Investing Is Not Just For Men. Where The Women At?
[Chills 46 with Anna]
This episode is for all the ladies in the house. Even though 70% of the financial decisions at home are made by women, finance has always been a topic that is male-dominated. Why is this so? Statistically speaking, women live longer so having a financial plan is even more vital for them. Why do some women find it hard to talk about finance and investments? What are some ways to get women started on investing? We invite Anna, founder of The New Savvy, Asia’s leading financial, investment and career platform for women to share how women can and should be part of the conversation on investing and personal finance too!
In this illuminating episode, Anna clarifies some misconceptions about women and finance and why she thinks women are generally more reluctant to talk about money. From gender stereotypes to the unique way women view investments, listeners will be able to gain insights on women’s perspectives on finance.
How should we encourage more women to take charge of their finances and start growing their money? Listen to Chills 46 as Anna shares her personal experience on investing: what got her started, the mistakes she has made, what she has learnt from it and some investing tips for women to get started.
Reggie: Hey Coconuts! There is one question that went through my head while I was exploring today’s content which is: are women still actually disadvantaged? We have been on this journey for a while, on the movement towards equality. That includes all facets even in financials like pay, insurance, investments and all that jazz.
We have done quite a few episodes on women-centric topics and I want to give a shout out to all the men in the house if you think it’s not for you. But it takes two hands to clap and you should try to understand the other side, the other perspective.
Expand Full Transcript
Today, we’re going to focus on women learning investments. Apparently when women explore investments, based on our guest, she said that there’s a difference when women invest and when men invest. It is fundamentally different. And also, the infamous pink wrapper, where service providers kinda “womanize” everything and charge a premium for their service.
Welcome to another Chills with TFC session! In this series, we hope to bring up interesting, relevant people to help us learn better from various perspectives. Life is not always about learning from people that you already agree with. Perspectives shape a rounder thinker.
So in our pursuit of the life we love while managing our finances well, our guest for today has been a champion for empowering women financially and is the founder of one of the largest women-centric personal finance websites out there today. While she has went through the whole journey and is now doing something different, she brings on a lot of experience in trying to empower women from the very, very ground all the way up to become more financially savvy. Let me welcome Anna from The New Savvy.
The first question I really want to dig out from you is: are women still being discriminated?
Anna: I don’t think women are discriminated. I think there’s a few levels to it.
The first is that I think women have always been overlooked. So if you look… I mean, it’s not even in finance. It’s most things, even product designs because most of the people that are doing this or designing products are men.
For example, if you take a look at certain things… doors for example. Some doors are very heavy because it’s designed by engineers who are men… male engineers. So they don’t realize how difficult it is for women.
Even small things like that are not being considered. In a lot of companies, there is no room for breastfeeding mums because a mum who needs to pump breast milk… you just don’t think about it if you’re not a mum.
Things are slowly changing so I don’t think they are discriminated. I think it’s a lack of knowledge, a lack of understanding, but things are slowly changing. But to say that we have reached the pinnacle of equality or of women being the same as men, I don’t think so.
Reggie: Even when you first started The New Savvy, you feel like women were never financially discriminated?
Anna: No, of course.
Reggie: The whole gender pay gap, those kinds of things.
Anna: When I first started, I was trying to raise money, trying to raise funding and I spoke to a lot of investors. I remember a few investors telling me “why do you want to start for women? You are just… this is career suicide. Because in the first place…”
Reggie: They really told you that?
Anna: Maybe not in those terms. It’s six years ago, a bit hazy… but to them, it’s like the people who are interested in finance are male, 50% of the population. You’re already cutting out that 50% and women are just not interested.
Actually, the funny thing is recently, I just spoke to somebody about it. He told me “six years ago or five years ago, when you spoke to me, I thought that this is a silly idea. Now, I think it’s a good idea.” And he said “it’s just like saying how you look at a problem, whether you see it as a non-existent problem or an opportunity.”
I think financial institutions have improved. A lot of products are actually targeted at women, aimed at women, but I also feel that it shouldn’t just be a wrapper for women. It shouldn’t just be “oh, you’re a woman. I put a pink or red colour on it.” It should be something that women actually identify with and need to use.
Reggie: So what do you think have changed since you started all the way till now?
Anna: I think more…
Reggie: Okay, where I’m coming from is…
Anna: You are not a woman?
Reggie: Yah. This one ah, I scared… end my career also. I’m very conscious that some women still feel discriminated and I recognize that but I don’t know if it’s still a thing. I don’t know because we’re having a lot of ladies in different sectors and all the kind of gender pay gap stuff, I don’t know if it’s still there. Stats is stats, experience is another thing so I want to hear your perspective. Is there still this kind of disparity?
Anna: I think what you’re saying is a few issues. Gender pay gap… I think there still is. We can’t change history in say, five years, so there is still.
But also as an employer, sometimes you need to take a step back and wonder and really think why. I’m not saying that it should be that way, but there are people who… there are women who actually take some time off for childbirth. Then how do you compensate them and how do you make sure that when they come back, do they actually… these are perpetual questions, right?
If they come back five years later, is the company supposed to pay them the same as men who remained and worked these five years? So all this, there is… I think when it comes to pay gap, it is not about whether you’re paid more or less, it’s… you’re paid equal amounts for equal work so I think that is still fair.
I think in terms of financial products, I will say that in the past, women were always an afterthought. It’s always “oh, okay. I need the women.” Even in advertisements, it’s always women in the kitchen and women peddling products.
But now, I think it’s improving. People make the mistake of thinking that men are the financial decision-makers at home, but it’s not true. Men may make the investment decisions, but actually women make 70% of the financial decisions.
If you think about it, who buys the stuff at home? Who sends the kids to school? Who pays for all these things? It’s actually women, so why are we not focusing on educating women? And on top of it, to me, if you educate women and they become mothers, you’re going to educate the future generations.
Reggie: Mmm okay…
Anna: You scared career suicide, is it?
Reggie: I very scared career suicide, but yes… Someone told me this thing I thought was quite cute as a joke. They say that men at home, they are the generals. Women are the majors. You know why? Because men make the general decisions, women make the major decisions. A lot of finances are really done by the ladies.
But exactly like what you pointed out about the whole pink wrapper idea, these days I think we’ve definitely moved forward from the past of all these discrimination and products not focused on women.
Now, it seems like maybe some of the products are too focused on women. They even charge a premium, which is the whole idea of the pink wrapper. What are your thoughts on some of this?
Anna: I think some products have to be catered for women. When we spoke earlier, certain things like insurance, right? Women live longer. There was a report recently that says that the average age of Singapore men is 82 and women was like 87 or something. So that’s one.
Then there are certain things that just afflict women and not men… breast cancer, for example. Even things like infertility in women. I think these are things that should be catered to women. It should be explained to women in a very simple and engaging way. But you should never talk down and just slap a colour just because you think it’s the gender. By the way, not every woman likes pink.
Reggie: By the way, pink used to be a men’s colour for a very long time. It was the US pop culture that changed pink to become a women’s colour, then blue became a men’s colour. It used to be the other way around. Purple used to be a royal man’s colour. Only men could wear… as a royalty kind of thing. Then long story… we don’t want to go there.
Do you feel like it is a messaging kind of switch that needs to happen or is it product needs to be focused on ladies?
Anna: I think it’s both…
Reggie: Because I also think men need simple understanding. Cannot be only speak to the women in simple terms, but the men must be very complicated.
Anna: I think it goes back to the thing. Research has shown consistently that men and women, when they invest and when they look for financial products, they look at it differently and they view it differently. I always say this: if you asked a group of men “what do you want in this year” or “what are you looking for in your investment products and how many percent”, they will say 20%. Most men will agree with that.
When you ask a woman, the answer is… when you ask them why do you invest, they will always say “I want to provide for my parents. I want to take care of my children or pay for their university education.”
There’s always almost an emotional attachment or meaning to it whereas I think for men, it’s almost a returns kind of view. I think that is one of the biggest difference.
The second difference is I think women… I think it’s a lot… This is a very long explanation, but I guess one is stereotypes and gender stereotypes. When you’re young, especially for people around my generation, women around my generation…
Reggie: You mean like millennials?
Anna: I’m the old millennial. Millennials 20 years (old). I’m the old one.
Reggie: Part of the community, yes.
Anna: I think when we were young, you were told “you’re not good for science. You’re not good at math. Leave the finances to the men.” In fact, even when I was growing up, they always joke… I don’t know whether it’s a joke. It’s like a half-joke where you say “just go to university to find a husband. Your job is to make sure you go to university, find a good husband” and that’s it.
When you grow up like that, it’s ingrained in you. Even as my peers, we work hard, we earn more money and we are saving more money than the generation before us, I think there is still this fear and stigma of taking care of our own money, of investing our own mone.
I think earlier, also… there’s this whole stigma of “if I talk too much about money, I might seem mercenary or I might seem very…
Anna: Yeah. I think in the past, yes. Maybe not now, but when I first started, there’s so much… my own friends were saying “what are you doing?”
Reggie: How have you observed that narrative shift? What are women concerned about now in the personal finance space?
Anna: I think the conversation has changed a lot. Six years ago, when we were pushing it, it was always like women should take care of their own money. You’re earning more money. It’s good, but what are you doing with your money? You need to make your money work harder for you. You cannot just save. Women are great savers. Most women are great savers.
I think now, it has become “hey, I know I need to take charge of my finances. How do I do it? What can I do? What are some of the methods that I can invest my money in?”
I think the pandemic actually has… overall, not only women, but overall, and especially I noticed this in the younger generation, has made people more conscious about their money, about their spending and their savings. It has brought a lot of financial influencers, whether it’s Tik Tok, Instagram… why are you laughing?
Reggie: It’s true, it’s true… I have a lot to say about Tik Tok influencers.
Anna: Me too. But I guess I think whether or not…
Reggie: We are cutting this for Tik Tok by the way. Just saying.
Anna: Whether or not they’re the right type or the right advice is different, but I think generally, there is a higher interest in personal finance. To me, that’s very comforting.
Reggie: How do you then sieve out what is good information and what is not so good information?
Anna: I’ve made a lot of mistakes. I’ve done this for about 15 years so I made a lot of mistakes. Personally, I have gone through… I can’t say I’ve gone through everything because I’ve never tried Forex trading, for example, or even options.
But I personally believe education is key. You need to educate yourself, read as much, understand as much. I think the truth is most people when you ask them, they want quick fixes. They don’t want to say… when people ask “what’s your advice” and you say “educate yourself, learn what you’re most comfortable with”. So let’s say equities… learn the sector, learn what the ratios means, learn where are the sales drivers and all that.
What they want to know actually is “just tell me a stock to buy” which I don’t think is right because I always say that for somebody like me, I’m very high risk. I love volatile stuff. I don’t care. Stocks can fall… like recently, one of my stocks fell 25% and I don’t flinch but it’s because I’ve been doing this for so many years. I’ve been doing it for 15 years.
Whereas if I tell you to do that and you lose 25% in a day, you may not be able to sleep. I think everybody’s different. I always think that investments and investing is an exercise in knowing yourself.
Reggie: What are some rule of thumbs when consuming information? Because I get what you’re saying: everybody is unique, everybody has their own thing so you want to go in and learn, read as much as you can and all that. I get it.
But in today’s world, it’s a different world compared to the past. The past has not as much information. Today, you search and tons of things are out there so how do you decipher what is good knowledge and what is maybe a little bit more wonky?
Anna: I think first, everyone has to understand that there are no quick fixes. Yes, some people may have gotten rich from WallStreetBets but this is once in a lifetime. It’s a fluke.
Personally, I believe in value investing. I believe in investing in companies that I personally believe in. For example, Moderna. I always thought that it will go up. The stock will go up because of Covid but I don’t have the conviction to invest in it because I just don’t know anything about biotech. I really don’t. For somebody like me, I feel that the pain of loss is greater than making more money.
I think some rule of thumb is there are certain principles that have withstood the true test of time. To me, value investing is one of them. Personally, I don’t dabble in things that I’m not comfortable with, that I don’t have an advantage in.
For example, I don’t do options, I don’t do Forex just because I personally don’t have an advantage in it. I’m just not smart enough.
Reggie: What are some other…
Anna: How about you? What are you investing (in)?
Reggie: Mostly equities. I’m not in bonds because I don’t understand. Of course, now I know a little bit more about it, but still not…
Anna: You’re too young to have bonds.
Reggie: Yeah, not really in my space. I’m not concerned about volatility as much but okay, I just want to put it out there. Not concerned about volatility does not mean can anyhow volatile. It’s a world of difference because when someone says they’re not concerned about volatility, there’s an underlying tonality that they understand what they’re buying.
Reggie: That’s why they’re not concerned about short-term volatility. They’re perfectly okay to ride it but, in general… too volatile is not great also.
Anna: I think what you’re saying is you’re trying to make a distinction between volatility and risk, right?
Reggie: I think in the space, there’s a pegging. More volatile means riskier because the underlying belief is consistent returns. On the goal of consistent returns, all strategies… the main risk is volatility. That one is very long list.
Anna: That’s another discussion.
Reggie: That’s a whole other discussion.
Anna: Another episode… “please tune in for Season 3”.
Reggie: Yes… I think I get what you’re saying about value investing and finding the companies that you like. That’s the kind of the core…
Anna: I think it’s not only you like, but it’s companies that you are familiar with. Some of my friends… My friend who is a female scientist invested into Moderna because she used to work there and with the Moderna boss. She totally understands the business and she believes in it.
But for me, I may believe in it but I really have no idea. For most Singaporeans, they like REITs (Real Estate Investment Trusts) which I personally don’t invest in, but I think it’s not a bad investment because you can see the shopping malls. For example, Capitaland… you can actually see the shopping mall. You can have a gauge and feel about it.
I really think it’s very important to have a distinct advantage in everything you do. Whether it’s sports, whether it’s business, whether it’s investments, you need to understand what is your distinct advantage. If you can’t find that out, then it’s very difficult to be successful to me… how come become life lesson?
Reggie: Give me a little bit more context. What do you think is your distinct advantage?
Anna: I think for me, personally, will be the US stocks because I’ve been looking at it for many years and I focus a lot on technology stocks. First, I’m a user. I am very familiar with the FinTech stocks because I actually started the Singapore FinTech association. I have a lot of friends. I understand how the businesses are run.
I look at technology stocks a lot. For example, Facebook. I’m a user. Facebook, Instagram, I’m a user, I’m an advertiser. I understand how they make money, I understand user growth and all the metrics that they use. That is something that I look at.
The other stocks that I have for some years is Shopify. As a small business, I wanted to start an e-commerce store. I use Shopify because it was so easy to start. Anyone can actually start an e-commerce store now, whatever you use as a backend. But I was thinking “wow, this platform is going to change the world! It’s going to change everybody’s lives.”
Like for today, if you don’t want to run the podcast, you can sell your merchandise on Shopify so I thought that that is a product that is world-changing, a product that has good revenue and it’s a subscription business. It doesn’t take… there is scale and the scale is done exponentially. Basically, I don’t need to keep selling one product. I can sell 10 products even without me selling. I like businesses like that. To me, those are some of the filters that I look for when I invest.
Reggie: Just want to caveat that this is not a recommendation, not financial advice. Please do your own homework. If you want to learn more, we have another podcast that focuses on it. Check out Stock Geekout.
I’m sure many ladies come to you to ask you about how do you get started in investments and you cannot be telling them “just pick some of these stocks”, right? Because as you’ve pointed out, you got to know what you’re good at. You got to know who you are, what is your palate, what you’re going for. What would be your framework for these ladies?
Anna: You mean if they want to get started?
Anna: So the first one… okay, not trying to plug The New Savvy, but we actually have a framework…
Reggie: You should plug. You are already here. I already plug you in front here. It’s okay to plug.
Anna: One of the first things that we did in The New Savvy was we actually have a course for beginners. We make it so easy for people to learn. You don’t need to find that information, we actually packaged it.
But I always encourage everyone to start with this questionnaire that we did, which is “10 questions to ask yourself”. First is: what is your risk objective? What are you looking for? Why are you investing… things like that. It’s very important to know, because again, if you talk about risk tolerance… I don’t know what’s yours. Mine is really high, but I’m also looking for maximum growth and that’s because I’m single, I’m not married. I don’t have kids. I don’t have family to provide for so even if I lose the money, I won’t really feel the pinch. It will be painful, but it’s not…
Whereas for someone, for a lady who’s around my age, most of my friends have two kids or are married. They may not be able to take that kind of volatility or risk. The first thing I will do is to write the questionnaire and to do the questionnaire… The New Savvy’s 10 questions and to really understand yourself.
When you invest, the other thing is to actually find out a basket of stocks that you are comfortable with and to start small. The worry people have is always “I want to start and then I’m very scared to lose all this money”.
But the truth is things have changed. You can do fractional investments now. When I first started, it was a lot of money. If I want to buy a $3 stock, I have to have $3,000 and as a 21 year old, that’s of money. I was only paid $600 for an internship.
Reggie: Gone are the days…
Anna: Yeah, I know. But now, you can buy fractional stocks. If you like Haidilao…Haidilao is a good… again, not an advice. A lot of people like Haidilao and if you think that is a good business, whether it’s the great service, whether it’s food, whether it’s the SOP (Standard Operating Procedures), then you can buy one stock of Haidilao.
I think the best way is to start small, dip your toes into it and find out. Anyway, there is no perfect investment. You will always make money but you will also always lose money. You will always make mistakes so make the small mistakes.
Reggie: What are considered small mistakes?
Anna: To make money, it’s not a hundred percent wins. It’s big wins, small wins and small losses. I think that’s very important. To me, it’s very important to have a very clear framework of what you’re looking for. I have mine, but I don’t think it’s suitable for everyone.
Reggie: You can share with us more because it gives us context of how you see it.
Anna: I think mine… it’s a few things. This is borrowing from a lot of the value investing. I believe in transformational businesses. It must be a business that changes people.
Number two, it has to have a unique selling point or what they call the moat whether it is Amazon, whether it’s faster, better service, whatever it is. Then it has to have increasing profits and if it’s not an increasing profit, then where is the return on equity in?
It has to be… I like platform businesses. I don’t like… okay, I won’t say I don’t like, but I prefer platform businesses where the cost of acquiring customers has to always go down. If I want to acquire, cost of acquisition is $10. Over the years, it cannot keep increasing or it cannot remain at $10. You have to be efficient enough to decrease the cost of acquisition. These are some of the things I look at. We can go on, but yeah.
Reggie: Those are very techie ideas. You must be in the startup space. You must be… you must know all these kinds of stuff, MAU (Monthly Active Users), churn rate, GMV (Gross Merchandise Value).
Those are super technical. I get it, you said that this is your advantage and for people that are in the space, they will understand this.
Anna: The other thing will also be things like do you believe in the business? The founder must be there? If you want the quick and dirty… other criteria would be, I like businesses that the founders are there and it’s not… and they must hold a chunk of the company. Because as a founder myself, when your life’s work is tied to it and when your net worth is tied to it, you’re going to make the company work as opposed to say if I’m a hired CEO (Chief Executive Officer).
I’m not saying that a hired CEO will not do a good job, but I like founder-led businesses a lot because it’s very mission-driven, right? I mean, you look at Zuckerberg, you look at Elon Musk. They are very mission-driven. Of course, there are a lot of great companies that are not founder-driven.
Reggie: Because too old already, founder moved on already.
Anna: Too old or make too much money?
Reggie: At some point, you cannot have Disney guy still around, cannot have Coke guy still around so some companies…which is why at some point in time, transition becomes a problem. Who do you pass your next baton and all that? We can go on and on about all of that.
Anna: Also, I think there are certain things that to me are red flags. For example, if you IPO (Initial Public Offering) or after a while, then the people inside the company are selling their shares. You will wonder why, right? So things like that.
Reggie: When I hear what you say, all this stuff, it’s very bottom-up. It’s a bottom-up investment strategy.
Reggie: You pick your own stocks and all this is a lot of work… a lot of work to try to understand the sector, form your framework of how do you evaluate your company, your five pointers, ten pointers, what have you.
But these days, the narrative out there is index funds. Go for broadly diversified, low cost… what is your take on this?
Anna: I agree with that. I think that for somebody like me who love it… I read finance. I do this every day for one, two hours. I think it’s easier for us to have it. I will say that I still hold index funds. Most of my CPF (Central Provident Fund) money is actually in Endowus, in CPF, Endowus CPF.
I like it because you know what? I don’t need to think. It’s just there. It has been consistently proven to achieve a certain return. It doesn’t have a concentration risk also. I think I would advise people to start with that too, especially if you don’t really want to put in the work.
Reggie: Whatever we’re saying is very technical.
Anna: Is it?
Reggie: Yeah, it’s considered a lot of work. For one company, you try to read the whole sector, read down the multiple major players and all. This is a lot of work.
Anna: That’s why… for example, if you’re a sector. Let’s say if you’re in real estate, you already know who the players are. For example, if somebody is…
Reggie: That’s an assumption, right? Because that’s the assumption, but for a lot of people, the retail (investors), they are just trying to manage their finances a little bit better. All these work is a lot of groundwork to try to pick up, man.
Anna: Which is why I think what you said is good, like low cost index fund. If you really don’t have the time and don’t think that you have the advantage of picking, then I think buying a broad-based index fund low cost and making sure that you remain invested… I think what we forget to mention today is the time invested, right? I don’t know about you. I don’t try to time the market. I try to remain as invested as long as I can.
Reggie: Can you help me define a little bit what is called “time the market”?
Anna: So the amount of time you’re invested into a stock… for example, when I was younger, I want it to make money fast so I used to trade stocks. Very good example, right? I used to buy Amazon stock, make 20% and I sell.
And then today, I think about it. If I had just hold onto that Amazon stock, you know how much money I would have made? I realized that actually, when you come to investing and you believe in long-term investing, I think the best way is to find these great businesses or find an index fund.
I don’t time the market… and just hold it as long as you can because I think a lot of research has shown that the time you invest in it and that compounded returns actually make a lot more returns than your actual principal
Reggie: That one is easier said than done. What changed in your psyche? Because you said that in the beginning, you…
Anna: I think age. Older now, tired already.
Reggie: Very busy, that’s why I just buy and hold. Actually, it’s (because) I forget to follow up. That’s a very real thing that people keep peddling out there which I understand and I agree with it because data shows that the longer you are invested, the better it is.
But how do you do it? Because you have 20%, 30% or the dip down… how do you stay invested? In your psyche, from that point in time where you first started that you will sell because you made 20% and to where you are today, being comfortable with this being invested idea… what changed?
Anna: Well, I really think it’s age. I think when you’re young, we’re very impatient and you are very… youth is always lost on the young, right? So you always think that “hey, I’m so smart. I can beat the market.”
I think as you grow older, age and life humbles you and you realize actually, maybe it’s not me. It’s like if you invest from 2008 to now, you’re going to make money. It may not be because I’m better or anyone is better than… rising tide lifts all boats, right?
So I think for me, it’s knowing that precisely because I cannot beat the professionals and I don’t have a distinct advantage and insider knowledge, the best way to do it is to believe in an index fund, a good company, a good business and just remained invested. If there is a dip, if there’s a strong drop, I ask myself “have the fundamentals changed?” Is it because the business changed? Is it because the founders changed? Is it because the cost structure changed or is it because I don’t believe in the business anymore?
If it’s not, then if I have extra money, I might just buy it… which really happened two weeks ago. I bought this company. I really like it. It dropped 25%. I bought some more. It drops out more and I’m still holding. Please ask me in one year how it does.
Reggie: Yes, I will come back to you on that… so you feel that it is just an age thing as you go, or there’s no significant thing that happened that shook your view?
Anna: Okay, retail investors have been shown that… I mean, it has been shown that most retail investors don’t make money. 70 or 80% lose money so I think for me, it’s age.
Number two, it’s also life stage? I used to look at the market every day and if you trade the market, then you need to sleep at 4. I just don’t have that type of luxury now. I look at the business.
I think third… for me, it’s really a deep understanding about the businesses. I want to be a long-term value investor and I don’t want to be just a trader. I don’t think that… I know many friends who have made a lot of money from trading, I just don’t think that I am smart enough to be one of them.
Reggie: Okay, fair. Do you think women have an advantage in value investing? There’s a little bit of a discussion out there.
Anna: Yeah, I think they are because women don’t trade as much.
Reggie: Tell me more, share more.
Anna: Okay, I think most women, they really buy and hold and that’s why for most women, their first investment… actually, what women like to buy is property because it’s tangible. They see it, they feel safe. It’s the same for me. The reason I got into investing and wealth management is because I wanted to buy a property. I wanted to buy a HDB flat for my parents.
I think for women, we tend to not trade as much. First, maybe no time and number two, no interest. So we just… not as aggressive. Okay, not me, but I think most women I know… so they literally buy and then they hold whereas men tend to trade more, right?
I think… okay, actually going on this, a bit off tangent, but what is important in this actually is because most women, when we invest, we buy and hold. We don’t care and I think it revolves around conversation. Men tend to talk more about money and investments. A lot of male conversation is like “hey, you got buy this so-and-so stock?” and then “yah, I buy this and make don’t know what.”
There’s a lot of trading in between, because they want to capture their wins whereas I think for most women… I won’t say all. For most of us, we will just be like “okay, I buy this. I am just going to keep and see what happens in a while.”
Reggie: Okay, so do you feel like there are certain things that women… like certain mindsets or certain things that women do that’s predominant out there, about their personal finance that you feel should be shaken a little bit? Like we should reshape the view… maybe risk adversity. We talked a little bit about it.
Anna: I think it’s not risk averse… I think it’s more of the lack of confidence. I think a lot of women I know… the smartest, most successful women I know and I know a lot of them who will say things like “I just don’t think I’m good enough” or like in everything. It’s not even in investment.
I always look at them and I just think “if you’re not good enough, then who’s good enough, man?” Seriously, you’re like the smartest people I know, right?
So I think for most women, it’s an internal self-dialogue that we give ourselves that we are just not good enough or we tend to doubt ourselves more, like “who am I to…”
I think if you ask me, that’s a very big thing that we need to address and in generations to come, especially for the younger women that they are good enough and they will make competent investors and they can be in control of their finances.
Reggie: What are some easy steps to get started for all the ladies that are listening in the house that was like “oh yeah, yeah. I agree. I feel not confident.” So how would I go about building that confidence… guys also?
Anna: I think again, the most important thing is to really find out what you’re interested in, good in and just do it. It’s like saying… okay, today, if let’s say I want to be a singer. I need to go and find out… I just need to take courses and just try it and improve from there.
I think it’s the same as investment. Okay, singing is such a bad… because I’m tone deaf, but…
Reggie: “I think my neighbours should stop singing”.
Anna: Yeah, but I think people don’t have confidence because they don’t try. Sometimes when you try and even if you make mistake, you have the confidence of doing it.
It’s like cycling, I think. Maybe cycling is a better analogy. So you cycle, you fall down and then you learn again and then finally, one day you just manage to do it. Yeah… and muscle memory, right?
Reggie: Okay, that’s cool.
Anna: Oh, I have another reason. I think in terms of investing, women tend to attach reasons and meaning to it and I think that’s a very powerful tool because for me, when I first started, I was so obsessed with one financial goal that everything else becomes secondary to me. I used to save 80-90% of my pay.
Reggie: Oh my god, you’re like FIRE (Financial Independence Retire Early) before FIRE.
Anna: Yeah, I was really… I was just very obsessed in working hard, saving all my money and because I was so consumed by the goal… going back, I was 21. My parents were… my mum took on the credit card that had $20k and I was like oh no, I’m the oldest. I have to pay it back. We were renting an apartment.
This was 2007. I don’t know if you’re old enough but the rents were going higher and higher. It was during… markets were booming and I was like “okay, I might get kicked out of my… evicted from my home now. What do I do?”
All I wanted was… I had this crazy dream of wanting to have a HDB flat for my family before I was 30, so 9 years. Being young and stupid and naive, I googled it and realized that hey, it’s $500,000. How can I get $500,000 in nine years, right? It’s an astounding amount. Of course, (I) didn’t know you can take loan and all that.
Reggie: You are not alone, by the way. A lot of young people when they look at the numbers, they didn’t know they can take mortgage loan. All these things, they didn’t know.
Anna: Yeah, so my question to that is why are we not taught about this in school? Why are we not educated? There should be a module about this, right? I really asked myself: how can I, an ordinary 21 years old, no talent, no special… I was a very average student… earn $500,000? Even in decades, it’s unimaginable.
So I did a simulation and I thought if I earn $2500 on my first job and I project it… and then even if at the best savings interest rate, it’s going to take me many, many years.
I think that was the start of me crazily saving and also making… that was the time where I realized very deeply that you need to make your money work for you. Otherwise, it’s very difficult to find that financial freedom that you’re looking for.
Reggie: Cool. I don’t think you have no talent. You can do simulation, do projection.
Anna: [indiscernible] Find a smart guy to do it for you
Reggie: These days, there are a lot of websites that can do that. But looking back, I think you’ve tried a lot of stuff, all the way from where you were, your story until now, you have all these different ventures under your belt. What is maybe one or two advice that you would give all these ladies listening in… in the current situation of the landscape? We don’t talk about in the past already.
Currently, ladies just entering the workforce or a few years into the workforce, what are some core advice that you think they should have? Don’t need to be personal finance related.
Anna: I think it’s very important for you to know what you want because if you don’t have a clear goal, you will never achieve whatever you want, whether it’s in terms of career, in terms of family relationships or even personal finance. I think what people tend to do is they get sucked into the daily life that they don’t have a clear goal, so that’s one. You need to know what you want.
The other advice I always have for myself since young is never complain and never explain. It’s “never complain and never explain” because a lot of times, we tend to complain but you have no idea how lucky we all are.
Yesterday, I had a dinner. One of the ladies were trying to rescue 160 women in Afghanistan who’s fighting for their lives. These are university students who are fighting for their lives. When I heard that, I was like oh my god, all my problems seem so insignificant when you think about it. We are very, very lucky.
And never explain… I think we live in a very digital world. We live in a world where it’s so easy to say a callous thing about somebody else without consideration and sometimes you get hurt.
Reggie: You get cancelled.
Anna: Yeah, it’s so irresponsible. I think you don’t have to explain to yourself… whether you want to save all your money or whether you want to spend, you don’t have to explain yourself and you just have to do your best.
Reggie: Okay, thank you!
Anna: Thank you.
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Okay. So yes, we have three questions to wrap up the day. We ask every single guest these questions so yes, feel free to answer however you feel is suitable. What is one core life principle that you hold closely to? Too many, huh? It’s okay. Just pick one. Don’t need the best one, just pick one that comes to you and you feel like…
Anna: I think having a spirit of excellence.
Reggie: Ah… exapnd on this.
Anna: It’s going to be a bit… maybe a bit slightly controversial, but I think that most people are okay being, say a 70. It’s okay being average or above average but I think that everyone should have a spirit of excellence and to have that, you need to find out what you’re passionate about and what you care deeply about.
Reggie: I think it’s okay to have 30 also. In some things, you are a 30, you are a 20, you are a 10.
Anna: Yeah, of course, of course it’s okay. I subscribe to that but I think a lot of things that matter, you need to have that spirit of excellence and I think that has been lacking over the years.
Reggie: So you think people should strive for the maximum?
Anna: I mean, if that’s what you want, yes. If that’s what you want. Don’t be a… I was going to say “don’t be a half f***”
Reggie: You okay, we okay one.
Anna: Don’t be a half ass anything, I guess. If you want, you put… if that is something that you are pursuing, then you know…
I guess the other thing is that… never mind. Continue. I was thinking “never complain, never explain” is a principle, right?
Reggie: Yeah, it is. Great. Okay, so next. What is a personal finance advice that you feel needs to be further propagated? There are all these things out there. People are saying all sorts of stuff so from your perspective, what is one of the personal finance advice that you feel is under-discussed and should be further propagated?
Anna: I think knowing yourself is one thing that is hardly discussed. I think people say it but it’s always a prelude to the main thing.
But I think that… again, like I said, investing is a great exercise of knowing yourself, your temperament of who you are. That is something that people don’t pay enough attention to.
Reggie: What is one part of yourself that you feel you’ve paid extra attention and it has changed your life?
Anna: You mean in terms of investing?
Reggie: In life? Maybe you said temperament. You also talk about how your patience have changed over time, so what is this one thing that you feel you have changed?
Anna: I think my biggest mistake in investing… it’s very stupid, but you know how people know things, but then they still do the stupid things that they are not supposed to do? That’s me.
Reggie: It’s okay. You’re not alone.
Anna: You know how you’re not supposed to hear hot tips and buy stocks? I did that and then the stock dropped and then I buy some more. I bought some more. I think I bought a total of 4 times and lost a ton of money. Basically, a hot tip about how this fibreglass is going to have an Apple contract and it didn’t happen. The company went bankrupt.
I think one of that… it’s one of the greatest part where the losing money is very painful. I think it’s also a great exercise in knowing myself, in managing my emotions because when I lost this money, I felt a great deep sense of embarrassment and shame.
It’s not only the money, but it’s the embarrassment of “why did I do this?” And the shame because I knew I was not supposed to do it and I thought that was a very good lesson in my journey later on in life or even in entrepreneurship.
Reggie: Yes, and I think all these stuff, you have to first put a vocabulary to it. You must first be able to recognize it, that you’re embarrassed. You feel the shame then you can work on it.
Reggie: And there are a lot of ways to go about working on it.
Anna: Like what? Like going on air and having a therapy session with you?
Reggie: Some people say it feels like it. Anyway, yes. Shout out to all of you that wants to come on air. Just drop your email.
Anna: Charge $1000 per hour.
Reggie: Good business, we can work on that. So yes, last question. Which part of your life are you giving additional focus on now?
Anna: I would say health and exercise and food, because I realized that… I used to be an athlete so I used to run long distance and a bunch of sports. I used to be a soccer captain and then I realized over the years, I’ve just been very inactive. So I have been trying to focus on eating healthier and exercising more. I just got my personal trainer certification…
Anna: … over the pandemic.
Reggie: Wow, that’s pretty cool. You’ll be working on Mrs Pho, one of my favourite pho places, so yeah. Shout out to Mrs Pho. Okay, cool. Thank you!
Anna: Thank you so much.
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