Random Thoughts – millionaire issue, frugal fail, quality of life

If you have been following the news, you probably have heard that Meng Wanzhou, the CFO of Chinese tech giant Huawei, was arrested in Vancouver International Airport on Dec 1st, after arriving from China on her way to Mexico. She is the daughter of the company’s founder and potential heir.

Canada arrested Meng Wanzhou at the request of US law enforcement, for Huawei’s alleged violation of US sanctions of Iran. According to the US, between 2009 and 2014, Huawei used an unofficial subsidiary named Skycom to transact business with an Iranian telecommunications company. This is a direct violation of the US sanctions again trade with Iran.

In case you think this is not a big deal, this is like China arresting Bill Gates or Tim Cook while they are transiting through China. So yea, it’s a BIG deal. This only increases the tensions between China & US trades/tariffs discussions. And somehow, Canada is caught in the middle of this.

Anyway, as the news broke out, we learned that Meng has ties with Vancouver. She and her husband own two houses in Vancouver assessed at over 20 million and her husband and kids are currently living in Vancouver. Although she is the eldest children of the company’s founder, she dropped out of high school to work as a secretary at Huawei. Over 25 years, she rose through the rank to become the company’s CFO. Quite a brilliant accomplishment if you ask me.

Sadly, we also found out that Meng has suffered a lifetime of health problems, including thyroid cancer, sleep apnea, and high blood pressure. She had survived thyroid cancer after having surgery in 2011. According to the court filing, Meng has difficulty eating solid food and have had to modify her diet to address these issues. When she was detained on Dec 1st, she was taken to the hospital to be treated for severe hypertension.

Despite her poor health, Meng continues to work in the high pressure, high pace tech field. Being the CFO of Huawei, one of the largest telecommunication companies in the world, she has to travel internationally regularly. Apparently, she has been travelling so frequently between 2007 and 2016 that she required multiple replacement passports because she ran out of pages in her passport (I have a co-worker like that, ran out of the 10-year Canadian passport pages in less than 2 years’ time).

Being someone who is working toward financial independence retire early (FIRE) and write about our FIRE journey on this blog, it makes me wonder why is Meng still working, despite having a vast amount of wealth? I mean, her dad is a multi-billionaire, her and her husband owns houses in Vancouver worth $20 million with only a $7.5 million mortgage, she probably owns a few properties in China too, and she was released on bail for $10 million with $7 million in cash. Needless to say, money is not a problem for her. She’s certainly not living pay cheque to pay cheque. And accordingly to friends, she does not have an extravagant lifestyle.

So why does she continue working in an extremely high-stress job that requires frequent international travel when these things aren’t good for her overall health and she probably already has enough money to not having to work for the rest of her life? Is it for power? Is it for more wealth? Is it for personal validation? Is it for posterity? Is it because she hasn’t achieved her personal goals? Is it because she enjoys being challenged and working in a stressful environment?

I don’t know her at all so I can only speculate and guess.

To me, having a vast amount of money doesn’t do you any good if you don’t have your health to enjoy it. You can’t bring the money with you when you die! So if I were her, I would quit being the CFO of the company, and focus on being healthy, spending time with her husband and children, and creating a charity to help out the less fortunate people.

What would you do if you were in her position?

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With 2019 around the corner, I did a quick look at our budget master spreadsheet the other day. It only revealed that we have already spent more than 2017. In 2017 we spent $51,144.77 CAD ($40,915.82 USD) excluding business expenses, which was the highest amount since we started tracking in 2012.

We have spent even more money so far in 2018 with only 2 weeks to go.

MAJOR FRUGAL FAIL!!! 

I’m not going to break down the numbers now. The details will have to wait for a post next month. But upon a closer look, we actually did relatively well, despite having spent more than 2017. We actually had cut down our core necessities spending. The extra expenses came from the other accounts.

Net worth wise, we’ll have to see what kind of percentage increase we get. Given the stock market has been on a downturn lately, I suspect the net worth increase wouldn’t be astronomical like the +34.4% we saw in 2016. 

Mrs. T and I usually sit down together and spend about 30 minutes to an hour to review our finances in mid-January, then again in mid-July. Given that we’ve been done quite well financially the past number of years, I think we will just continue doing what we’re doing for the last few years – save as much without depriving ourselves, maximize our TFSA and RRSP contribution limits, maximize RESP contribution limits, then invest in taxable accounts, and buy individual dividend stocks, index ETFs, and some growth stocks. And of course, live up a little.

Spend money on vacation and enjoy life so we can cherish the great memories later. (Baby T1.0 and Baby T2.0 are still talking about Maui and asking when we’re going back).

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I came across this video the other day and thought it was very thought-provoking. Have a look below, please.

Do you still think that you are better off if you wear brand name clothing, drive a fancy sports car, live in a multi-million-dollar house, or have the latest iPhone? Anyway, enough random thoughts from me. Here are a few ideas I want to explore in the new years:

  • How to read & analyze a company’s financial statements
  • More financial independence assumptions
  • Starting FIRE, how to build up your investment asset empire
  • Tax efficiency in FI/FIRE

Do you have any other ideas for me?

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13 Comments

  • Reply
    Mr. Tako
    December 17, 2018 at 10:49 am

    I honestly think executives like Meng Wanzhou get addicted to the wealth and power that come from holding one of those high-stress jobs. They want more of it even though they have TONS of money already.

    Why fly first class when you can fly in the company’s private jet and eat at a 5-star restaurant in a different international city every night, hobnobbing with the wealthy and powerful?

    By comparison, staying in one of your homes and reading a good book after a home cooked meal sounds pretty tame.

    • Reply
      Tawcan
      December 17, 2018 at 3:11 pm

      Yea they’re probably addicted to holding a high-stress job and the benefits they get from having this kind of job.

      Funny thing was, she wasn’t even flying a private jet and doing a transfer in Vancouver instead of a direct flight to Mexico from China.

  • Reply
    Paul
    December 17, 2018 at 11:31 am

    I think it’s very hard to break from what has become normal. There’s always a “just one more” mentality – just one more house, one more million $ (or billion $), etc. If you can get off the treadmill, or have something force you off it, then you have a chance to realize you’ve won the game and it’s time to enjoy. I’m surprised her health scare wasn’t such an event, but people are stubborn!

    • Reply
      Tawcan
      December 17, 2018 at 3:12 pm

      Yes, it’s hard to step out of the one more year mentality. But yea, you’d think health scare would force you to step back and re-evaluate but maybe that hasn’t happened for her.

  • Reply
    gofi
    December 17, 2018 at 3:32 pm

    I’ve wondered about the same thing myself. Co-incidentally, this came up when a friend and I were trying to reason why Trump is the way he is -in that, when you’re as old as he is, you’d think the only thing you’d want to be is good – what else is there? The same could be true for people who make lots of money – what is the motivation? Power? Influence? I guess, because we’re pursuants of FIRE, we’d never understand.

    🙂

    • Reply
      Tawcan
      December 18, 2018 at 9:15 am

      Yea I guess some people are just not wired the same as us FIRE folks. 🙂

  • Reply
    Norm
    December 17, 2018 at 5:48 pm

    Having just finished the excellent tv show Succession, about a wealthy patriarch and his adult children trying to grab power in the family business, I just feel like it’s all about your family, which also of course is also what you’re used to. It’s all about wanting to impress daddy, consciously or not.

    • Reply
      Tawcan
      December 18, 2018 at 9:16 am

      That’s definitely one of the reasons, trying to impress your family and prove that you are worthy of the fortune/wealth. I guess I should take a look at Succession to understand a bit more about this mentality.

  • Reply
    DivvyDad
    December 20, 2018 at 3:24 pm

    On the first part, I think it is largely relative to the lifestyle that the person is accustomed. My wife and I have saved enough at this point that some in the FIRE community would already have met their goal, but we are striving for more of a fatFIRE lifestyle so I continue working. In her case, despite the amazing wealth from our perspective and health issues that she has, she may not feel that she has enough to continue her lifestyle. However, I also think there are people that just won’t ever retire as what they do is their passion (e.g. Gates comes to mind).

    Re: the frugal fail, I wouldn’t consider it a failure but finding that balance between saving for the future and living for the now. I haven’t started to do our annual review yet but will start to look over numbers next week in preparation for our finance meeting in early January.

    • Reply
      Tawcan
      December 20, 2018 at 5:09 pm

      Very true but interestingly for what I’ve read, she does not have an elaborate lifestyle. Apparently she’s pretty low key. So that made me wonder why she’s still working.

      I was being slightly sarcastic about the frugal fail. I don’t see it as a failure, especially when we dig deeper. But the details will have to wait till Jan. 🙂

  • Reply
    GYM
    December 28, 2018 at 12:42 am

    Thanks for sharing the info about the CFO of Huawei, there has been a lot of talk about her in Vancouver for sure. I’m surprised she even has a mortgage, actually!

  • Reply
    Revanche @ A Gai Shan Life
    January 9, 2019 at 7:04 pm

    I remember someone who was very well off, not that level but well off enough to be comfortable the rest of her life, fussing about retiring “early” because her father didn’t retire until well into his 80s. “What would he think?” she said.

    I thought, that’s a long time to be letting worries about what your dad might think run your life! You should live your life for you, not waste time working a job you hate!

    • Reply
      Tawcan
      January 10, 2019 at 10:34 am

      Yup, live your life for you, not for someone else!

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