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I first heard of Kelvin Tan from Kelvin Learns Investing through one of my colleagues in 2021. Back then, we were exploring content strategies for the DollarsAndSense YouTube channel and what we should be doing to grow our channel.
A year later, I was eventually introduced to Kelvin and we arranged to meet at a café. While walking towards the cafe to meet Kelvin, I spotted him from afar and recognised him instantly, despite him wearing a mask. I guess that’s the advantage (or disadvantage) of being a successful YouTuber.
I was surprised to learn that Kelvin only started his YouTube channel, Kelvin Learns Investing, in late 2019, right before the COVID-19 pandemic. Somehow, I had the impression that his YouTube channel had been around for a long time. This was also the period when many people became interested in trading and investing.
Some background on Kelvin: Despite his age-defying looks, Kelvin, who is 35 years of age, worked previously as a game developer before transitioning to making YouTube videos on a full-time basis. Needless to say, Kelvin is more tech-savvy than the average Joe, and it was during this period that he started dabbling in trading options, among other financial instruments.
After getting to know him, I soon discovered that being a game developer in Singapore is difficult. Many games don’t get the traction they need to be sustainable. In mid-2020, Kelvin left his job as a game developer and went full-time to creating video content for his YouTube channel, Kelvin Learns Investing, sharing his investment knowledge and experience. As a result, in less than three years, he has gained 77,000 subscribers (as of August 2022) and is able to generate a five-figure revenue from his YouTube channel through a combination of ad revenue and affiliate partnerships collaboration.
In this edition of #TheNewNormal, a content series developed by DollarsAndSense and IG on how trading is like in the new normal today, I spoke to Kelvin to get some insights on what it takes to operate a successful finance YouTube channel, his experience as an option trader, the circumstances that got him to transit full-time to work on his YouTube channel and what advice he may have for anyone aspiring to get started on this journey, whether as a financial YouTuber, or as an investor or trader.
Timothy Ho (Timothy): You started Kelvin Learns Investing in December 2019 when you had a full-time job. Did you find it risky to forgo your day job as a game developer to work on Kelvin Learns Investing? How did you cope with the financial risks?
Kelvin Tan (Kelvin): First of all, I didn’t forgo my job, it was my job that forgo me… So I guess that was a blessing in disguise. (Editor’s note: The company that Kelvin was working in as a game developer shut down in 2020.)
Jokes aside, there were a few things that made this work.
First, my personal expenses are still very low even today. I am spending the same amount as I did 15 years ago when I was a university student. Even now, with a two year-old kid, my total monthly expense is under S$1,500. (I ignore home loan expense as I’m using my CPF to pay for it).
Second, I was fortunate enough that my YouTube channel picked up a few months before I lost my job. Yes, it does pay well. But recently, the income has dropped by 50% since the peak last year. You can verify this by looking at Google Ads revenue where it dropped for them too.
But even if YouTube income drops to zero, I would still be fine as I generate additional income by selling options.
However, as you might agree, all of these are not iron rice bowls as they can be wiped out at anytime. But, even if I lose all these income streams, I should still be fine, as I can easily find a job as a programmer, with a pay cut, of course.
Timothy: Many of us are curious how it’s like being a YouTuber. Do you mind sharing with us how a regular day looks like for you?
Kelvin: My regular day starts at 5 am and I work till 6pm when I force myself to stop working so that I can spend some time with my family. Sometimes, after they have gone to bed, I’ll continue working if it’s an urgent video.
It sounds insane, and if any employee worked this hard, their boss would already be featured on Hardwarezone and Mothership. But there’s a saying, “Do what you love, and you’ll never work another day in your life”. The reason I can keep doing this is that I find what I’m doing very exciting, much like how some gamers can play games all day long without stopping.
Timothy: What got you started on options trading?
Kelvin: One day, YouTube recommended some options videos to me, telling me that I could earn money by trading options, and I went to watch them.
The good thing about being a finance YouTuber is that I get paid to learn stuff (by making videos). So, I figured, why not give this a try. Whether I succeed or fail, I’ll still make a video detailing what I learnt and maybe some people will watch it. So that’s how I got started.
The strategy I use is just a simple covered call and cash covered put where I sell options to collect monthly premiums. The risk is low, and the success rate is extremely high (if you do it correctly, of course).
Timothy: You were a game developer for many years before entering the YouTube space full-time. How similar is it to being a game developer, a trader and a YouTuber?
Kelvin: There’s one thing that connects it all: “knowing how to find information”.
As a programmer, the number one skill that you need to have is knowing where to find codes online so that you can copy and paste them into your program. If you don’t have this skill, you’ll quickly find yourself outdated as universities are training fresh grads every year who know newer stuff than you, have lower pay expectations than you, may work harder than you, and can easily replace you.
When I transitioned to YouTube, and even investing, I totally knew nothing about finance and investing (that’s right, I’m still learning) at the start. But it’s fine, as long as you know how to use Google, you just need to absorb that information like how Neo from the Matrix downloads skills into his brain.
Timothy: Financial YouTubers are the in-thing right now. Any advice for people who wish to start their own finance YouTube channel?
Kelvin: You need to make sure that the reason for starting is because you want to share your knowledge, and not because you want to make tons of money.
In my first year, I made about 50 videos and it took me about 12 hours to make each video. At the end of my first year, I got paid a grand total of S$3,000. And I consider myself very lucky. Most finance YouTubers don’t even get paid for the first two years, and they give up after that. So, only start because you are excited to share stuff (and get hated on).
Another important thing is to improve on one thing every time you make a video. The changes can be something simple like, “improve the lighting”, “try a new editing technique”, or “have better keywords”. You will be much better one year later than when you started (trust me, bro).
Timothy: What is some advice you have for anyone looking to start their investment and trading journey today, amid high volatility and great uncertainties in the financial markets?
Kelvin: Have a clear goal of why you want to invest and what you wish to achieve, rather than just a general “I want to huat big big”.
To be more specific, say, have a goal of making one million dollars by 60, or S$10,000 in a year. That goal will act as your compass, and you’ll be able to strategise on how you want to invest to achieve that goal.
For example, if you want to make one million dollars by 60, you will know that if you are investing in good companies, you can ignore short-term fluctuations as the market will eventually show its true value.
Or if you want to earn S$10,000 in one year, you won’t be able to take uncertainty. In that case, something like the Singapore Savings Bond or cash management accounts would be more appropriate.
Timothy: What are some upcoming initiatives that we can look forward to at Kelvin Learns Investing?
Kelvin: I’ve been itching to check out more option strategies, learn how to value stocks, create YouTube courses, and of course, continue improving my videos. So, stay tuned.
Learning How To Trade Well Takes Effort & Discipline, And Knowing Where To Search For Information
When talking to Kelvin, one of the things that struck me was how dedicated he was to trading. Whether it’s his fast-growing YouTube finance channel or trading in the financial market, Kelvin sees both as areas that he wants to constantly improve on, as opposed to just doing work to make money.
It makes sense. The more proficient he is in trading and running his own YouTube channel, the more likely he will become successful in both over the long-term.
Learning to trade well is quite like how many of us learned how to swim. We need to learn and understand the fundamentals first, preferably from someone who is more qualified than us. With this knowledge, we can then start dipping our feet into the financial markets and build up our experience and proficiencies in trading.
Similar to how we should start learning how to swim in the shallow end of the pool, a demo account is a good way to get started in trading. IG, the world’s No.1 CFD provider (by revenue excluding FX, June 2020), allows new traders to develop their trading skills with $200,000 in virtual funds across more than 13,000 markets. These include shares, forex, indices, commodities and options.
As shared by Kelvin in his interview, every trader’s journey starts from zero. Before embarking on his trading journey, Kelvin was a full-time game developer with minimal knowledge of the financial world. However, a random YouTube ad got him interested in options trading, and led him to learn more about investing and becoming a better trader.
Knowing the right places to search for information is important to pick up any skill.
Other than websites like DollarsAndSense and YouTube channels like Kelvin Learns Investing, for anyone who is interested in starting to learn about trading, IG provides a wide range of exclusive content on IG Academy where users can join webinars and seminars hosted by experts who will share their knowledge and insights. There are also online courses that we can take to learn more about trading.
Once we feel more confident in our trading knowledge, we can open a live account with IG and start trading with actual money. Of course, start with a small amount that you can afford to lose. Rayner Teo, one of the world’s most followed traders, shared with us previously that we can consider this “as a relatively cheap tuition fee”.
When trading, we can’t ignore volatility. After all, it’s only because there is volatility in the financial markets that we can capture profits when prices fluctuate. However, if prices move against our trade, we can suffer losses. That is why we need to manage our risk when trading by utilising risk management tools such as stop losses and trailing stops for our trades.
For many successful traders that we interviewed, one similarity that we observed is that even though trading may typically just be one income stream that they have, they invest a lot of time into learning how to trade well and managing their risk. Like how becoming a successful financial YouTuber will take effort and discipline to learn, the journey to becoming a consistently profitable trader will also require the same level of commitment.
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