Kumar (not his real name), dropped out of school at 12 and by 14, he had bought 40 acres of land.
I met Kumar last year. He works as a security guard, not exactly a profession, where you find too many financially independent people. A chance remark by him to a close friend that he had just bought his son a restaurant aroused my curiosity and I asked to interview him.
Kumar’s story is inspiring. He started with almost nothing 3 times in his life and each time he got up, continued plodding and succeeded.
Kumar’s father worked in a rubber estate. Having 15 children (Kumar was number 7), he told Kumar to stop schooling and take up a job at a tender age of 12. Kumar worked 2 shifts a day tapping rubber, a tough job even for able bodied adults. He earned about Ringgit 2.50 a day. This was in 1956 in Alor Star, a small town in north Malaysia.
Even then he had cultivated the habit of saving, steadily building up his funds in the Post Office Savings Bank.
Having seen the financial benefits, the rubber tree owners enjoyed, every chance Kumar got, he would scout for land. And he found them at the then prices of Ringgit 40 per acre. Over 2 – 3 years, he had bought 40 acres. Mind you, these were land, overgrown with secondary jungle, and in the middle of nowhere. Since Kumar was familiar with agriculture and rubber planting, he bought the land for what he could do with the land.
He worked the land, cleared them and planted them with rubber. Being underage, he could not get his name registered as the owner, so he gave the land to his father.
In 1970, when he got married, he asked for the land back from his father. Kumar does not want to go into details, and he just says that his father told him that there was no land.
So in 1970, he uprooted his family, and left with his wife and the clothes on their backs and moved to another smallish town in Malaysia, Teluk Intan.
Here, he started all over, as a weeding contractor, again working in the estates. As a weeder has to work with poisonous herbicides, this was also not exactly a job that many people were eager to do. For 12 years, he slogged at this. Over time, he came up with his own formula for the mixing of the herbicides, and started earning more.
Though Kumar kept accurate and detailed records of his income and expenditure, all the money was held by the wife. He just grins and says that was to make sure there would be no temptation to “overspend”.
His interest in land was still strong. He bought 5.5 acres of land which he planted with oil palm. In 1990 – 1994, oil palm prices were so low that the estate owners were just ignoring their estates. Kumar’s livelihood as an oil palm land smallholding owner and a weeder was sorely threatened.
By then the family had grown, with four school going children.
Kumar left his family in Teluk Intan, and went to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia’s capital, where he found work as a security guard. He says that he gave the family a monthly sum of Ringgit 200. His wife worked in a factory, while the children worked in Kentucky Fried Chicken outlets after school. Their earnings brought food to the table, and for other household expenses. So the family was taken care off.
This 3rd start was the toughest. There were times when his salary was not paid and he had to struggle to feed himself. He had to charge his land to take a loan to finance his son’s education.
Then his break came, when he was assigned to a company, whose boss noticed his integrity and dependability. This boss took him as part of his own office staff and Kumar has been with him ever since.
This boss paid well, time and was also generous with tips every now and then. Most of which, Kumar’s inbuilt frugal nature made him save and sock away.
His children are all graduates now. 3 are married. All of them hold respectable jobs, while his only boy, an engineer, runs the restaurant. (Kumar proudly says that his restaurant workers are probably the best paid workers in the industry in the country.)
Each one of his children have followed Kumar’s example and have saved enough to own real estate assets of their own.
Oil palm prices are now on a roll now, and give Kumar a nice tidy sum monthly.
Kumar no longer has to work for a living. He now works for fun, and to occupy his time. Even now, whilst he may be able to afford a driver and a car, he rides his motorbike to work.
What can we learn from Kumar?
First, he worked hard.
Second, he focused on doing things he knew well, i.e. agriculture, and things which other people were not beating to the door to do.
Fourth, he kept accurate records of his income and expenditure.
Fifth, he saved diligently.
Sixth, he was disciplined in his spending within his limits.
Seventh, he accumulated income generating assets.
Eighth, he compounded his wealth over the long haul.
It doesn’t look all that difficult, does it? Well, I felt ashamed listening to his story. Though I have a so called university education, and have been exposed to so many opportunities, Kumar was so far ahead of me.
Stories of people like Kumar, who has overcome obstacles that may have knocked off many other lesser beings, are really inspiring.
It is an honour and my pleasure to induct Mr. Kumar as a distinguished member of Fathersez’s Guerilla PF Expert Club. I hope this story will inspire other readers as much it did for me.