The moneymaker: Ellie Kim, 42, is a former forex broker who left her cushy job to become a financial advisor and recently wrote her first book, Why I Ditched My Chanel. In the book, Kim shares the reasons for her lifestyle changes, as well as tips for identifying what you value in order to plan for the future. The Korean relocated 17 years ago, and now lives here with her Singaporean husband and two children.
Home is: A four-bedroom condo in Bukit Timah with her husband, kids and her in-laws.
Her ride is: “When I drive, I share my father-in-law’s Honda Jazz. But other than that, I love public transport in Singapore. The MRT is okay!”
What’s in her wallet: Other than practical essentials like a fuel card, and just a couple of credit cards, Ellie also carries with her a colour chart. It’s to match her skin tone “for whenever [I buy] clothes” . “If I wear very bright colours, my face looks very dull.”
8 DAYS: Did you really ditch your Chanel?
ELLIE KIM: I still desire Chanel. I love to have luxury goods and the craftsmanship [behind it]. But it’s not a priority anymore. What I regret most is not saving all my bonuses. I could be much richer. Every bonus season I’d go shopping. Now [that I’ve left full-time work], in my mind I’m always shopping (laughs). I really want a Boy Chanel. Now I just go for online sales, maybe for Chinese New Year, or my birthday. Justified spending.
Why the lifestyle change?
As a forex broker, I was always in the office. At the time I often thought, I have a husband, two wonderful kids, my boss loves me, I have a well-paying job. I’m okay. But why do I feel a void? The buying experience of [something aspirational, like] Chanel made me realise that I’m chasing something that’s not really relevant to me. It didn’t make me happy. I read about the new mid-life, about people who’ve made a name for themselves, and then try to find some purpose in their life. I went through that phase.
Are we too caught up yearning for the high life?
Why I Ditched My Chanel comes from that. When we know what is valued most in our life, we don’t need that much of the high life. We should look at what makes us happy. Surprisingly when I ask clients these questions: How much do you think you need when you retire? What kind of lifestyle do you want to lead when you retire? Nobody can give me a clear answer.
Your book advocates a ‘mock retirement’. What’s that all about?
The [traditional] concept of retirement is, you work really hard, save a few million dollars, stop working and travel around the world. Retirement for me is about having an active, fulfilling life with a sustainable financial plan. Those in their 20s should focus on how to raise your value. When you’re young, just go out, explore and increase your skills, your mind. Those in their early 30s are most likely busy getting married, paying off a house, raising kids… When all the dust settles, in your mid-30s, when you have an idea of what you can and can’t do, this is a good time to think about how you want to live the rest of your life.
Is there a formula for how to portion out your salary?
I find it doesn’t really work. Everybody has different desires, different standards of living. Observe your spending for three months. If I have good food, and it doesn’t make me happy, it just makes me fat, means it’s not relevant to me. But if I have coffee with friends, and it makes me happy, then it’s a necessary cost. So, what’s your minimum lifestyle cost — identify that number, and the rest of [your salary] goes into a bank account that you cannot touch. I warn my clients, don’t over stretch yourself. Some clients think, I’m going to save $5,000 a month, and I’ll only spend $500. Then after that for the next few months, they start a spending binge. It’s like going on a crash diet, then binge eating.
So, when was the last time you bought Chanel?
It was during the financial crisis , and Chanel Korea had a sale. Korea’s economy was almost collapsing, so there was the one and only Chanel sale. That was a very good buy. I should’ve bought three and sold them here [in Singapore]. It was my second Chanel bag, and the last. After that Chanel was too expensive, so I moved to Givenchy (laughs). Chanel is a symbol, the aspirational buy that I wanted to be able to afford comfortably, but it wasn’t valuable to me anymore.