Welcome to the fifth post of my blogger interview series. I interviewed BeSmartRich. Previous interviews were with Roadmap 2 Retire, followed by Amber Tree Leaves, DivHut, and DivGro.
I started reading BeSmartRich in January of 2015. He’s a great guy with an interesting backstory. I don’t want to give anything away, because he shared a lot of information during the interview. I hope you enjoy getting to know BeSmartRich.
Tell Me About You
Hi everyone, I run a personal finance blog BeSmartRich. I was born in Seoul, South Korea and moved to Canada alone about 9 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 firms that changed my life. I earned CPA in 2013. This is my 6th year of my career in Canada.
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.
Where do you live?
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.
What are your hobbies?
I play the guitar and piano a bit. I was in a fusion jazz band in South Korea. For those who don’t know what fusion jazz is here is the link of a legendary fusion jazz bands Casiopea and T-Square.
Which countries or major cities have you lived in or traveled to?
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.
What’s the best vacation you’ve ever taken?
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.
When you were a child, what profession did you want to be?
Maybe a pharmacist just because my parents were pharmacists. Thank God, I did not choose that profession. I would have been bored to death (Many people say the same when I tell them I am an accountant).
What is your career today?
Accountant. I used to be an auditor in an accounting firm for a several years and moved to a publicly traded company. One great thing about being an accountant is that I can analyze financial statements and invest based on fundamentals.
What is your primary motivation to reach financial independence and retire early?
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 almost 2 years and things are going pretty well.
Thanks to the inspiring personal financial bloggers, my average annual return is at 11.13% and total return since September 2014 is 20.67%. TSX dropped by 10% during the same period.
My net worth grew from $80,000 to $200,000 as of today.
At what age are you planning on retiring?
When I just started my blog I thought it would be around when I become 45 (11-12 years from now) however based on how fast my net worth has been moving up, I think it can be earlier say 42-43. I will retire when my expenses are covered by non-work related passive incomes.
What’s the first thing you’ll do when you retire?
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.
If money were no object, but you had to have a job what would you do for a living?
I would be in a music industry probably managing a small company.
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.
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.
He also loves Dupont analysis. My second favorite is free cash flow analysis. No matter under any circumstance, cash flow is the king.
How do you stay the course when markets are down?
I buy more. When the market was down this January and February 2016, I bought several purchases and all of them are up by 20-80%. (See the following link- Recent buy section)
I built up some cash position for Brexit (up to 10.5%) then I purchased some more stocks. The best time to buy is when there is blood on the street.
What’s your favorite aspect of blogging?
It 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.
Why should people read your blog? Why do you blog?
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. If a random Korean immigrant who used to speak terrible English without university degree in Canada can do it then you can do it too.
Which 5 blogs do you visit the most?
The Greater Fool
Canadian Couch Potato
Don’t Fuck With Donville
Million Dollar Journey
My Own Advisor
What’s your best source of traffic to your blog?
Facebook and Twitter
What’s the name and URL of your blog or blogs?
BeSmartRich is an amazing success story. His story is inspirational. It also shows the power of stock investing. He’s built a good-sized portfolio in a very short period of time. By picking up stocks when others are selling, he’s accelerated his ROI and put himself s a great place. This sounds easy to do, but many investors by stocks they like regardless of price. Getting in on the ground floor generally leads to a large upside, but more importantly it reduces downside risk. Great guy, great story, and he’s just getting started. In 10 years, his dividend income will be pretty amazing.
How do you like this interview series so far? Are there better questions I should ask? Do you want to be interviewed?