10 Questions with Be Smart Rich

This is the 71st edition of our guest post series called 10 Questions. It also will be one of the last. Everything must come to an end and 10 Questions will say ‘”Good bye!” at the end of 2016. If you’ve already sent me your answers or told me that you’re going to be doing so, don’t worry; I’m still going to publish you.

Today we hear from Be Smart Rich, a Korean-Canadian accountant blogger looking for a better life and hoping to retire by 43. He believes nothing is impossible, and his happy attitude comes shining through his writing.

Be Smart Rich

Tell us 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 saving 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.

Armored Personnel Carrier

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 wages ($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. We currently live in Toronto, Canada.

Beautiful Wife and Ravenous Greyhound

For more, check out About Me

Tell me about your blog and why it’s great.
My blog’s motto is “A Random Korean Immigrant’s Million Dollar Journey” I opened my direct investing accounts, started investing in my own as opposed to mutual funds and ran the blog BeSmartRich from September 2014. It has been 1 year and 10 months and my net worth grew from $83,000 to $200,000.

My net worth grew from $80,000 to $200,000.

Net Worth Grew from $80,000 to $200,000

Nothing is impossible. That’s what I want to prove through my blog. 8 years old elementary school kids spoke better English than I did and probably they still do 🙂 but with a strong positive mentality and can-do attitude really change things. All you need to add is smart advices that can speed things up for you. Rather than regret things in the past, focus on today and tomorrow. There are smart ways of being rich. Getting proper educations, being frugal, minimizing fees when investing, investing in high quality appreciating assets or ETFs, setting up goals and tracking net worth which will make you focus.

What are top 5 most popular articles in BeSmartRich?

  1. How to save $200,000 in 6 years and retire before 45
  2. 11 most important Warren Buffett’s stock picking tips, especially 7th one.
  3. Legendary investor Peter Lynch’s Top 13 best stock picking tips from ‘One Up on Wall Street’
  4. Can you save $10 a day? If so you will be a millionaire in about 30 years
  5. Why is a liberal arts degree useless?

If blogging isn’t your full time gig, what is?
I am an accountant. I articled with one of big 4 accounting firms. I was an auditor and the job was really tough at first but experiences that I gained are priceless. The firms paid me really nothing during articling. My co-workers calculated and including over time we made about $6 per hour in our 1st year. I moved to industry immediately after I got my CPA license.

One great thing about being a CPA is I can do all of the fundamental analysis of the stocks that I want to buy by going through their financial statements and reading management analysis. The most important things that I look for before buying stocks are consistent/increasing cash flow, comfortable debt level and tones of managements. I look for values so I love bad news that bring down prices of stocks that I love.

1500 Days is about early retirement. Do you have early retirement dreams? At what age do you think you will retire?
My goal is to become a millionaire before I become 45. More than 10 years left and I think it is very doable. I said millionaire but it is not really about the money. It is all about financial independence so that we can really do things that we love to do 365 days a year.

Once financial independence is reached my wife, I and probably a squad of kids will travel extensively anywhere we wanted to. The biggest life lesson that I learned from moving out of my home country, South Korea and living in Canada was realization of how small I was. I didn’t know jackshits about anything before getting out of Korea. I never had grape that you can have its skins with, never knew and tried more than one kind of apple. I never had a chance to meet and study with people from various backgrounds. I never understood the power of English which enabled me to communicate with any people in the world and find any information I want.

I learned probably thousands of lessons when I got out of my comfort zone and lived in the culture that I never experienced before. Being open-minded isn’t something you can buy or study. It can only be learned by experiencing.

What is the worst financial mistake you made?
There are so many mistakes that I have made so hard to pick one but just like everyone else, I learn from mistake. I like to say “I don’t lose, either I win or I learn”

I mistakenly thought that buying a cheap stock equals to buying a value stock during the early stage of DIY investing. After one of oil& gas stocks dropped about 70- 80%, I thought it was cheap and bought $3,500 worth of the stock without researching deeply enough. I was thinking “how low it was going to go?” I was speculating and definitely not investing. Turned out it can go lower by another 70%. I still have the stock and will keep it for a long time to keep reminding myself how stupid the investing decision was. 🙂

Did you grow up with money? How did your money situation growing up influence you? Did your parents teach you about money as a kid? How so?
When I was young my dad kicked Scrooge’s butt in a second.

As he got older, he leveled up and could even kick Scrooge’s extended family’s butts in less than a second. (e.g. He often purposely did not flush toilet after peeing to save money on water… Hahaha too much detail.) I don’t have to mention that he never gave me a penny for anything.

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 (thanks to my Scrooge father). 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 learned how hard it is to make a dollar and what exactly it was worth while I was growing up. I saved every single penny from the work. All my savings were 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 and invested in high quality stocks and ETFs.

It has been almost 2 years and things are going pretty well.

Up 20% Since Inception

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.

11 most important Warren Buffett’s stock picking tips, especially 7th one.

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 after the drops. The best time to buy is when there is blood on the street.

When you are 90 and look back on your life, what do you hope you have accomplished?
My wife and I don’t have any family members living in Canada so my master plan is to have either 5 kids to form a basketball team or 11 kids to form a soccer team. We will probably name it BSR tigers or something. I did not run the plan by my boss yet so hopefully she agrees to this. 🙂 My ultimate master plan is to have a turkey meal with my grand grand kids before hitting the bucket. We will see how it goes. Haha

What car do you drive?
My first car was bought in 2009 at $1,450. It was 2000 Toyota Corolla manual with manual windows and of course no AC. The seller posted it at $2,000 but the tires were worn out so I hard balled and negotiated it down by $500. Took off another $50 for being a student which worked out very well.

Used it for schools for about 2 years. One day the exhaust pipe fell nearby my home and I dragged it for about 200 meters. That’s when I realized that I had to buy a better car. I sold it for $1,600. Used cars sometimes appreciate their values. 🙂 When I started my job with the accounting firm, I bought 2009 Hyundai Sonata. I still drive the car and will drive it to the ground.

What is your favorite style of beer – and what is your favorite beer in that style?
Being in Toronto provides me access to all kinds of beer in the world. I love drinking red beer with meals and creamy beer when I am tired around 9-10 pm without any snacks. I love drinking beers that I never tried. I have tried about 300-400 different beers in my life. Due to my early job being an auditor, I travelled most of Canadian cities for free trying many different local beers.

You gotta understand I love alcohol in general and probably too much. I drink a glass of wine every supper and spirits at night such as whiskey, rum and scotch before bed. It can be an expensive habit but it is something that I cannot sacrifice.

What’s the best vacation you’ve ever taken?
Anywhere with my family. No matter how beautiful places you go, how majestic things you see and how delicious food you eat, nothing really satisfies you if you are alone. If I have to pick one, it gotta be 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.


Any favorite tips for saving money to our readers?
Two tips.

  1. Pay yourself first. Save first and spend whatever is left. I save about 40- 60% of after tax income. Invest in great ETFs or high quality stocks that you like. Grow passive income to supplement your life.
  1. 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. Take a look at the following link- #4.c where I explained a huge advantage of start investing early. How to save $200,000 in 6 years and retire before 45

Thank you for sharing with us today, Be Smart Rich! Keep up with him at BeSmartRich.com or on Facebook.

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17 Responses to 10 Questions with Be Smart Rich

  1. Wow, Be Smart Rich, your story is so inspirational! I can’t believe how much you’ve accomplished in just 9 years! Nice work!

  2. jlcollinsnh says:

    Awesome journey, BSR…

    no doubt in my mind you’ll hit the million mark and then some.

    Great illustration of someone who is just going out and making it happen, while so many with so many more advantages are fixated on arguing why it can’t be done. 😉

    • BeSmartRich says:

      Thanks so much for your kind words. I am very glad that things turned out great and I am confident things will go well in a long term. Luck are positive mindset is correlated. 🙂

      A smile puts you on the right track. A smile makes the world a beautiful place. When you lose your smile, you lose your way in the chaos of life.”
      ― Roy T. Bennett, The Light in the Heart
      BeSmartRich recently posted…Now and Then portfolio restructuring updateMy Profile

  3. BeSmartRich says:

    Thank you for featuring my post Mr.1500days. Much appreciated!
    Hope you did not go too crazy on Black Friday. oh right… you stayed home 🙂

    Guess what?! I bought some trendiest and sexy fusion style hippie clothing on Black Friday and my wife had tears in her eyes. She thought that I am out of mind in two folds.
    1. I bought clothing. 2. I bought more than 2 clothing.
    My coworkers of my new gig at fintech startup wear hoodie and training pants to work so I am excited to kick their butts this Monday. Get ready you hipsters, here I come 🙂

  4. Very inspirational story. The one thing I’m curious about from both this article and your about, why Canada? How were the opportunities in Korea. Just always curious to read why people choose to transplant internationally. It had to be at once motivational because your on your own but also stressful.

    • BeSmartRich says:

      Opportunities in Korea are not too bad due to many international Korean companies like Samsung, Hyundai, Posco, LG, Kia etc… are headquartered in Korea and there are many other national companies that offer fairly stable opportunities. However that being said, it is extremely competitive. Many young graduates feel that they are being chocked because of the nature of job markets.

      Graduation of military service is a turning point of thinking about their futures for many young male Koreans as they go through rigorous training. Many hours are given to think about futures during watch duties, hours of walking etc…

      For me, picking Canada as my next adventure was quite easy
      1. Canada is a nation of peace and harmony (no handguns and rifles are allowed. USA was a very attractive option but due to legal guns which made me feel quite scared but I still love to live in USA if possible) 🙂
      2. Canada’s diversity is very attractive. One of the biggest reasons why people going back is homesick. Here you can meet people from your own countries and still get to enjoy their cultures including food.
      3. Canadians are very kind and nice in heart. You probably know this.
      4. Canada is very open and culturally advanced- e.g. same sex marriage, legalizing marijuana etc…
      5. Extremely safe living here and has amazing healthcare system (Almost everything is free, seeing a doctor, specialists, cancer surgery etc…)
      6. Access to extremely safe and fresh tap water, cleaner air, beautiful outdoor, Rocky mountain, Niagara Falls, French Canada-Quebec, East to West coast
      7. Canada’s English is very similar to American standard (accent, tone) as opposed to British or Australian.
      8. Land of opportunities – jobs are here to be found- Unemployment rate of around 7% even in oil-downturns.

      I can probably go on hours and hours why Canada is a great choice.

      Only downside I can think of are 1) ass freezing cold winter and 2) high tax rates to high income people (more than 50% if you make $200K per year) that drive talents away to USA.

      Never visited Canada before? Come during May to September, you will love it.
      BeSmartRich recently posted…Now and Then portfolio restructuring updateMy Profile

  5. Awesome story and love this line – “strong positive mentality and can-do attitude!” You are certainly proof of this! Starting early is key too! If only we could get those teenagers on board with that…and not their $700 phones!
    Vicki@MakeSmarterDecisions recently posted…New Series – Smart Travels!My Profile

    • BeSmartRich says:

      Yup. Anything is possible. Haha I still use my iphone 4s that I got 5 years ago when I was with the accounting firm. I am still using it because I am still enrolled under the accounting firm’s data and voice plan ($35 for 6GB and 400 minutes free). I will probably be in this plan as long as Bell does not realize that I am in that plan. Hahaha (probably until hitting the bucket).
      BeSmartRich recently posted…Nov 30, 2016 Net Worth Update: $220,880 (+$12,455, +6.0%)My Profile

  6. What what an incredible story!!! You have a ton of perseverance and I know that you will be hitting your goal of being a millionaire before 45. I look forward to going on your website and reading more. Thanks for sharing your financial journey!!!
    Mustard Seed Money recently posted…How Much To Spend On ChristmasMy Profile

  7. Tawcan says:

    Great interview and great story, very inspiring. This is why Canada is such a great place because we all have opportunities to improve our life.

  8. Katrina says:

    “The firms paid me really nothing during articling. My co-workers calculated and including over time we made about $6 per hour in our 1st year.”

    So many people don’t realize this. I’m an accountant in Vancouver, and whenever I meet with other people in my industry I’m shocked at the crazy hours they put in. I can’t blame you for jumping to industry as soon as you can.

    I’m one of the lucky few who found a firm where there aren’t crazy overtime hours (not Big 4, obviously :P) and will likely actually stay in public accounting for most, if not all, of my career because I enjoy it.

    You have an incredible story and I hope you continue to tell it for many years to come! Good luck on your FIRE journey 🙂

  9. ChrisCD says:

    Wow!! What a great story (and inspiring).

    Continual Hard work and dedication is the key. Keep it up.

    Having 6 kids, I would shoot for the basketball team, but be aware, raising that number of kids is quite expensive. I wouldn’t change it for the world, but just be aware if you go that route. :O)

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