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When I first knew of Jeraldine Phneah in 2014, it was through a viral article she wrote – 5 Differences between Neighbourhood and Elite Schools in Singapore.
While I didn’t know her personally back then, I was very impressed with how forthcoming Jeraldine was in sharing her views on equality and meritocracy – beliefs that obviously meant a lot to her.
Since then, Jeraldine has continued writing and sharing her thoughts on socio-economic topics that she is passionate about. These include providing advice to her largely millennial and Gen Z readers on work challenges, family matters, and environmental issues.
Regular readers of her blog will notice that Jeraldine has also been writing quite a fair bit on finance-related topics.
In the Money category on her blog, Jeraldine shares that money is one of the top sources of stress, and why it’s important for Singapore millennials to discuss the obstacles we face and how we can achieve our financial goals.
In this edition of #theeverydayinvestor, I talk to Jeraldine Phneah about what got her interested in investing, how she got started and why she thinks that it’s important for every millennial to care about their investment journey.
Timothy Ho (Timothy): When you started blogging, it was usually socio-economic topics that you covered. What got you interested in money matters, and more specifically, investing?
Jeraldine Phneah (Jeraldine): I’ve always cared about creating a better life for Singaporeans.
Initially, I thought that this could be achieved alone by having the right policies. Hence, my focus was to raise awareness on critical issues such as discrimination against Singaporeans at work, abuse of our foreign domestic workers, and helping our poor elderly.
After a while, I realized that while policies are impactful, they take time to change.
So, I decided to share actionable steps that we could take as individuals to cope with the high cost of living, build rewarding careers and lead meaningful lives.
Jeraldine Phneah distributing food to lower-income residents during Ramadan
Timothy: Investing can be a complex topic. In the initial period, how did you learn about investing? How do you think individuals can overcome their fear of investing?
Jeraldine: When I first started, I had no finance or business background at all. Thankfully, there were resources available for me to learn. For example, I started attending finance talks and reading websites.
From there, I started to make more friends in the personal finance community to learn from them.
I understand that at the beginning, some may feel intimidated by investing. If it helps, many successful investors did not study business as their first degree.
Michael Moritz, Chairman of Sequoia Capital, was a history major and former journalist at Times who was poor at math.
Locally, many personal finance creators such as Budgetbabe, Woke Salaryman and I all studied Arts and Social Sciences.
Yet, the internet has provided so many resources for us to learn. If there is interest and willpower, this knowledge can be picked up.
The real question is, is it a priority to you?
Timothy: When did you make your first investment? Can you share with us some initial mistakes that you make during your early years of investing?
Jeraldine: I made my first investment in 2017 and my first stock was Disney followed by Alibaba and then Facebook.
There were a few initial mistakes that I made.
The first one is not averaging up, especially when I knew the companies were heading in the right direction.
This was a mistake I made with Adobe and Microsoft.
The second is paying too much attention to stock prices.
2018 was a really volatile year and I remember spending many nights looking at my brokerage account.
Rather than focusing on prices, I should be thinking about the problems that this business solve.
My focus should really be trying to answer questions such as: Does the company have a high return on invested capital? Do they have a long growth runway? Do they have a widening moat? Does the CEO have skin in the game and the ability to execute?
As the late Bill Ruane of Sequoia Fund says, “Over long periods of time, strong business performance translates into strong investment performance.”
The same sentiment is echoed by Warren Buffet. In his letter to shareholders, he said “We own stocks based upon our expectations about their long-term business performance and not because we view them as vehicles for timely market moves.”
Timothy: What are some asset classes that you currently invest in?
Jeraldine: I mostly invest in growth stocks such as SaaS companies and e-Commerce companies.
I’ve always been working in technology companies that provide solutions that are 100% cloud. This is an area I love reading about even during my spare time.
I believe in sticking to my Circle of Competence. This has been used over the years by Warren Buffett as a way to focus investors on only operating in areas they knew best.
I also allocate a little into cryptocurrency.
Timothy: Robo-advisory is a way individuals can start investing without having to directly choose stocks and ETFs to invest in. Do you think it’s fine for investors to leave their investment decisions to the expert?
Jeraldine: Robo-advisory has its merits. For me, I feel that one of the biggest benefits is that it offers beginners a good platform to practice dealing with volatility and build up the muscles that help them cope with feelings of fear and greed.
I don’t think buying stocks is for everyone. Not everyone has the time to study companies.
Do you feel excited about learning about businesses? Do you get inspired by listening to CEOs share their vision and strategy? Do you like listening to earning calls? If the answer is no, then perhaps investing in individual stocks is not for you.
Jeraldine Phneah speaking at the Future Women Leaders Forum 2022
Timothy: You wrote about the needs for millennial women to invest. Why do you think this is important?
Jeraldine: Despite having the same educational opportunities, many millennial women are still told by their parents that it is men’s role to manage finances.
This sexist view harms both genders and puts women at risk.
Imagine being 40 years old and having two children to take care of. Your husband suddenly has a mistress or punches you during an argument.
If your finances are in order, you can make a decision to leave, buy your own house and support your two children.
However, with only savings that do not grow as fast as investments, you’re likely to have to put up with this unfavorable situation.
In an alternative scenario, what if our partner can no longer work suddenly due to a mental or physical illness, accident or being laid off by his company?
How are you going to take care of him and shower him with the same love he has given you?
No one can predict the future. However, we can empower ourselves so that we can step up to help when the time calls for it. We can plan ahead so that we can walk away from situations that are hurting or not serving us – whether it’s a bad job, bad boss, bad situation or bad relationship.
Timothy: How has investing benefited your personal life?
Jeraldine: Investing has helped me hone my resilience and ability to maintain composure during hard times. Good investors must be able to control two emotions well – fear and greed. This is because the majority of investors make losses by acting on their emotions.
After all, as Charlie Munger says, “The first rule of compounding is to never interrupt it unnecessarily.”
Investing has also taught me the importance of having conviction in the choices I make.
Having conviction and a strong investment thesis will help us stay committed to holding good quality businesses during hard times.
Similarly, in our personal lives, having conviction will help us stay committed to our goals.
I try to have a strong thesis for the goals I’ve set for myself. For instance, why do I choose to commit to or leave someone? What makes me select a certain job over another? What are the reasons I would want to have children next time?
All these things – a relationship, career and children – do come with a lot of hard work and painful moments. It is having the conviction that would help me hold through.
Investing has also taught me to be humble and willing to change my mind. As Keynes used to say, “When facts change, I change my mind”.
If the business is delivering far poorer performance than what you had envisaged earlier, and that performance is unlikely to continue because the moat is impaired, then you may be better off selling the stock.
Similarly, in life, we can always get goals and commit to them. However, we must have the ability to let go when we realise these pursuits no longer serve us.
Investing Can Be For Everyone
While many of us may have the (mis)perception that investing is only for those who work in the finance industry or graduated with a finance degree, this is simply untrue. Like riding a bike, learning how to swim or being able to cook a simple meal, knowing how to invest can be a valuable life skill that is rewarding for those of us who take the time to learn and have the discipline to improve our investment knowledge.
For example, while Jeraldine did not grow up learning about the financial markets in school (she was an Arts and Social Sciences student), this did not hinder her desire to learn about investing. By attending talks and consuming content from financial websites, Jeraldine was able to slowly build up her knowledge. Having likeminded friends who share in her interest also helps.
Be Part Of A Growing Tiger Broker Community
To become a better investor over time, it’s important to be part of a like-minded community that we can journey with. Think of this as joining a running or cycling club if we want to improve our endurance and keep fit. While it’s technically possible to do it alone, it would be more enjoyable to exercise with others.
Similarly, the Tiger Broker App’s community feature allows us to discuss trading news with like-minded traders, share investing strategies and follow stock market-related news. You can also post your own thoughts about a particular stock as part of your own learning journey and receive feedback from others. In addition to the in-app community, Tiger Brokers also has an active Telegram chat group and Instagram feed (@tigerbrokerssg) that you can follow and interact with others as well as live webinars we can attend.
Low-Cost Investing Through Tiger Brokers
For those who wish to start investing on their own, low-cost brokerage firms like Tiger Brokers can help us gain access to the financial markets so that we can invest in asset classes such as equities, ETFs, REITs, and futures across multiple countries including the U.S., Hong Kong, China, Australia and of course, Singapore. This can be done easily and conveniently through the Tiger Trade app that we can download on our phone via the App Store or Google Play.
For anyone who is new to investing, we may not wish to invest a large sum at the start, even if you have the funds. As such, it’s vital to ensure that our brokerage fees remain as low as possible to avoid paying more on commission than we need to. For Tiger Brokers, we can invest in the U.S. market with a commission fee of just $0.005/share, with a minimum commission amount of just USD 0.99/order. If we invest in Singapore, this would be at 0.03% of our trade value with a minimum of SGD0.99/order. Do note that this excludes a small platform fee that may be charged. View the full price details for Tiger Brokers here.
Best of all, Tiger Brokers is currently offering a lifetime zero commissions for unlimited trades on US stocks. With commission-free trades, we can save money on our trades, thus maximising our returns. It’s also easier for us to make profits from small movements in the market. Find out more here on how to unlock this lifetime, zero-commission trades here.
However, if we are not inclined to invest directly in stocks or ETFs on our own, we can also invest via mutual funds. This can also be done through Tiger Brokers Fund Mall. Through Fund Mall, we can screen various mutual funds that are offered based on the different themes or geographical regions to fund funds that suit our preference.
The advantage with using a low-cost brokerage firm such as Tiger Brokers is that we can hold our individual stocks, ETFs and mutual funds investment all in a single account, rather than managing multiple investment accounts across different platforms.
Read the other articles in our #everydayinvestor series.
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