There’s no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to investing, but there’s plenty to learn from other women’s challenges, successes and failures. How I Invest is a column where we ask women about their financial journeys to help us demystify the world of investing.
33-year-old Seet Shiyan is a tech product manager and entrepreneur with a well-diversified portfolio spread across property, stocks, bonds, precious metals, as well as cryptocurrencies. She has also made inroads into creating her own upcoming art company, in which she has invested 5 per cent of her wealth. The company is still to be launched.
Shiyan believes that having a mindset oriented towards personal finance is incredibly important, as the freedom to live the life you want can only come with financial independence. Much of her ease with investing can be credited to her parents, who are both keen investors themselves.
Here, she gives us a glimpse into her views on investing as well as her current investment portfolio.
Shiyan’s investing journey in numbers:
11: The age her parents gifted her books by Warren Buffett to teach her about investing
18: The age she made her first investment
5%: The gains she made with her first ever investment
40%: Her returns when the tech company she’d invested in went public
42%: Of her portfolio is in individual stocks, bonds, ETFs and index funds
3%: The amount she’s put into cryptocurrencies
10%: Her investments in commodities (including precious metals)
5%: The percentage of her wealth that’s gone into funding her art startup
How did your early years shape your view of money and investing?
As my parents are avid investors, they have ingrained in me [the importance of building] multiple income streams, some being passive. When I was only 11 years old, my father would educate my two sisters and I on investing concepts such as value investing and even gifted us Warren Buffett books. This inspired me to start investing as early as 18 years old.
Does your profession have an impact on your investments?
I started my career in finance, moved to tech, did an MBA, and now I am in the fintech industry. I had many influences throughout my career.
When I moved into tech, my investing strategy moved from value investing (a strategy that involves investing in stocks that appear to be trading on the market for less than their intrinsic value) to more growth investing, as technology companies tend to have higher growth multiples due to scalability and network effects. I had also received tech equity and options from my company, which prompted me to look deeper into buying other tech stocks.
Recently, I have been investing more into cryptocurrencies, as I have been researching blockchain technologies and protocols for work.
How would you describe your approach to personal finance and investments?
Personal finance to me is a mindset, a way of life, and having the mentality to adopt good financial habits. For example, setting aside money to invest every month and avoiding debts. These habits give me the freedom to live life the way I want, and eventually, to gain free time to spend with my loved ones.
What was your very first investment?
It was as simple as a fixed-term deposit that I put in an Australian bank. It was in 2008 when the interest rate environment was high. I generated about 5% p.a. interest on that fixed deposit. It finally clicked when I saw how my money was able to work for me. Before that, I had only read about it in theory. But when I was old enough to execute it, I saw the power of having your money work for you.
How do you decide what to invest in?
My investment strategy is diversification and protecting my wealth with steady returns for the long term. I invest in what I know and what I am passionate about. I decided to allocate most of my portfolio to real estate as I have the most understanding of it, as I was exposed to real estate investing by my family growing up. Other than capital gains, there is also an opportunity to earn passive income from rental yield from real estate. When it comes to picking stocks, other than looking at financials, competitive advantage and management team, I invest in companies whose mission aligns with what I support.
I also evaluate macroeconomic factors and balance my portfolio accordingly. For example, I recently added more precious metals (gold and silver) to my portfolio as the inflation index was creeping up.
Has your investment strategy changed over time?
When I was younger, with less experience and a higher risk appetite, I used to look for more outsized returns. For example, I would buy stock options. However, I realised this requires more time and monitoring. As I got busier, I adopted a more hands-off approach to my portfolio. I am focused on having a more diversified portfolio with slower but steadier returns. I have included a more comprehensive range of asset classes with my current portfolio. For example, I added ETFs, bonds and precious metals as they are all non-correlated assets and this helps with diversification.
When the economic environment changes, I do some tweaking to my portfolio, but I still try to maintain a healthy level of diversification, as the benefit of having a well-diversified portfolio is that it should withstand changes in the market.
What was the biggest risk you took in your investing journey? Did it pay off?
The most significant risk I took was investing in a US fintech startup during their series C fundraising round. It was a substantial risk as it was not a small sum, and there was a risk of the company failing to do well and me not getting my investment back. However, I wanted to invest in them as I believed in the company’s mission, and my investment thesis back then was to support the technology industry’s growth. Fortunately, the company reached their IPO after five years, and I made about a 40 per cent return on investment.
Do you have any investments that you regret?
I was dabbling with penny stocks when I was 19, when my risk appetite was the highest. Typically, penny stocks have higher volatility and reward potential if they go in the right direction. In the end, a couple of the companies whose penny stocks I bought went into liquidation, and I made some losses of 25 per cent on that.
What was the best piece of advice you received on investing?
Start early so you can learn earlier and have a longer runway.
Do you have advice for others who are just starting on their own investing journey?
It is always better to be invested in something than not. Take your hits and learn your lessons along the way.