Interview: A Money Minute with Kersie Koh, Clozette Co-Founder

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Kersie Koh, co-founder of Clozette and mother of three, gives us a crash course on money-saving habits and teaching your kids to value money.

How does she/he do it? It’s a question that we find ourselves pondering whenever someone appears to be always on top of their game — whether it’s their career, their style, or how they juggle work, family, the children and everything in between that they have going in their lives.

The same can be said of one’s finances. But alas, unlike asking someone, “where did you get those pair of shoes?”, money is a tad trickier — it’s not a topic that you could casually bring up at a dinner party now, is it? Well, that is what we are here for — to give you answers.

In this new series, we will touch base with entrepreneurs, industry insiders, and savvy savers to make sense of how they manage their dollars and cents. This week, ahead of the Mother’s Day weekend, we speak with Kersie Koh, co-founder of Clozette and mother of three, who give us a crash course on good saving habits, inculcating good money values in your children, and more.

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What kind of spender would you say you are?

Kersie Koh: I’m a careful, sensible spender. When I starting working, I would prefer to save up my pay than to splurge. Even now, I still feel pangs of guilt when I splurge on some self-pampering on occasion.

Would you say you have a good habit of saving money?

Kersie: Yes, my parents inculcated my good saving and spending habits in me. They are extremely thrifty people. Toys and treats didn’t come easily when I was growing up even though my dad made a comfortable living as a teacher. When I turned 19 and was entering the university, they surprised me with an education endowment fund. I’ve been managing my own finances ever since.

I love watching my savings grow in the bank. When I started working, I opened a second bank account so that one is for “savings” and the other is for “spending”. I would diligently put aside about 70% of my salary into the “savings” account — I saved a lot that way.

What are your Top 3 golden rules when it comes to money?

Kersie: Set targets on savings, set limits on spending. Things don’t always have to be expensive when you feel like you need a shopping fix. Be well prepared for a rainy day.

What is the best advice on personal finance you’ve ever received?  

Kersie: It was probably from my dad when he gave me my education endowment fund. At the same time, he reminded me to use the money wisely as that was all they have for me. I really appreciated them planning ahead for me. I felt empowered yet I knew it was a big responsibility I shouldn’t take lightly.

Have your parents inspired you to do the same for your children? And what advice would you have for other mothers on helping their kids to become more financially responsible? 

Kersie: Yes, I find myself following in my parents’ footsteps. When my eldest turned eight and started to better understand the concept of money, I took her to the bank to open her first savings account and deposited all her ang pow money which I’d kept for her all these years. I told her that she can only use them when she turns 19. And yes, we intend to get education endowment plans for our kids. I think it’s a great solution for parents really, to not have to fork up a huge sum when the time comes. I often remind my kids how lucky they are, and it’s all possible because mummy and daddy work hard. 

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Do you find it hard to resist splurging on your kids? 

Kersie: Yes, it’s hard to resist, and I really have to exercise self-control. While we can afford things for our kids, we don’t let them indulge easily. Goodies are only for special occasions, good behavior and good effort made in school. While I hold back on the material things, I do like to splurge on experiences with the kids, especially during school holidays when we would go to the zoo, aquarium, indoor playgrounds and their favorite restaurants. I think those memories are worth spending on. 

How many credit cards do you own, and which would you say is your favourite, that goes the extra mile for you and your money?

Kersie: I own four cards, but actively use only my DBS American Express card which gives me good travel miles that I’ve used a few times now for short getaways.

Fill in the blank: ________ is a complete waste of money.

Kersie: Nothing is a complete waste of money. If you can truly afford it, and it makes you happy, just get it.

I like my money where ____________.

Kersie: I like my money where I can see it. I like it in my bank. I like it spent on a home to call our own, a nice ride to office, rings on my fingers, and quality heels to stride in.

The last thing I bought to pamper myself is ____________.

Kersie: This last thing I bought to pamper myself is an Indiba Facelift Treatment. Gravity is hard to fight when you’re turning 45. I think I deserve it!

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Karman TseBy Karman Tse
Karman Tse is the founder and editor-in-chief of WearOhWhere.com. She is a believer of the Bradshaw-ist philosophy of personal finance — specifically: “I like my money where I can see it: Hanging in my closet.