24 October 2016
Fok Wing-yiu and his wife travel six to seven times a year. Fok says they live off the interest on his investments. Photo: HKEJ
Fok Wing-yiu and his wife travel six to seven times a year. Fok says they live off the interest on his investments. Photo: HKEJ

What HK$1 mln yearly spending money is like for a retiree

In the 1970s, when his high school classmates were pursuing university degrees, Fok Wing-yiu was trying to decide what to do with his future.

He decided to join KPMG, later working his way to earn a professional qualification.

That is just the kind of person he is. 

“I have always been the rebellious type and I don’t like to go by the book,” he says.

Fok, 55, looks back on those years with the benefit of hindsight, and by all indications, he made the right choice.

“At work, I was the odd man out. I wasn’t a workaholic. My goal was to understand every part of the operations of the company.”

Fok made HK$750 a month and saw his peers struggle for a HK$250 pay rise. He decided to move to another department which offered training opportunities in computerized accounting.

“I was young and eager to learn and I thought that was much more meaningful and useful for my future.”

Fok left KPMG four years later and spent a year working in Singapore.

He returned to Hong Kong and joined a group of friends to start a company specializing in accounting software.

In 2000, Fok tried to expand his business into Shanghai but became stuck in bureaucracy.

“Protectionism was severe in mainland China. We had to sell our products to foreigners. That was the only way to go about the situation.”

When a Briton offered to buy the company in 2004, Fok cashed out his share in the venture.

Fok has been retired since then and lives a comfortable life with his wife of 11 years.  

His goal is to maintain his living standard which will cost him about HK$1 million a year.

“Basically, I am just living off the interest on my investments,” he says.

Fok has a HK$20 million portfolio which gives him a 5 percent return, the exact amount he needs to maintain his lifestyle.

He says he is no investment expert, so he keeps everything simple.

He owns only one flat which is for self-use and considers investment a matter of luck.

“I lost more than HK$10 million during the 2008 global finance crisis, about 25 percent of my wealth, but I wasn’t too upset. I knew I should let bygones be bygones.”

Some people think retirement is boring but Fok disagrees.

“Why should it be boring? Were summer holidays too long for you when you were in school?”

Fok is learning to play the guqin (a Chinese musical instrument) and travels with his wife six to seven times a year.

“Life is wonderful. There are so many things to try,” he says.

Which is why Fok treats retirement as a serious matter.

“Many rich people work until they’re old, so many young people cannot move up.”

Fok’s wife, however, is too embarrassed to sit around. She would take part-time jobs whenever she can.

“This is not the usual path. There is a lot of pressure but I can do it because I know it’s what I want,” he says.

This article appeared in the July 2015 issue of Hong Kong Economic Journal Monthly.

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Translation by Darlie Yiu

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