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November 2022 Portfolio Update and 2022 Dividends

Portfolio allocation as of Nov '22.

• SG Shares: CDG, DBS, SGX, Valuetronics

• SG Reits: Syfe Reit+


Not much to update this month. Apart from adding a few hundred dollars to my Syfe Reit+ position, I did not make any additions to the portfolio. I did try to increase my position in Valuetronics at below $0.50, but was unsuccessful. Perhaps better luck in December. 

I think it is ironic that there’s strong interest in the markets only when the market is doing well. Take crypto as an example. I’m not a crypto advocate, but a year ago, literally everyone was talking about crypto; showing off their gains and encouraging others to invest. But today it is very much radio silence from these folks. I’ll be upfront to say that I too got convinced, and lost a manageable amount in Luna and FTX.

Humans are wired to follow the crowd and it often feels uneasy to go against it. One way I try to overcome this would be to remind myself to invest consistently and that given my time horizon, markets should go up in the long run. I have a friend that likes to announce in our group chat whenever there’s a “new YTD low for S&P500”, or that it is a “bad time to invest in the market”. I make an effort to invest a small amount whenever I hear stuff like these. So far, it has worked out well for me.

2022 Dividends collected

I still recall one of my early conversations on dividends – I was 19 at that time, as an NSF, speaking to a guy in his 30s who was doing his reservist. I shared that I invested ~$2k in SingTel, which yielded ~5%, or $100 annually. This person could not understand why I would risk $2k of capital to earn a measly $100. My response was that investing would beat leaving the cash in the bank, with near zero interest rates on savings accounts. He was unconvinced, but this also marked my foray into dividend investing. 

Fast forward to today, I've joined the workforce, with an average savings rate of ~80%. I have consistently invested nearly all my excess cash, with a preference for diversified ETFs and dividend-paying stocks. In 2022, I have received ~$2.9k in dividends, and the current run rate for 2023 stands at ~$3.6k (that is, assuming I don't invest a single dollar more). By end 2023, my target would be to generate ~$6k of dividends, which works out to $500/month.

For some context, the $300/month which I receive currently, works out to:

(i) 75 plates of $4 chicken rice, or

(ii) 10 instances of $30 restaurant meals, or 

(iii) 20 journeys of $15 taxi rides. 

For the record, these are only for illustrative purposes, and I don't do any of these at those frequencies… but every dollar of dividends goes a long way.

I think of FIRE not in terms of a "FIRE number", but rather, a "FIRE cashflow". Cashflow is king, and as long as my passive income can cover my expenses, work becomes optional. Broadly, these are the milestones for the journey. Numbers are in 2022 purchasing power and will be inflation-adjusted along the way:

1k/month, Lean FIRE: Covers my monthly expenses with some buffer. Employed full-time.

2k to 3k/month, Barista FIRE: Potentially able to scale back from full-time employment, and supplement passive income via part-time work or side hustles.

4k/month, Full FIRE: Theoretically, I don't need to work at this point. But I would still want to work, purely out of interest or passion. (Too many ideas to list) 

The magic of compounding dividends is probably the 8th wonder of the world. Read more about Why Dividends Matter to me in my previous post.

Random musings on FIRE and life 

The art of doing nothing

Earlier this year, I had to take a week of leave due to company policy. I didn’t have plans for that week. It was simply meant to be a break. A common question that I received was “you’re not travelling?”. I found it weird having to justify that I’m simply taking leave to have a break from work. Don’t get me wrong – I enjoy travelling, but I don’t see it as a necessity

Thus, when I get this question, I usually tell acquaintances that I’m taking leave to “do nothing”. In reality, I think “simplicity” would be a positive way to describe how I spent the week, while “mundane” may be another adjective that carries a negative connotation. 

A typical day of my week on leave would start with waking up around 10 am, and then throughout the day, doing a light workout, going for a walk in the park in the late afternoon (before the after-work crowd arrives), practicing a language on Duolingo, and reading a book or some personal finance content. Evenings were mostly for catching up with friends over dinner. All in all, a pretty good mix of me-time and social activities, in my view. Simple or mundane, this is fulfilling enough for me. 

One of the “finsta” accounts I follow, @centsofindependence, recently shared about a day in her Barista FIRE life – which involved waking up naturally in the morning, having breakfast with her partner at 11am, spending some time on managing her personal finances and chilling at a bistro in the afternoon while posting some updates to her Instagram page. They also host friends for dinner once or twice at their place during the week. This is a great example of the post-FIRE life that I envision.

I guess to some people, these may constitute “doing nothing” … but who’s to judge what’s right or wrong?

An easy life or a hard life?

I don’t see any issues with wanting an easy life. In fact, I would posit that most people innately want an easy life. But from society’s standpoint, people have been conditioned to think that yearning for an easy life isn’t politically correct, thus most people wouldn’t openly claim that they want to have it easy.

Now, let me add in the caveat that this does not mean shying away from all challenges. To me, looking for an easy life means focusing on things such as the effort-to-reward ratio, looking for “easy wins”, and basically, living the way that makes me comfortable, instead of blindly following society’s definition of what’s “ambitious” or not (which very often, involves judging a person’s “success” in monetary terms).

I’m a competitive person, or I should say, selectively competitive. That means playing to my strengths. Focusing my efforts on things that I’m good at, and are likely to payoff well. If I know that I will breeze through Business School, rather than say, Quantum Physics, then I’d pursue a Business degree for sure. Easy A’s for me. Also, for example, given that I know doing well in competitive sports such as swimming depends on one’s genetics as much as hard work, and hard work alone won’t make me a great swimmer, then I won’t even bother pursuing competitive swimming in school. But I would still swim as a hobby.

A friend had a good piece of advice: if she could make money the easy way or the hard way, she’d choose the easy way, always. Very smart.

Conversely, “hustle culture” perpetuates a mentality which glorifies working long hours, sacrificing sleep, always wanting more and seeing hardship as a badge of honour. Not the type of life I want.

I think quotes such as “Don’t ask for an easy life, ask for a challenging life, and for the strength to overcome these challenges” are complete nonsense. If we could choose to be born as an heir to a billion-dollar fortune, who wouldn’t? Let’s be real here. 

“Hardship” shouldn’t be a competition where we compare who is “having it worse”. This type of race-to-the-bottom perspective benefits nobody. We all have our fair share of challenges. Please don’t romanticise adversity. 

At this point, you might scoff and say… c’mon, being able to live in Singapore is already fortunate enough. Of course, I recognise the positives we have here – relative wealth, a stable government, good infrastructure and a decent education system. On one hand, the rising property prices could be seen as a testament to our success, but at the same time widens the gulf between the haves and have nots. 

On balance, I think it would be naive to claim that youths today “have it easy”. Sure, every generation has its fair share of challenges. But at present, with young couples increasingly feeling like they’re being priced out of the housing market, COE prices near the 100k mark, rising inflation, job market uncertainties and geopolitical tensions, the future looks challenging indeed. 

Therefore, one of the main aims I have would be to make my life as “easy” as possible, that is, to live life on easy mode. And this is aligned with my goal of achieving FIRE – to have the safety net, the freedom and options to pursue what I love, and being in control. I believe there will come a point where money, while still important, no longer becomes a priority in life. 

And as a secondary “purpose”, to continue writing about financial literacy and help as many people as possible to achieve the same. 

To end off my thoughts on this section, a phrase often use would be that “life is already tough enough, think of ways to make life better, not worse”.

A contrasting example

I’ve been writing too much about FIRE, obviously because I’m biased here. Now, let me share a contrasting example where FIRE just does not make sense.

A friend works as a software engineer in a tech startup. They earn roughly twice the salary of an average fresh grad. Their company has a “work from anywhere” policy, which basically means that you could spend a month working by the beach in Bali, a month working from home in Singapore, and then maybe another month working from a hostel in Tallin, Estonia, alongside fellow digital nomads. They enjoy fantastic work life balance, and get additional perks such as food and gym memberships. Crucially, they enjoy what they do and get to work on meaningful and impactful stuff. 

When I shared that my goal was to retire early, they mentioned that they don’t think they’ll ever want to retire. Why would this person ever want to stop working? Heck, if I was in that position, FIRE would be the last thing on my mind as well. There is simply no need for FIRE in this situation. By the way, this person is also an astute investor, and will likely hit Financial Independence pretty quickly (even before me). They just don’t have to, or want to Retire Early. A totally valid point of view. 

But the key question here would be – how many people do you know that are in this privileged position of being well-compensated, have great flexibility and enjoy the work they do? And taking a step back, are there even enough of these types of jobs to go around, for everyone who aspires to live this life?

I can give you my answer: this is the only person I know with all these perks, and these types of jobs are few and far between. And more often than not, they require specific skills such as coding knowledge, which not everyone is cut out for.

Therefore, I choose to create my own freedom. Onwards and upwards.


  1. Pursue FI as our financial goal and not necessary FIRE.

  2. You have long runway and you will be successful financially as long as you stick with your growth and dividend portfolio.

  3. Congrats on your path to fire!

  4. Hi Alpaca,

    Good start to your passive income investing journey. As a fellow passive income investor, hope you dont mind my sharing on our 12 year journey on passive income investing. What we encountered, lessons learnt and what we achieved.

    As wage earners all our lives, the lure of passive income is strong. Cash flow without effort on your part! Whats not to like?

    Intrigued by it, We started to build our own passive income streams in 2011 (comprising dividends, rental and interests from CPF) at the tender age of 50. It was good that we started late because the first lesson we learnt was you need capital to generate passive income. Starting late in life meant we have decent capital to play with.

    Year 1 (2011) passive income came in at a grand total of $46K. And it gradually grew to an all time high of $196,800 in 2019. Then Covid struck, and it all came tumbling down... to $182K in 2020. Lesson number 2 - dividend and rental incomes are not reliable. And interest from CPF is. (Lesson number 3). Thus DO NOT plan a retirement on dividend nor rental income. Doing so will result in a retirement with anxieties. Instead plan a retirement lifestyle base on steady income streams. For us, that source of steady income happens to be the CPF savings.

    If you build up your CPF Savings well, it can create two dependable passive income streams; namely the interests from your OA&SA savings as one, and the payout from CPF Life. Plan your retirement lifestyle around the dependable income streams and treat those not so dependable income streams as bonus incomes.

    2020 was the time I went into the market and bought more stocks on discount. With that, the following year 2021, the passive income grew back to $196,700. And this year 2022, it hit a new ATH of $226,000.

    This would be the projection of our passive income down the road (to sustain our retirement) :

    What we achieved in 2022:

    Dividend : $88,000 ($7,300 pm)
    Rental : $3,500 pm
    Interest from CPF : $99,000

    From 62 (2023) to 69
    Gold Tap
    1. OA&SA interests : $65,000

    Silver Tap
    1. SRS drawdown : $52,000

    Bonus Taps
    1. Dividend : $80,000
    2. Rental : $40,000

    Annually : $237,000

    From 70 onwards
    Gold Tap
    1. OA&SA interests : $65,000
    2. CPF Life : $60,000

    Bonus Taps
    1. Dividend : $80,000
    2. Rental : $40,000

    Annually : $245,000

    We are planning on a lifestyle supported by the gold and silver taps only, that is, on $10,000 per month. If our bonus taps are doing well, we would most probably not be touching the OA/SA interests and let it compound.

    1. AlpacaInvestments4 December 2022 at 18:30

      Thanks for your detailed comment. I’ve seen some of your posts on the 1M65 telegram group, and I must say that I am very impressed by your achievements. I also respect your point of view, although I know you’re generally against FIRE. I believe that while we hold different views regarding FIRE, it is always good for us to hear contrasting views, so that we don’t stay in echo chambers. Thus, appreciate you taking the time to pen down your lengthy comment. Also note that you wrote another comment on my previous post on FIRE in Dec 2021. Here are my thoughts on some of the points you mentioned:

      1. A retirement plan based on dividends isn’t enough. I don’t agree with this assertion. A well thought out passive income plan from dividends can itself be sufficient. Let’s look at the dividend payouts for some popular ETFs, and compare the change in payouts during 2020/2021, the worst year of Covid when the world literally came to a standstill.

      SPY ETF: 2019: $5.62, 2020: $5.69. An increase of 1.2%.
      DIA, Dow Jones 30 ETF: 2019: $5.95, 2020: $5.73. A decrease of 3.7%.
      STI ETF: 2020: $0.115, 2021: $0.083. 2022: $0.112. A decrease of 28%. This is mainly due to MAS imposing dividend caps on our local banks.
      CLR ETF, S-Reits: 2020: $0.05, 2021: $0.048. A decrease of 4%.

      What these examples above tell me is that even in a year of lockdowns, where many businesses were severely affected, dividend payouts remained largely stable, or declined by a manageable amount. Thus, if one plans to retire purely on dividend income, then buying a diversified basket of various global and local ETFs will be able to provide you with a reasonable stream of cash flows.

      All that needs to be done would be (i) ensuring a reasonable buffer between dividend income vs expenses, e.g 50k of dividend income vs 40k of expenses, (ii) keeping a emergency cash pile, e.g 6 months of expenses, and (iii) potentially continue working part time to earn additional income (aka Barista FIRE, which is my preferred option).

      2. It is a “waste” if high income earners choose to FIRE rather than continue working. Let me put forward some real-life examples. I have friends working in investment banking, private equity, hedge funds etc… where they earn 200k to 300k annually in total comp as fresh grads. By their early 30s, 500k annually is completely reasonable, and by their mid to late 30s, earning 1M per year is possible as well.

      My point is, let’s say someone reaches a $3 million portfolio at 35. To me, whether someone reaches $3 million at 35, or at 60, at that juncture, both of them should be able to retire comfortably. Determining when to retirement should be based on a targeted AUM / cash flow number, and not an age.

      And related to your point of dividends being insufficient, a $3 million portfolio today, put into a AAA-rated 10Y Singapore Government Securities can yield around 3%, or close to 100k a year. Surely, this should be “safe” enough, in your view.

      The paradox I want to point out would be that, on one hand, those earning a lower income may not be able to retire at 65, even if they wanted to, because of financial constraints. And if we were to apply your perspective, even those earning a higher income should not retire because it would be a “waste”. Either way, is it that both groups shouldn’t retire? Then, what amount of money would truly be enough?

      If you ask me whether I would choose between getting 50k/year of passive income at 35 years old and retire, or work till I’m 65 to get to 250k/year of passive income, I will choose retiring at 35, for sure. I would rather live on less and enjoy the next 30 years!

    2. AlpacaInvestments4 December 2022 at 18:31

      3. My thoughts on CPF. I think we are in agreement that CPF is a great tool. In fact, I will be contributing more to my CPF this year for the tax relief. But for things like VC3A, or OA to SA transfer, these are incompatible with FIRE. I am not willing to lock my capital up for 30 – 40 years, when this could instead generate passive income for me right away.

      Nonetheless, given my calculations, I will still hit FRS by the time I am 55, so no concern on this. This also means that when planning for my early retirement, I mainly have to plan for the period from 35 to 55 / 65 years old, because the money from CPF OA will be available from 55 onwards, and CPF Life payouts start from 65. These would make my retirement plan more robust.

      4. You may not have mentioned this explicitly, but my inference would be that your views against FIRE could be partly driven by the moral / societal / ethical perspective of people who are pursuing FIRE. I don’t want to get into a philosophical debate about the moral / societal / ethical perspective of FIRE, e.g. whether people who FIRE-ed aren’t “productive” members of society, or whether they are living without “purpose” and so on.

      Regarding stuff like “purpose” or “identity”, I have written about these extensively on my blog and they are too long to reproduce here. Basically, I think that these are extremely subjective and would depend on the individuals themselves. Simply coming up with an anecdote that “I have a friend who said he got bored after retiring early”, does not negate the fact that there could be many more people out there, who continue to lead fulfilling lives after attaining FIRE.

      In this case I am more liberal, my view is that people should be able to do what they want, as long as there is no direct detrimental impact on others. Ultimately, we are answerable for our own choices.

      To end off, I think I’m the type of person who’s able to find joy in the simplest things in life. I find joy writing about FIRE, and will continue to do so. Similarly, I’m sure you find joy leaving many of your comments on our blogs or sharing your thoughts on the 1M65 as well – sharing your perspectives as a veteran investor and alerting us to blind spots. On this note, I think we are on the same page.

      As always, I welcome your constructive feedback on my posts. Cheers Patrick.

  5. Good for you 👍😊