This is the sixth interview of my interview series, where I interview bloggers blogging about Early Retirement, Personal Finance, and related topics. I have published my first book recently, and I am writing my second book, which will be on what I learned interviewing millionaires. As you can see, I love interviewing people.
This time, I bring you my fellow Canadian Be Smart Rich from Be Smart Rich.com. I hope you enjoy it.
Q1 – Who is Be Smart Rich?
Hi everyone, I run a personal finance blog BeSmartRich. I was born in Seoul, South Korea and moved to Canada alone about 10 years ago with my life savings when I was in the early 20’s. I was a high school graduate, had zero English skills and just got out of South Korean military.
(I used to live in that APC (Armored Personal Carrier) for 2 years)
Similar to other immigrants, I worked anywhere as long as it paid me something. I made less than minimum wage ($7/hour) for a while but I was glad to save up money to get a proper education. I have been always good with numbers so I decided to major in accounting and studied my ass off just to survive through university. Luckily, I got a job offer from an accounting firm that changed my life. I earned CPA in 2013. This is my 7th year of my career in Canada.
Toronto, Canada but I am originally from South Korea. I traveled to Vancouver first when I was 23 and I loved it so I decided to stay in Canada. I moved to Halifax (my second hometown) to do my university then came to Toronto when I was around 30. I got my Canadian citizen 1.5 years ago. Big changes so far and I am still loving it.
I am married to a beautiful wife that I met here in Canada about 3 years ago and have a monstrous greyhound that eats like a horse.
For more, check out About Me.
[Ben: your picture is definitely one of the best pictures I’ve had in my interview series. Awesome! And you’re a lucky dude, you’ve got a gorgeous wife! I also love the fact that you came all the way from Korea and you worked hard and became Canadian. Props to you.]
Q2 – What do you do for a living and what do you like the most about it?
I am an accountant. Currently working as Controller of a fintech startup company. The company has many challenges but is growing at 200-300% every year. Until the company becomes one of the major companies in Canada, I won’t stop. 🙂 The work is stressful but at the same time quite exciting and enjoyable. Never a dull moment and that’s how I like it.
[Ben: pretty impressive you emigrated to Canada with no English Skills and you’re working for a company that has the potential to become of the major companies in the country…]
Q3 – Why did you start your blog and what is your main goal with it?
I just wanted to I want to encourage hard working people to study, work smartly, save, being frugal and invest wisely for better future. Think about it. I was poor, had no family member living nearby, my language skills were terrible and was a high school graduate making less than minimum wage. I worked very hard with smart plans and I am quite different now as compared to who I was 10 years ago. I am nobody compared to all the successful people who sold their companies for billions but I want to share all the tips that I know with people regarding how a regular person just like me has a dream to be a millionaire and getting closer every day and people can do it as well.
Blogging is only one of few ways to reflect my thoughts. I love sharing aspect as well. I am happy to inspire people and educate them how to invest and get them focused in building their nest eggs. All they need was to be exposed to great blogs so that they can follow suit if makes senses.
I want to help anyone who reads and enjoys my blog to be more responsible for their own financial destiny. It really starts from looking in the mirror and tracking your family’s net worth and realizing where they are at and where they will be. Setting up goals and reach one goal at a time.
[Ben: we see things pretty much similarly. I wish you the best success blogging. I love your story and your blog.]
Q4 – What was the main reason for you to think about early retirement?
I have been through a bit with my life and I realized whenever I go through a rough time, only thing (other than my family and close friends) that saved me to get through was money in the bank. I learned importance of saving very early and started working ever since I was 11 years old. I used to be a newspaper delivery man, gas station assistant, convenient store cashier, dish washer, bakery assistant, flyer handout man, buffet and various restaurants server, computer store assistant etc… I saved every single penny from the work and all the saving from the jobs was used in university education in Canada. It was very worth it.
I did not really think about financial independence until I ran into some personal finance blogs. The blogs changed the way I think about money. I opened my direct investing account in September 2014 rather than putting money in mutual funds immediately after the encounter of the blogs and started tracking my net worth. It has been longer than 2.5 years and things are going pretty well.
Thanks to the inspiring personal financial bloggers, my average annual return is at 9% and total return since September 2014 is 25.69%. TSX (Toronto Stock Exchange) stayed flat during the same period.
[Ben: I am not sure what I like the most: your hustle and your saving mentality or your progress and gains from your investments. I am a very goal-driven dude myself.]
Q5 – At what age are you most likely to retire from your day job?
My conservative prediction is before 45. That is 10 years from now. Considering my salary growth, my wife’s financial help from her job starting in about 1 year and improving investing skills, I may be able to reach the financial freedom even before 42-43. I will retire when my expenses are covered by non-work related passive incomes.
[Ben: I checked your portfolio and I actually think you could do it before you’re 40, if you took advantage of geographic arbitrage.]
Q6 – What do you plan on doing after retirement?
We love travelling and we will travel around the world for about a year. After that we will travel at least 4-6 countries per year until we mark all countries in the world in the world map. There are so many better things to do than working 9-6 everyday for the rest of our lives. My family will travel at least once a month or two. I will probably join a band playing the guitar and focus on enjoying the life to the fullest. I always wanted to have lots of kids because my wife and I do not have any family in Canada so as long as my boss (I mean my wife) is ok, then we will try our best.
[Ben: If you stop by Portugal, please do let me know! I am happy to know that your wife is running things at home. ;-)]
Q7 – What investments do you like the best, and why?
I like buying stocks among all investments. Several reasons. Firstly, I can do all fundamental analyses myself due to my accounting background. Second of all, I always loved the concept of owning great companies. Lastly, I believe that the world has been and will be moving forward not backward due to nature of humans’ desire for wanting better things. Companies are at front to take advantages of technological advancements.
I like investing in super high quality companies. I used to mimic Ben Graham’s value investing so I had been buying so-called severely undervalued companies that are going through troubles with chance of survival and turnaround. However, I realized more and more through experience and readings (thanks to Charlie Munger and Phillip Fisher) that quality matters the most.
I do not mind owning a house but the Toronto housing markets are quite crazy now so I will wait until correction comes and things settle.
Q8. If you could only use one metric to evaluate a stock, which one would you choose?
Dupont analysis. I wrote an article about how Warren Buffett analyze stocks.
Buffett also loves Dupont analysis. My second favorite is free cash flow analysis. No matter under any circumstance, cash flow is the king.
[Ben: Interesting. I wonder what you think of the metrics I use.]
Q9 – How about eleven places you love that you’ve visited or have lived in?
I have been to most of major cities and travel destinations in Canada – Vancouver, Toronto, Calgary, Halifax, St John’s Cabot Trail, Rocky Mountain, Niagara Falls etc… and been to some American cities such as Seattle, New York, Boston etc… I used to be an auditor working with an accounting firm so anytime I had to be on business trip, I took extra days off to sightseeing. It was great.
My favorite was Cabot Trail, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia – Driving beautifully paved shoreline for an hour was unbelievably fun. Not to mention so many beautiful beaches around the shore. I went there with my girlfriend (my wife now) and our best friends couple.
Q10 – If you could go back in time, what investment advice would you give to your past self?
Start early. I mean really early. I would have been a millionaire by now if I started when I was 18. That’s quite alright though because it is never too late to start.
[Ben: So agreed!]
Q11 – What did you like the most about my blog, From Cents to Retirement? Do you have any advice for me?
I love the online income updates. It is really honest and detailed. Hard to find any other bloggers showing honest advices that work. Great job!
[Ben: Thanks buddy!]