If I ever fail in my PF journey and end up broke and homeless, one reason I can never claim is a lack of role models to learn from.
PS: I was actually going to tell my parents’ story first, but I had to stop for dinner. There was a ridiculous tiff during dinner between my parents that irritated me to no end, so the inspiration fled. I will leave my parents’ story to another time when I feel more sufficiently in awe of them.
Mr. C is my first supervisor at my company. He is like a second father to me and everything that I have achieved career-wise to date can be attributed to him. It was not only the training he provided, but also fantastic appraisals, words in the right ears, and everything he could do to smooth my path forward. He is also the one who opened my eyes to investment and personal finance.
His own story is nothing short of a miracle, a real rags-to-riches tale, and there is something of Kiyosaki about it (even though he has no earthly idea who Kiyosaki is, and has never read Rich Dad, Poor Dad in his life). He started out as a trainee draughtsperson in the company in the late ‘70s, earning about $400 a month and side hustled as an insurance salesman at night.
His foray as an insurance salesman introduced him to investment basics, and he started to teach himself investment finance through reading. He studied markets and company balance sheets as a hobby. Our company had a multi-national client base, and he made opportunities to tap the brains of many high level executives of our international clients, and to understand the global market outlook from their perspective. He took a committee position in the company union in the meantime, which afforded him a direct connection to the countries policy makers and first hand knowledge of how certain policies will affect companies and their bottomline. With all the knowledge in hand, he made his play in the stock markets and managed to amass more than half a million in assets by 1997.
Unfortunately, he did not account for Malaysia’s stock freeze following the 1997 Asian financial crisis. He lost everything.
He told me that for a few weeks, he cried himself to sleep every night. But he couldn’t stop and mourn; he had a wife and three kids to feed. He sold his car, and continued his work at the company and side hustles. In the meantime, he continued to analyse the markets and his losses to determine if his investment fundamentals were sound. They were and as soon as he had enough money saved up (I think it was a couple of thousand dollars), he plunged back into the stock market.
In just ten years, he was worth about 1-2 million.
Back in 1996, he started to study the Singapore real estate market. He did it for ten years, and in 2006 decided that the time was ripe. He liquated 95% of his stock holdings and sunk his money into Singapore real estate. Today, his net worth is close to 10 million.
Through it all, he never shortchanged the company.
And he lived as frugally as a multi-millionaire as when he was just earning $400 a month. Starbucks? Ha! He refuses to even pay for coffeeshop coffee in the days when a cup costs $0.50. For many years, his trademark was a cheap plastic G-Shock knockoff that his son had refused to wear.
Yet he was a generous soul when it came to family and friends. I hear of cheques for hundreds and thousands to people in need, no questions asked. He gives generously of his time as well, such as managing the portfolio of an old lady who took care of him when he was still a rookie in the company, helping our foreign colleagues with rental apartments, bank accounts, medical needs etc, all without asking anything in return.
Sometimes, it feels as though I have got Warren Buffet as my mentor when I stop to think about it.
It’s getting a bit wordy so I’ll stop here with a few bits of advice that he has given me:
1) Save. No use being the smartest investor in the world when you have nothing to invest with.
2) Get your fundamentals right. Then pray very hard.
3) Nothing is non-negotiable.