Tuesday, 26 July 2016

The roles of privilege, luck and adversity

Have you noticed I have been posting more frequently lately? That's because my team has been completing the various tax advisory projects recently and we are at the proposals stage for the next wave of work.

The good thing is that it's less busy in the office and I have more time to produce higher quality tax advice or do my own research. The bad thing is that time passes more slowly and you get nervous about not having enough work to keep you busy. Just one of the many interesting aspects of having a job in the office.

Although I have more time on my hands, I find myself doing less with our asset allocation. The whole process of increasing savings & investments while reducing expenses gets quite automated after a while. We make the adjustments in our actions and wait for their effects to determine whether further changes are required.

This leaves us with more time to spend with each other and with our families & friends. It also got me thinking about how we got ourselves into this position. It definitely wasn't just because we worked hard because that wouldn't have been enough.

The purpose of this blog is to document our journey to financial independence (if we ever get there). As readers, you might not identify with some or most of our personal circumstances. That doesn't mean there is nothing to learn from what we do. I frequently read the posts of local and international personal finance bloggers at various stages of their lives and with very different personal circumstances.

The key is to find motivation and learning experiences that are relevant to you. Or you can choose not to read about us at all. But being upfront and honest about the circumstances of our journey should only make this blog more useful.

There is a reason why I will not be discussing the importance of attitude, humility and working hard & smart in this post. It's because these are behavioural characteristics that we should work on and strive towards but the positive changes can be made every day.

The interaction of privilege, luck and adversity is less tangible and understanding their roles in our journey should give us a better understanding of where we are now and where we should be headed.

I'm going to write about the privilege we have enjoyed so far first because I reckon it played the most important part in getting us the headstart we had. The opportunity to study overseas in Melbourne without student loans, the initial financial assistance with living costs when we just started work, the support we had when moving from Melbourne to Sydney and Sydney to Singapore etc.

These are just a few of the many examples of privilege that we have been provided with in the last decade. They allowed us to reduce the stress of making it on our own as young adults and gave us valuable time to adjust to being working adults. This is especially so at the start of the journey, which is always the most difficult and when you are prone to making big mistakes.

We had the luxury to focus on building our careers overseas in the desired direction in the knowledge that failure won't result in the end of anything. We could make plans and take the next steps effectively because we only had to worry about ourselves.

Don't waste the headstart privilege has afforded you but don't let it define you as well. Not having to deal with financial problems does not excuse us from developing sound financial planning skills. Having financial support does not mean we don't work hard on a wealth-building plan.


This is the most elusive factor in our journey but is responsible for much of what we have today. In fact, when we look back, many of our achievements were made possible by tracing to a few events where luck was on our side.

I made a last-minute decision to study in Australia instead of UK. Met my wife who took a chance on getting together with me after I had just come out of a bad break-up in the first year of university. Been together ever since.

My wife landing a graduate role with the last firm to interview her in the final year of university that gave us the reason to stay on in Australia. Really glad we got to enjoy our initial years of work in a less stressful and happier environment.

Both of us finding jobs in Singapore with decent bosses and colleagues. Even though the hours are worse than Australia, they are better than comparative jobs elsewhere and helped us to adjust back to life here.

I often hear the saying that luck is when hard work meets preparation. It's true. But having the privilege to wait for luck to happen is just as important. Don't underestimate the impact luck can have on your life and make sure you put yourself in a position to let it happen.


The problem with adversity is that you have to overcome it for the impact on your life to be beneficial. If not, it can crush your dreams and wipe out everything you have achieved in a much shorter time than you can imagine.

In Singapore, we have been taught to avoid making mistakes and take the safe approach to life. You can reduce the possibility of adversity that way but not taking risks in life is something we don't recommend to anyone because it's going to work against you in the long run.

We all have our own stories when it comes to overcoming adversity but the key is to get through them whatever they are and come out on top. That's easier said than done because it can get really bad and punishing sometimes.

We got lucky with adversity and its role in our life. There was enough to challenge us, make us mature more quickly as young working adults, allowed us to learn & thrive as a married couple and maybe even prepared us for having kids somewhat. We haven't been knocked down so hard that we can't climb back up on our feet yet.

The issue is that the effort to overcome adversity increases over time as you get older. Even now, just thinking about going overseas to another country to work & live or even returning to Australia makes us hesitate. The idea of having to do it all over again knowing how difficult it can be scares us. Plus raising children by ourselves without help looks really tough after seeing how our friends are doing it.

Don't be afraid of adversity but get ready for it. It comes for everyone and I find myself wondering what we will be like in the face of adversity again.


  1. Hi TFS,

    How do you get ready for adversity? I think getting oneself mentally prepared is essential. For example, I thought I will not be able to handle a baby without help but turns out, I could do it. Just solve one problem at a time :)

    1. Hi Jes,

      I agree that it's a matter of mental preparation. As you said, just being tough enough to get through one life problem after another is good enough!