Not many know the reason why I became a Financial Planner.
Long story short, my family struggled financially, not knowing how to handle money and to set the money aside for the long-term goals and plans they needed to make. However, they also had a big distrust of financial planners.
Here’s how it happened…
My growing up years on the surface seemed great. I had 3 meals a day, a normal education and shelter over my head.
However, not many knew of the financial struggles I had to go through with my family.
There were some telltale signs of what was to come. For example, purchases rolled in – the latest televisions, the best and newest vacuum cleaner, and a treadmill that no one really uses.
I curiously inquired if there was a need to keep buying, but I casually was dismissed.
And as I grew older, I uncovered this underlying belief: “There’s no point in saving if you can’t spend it when you die.”
This statement didn’t make sense to me. So I saved on my own.
Unfortunately, what happened next put me in a position where I had to decide to stop taking allowances from my parents the day I entered the army.
In 2008, the financial crisis came, and it hit my family hard when my dad lost his job.
We had to adjust to a leaner lifestyle, even though it was still barely sufficient. We stretched our finances, stopped eating out, and ate mostly home-cooked meals using more affordable ingredients from the market.
Naturally, I expressed my concerns about my family’s financial state, but was dismissed time and again with a simple, “Leave it to us, we will handle it.”
However, the extent of our financial difficulties was revealed in these 2 situations.
Firstly, they began asking me if they could borrow a large sum of money from my own savings. This way, they could avoid taking interest-loans from financial institutions.
I was only 20 and had already stopped taking allowances since I left JC. And there they were asking me for money instead. That was the first warning sign.
The second incident was the lowest point of my life.
It came just 2 weeks before I had to pay my university fees. That’s when I found out we didn’t have the finances to cover the first-semester school fees.
In that 2 weeks, I scrambled to find alternatives, or even subsidies, to fund my university education. I was just about to use my own savings before I discovered we could utilise my parents’ CPF under the education scheme.
This was the moment I knew my family needed a long-term financial plan.
In university, I came to know of a financial advisor through a friend. And having a long chat with her, I knew she was someone I could entrust my parents with.
Unfortunately, she was barred from entering my home as my parents chided me saying, “Don’t bring those sort of people back home! They cannot be trusted!”
I recall seeing the financial planner walk away helplessly. That was exactly what I was feeling too.
And that’s when I realised this…
If no financial planner is allowed to help my family, then I would have to do it myself! And if that still didn’t work, then at least I could say I’ve done all I could.
In time, I took the examinations and joined the industry. This meant I had to juggle both work and studies and forgo luxuries like partying with friends or even going for an overseas exchange program.
But with the financial strategies I learnt from my team, Odyssey, I began to achieve my goal of helping my family.
Although my parents were initially resistant, they gave me permission to oversee our family’s financial planning. We’re now seeing our finances, and their medical protection & retirement portfolio steadily improve.
And today, they even have a clear understanding of the value of long-term planning.
This worry I had growing up finally disappeared, and my relationship with my parents has improved greatly too.
I believe that no one should put themselves in situations where they have to borrow money from their children.
That’s what drives me today.
Through my story, I’ve helped clients like Joanna (not her real name) to understand that the risk of spending without having a financial plan could lead to a vicious cycle I experienced.
She woke up when I helped her see how dependent she was on her parents to sustain her current lifestyle.
As a result, we came up with a financial framework for her to not only be less dependent on her parents but to also create stability for her future.
And it pleased me to hear her say, “I never knew there were these many things I had to prepare for, thank you for sharing with me!”
People like my parents and Joanna are only the beginning of this journey, and I look forward to guiding you through life’s adventure!