This article was contributed to us by Chua Ee Chien, and was first published on his LinkedIn.
If you know my background, you’re aware that I don’t come from an uber rich family, but I do come from a relatively comfortable background. This wasn’t always the case for my family. My mother’s family was more well-off, but my father, the youngest of ten, had to build his own wealth and career independently. He self-financed his university education and, through a combination of hard work and good fortune, achieved professional and financial success.
Thanks to both my parents’ diligence at work, I grew up in a comfortable environment. My mother’s education in prestigious schools afforded me the chance to attend good schools from a young age. This provided me with a good network of friends who incidentally, are also well connected. When I didn’t do too well in a local school, my parents had the wherewithal to enrol me into an international school (which, to be fair, was where I did much better academically).
From an early age, my parents used financial incentives to encourage academic excellence. For instance, during the PSLE examinations, I was motivated by various cash rewards linked to my scores. Similarly, in high school and college, the class I flew in for vacations depended on my GPA. Under 3.5/4? Economy. 3.51 to 3.99? Business. Let’s not talk about First Class since a 4.0 wasn’t exactly on the radar. I remember one semester when I did so badly that I had to fly economy on United Airlines while my parents flew First on Singapore Airlines. When I think about it, the fact that I even got to go overseas for a vacation was already a privilege, and certainly not a right.
In college, I began managing my Chinese New Year money, making my first foray into stock market investment. One of my initial mistakes involved leveraging and investing a significant amount in a Chinese stock without proper research, which turned out to be a fraud, leading to a crash in its value.
Because money had always come to me relatively easily, this experience didn’t fully deter me; I continued to chase stock market returns based on speculation rather than thorough research. After selling my place and buying a bar, I didn’t consider the consequences, believing it better to take risks in youth rather than save and invest wisely.
Many view being born with a silver spoon as a blessing. I’ve seen wealthy peers both squander and grow their fortunes and less affluent individuals build remarkable wealth through tenacity.
The silver spoon can be both a blessing and a curse. The Biblical parable of the talents illustrates this: a wealthy man entrusts his servants with talents; while some invest them, one buries his. This story reflects how birthright is crucial yet often overlooked. We’re shaped not only by our backgrounds and experiences but also by our choices. And, “it is our choices that,” to quote Dumbledore, “show us who we truly are, far more than our abilities.”
I have not used my resources as well as I should have. When my parents bought me a car in the US, I eventually decided to trade it in and get a new car after a couple of years. That decision led me to have to switch cars another time. In retrospect, I should have kept that car and grown my cash pile instead. Idiot.
Regardless of whether you come from a poor, average, or rich family, it’s vital to appreciate what you have and responsibly maintain and grow your resources.
Personal Finance Tips:
- Account for Assets and Liabilities: Regularly track your assets and liabilities. Do this monthly. This monthly review helps you understand your financial position clearly.
- Income Generation: If you have surplus funds, invest them wisely to generate income and counter inflation. Income – whether through a side hustle or investments allows you to compound your money and optimise your time. Obviously, don’t do it in such a way that it affects your main income stream.
- Calculated Risks: Taking risks is acceptable, but it should only be a fraction of your total wealth. I’d say at most 20% – I’ve unfortunately ventured way beyond that – learn a lesson from me – please don’t.
- Value of Money: Teach your children and future generations the true value of money, instilling financial responsibility from an early age. And, save and invest for them, it is a kindness that will pay off, literally – and, you give them that option of a silver spoon, along with the education.
- Balance in Perspective: Money, while not the most vital thing in life, is significant. It offers independence and the freedom to pursue your desires. Responsible financial stewardship enables you to give back more effectively.
Money is an essential resource that necessitates careful management to provide independence and the ability to contribute significantly to society. If you have that silver spoon, be grateful for it and steward your funds wisely. I have definitely been less than thrifty with it. If you don’t, don’t resent those who have it, but rather, prove to yourselves and those around you that you can make your own and even more than those who came from “something.
I’ve learned now that money is something that definitely does not grow on trees. There are many decisions I wish I had made differently financially. Tomorrow is a new day, so I’ll just have to make better decisions tomorrow.
Chua Ee Chien is currently APAC Director, Business Development at GTN, leading sales to Fintechs in the greater APAC region. He also owns and runs three restaurant bar concepts under Whimsical Inc. The three concepts are Jekyll & Hyde, graft, and Operation Dagger.