One of the things I can’t stand about motivational blogs is that they’re always posting pictures of a person running on a beach, with a headline like “Run towards your dreams”. It’s like they think we spend our nights staring out at the sky, arms outstretched, and singing kumbiya. Facepalm.
Here at cheerfulegg, we adopt a different approach. Yes, it IS important to dream (we’ll talk about why below), but it’s also important to be specific and to take action. One of the best ways to do that is to study what people older than us are dreaming of – Because if we’re completely honest with ourselves, we know that we’ll probably have similar dreams in the future too.
So last week, I asked you guys what you would buy if you had all the money in the world, and an OVERWHELMING number of you replied. You guys cited dreams ranging from a private jet to bungalows to… aircon. (Yes, really. And let me just say that having a good night’s sleep is as awesome – or even more awesome – as having a private jet).
Here are a few of my favourites:
- “I dream to build my own 3-storied semi-D, with a roof garden and a basement to house my snooker table, with a Benz ML-350 parked at the porch. All to be achieved on the Christmas day when I hit 40 years old, in 5 years’ time.”
- “I will skydive over Mt Everest because it’s the most expensive skydiving experience that exists today. I will traipse through the elusiveness of Greenland and Iceland, heck, Antartica! I will go on a South African safari and sleep with lions right outside my luxurious (aka very safe and hence very expensive?) tent.”
- “I want a Maserati GranTurismo! I like cars that look gentlemanly but turn into a beast with a flick of a switch. The Maserati, Aston Martin and Jaguars fall into that category.”
- “I would set up a 50 billion dollars philanthropy fund dedicated towards making the world a better place. The fund will be managed by professionals and make social service as attractive or even more attractive than working in a bank.”
And my friends Alvin and Jon from bigfatpurse.com even came up with pictures:
You can find a summarised version of most of the responses I compiled (sorry if I missed out a few) here. My summary doesn’t do your dreams justice – some of you essentially wrote me awesome ESSAYS – but I had to shorten them for brevity.
What I love about these dreams is that they let us take a peek into what our future selves will likely be dreaming about, and take steps to start saving for them today.
Here are 5 things I learned from reading everyone’s dreams:
1. Everyone wants property and travel
Property and travel came up on top almost homogeneously across everyone in their twenties and early thirties. On one hand, it’s not surprising: We Singaporeans still see property as the ultimate status symbol and we’re driven to travel because we probably feel trapped/bored on our tiny little island.
But on another hand, it IS surprising. While I aspire to own a house debt-free, I always assumed that everyone around me would have wilder dreams: Live in a glass house on the Savannah? Throw lavish parties on luxury cruises? Buy over Bedok Block 85 and turn it into your private food court? It’s interesting how, even when faced with unlimited possibilities, many of us (myself included) default to almost exactly the same things.
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing – property and travel are perfectly reasonable and entirely achievable – which makes us more likely to strive to make them come true.
2. People stop dreaming about travel as they get older
This was pretty surprising: Almost everyone from age 35 onwards said that they wanted property, while travel was hardly even mentioned. There might be a couple of reasons for this:
- They can already afford to take pretty luxurious vacations with their higher salaries
- As people get older, they place greater importance on security over adventure
- Travel would be disruptive in raising a young family
It’s also interesting, because psychological research shows that owning a bigger property does little to improve your overall happiness compared to experiences like travelling. But then again, perhaps property brings a different sort of benefit – financial independence, stability, etc which are important as well.
Whatever the reason is, it’s important to plan for it. If you’re in your late twenties (like I am) and you’d really really really like to do crazy things overseas like climb Macchu Picchu or skydive in New Zealand or try some of those delicious cakes (ahem) in Amsterdam, now’s probably the right time to do it.
3. Many people think financial independence = property
Some readers wanted property because of the emotional benefits (e.g.: modern and sleek design, swimming pools, best view of Marina Bay, etc). But plenty of others wanted property for its ability to generate rental income.
Sure, having rental income is great, but almost no one thought about stocks as a way to achieve financial independence. It’s interesting because over the long term, stocks can generate as good a return, if not better, than property, AND they don’t come with the downsides of property that everyone ignores (eg: enormous downpayments, debt, maintenance costs, taxes, pesky property agents, etc)
I’m not saying that stocks are better than property or vice versa – an ideal portfolio should have both. But if your goal is financial independence and you don’t have much capital, stocks are probably a better way to start.
4. It’s important to define our dreams exactly
Many readers told me that thinking about what their dreams are EXACTLY was an enlightening exercise. First of all, I LOVE THIS. So many of us go through the daily grind without thinking what all this work is for. Sometimes it’s good to pause, refocus, and then get inspired to do great work again.
I was really encouraged to see many readers put a specific number on their dreams (e.g: a 4-room HDB at Tampines will cost $X, or going to London twice a year would cost $Y). This is great because you can now define what you’re aiming for, which will help you to plan ahead.
Also, many people had dreams that don’t actually require a lot of money. Take travel, for example. If taking a round-the-world trip is something you really want to do, run the numbers! You’ll find that it really doesn’t cost that much (Check out Tim Ferriss’ 4-Hour Work Week for more details on how to run this exercise). Others, like “sharing my craft with the world” or “learning to climb natural rock faces” are easily doable with little or no money.
5. It’s easy to get discouraged – but don’t
I encountered some HUGE assumptions while reading through the responses. Some readers talked about their dreams, and then ended off with laments like:
- “Anyway, thanks for letting me dream on”
- “I think my dream is too big for a housewife”
- “Am I being too greedy?”
I’m not allowing any limiting self-talk. As a cheerfulegger (yes, I just made that word up), you’re not allowed to sit by the window, wistfully gaze out at the sea, and resign yourself to not achieving your dreams. Every day, people tell that you CAN’T do stuff, you CAN’T take risks, or you CAN’T live a certain lifestyle. Society will try to disqualify you from your dreams – Don’t disqualify yourself.
Plan ahead. Start small. Create realistic (read: not woo-woo) and intermediate stretch goals. And little by little, you’ll get there.
As that classic Mastercard commercial (was it Mastercard? I don’t remember) goes: “Someone’s gotta get that job, get that car, get that house… Why not you?”
- How to start with as little as $100 a month
- The proven strategy that beats 80% of professionals
- The specific investments to start with, and where to find them in Singapore