it but find your “why”, read my article about Ikigai first. Once you found you “why” you’ll become unstoppable. Money will usually follow if you do this right. Get started early to get on your way towards such a dream life. It’s not easy. Sometimes you win, sometimes you learn. Eventually, happiness is not a destination. Happiness is not $1 million, $5 million or $100 million, money is infinite and chasing it could be the worst way to spend your life. Happiness is how you live your life. Build your life around your best possible version of yourself. Unlock your potential and Imagineer your life!