You Do Not Need A Lot Of Money For Lean FIRE [TFC 161 with HoneyMoneySG]

For many in Singapore’s hustle culture, the idea of early retirement seems like an impossible dream. But according to Chris Wong from the HoneyMoney YouTube channel, a lean approach to FIRE (Financial Independence, Retire Early) could be within reach for more people than you think.

In a candid discussion on The Financial Coconut podcast, Wong and host Reggie break down the principles and mindset shifts needed to pursue “Lean FIRE” – living frugally off investment income without completely depriving yourself.

Chris Wong, a full-time worker who runs the popular personal finance channel HoneyMoneySG, was recently met with backlash after advocating for FIRE on CNA. However, he stands by his philosophy that average income-earners can escape the daily grind through smart investing and lifestyle changes.

The 3 Keys to Lean FIRE

According to Wong, there are three critical elements for achieving Lean FIRE successfully:

Redefine “Comfort”

“Comfortably means at least you can afford three meals or maybe two meals for some people who are intermittent fasting – that they don’t have to really sacrifice their lifestyle,” Wong states.
He caveats that comfort is highly subjective based on one’s season of life and priorities. A comfortable retired life for a single person could mean $1,000 per month in Singapore, while raising a family would require adjusting that number upwards.

Use the 4% Withdrawal Rule

The crux of FIRE planning involves building an investment portfolio large enough to fund your annual expenses at a sustainable withdrawal rate. Wong recommends following the “4% Rule” – withdrawing 4% of your portfolio annually to have a 95% chance of never running out over 30 years.
For a $1,000 monthly budget in retirement, you’d need a $300,000 portfolio using the 4% rule. More conservative retirees may wish to apply a 3% withdrawal rate instead, which would require $400,000 in invested assets.

Leverage Geographic Arbitrage

One of the most powerful aspects of Lean FIRE from Singapore is geographic arbitrage – the ability to vastly decrease your cost of living by relocating to lower-cost countries nearby like Malaysia, Thailand or Vietnam.
“Singapore’s advantage is that it’s surrounded by low cost of living countries,” Wong explains. “When we use our Singapore currency to spend in these countries, our purchasing power increases significantly.”

The Importance of Cash Flow Over Absolutes

Throughout the discussion, Wong emphasizes that cash flow – not absolute numerical values or asset prices – should be the focus for prospective retirees.

“Asset value is not as important as cash flow generation…We only look at assets that can grow in value while providing returns like dividends or rental income.”

He cautions against over-valuing non-productive assets like your home or physical gold that don’t produce income streams to fund your lifestyle.

Top 3 Strategies for Supplementing Lean FIRE Income:

  1. Tap retirement funds at 62/63 by withdrawing from SRS with tax advantages.

  2. Access lifelong CPF annuity starting at 65, providing tax-free cash flow until death.

  3. Consider living abroad where the dollar stretches much further.


With prudent planning, a lean mindset, and consistent investing, Wong believes FIRE is far more attainable than most Singaporeans assume – even without a six-figure salary. By rethinking your “enough” and leveraging geographic arbitrage, an early exit from the rat race could be closer than you think.

You can check their full interview on First Dibs, Episode 161 on Spotify, YouTube for a candid framework for achieving the financial freedom of early retirement through modest yet intentional Lean FIRE savings habits.

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