On the surface, my growing up years seemed better than many others. Whatever I put my mind on, I usually achieved them.
In academics, I was able to get into top schools.
In sports – long distance running, I won numerous individual and team medals.
And today, at the age of 26, I’m leading an awesome team (or I should say family) in AIA.
However, what many do not know is that I grew with only my dad and a foster family, and was orphaned by the time I was a teenager.
My mother left us after a quarrel with my father. I was only 2 weeks old then.
My father did odd jobs to make ends meet. For most of the time, he was a caddie at a golf club.
We didn’t have much, but it was just enough…
…or that’s what I’d thought.
I was 18, and fresh from winning my 5,000m Gold medal and preparing for my A levels when we received the news.
Dad was diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer. We sought immediate treatment.
But with no insurance, we could only afford basic healthcare; there was nothing else we could do.
Instead, I watched him deteriorate over 6 months until his very last breath.
And while in my grief, I discovered I had an inheritance of merely $5,000.
Inheritance was never on my mind till I received a letter by CPF Board a couple of months thereafter informing me to claim the remaining amount from his Medisave Account.
Not only did I have to deal with the grief, I realised my dream of going to University could not be funded!
Where was I going to find the money?
Do I ask my foster family for help?
Could I afford the monthly repayment of a bank loan?
From that day, it sparked a desire to master personal finance and I put my mind to it. I simply had no choice.
I was reading books after books on this topic while serving my National Service.
One day, I chanced upon this book written by a university professor titled “Financial Services & Wealth Management in Singapore”, it changed my life forever.
Being the geek that I am, I devoured every word and realised how big, dynamic & complex the financial market is in Singapore!
Hence straight out of National Service, I decided to join the industry for 3 reasons.
- To find an income source to fund my university tuition fees
- To ensure my financial needs are taken care of so my future family does not go through what I went through
- To prevent people around me from having to go through the financial hardships I went through
I worked almost every day on this career even while in university. Often describing to others that I’m a part-time student, full-time advisor, even though I was in a full-time undergraduate course.
I studied most of my lecture notes while commuting to meet my clients.
I made the decision not to go for overseas exchange and even summer school, in order to serve my clients here.
All the little effort eventually snowballed into a sizeable income while I was still studying. I was glad to be able to fully pay up my tuition fee loans immediately upon graduation.
On top of that, should anything unfortunate happen to me, I know my family will still have adequate finances to sustain their lifestyle, instead of having a financial burden on their shoulders.
As a financial planner, there are many areas we can value-add to our clients. Personally, I help most of them with two things. First, to set up a system to save and invest consistently, before they spend. Second, to eliminate major downside risks with the right type and amount of insurances.
A story about one of my clients, Timothy (not his real name). Timothy started his financial planning with me right out of graduation, as with most people. All along, he had been saving money the way most people do, by keeping them as bank deposits. By doing it this way, his money would have devalued a lot in the long run due to inflation.
Timothy placed his trust in me to set up a system where he is now saving and investing consistently in. He is now well on his way to accumulating a sizeable portfolio which he will eventually need for retirement.
Thankfully, Timothy further took the advice to implement a comprehensive portfolio of insurances. Without which, he would have needed to liquidate his entire portfolio and asked for financial help from his loved ones…
About a year later, while he was playing football on a weekend with his friends, an unfortunate collision occurred which left him with a torn anterior cruciate ligament. The surgery at one of the private hospitals locally with 4 day’s stay chalked up a bill of close to S$40,000.
Timothy never had to be concerned one dime about the cost of treatment, but instead could focus on getting treated and the recovery process.
I hope the story of my life, and of Timothy, has inspired you in one way or another. It is never about your circumstance, but how you react to it. It is never about the resources you have, but about your resourcefulness. In life, we never make sacrifices, we make choices.
When one life is gone, the others must live on. One of the greatest gifts you can leave behind for your family will one day come from the proceeds of a life insurance policy. I wish that you never have to go through the ordeals that Timothy and myself had gone through.
But if something similar happens, it is both our responsibility to ensure you are insulated from it financially.
Let us weave through life’s adventure together!