The past two years may become a distant memory for some as Singapore moves to endemic status, but not for these five individuals SingSaver spoke to. Read on to find out how they struggled through derailed plans and drastic income drops to achieve their financial goals.
With the recent COVID-19 restrictions being lifted, it seems like the world is slowly healing from the pandemic. But not everyone came out unscathed.
Financial-wise, we’ve seen news of countless retail shops and hawker stalls closing down due to their badly-affected businesses. On the other hand, workers were being retrenched in large numbers from larger corporations.
Though the pandemic took a toll on many individuals and businesses, there were some fortunate individuals who managed to overcome the challenges presented to them by adapting to the situation. We interviewed five of them to see just how they did it, while some even managed to reach their financial goals during this trying period.
Stalled business and investment plans due to global uncertainty
Real estate agent Kaserin Chen, 32, mentioned that before the pandemic happened, she was planning on purchasing a factory space as an investment. However, because of a shift in real estate dynamics, she never got around to purchasing it.
“Property prices were moving a lot quicker than I expected and with new cooling measures for residential properties, the spillover effect led to an increase in demand for commercial and industrial properties,” she added.
Her husband, Jason Yio, 34, who’s working in the IT sales industry stated that he, too, had wanted to purchase both a private property and commercial property as investments. However, “due to the uncertainty in the market”, it had to be put on the back burner.
Not only was the real estate and IT sales industry affected by COVID-19, but it also adversely impacted others working in other fields.
26-year-old Investment analyst Ong Kai Jun revealed that COVID-19 had “resulted in a few detours” on his goal to attain S$100,000 in assets within the first three years after his graduation, followed by the ultimate goal of hitting seven digits and be debt-free by mid-thirties.
“The pandemic made me shift my investment focus into other sectors that I wasn’t particularly familiar with beforehand, such as Consumer Discretionary, Consumer Staples and Energy sectors” he further added. He also mentioned that networking was a large part of his job scope, but because of the pandemic, it was “difficult to meet new people and hold in-person conversations”.
Financial advisor, Valerie Chua, 26, also had a similar goal. “I wanted to accumulate $100,000 in liquid cash and investments for my shorter-term goals and also to regularly invest $1500/month for my mid to longer-term goals like retirement and starting a family.” However, the pandemic had definitely affected her investment yields all around due to the dip in the market.
On the other hand, 52-year-old financial advisor Jasmine Khoo’s main financial goal was to clear her debt. Growing up, she wasn’t that financially savvy and was quite a spendthrift. As such, she had accumulated a “large amount of debt” that she had hoped to pay off over the next few years. However, COVID-19 settled in and she, being self-employed, bore the brunt of it.
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Steps taken to adapt and change their personal/business strategy
Jasmine shared that because of the pandemic, she “took the opportunity to educate my prospects on the importance of financial planning to meet unforeseen circumstances”. On top of that, since face-to-face interaction was limited, she was “actively getting in touch with my prospects via zoom, phone calls, and emails” and was “more proactive in reaching out to her “policyholders”.
Likewise, Kaserin being self-employed also stated that her business strategy had to change. “I focused more funds on marketing, and sent out care packages to existing clients as a way to keep in touch during times we can no longer meet up over casual coffee sessions,” she added.
With regards to her personal finances, she “started building up a bigger emergency fund, not knowing what would happen over the coming months which eventually proved to be years”.
They were not the only ones who had to take a different approach in their strategies to deal with the pandemic. Kai Jun began taking up online courses, spent more time reading, and met people online to learn from their experiences. Similarly, Valerie also “took advantage of the WFH arrangements by taking up various courses and did a lot of self-reflection to understand herself as an individual and how (she) could advance in her career”.
Investment-wise, “I have also shifted my investment focus and strategies in order to obtain adequate returns while undertaking a certain level of risk that befits where I am in my investment journey in terms of age and my risk appetite” Kai Jun further shared.
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Change in cash flow
Jason was pretty fortunate to “secure a good unit at a reasonable price because the property market was at a low due to the uncertainty at the beginning of the pandemic, and was able to secure a rent above market rate” which improved his cash flow.
Kai Jun also managed to improve his finances by changing his investment strategy. “I would say the shift in my investment approaches has yielded me adequate returns to compensate for the decline in my primary source of income.”
As for Kaserin, she took this pandemic as an opportunity to supplement her income with a side hustle. “I started a small online business selling crystals with some friends. My other businesses in the F&B industry also took a hit, as bars were forced to close throughout the Circuit Breaker. During this time, we went through a lot of R&D, and were finally able to bring cocktails to your homes via delivery.”
As for Valerie, she coped with the pandemic by taking extra steps to budget. “When it came to my personal finances, I became a lot more conscious of what I was spending on as well and it helped me cut down my frivolous spending. For instance, I found myself spending less on unnecessary things such as my morning coffee, which could be easily settled at home.”
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Reaching their financial goals
Because of her perseverance and sincerity, Jasmine’s income had tremendously improved in the last two years. “Financial preparedness for any situation is important,” she added. Despite the pandemic, she made sure that it did not affect her financial goals. As a result, she impressively managed to finally be debt-free at the age of 52.
Kaserin was also glad that this period actually propelled her career. “In a surprising turn of events, the property market started to take off, and I hit certain milestones in my career. In 2020, I came in 14th in my company which I am super grateful for.” Though she hasn’t come around to buying a factory space yet, what we are certain of is that she’s much nearer to her goal.
As for Valerie’s and Kai Jun’s personal goals, they were also successful in doing so. While Valerie managed to hit her regular investment target, Kai Jun also managed to grow (his) portfolio and is a few steps closer to his goal of S$100,000.” He also picked up new skillsets like valuation which can greatly aid in his investment portfolio construction.
“One of my biggest takeaways from the past two years is to learn how to filter out white noise when it comes to investing and actually, in other areas of life as well. Staying on course can actually be one of the hardest things to do. Hence, being able to see things through and mastering that ability has definitely helped tide me through,” Valerie revealed.
One way or another, all of our respondents echo the same sentiment of putting your mind to a goal and just doing it. Kaserin advises “Even if it’s not perfect, a job done is always better than a perfect job that was never done.”
Similarly, Kai Jun reiterated “Don’t be afraid of setbacks as they will be the building blocks to your future endeavours. Just know that regrets hurt more than failures.”
If there’s one thing that you can take away from this, it is that nothing is impossible. These five individuals have proved that when things get difficult, hanging on and trusting the process is what matters most. But of course, being adaptable and financially savvy in any circumstance will help you get through the darkest of times.
As Warren Buffet perfectly summarised “Rule number one, never lose money and rule number two, never forget rule number one.” It all boils down to being financially responsible and thinking on your feet when you are dealt with bad cards.
By Deborah Gan
A mahjong addict with an undying love for dogs, Deborah is always on the hunt for cheap deals because she is always broke. That is why she is attempting to be more financially savvy to be.. less broke.