Money matters…

…it does. Research shows that over a certain amount (depending on your personal circumstances), more money does not make you happier, but not having enough is definitely going to put a dent in your quality of life.

I’ve been thinking about investing for a while now, but only recently did I start reading up on it. It’s a huge and fascinating subject.

For teachers, saving and investment may not seem so important, but at least for those of us in Japan, the safety and dependability of our future pensions has some quite large question marks hanging over them. Are we even going to receive a pension? If we do, is it going to be enough to live on?

Employment stability is another concern. A few years ago, I took a job where I was initially assured that I would be able to stay there indefinitely. Somewhat predictably, four years later I was abruptly given five months notice.

After I got over the shock (and it is a shock, even if you suspect it is coming) I was lucky enough to find enough part-time work through friends and contacts to keep my family housed and fed until I found another job.

However, I decided I never wanted to be put in that situation again.

Part of financial resiliency is having savings and alternate forms of income. I’m going to address both of those today.

From my reading over the last six months or so, the following key points emerged:

  1. until you have a substantial nest egg, how much you save is more important than how well you invest
  2. costs (fees, etc.) are incredibly important in the long run
  3. educating yourself in financial matters has a huge return on investment

I recommend the following resources as good places to start:

Andrew Hallam’s blog
Andrew is a teacher in Singapore who has amassed a seven figure portfolio while working as a teacher. He gives very simple, practical advice on how to approach investing.
Also his book, the Millionaire Teacher, is very readable.

Mr Money Mustache
Writes about early retirement, saving money and purposeful living. Extremely enjoyable read.

A Random Walk Down Wall Street does a great job of explaining investing in the stock market.

The Millionaire Fastlane is an interesting book about becoming rich quickly.

I would probably read them in that order. The blogs in particular provide lots of links to extra resources.

In Japan, one easy way to invest in international trackers and ETFs is through Rakuten Securities. Once you have managed to set up an account, you can trade online relatively cheaply.

How about you? What is your investment strategy? I’ll be posting about mine later in the month if people are interested.


11 Aug 2012, 1:55pm
by Ryan Hagglund


I’m definitely interested in what you’re doing. I’ve been doing some investments with in the US, the peer-to-peer loan site. Interested in what other opportunities might be out there, though.

Hi Ryan
I’m also experimenting with peer-to-peer loans in the UK ( but only on a very limited scale.
I’m kind of wary about defaults, as the loans are not guaranteed, at least in the UK.

11 Aug 2012, 2:11pm
by Ryan Hagglund


They aren’t guaranteed in the US either, so I’ve only put in a relatively small amount of money and never more than $25 in any individual loan. Things appear to be going well so far, though.

Ben, Interesting topic. I’m thinking about investing and what is going to happen when I retire (probably in Japan in 25ish years). Met one guy who was a duff financial advisor in Kansai- fortunately my brother did the same job for years so he told me the questions to ask and then gave me the advice to avoid this guy! It’s my current project, so any advice much appreciated.

Hi Philip
Long time! My take on this is that no-one cares as much about your money as you do, so the better informed and prepared you are the better you are going to be able to take care of it.

The thing about most advisors is that they are making commission fees by selling you products that have high annual fees or upfront costs -very much not in your interest.

I recommend Andrew Hallam’s blog as a start: if you like his stuff and want more, his book is also very good (but the basic info is on the blog for free).

After that, follow links and keep going deeper šŸ˜‰

Great info, Ben. I’m going to follow up on your research as it looks very promising.

Hi Ed
I’d be very happy to talk about it over Mexican food sometime šŸ™‚

Hi Ben,

Before trying to set up an account at rakuten, I would like to ask you some questions, do you use the rakuten securities service? if you use it, what are the fees for just keeping my account open ? are there any fees for transfering money from my bank account to my rakuten account? is there a custody fee?

sorry for asking so many questions, my japanese is poor and I could not grasp those informations from the rakuten securities website.

Hi Bruno
Thanks for stopping by! Don’t worry about asking anything here -I like questions šŸ™‚
1. I do use the Rakuten Securities online services, both for me and my wife
2. In the few months I have had the service, I have not noticed any fees for having/operating the account (they seem to make money from transaction fees only)
3. I pay the transfer (furikomi) fees to my regular bank as usual, and my last transfer to Rakuten (200,000 yen) had a 100 yen fee deducted
4. Not sure what you mean by custody fee, I’m afraid
The main problems I have with the service are the fact that you have to buy shares in set amounts (100 or 1000), and the lack of portfolio management tools. They have since improved the portfolio management, and I suspect the minimum amounts are functions of the Japanese system rather than Rakuten.
Overall I am very happy with the service so far.
Let me know if you have any other questions!


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