From The Straits Times    |

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According to the Credit Suisse 2018 Global Wealth Report, there were more than 183,000 millionaires in Singapore last year. More importantly, this number is set to grow by about 5.5 per cent per annum in the next five years, hitting a figure of nearly 240,000.

That’s a lot of people walking around with money that you could literally drown in!

Sure, many rich and successful people often come by their riches by doing things different from average people like you and me.

Such as putting in unthinkable hours at work, having the almost superhuman ability to absorb and understand large amounts of knowledge and information, or an almost mystical knack to predict future trends. 

But, even the most accomplished individuals are human after all, and at its most basic, all humans are equal. Which means we can (and should) learn from the successful, by observing their experiences and how they responded. In this vein, here are some money lessons we distilled from the stories of five young successful Singaporeans. 


1. Val Ji-Hsuan Yap, 31 — PolicyPal

What’s her deal: When she saw how tedious it was while helping her mother to make an insurance claim, Val (rightly) decided that this was a problem that many others struggle with. She left a promising Assistant Vice President position at OCBC Bank to start a business that would tackle this very problem. 

Businesses flourish when they serve a need, especially when they do so better than anyone else. In the case of PolicyPal, no one else was offering an easy way to collate all that pesky but important paperwork that comes with your insurance policies.

Yap built a handy mobile app that could do that for you, and hit on a gold mine. 

How do we know she’s successful: In its latest round of fundraising, PolicyPal, raised USD20 million in token sales (i.e., through an Initial Coin Offering). 

The money lesson we can learn: Don’t be selfish. If you know a way to solve a problem effectively and quickly, share it with others. You just might hit the jackpot in the process. 


2. Nicolas Travis, 31 — Allies of Skin


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What’s his deal: A cult favourite on the beauty circuit, Allies of Skin is loved by influencers, beauty editors and industry insiders. It is one of the rare few homegrown skincare brands to be featured on the shelves of international retailers such as Sephora, Bloomingdales, and even luxury site Net-a-Porter.

All these were made possible because of Nicolas’ dogged determination to create formulations that work, combined with a keen observation of the market’s needs. No doubt, his Degree in Pharmaceutical Management helped, as it taught him the basics of creating formulation for the skin.

How do we know he’s successful: In the first year alone, Allies of Skins raked in $700,000 in revenue. The brand’s strong performance led to at least two rounds of funding, adding another $450,000 to the company’s coffers. 

The money lesson we can learn: Nicolas founded Allies of Skin because he was on a personal quest to solve his acne issues. But, it was his astute choices that paved the way for success.

A common thread in Nicolas’ story is how he made decisions based on what he is passionate about, always going back to what he represents and what he wants to do. It’s a classic money lesson: know your brand, then tell the world about it.

Whether you’re an entrepreneur or an employee, the clearer you are about your personal brand, the easier it is for the right people and opportunities to find you. 


3. Sathish Rames, 30 — Cradle Private Limited


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What’s his deal: Sathish Rames started off his entrepreneurial journey doing nothing but building up his network. Armed with just a smile, the young upstart struggled with his initial fear of talking to strangers. 

His determination paid off in just six months, when his network grew large enough for him to set up a brokerage, Cradle Wealth (now known as Cradle Private Limited), matching sellers and buyers. After a year, Sathish found himself fielding hourly appointments, helping broker business deals between entities and individuals who otherwise would never have met. 

Not bad for a self-professed introvert.

How do we know he’s successful: The Singapore-based firm serves high-net-worth clients from Southeast Asia, Dubai, China and India, and operates several offices around the region. In 2016, a solid 10 times increase in revenue boosted the company to multi-million status, cemented further by a tripling in revenue the following year.  

The money lesson we can learn: If Satish hadn’t decided to tolerate the discomfort of talking to strangers, he probably wouldn’t be as successful as he is today.

Oftentimes, success hinges on our willingness to do the hard thing. For example, if you have significantly less savings than your peers, all things being equal, it’s likely because you aren’t willing to tolerate the disciplined lifestyle required to save money.


4. Christopher Hwang, 28 and Jonathan Shen, 29 – The Golden Duck

Photo: The Straits Times/Kelvin Chng

What’s their deal: The Golden Duck is a local snack company that brought salted egg yolk from the greasy kitchens of neighbourhood zi char stalls to sleekly packaged packs of potato chips and fish skin, putting our tiny island on the culinary map of snackers around the world.

How do we know they are successful: Well, according to Forbes, the company sells an average of 10,000 packets of its gourmet snacks every week. At an average of $8 per packet, we’re talking around $4 to $5 million in revenue per year. Oh, also, the duo is on Forbes’ 2017 list of 30 under 30. 

The money lesson we can learn: Everything looks swell for the auspiciously named brand at the moment, but Christopher and Jonathan went through a lot before they found success with their current venture. The pair first partnered up to start a new nightclub, which folded in just four months. At that point, it would have been easy to walk away with tails between their legs. Instead the pair stuck by each other and together found their golden goose. 

Basically, what they’re saying is don’t let setbacks scare you off.

Let’s say an ill-timed investment caused you to lose half your CPF money (such as buying into a fund based on property values, two months before the sub-prime mortgage crisis – true story btw), does it mean you swear off investing altogether? Doing so will not only expose you to inflation erosion, but also make you miss out on a proven and crucial method to grow your wealth. So when setbacks happen, don’t run from them. Instead, learn from them so you can do better next time.  

There’s also a second lesson here: If you find a good partner, stick with them. This means surrounding yourself with people whose money habits you admire and want to emulate.

Make it a point to encourage and motivate each other as you each work towards your individual money goals, and you’ll be far more likely to succeed.