Wednesday, December 6, 2017

What will I do after achieving Financial Freedom (part 1)

This post is a response to La Papillion's most recent post (see here). Now I am starting to think twice whether is it a bad idea to respond to his post. I have plenty of thoughts concerning this topic and I think it would be quite difficult to form it into a coherent whole.

I think the most important thing is to know why you want what you want. Not many people are able to sufficiently distill their raison d'être and clearly articulate it to others. Personally, I struggle with expressing my worldview to others. It always end up not coming out the way I want it to sound.

People generally encounter obstacles in the first phase. They live their life without careful reflection, unconscious to the fact that there is another realm of existence that they have not considered before. The closest illustration that I can whip up on the spot now is to invoke Edwin A. Abbott's novel Flatland. In Flatland, there are various creatures that live on different dimensions. One fine day, Sphere, a 3-dimensional creature, visited the 2-dimensional world. A Square, a 2-dimensional creature, failed to grasp the realities of Sphere and the 3-dimensional world in which Sphere belonged to. When A Square had the chance to visit Pointland, the 1-dimensional world, he experienced the same frustration of trying to communicate his reality to another being who is unable to shift its reference point to that of another. (Actually, Plato's Allegory of the Cave could also be used here).

Why does this happen? A fundamental shift in cognition is jarring. It forces the individual to confront the most basic of questions: What is the meaning of life, what am I here for, and what do I want out of it/how do I lead my life. Fortunately, many do not need to ask themselves these questions. Life is somewhat structured in a manner that they could engage in various activities without thinking through why they do what they do. Often, it is society and the people around us that shape us to live this way. This is not wrong. In life, we are inundated with all sorts of pressing deadlines, urgent concerns, and just plain noise that distract us from contemplative introspection. We need to sit down and craft out a coherent worldview that accommodates the potential scenarios that life could throw at us, and our prioritization of what do we want to make out of life. Not doing so is like being a driftwood out at sea, bobbing wherever the waves take you.

Being a driftwood is dangerous. From what I have observed, there are some who mistake financial freedom as the be-all and end-all. Financial freedom is not a panacea. It does not generate meaning. Meaning has to be self-generated, else the person could just be an empty husk post-financial freedom. A hollow being that seeks substitutes after substitutes to patch what they deemed to be lacking in their lives. SMOL and Wall Street Playboys have emphasized this fact multiple times in their writings. A downward spiral could occur for those unprepared to manage this. Wall Street Playboys highlighted some vices that people who have "made it" gravitate to. In SMOL's comment to STE, he highlighted male seniors who go around as auditors of mystical garden assets.

I shall try to attempt to articulate what I want out of life; how I can convert what I enjoy doing now to what I could potentially do when I am financially free. Of course this is susceptible to change. Whenever we reach some sort of milestone, we readily redefine who we are as a person and look for avenues in which we could further develop as a person. This is growth.

Family and Friends
I am highly introverted, hence low amounts of social stimulation would suffice for me. I aim for quality, not quantity. At this present moment, I am blessed enough to recognize that I have abundance in this area.

In terms of family, I am very close to my mum. With or without financial freedom, I am spending quite a lot of time with her. To some extent, this will mitigate any deathbed regrets of "what if", "if only", etc.

I have a few good friends who watch my back. We mutually support one another. They are not perfect, and neither am I.

When I studied a module on Developmental Psychology in my undergraduate days, the Socioemotional Selectivity Theory really gelled with me. As people age, they gravitate towards people in their inner circle. They know who matter most to them and prioritize these individuals over everybody else.

Do I know who I value the most? Do I know who belongs to my inner circle? As my inner circle, do I accord to them a higher priority than frenemies, fair-weather friends, and acquaintances?

Would how I treat my inner circle significantly differ from pre-financial freedom to post-financial freedom? Generally, it is okay, but it could be better.

To throw a spanner in the works, what if all my family and friends died in a catastrophe? Theoretically, my spiritual core will mitigate this to some extent. In fact, I might challenge myself and use the amount of time taken to bounce back from the adverse event as an indicator of my spirituality. Second, to borrow concepts from personal finance/investing, I should practise some sort of socioemotional diversification and socioemotional energy allocation. I am open to the possibility of developing greater friendships with others who are currently not part of my inner circle but have the potential to be part of my inner circle and have reached out to them (I think this is one example of INTJ personality type trying to "optimize friendship.")

Interests, hobbies, and the like
Ho, ho, ho. I think I can write a lot here. But for the sake of my reader's sanity, I shall attempt to keep it brief. Unlike LP, I classify spirituality with meaningful work together, as they intertwine together in my life. As meaningful work is something that I am genuinely interested in to do, I classify it under the overarching category of interests and hobbies.

In one of my recent post, I shared that I enjoy my vocation as a noob-level researcher. Hence, work, to me, is something that I find interesting and actively engage in. Well, that is not 100% true. There will be politics at work, workplace stressors, and certain pointless stuff that I need to do because that is "how work is structured" (As a Social Science Researcher, why should I waste time commuting to work, access journal databases that could also be accessed at home, write stuff, and waste even more time to commute back home? A better alternative is to permanently work from home, unless there's a need to head back to the office) that mildly annoys me from time to time.

After achieving financial freedom, I would still prefer to work. I would like to keep myself cognitively active, soak up ideas from brighter minds (there's plenty, especially in research), bounce off random ideas I have with these individuals (maybe I should do a separate post on the random research topics I have in mind?), and experience a sense of achievement from doing well in what I am interested in.

My research interest is in <censored> psychology (censored because with all the information in this post, it will reveal my true identity). I have moderate interest in the Cognitive Neuroscience branch of Psychology and Quantitative Psychology. I have taken a module on the former in my undergraduate life and I enjoyed it. As for the latter, I am occasionally reading up on it in my spare time to challenge and entertain myself.

Outside of social science research, another vocational path which I am interested in is data science. For this reason, I have taken up R programming. Regular readers would know that I have written multiple R scripts on my older blog posts to help me with some routine investing tasks  (e.g. stock correlation computations, dividend yield trend calculation). Depending on how you see it ("fun" or "boliao"), I have done some sentiment analysis on my WhatsApp chat with financial blogger friend, Rolf.

If I were retired, I could also consider working on some side programming projects that I am interested in but lack the time and expertise to do so. For example, developing an actual investment app that I can use. Quite shiok what! I will know what metrics I want and how I exactly calculate those metrics. In the process of developing the app, I would learn plenty of nifty stuff from back-end databases to front-end user interfaces, etc. Learning more about text mining would be good too. That way, I can parse selected data from financial reports automatically. For fun's sake, I have also thought of some sort of "wisdom harvester" to summarize the wisdom of Uncle CW, Uncle Temperament, and SMOL from their respective blogs. :D (have yet to think of the actual mechanism though; I only possess a rudimentary grasp of text mining).

If my readers have noticed, the specialist diplomas I have taken do not relate at all to my work. I signed up for them out of interest. I could argue that it links back to my work, but such an argument is, at best, tenuous.

In my second specialist diploma, I played around with microcontrollers such as Arduino. I have also thought of growing my own food at home. It's not to "save money" or what not. It is just something that I want to try. Then one day, it struck me that I could combine electrical/electronic engineering (Arduino) with growing my own food at home. Automating the watering of crops, temperature measurement, soil quality measurement, etc. Learning about these two fields and integrating them together could occupy a huge chunk of my time already.

In my current specialist diploma, I learned how to better optimize the presentation of myself online. I'm a hobbyist blogger, but if I ever want to commercialize my brand, I could do so (Nah!). Most entertaining is to understand why certain optimizations work and their underlying mechanics. A whole new world, really.

Oh! Right, I almost forgot about personal finance/investing. So far, I am enjoying all the readings. My analyses are still pretty superficial and it could be developed further. Let's just say that I screw up my investing journey totally. Like, I get a 0.01% annualized return over the next 30 years. Would I engage in counterfactual thinking where I convince myself that I should have spent my time on more productive outlets? Not quite. I still managed to learn valuable skills such as how business owners think by reading between the lines, hone my bullshit-detector, etc.

As much as I try, I still fail to summarize what I want to do post-financial freedom in one blog post. Stay tuned for part 2 (most likely there might be a part 3, 4, 5, etc). Do note that I have yet to get started on other non-bookish hobbies yet.

tldr: Unintelligent Nerd has plenty of interests he could pursue if he has achieved financial freedom. He can do a successful job of Ownself Entertain Ownself. He will list some more interests in his next few postings.


  1. Hi UN,

    Ahh. Arduino. It's a really fun thing to play with. Get along a Raspberry Pi. You can do many many many things with them. I've been playing with them when I'm free.

    Speaking of "Automating the watering of crops, temperature measurement, soil quality measurement, etc" I happen to recently develop a remote agriculture system for it :)

    For the fun of it, I included a camera in. Together with Raspberry Pi. You'd be able to view it the live streaming of your environment with the temperature, moisture etc. by accessing the webserver.

    1. Ooooooo......Sounds interesting!

      Don't tempt me :P

  2. Unintelligent Nerd,


    I don't read overseas financial blogs so its a pleasant surprise to find a blog that call themsevles "WallStreet Playboys"...

    Playboys, man-whore, man of leisure - sama sama ;)

    I thought I am "tough" on my readers - no commenting anonymously. But I am soft and cuddly compared to them!

    They not only delete "weak" comments, they ban them too! Wow!

    We also have in common views when it comes to wealth making:

    Want to create wealth? Start a business!

    Want to make a lot of money working for others? Do sales!

    1. Hi SMOL,

      They remind me of this:

      "Whether you realise it or not, the powerful are always testing, always evaluating. They yield milligrams of respect only to those who consistently pass their evaluations; a fluke of success will not earn you their respect, it’ll get you a glance."

  3. Hi UN

    Excellent self reflections. You struck to me as someone who knows exactly what you need and what you do. Think you'd do well either way it goes :)

    1. Hi B,

      I know what I want, but I dunno whether I have what it takes to actualize them. :/

      ...But I can spend my life trying (and enjoying the process).

  4. Nice sharing. Looking forward to the other parts :)

  5. hi UN,

    i am kinda both curious and interested about this R programming you have embarked on. I glimpse thru your 2 separate posts on , but still not quite sure how does the results imply.
    Other than investments, If say, i am in the operations / engineering sector. how does this R programming "improve" my work?

    1. Hi FC,

      Sure, I'll try to answer your question as best as I can.

      In the context of my workplace, I use R for dataset cleaning, flagging out missing variables (e.g. for variable 10, out of 100 participants, 2 of them have missing data for that field), routine data analysis task (internal consistency tests for various questionnaires), and for automating the production of reports (the "words" used in the report remains the same, but the figures change each month. I use it to automatically update the figures and produce it in Microsoft Word).

      In investments, what I have done so far is to identify the correlation coefficients and the respective graphs detailing the presence (or absence) of any correlations among stock counters that I am interested in. One of my posts did that for the Fraser REITs. I wanted to see whether their stock prices move in tandem with each other or not. As for my other script, I am keen to identify what certain counters would yield in the GFC. All this is pure historical data (closing price and dividend yield in cents). However, it is quite ma fan to calculate manually, so I wrote a script to automate it such that it can tabulate the total dividends distributed in a particular year and then divide it by the closing price of that particular counter for each day.

      Yes, you could do the exact same things that I have done in Microsoft Excel by writing Macros or using Visual Basic actually, but I’m totally clueless in that area. In terms of “automating” tasks, I am more familiar with using R for that rather than Excel.

      I assume that you use a lot of Excel spreadsheets in your work. Do you make use of Macros/Visual Basic heavily? If you do use Macros/Visual Basic and are able to get them to automate tasks in your job, you are on the right track already! :D

      Hmm, are there any routine tasks that you can think of that you do every once in a while? Can they be broken down into various steps (e.g. step 1 filter data, step 2 remove missing data, step 3, aggregate data, etc). That way, you will know whether tasks can be automated or not.

      Hope this helps!


  6. Hi Unintelligent Nerd,

    My first comment on your interesting blog. Your R scripts caught my attention. I'm more of a python fan because it is a general-purpose programming language while R is more specialised for data analytics. But I'm sure libraries for data analytics in R are far more well-developed than for python. Delightful to meet someone interested in electronics stuff in financial blogosphere. I'm sure Arduino programming was easy to pick up given your programming experience. Raspberry Pi has a far steeper learning curve if you are unfamiliar with Linux environment. At only USD35, Raspberry Pi has the processing power of a mini PC 10 years ago. There are lots more you can do with Raspberry Pi than Arduino.

    I believe that after a person has reached financial freedom, he will start to feel altruistic and want to do things that make the world a better place. So, after you have reached financial freedom, you may have some technical/engineering ideas to make stuff that make the world better off. If you need people to join your team, inform me. I am an engineer in search of useful problems to solve. Money is irrelevant if the idea is good. Knowing the right problem to solve is more important than engineering a solution. All the best to your dreams!

    1. Hi hyom hyom,

      Good to see you here. I'm actually a silent reader of your blog and am glad to see you return to blogging and commenting on SMOL's blog. I've added you to my blog links. Do continue blogging; I enjoy reading your posts. :D

      I hope to pick up Raspberry Pi soon, but I don't think time permits for that.

      Sorry to disappoint though. I don't have any technical/engineering ideas that could help society; my tech/engineering knowledge is rudimentary and I'm exploring it for interest and to build my horizons. As I'm from the social sciences, my ideas would fall more in that area though. But my ideas in the social sciences is just fuzzy and impractical at this moment. :/

      Hope to see you commenting again! Cheers!

    2. Hi Hyom hyom and UN,

      Fully agree with what hyomhyom is saying up there!

      Adding Raspberry Pi to the equation creates unlimited possibilities than just purely playing with Arduino.

      Arduino programming uses mainy C programming language while Python is more of a kicker in Raspberry Pi. Like what hyom hyom mentioned, python is a general programming language that is used in many many applications. The side kicker here in to understand how to use Linux. It's another operating system just like Maciontosh or Windows (tho it's more complicated).

      Similar to you, these are just some of my part time small lil interest or hobby you'd call :)

    3. Hi Sleepydevil,

      Can confirm plus chop you are not Miss Niao's brother? Tinkering with electronics like Arduino and Raspberry Pi......electronics/electrical engineer like her? :P

    4. Hi sleepydevil,

      I just browsed through your blog quickly. I sense your keen interest in financial matters. Financial literacy is definitely worth spending time acquiring, given the financial sharks out there eager to grab a piece of your money. My opinion is that personal finance knowledge that relates to knowing what type of financial products to avoid is most useful, for most people. It will save you a bomb if you have the knowledge to avoid buying the wrong kind of insurance policy from short-skirt, sexy long legs.

      Are you a final-year electronics engineering polytechnic student? If yes, I hope you are as interested in engineering as you are in the financial markets so that you are a happy student:) I think there are even more passionate engineers/coders in the world today than financial participants and technical people are much more willing to share their work happily free of charge. This is why we have wonderful open-source software, like the Linux operating system running Raspberry Pi. The Arduino libraries are completely open-source too. If you are curious, you can study the source code and see how it exactly works underneath the high-level, easy-to-use software functions.

    5. Hi UN and hyom hyom,

      It seems like my tail is exposed here. It's really interesting to see so many other 'electronics and tech freaks' out here! Seems like apart from the usual financial thing that we can talk about, now, here's something new!

      For my financial game... There will be a game changer coming in soon :)

  7. Hi Unintelligent Nerd,

    I have added you to my blog link. Whenever a blogger adds me to his blog links, I will warn him that it is a bad trade because I seldom blog nowadays. The traffic flow will surely be to my favor. When more people add me to their blog links, I actually feel pressured to blog again.

    You don't need to be an engineer to feed engineers good ideas. Anyone can contribute good ideas. Actually, knowing the right problem to solve usually come from the non-engineers. If a businessman wants to develop a useful application for hospitals, he should ask the nurses first, not the engineers. It is the domain specialists who know what are the most useful problem to solve.

    I'm not into social science. From what little I know, I actually think it is harder to conduct social science research than engineering research. It is the data that is the problem. Engineering data are easier to collect and they are objective. Sensors don't lie. Sensors collect data without needing rest and complaints. Humans lie. Humans can refuse to cooperate. Good luck collecting data from surveys. You have a more difficult job than me.

    By the way, why do you call yourself "Unintelligent Nerd"? I am a polite person and I don't like to insult you every time I call you by name:) You sound intelligent anyway.

    1. Hi hyom hyom,

      No worries regarding the blog link exchange. I am a hobbyist blogger, so blog traffic is secondary. More interested to get to know others instead.

      Yes, that is a huge problem we face in the social sciences. Humans are tricky to "measure." Some projects use questionnaires that are designed to measure "deception" to complement their findings, but it's still pretty "meh."

      Good question. I think I am unintelligent, have a lot to learn, a slow learner, and sometimes blur cock that takes quite some time to understand stuff.

    2. Hi Unintelligent Nerd,

      Intelligent strategy to call yourself unintelligent. Firstly, it makes you sound humble and makes people feel relaxed. Secondly, better to lower expectations in the beginning so that it is easier to impress later by calling yourself unintelligent at the start:) You are an intelligent nerd!

    3. Hi hyom hyom,

      I'm still a work-in-progress. Have to learn a lot from all the other financial bloggers. :)