me and my money

He puts stock in building up financial know-how

Mr Kuo Jihao, 24, started investing in Reits just two years ago, but it was enough to give him a head start in a recent Young and Savvy contest organised by The Straits Times, where he emerged the winner with a cash prize of $10,000.
Mr Kuo Jihao, 24, started investing in Reits just two years ago, but it was enough to give him a head start in a recent Young and Savvy contest organised by The Straits Times, where he emerged the winner with a cash prize of $10,000.ST PHOTO: DANIEL NEO

Undergrad also invests time and talents in other ways too - like teaching poor kids to play guitar

Young financial whizz Kuo Jihao believes in the merits of investing - but not just in stocks and other assets.

The undergraduate, who emerged as the winner of a recent investment contest, invests his time and talents in other ways too.

Mr Kuo, 24, teaches underprivileged children to play the guitar, for instance, with an organisation called Volunteer Guitar Connection.

"Kids are our future, and I believe I should do my part to try and help them fulfil their potential," said Mr Kuo, a third-year chemical engineering student at the National University of Singapore.

He started investing in real estate investment trusts (Reits) just two years ago, but it was enough to give him a crucial head start in a recent Young and Savvy contest organised by The Straits Times.

Contest participants had to answer 20 questions on financial literacy, and Mr Kuo emerged the winner with a cash prize of $10,000 for a score of 19 out of 20.

The contest was open to readers of The Straits Times and students who attended the Young and Savvy forums last year, organised by The Straits Times with sponsor, Frank by OCBC.

The forums, held at various universities, discussed personal finance and investing.

Besides learning through the newspapers and blogs, Mr Kuo also picked up tips from Chinese radio station Capital 95.8FM.

Investing has also allowed him to bond with his father, a management system consultant, in new ways.

Mr Kuo says: "My dad gives me a lift home from school on most days, and that's around the time when 95.8FM has an equity researcher on air, who talks about how the market is doing daily.

"From there, I develop common topics to discuss with my dad, who is also an engineer by training."

He added that they don't always see eye to eye when it comes to investing.

"I read about the high returns the Central Provident Fund (CPF) could give, so one day, I brought up the idea of topping up my CPF contributions," he said.

"My dad said this behaviour was too risk-averse for a young person like me who has a much longer investment horizon than someone in his 50s or 60s, as it is more logical for such a person."

Mr Kuo understands the point his father is making, but still prefers to make his own decisions. He reads several reports and does extensive research before putting his money in.

He has a younger brother who is thinking of investing, and his advice to him is the same as his approach to investing.

"I told him that he has to build up his knowledge and make calculated decisions, rather than just blindly follow others, even if it's our dad."

Q: Are you a spender or saver?

Saver. I save about $150 a month from my allowance. I have two accounts, one with POSB and one with DBS Bank.

I periodically transfer money to the POSB account, so that the DBS one - which is tied to the card I use for spending - has less money.

When I see the funds depleting, I will curb my spending.

Q: How much do you charge to your credit cards every month?

I have only a debit card. It's hard to overspend. If I've $1,500 in the account and I spend $1,000, that would be crazy. I'd never do that.

Q: What financial planning have you done for yourself?

My parents have taken care of that for me. I learnt about insurance from blogs as well - that it's important at all stages of life.

I invest in bonds and Reits. I've invested in a CapitalMall Trust bond for example and I hold SPH and Mapletree Reits.

My very first investment was the SPH Reit, which I got at the initial public offering in 2013. My dad told me about it, and I learnt about the properties under the Reit and did my own analysis.

Clementi Mall, for example, is in the heartland and near the MRT station so I thought it would do well, while Paragon has established itself as a high-end retail mall with a lot of medical firms and is close to Mount Elizabeth. I figured it was not a bad investment.

Q: Moneywise, what were your growing-up years like?

I was taught to be responsible with money, that saving was important, and to spend within your means. Since I was young, I never really had much interest in material indulgences, like new clothes or a new cellphone.

I started gaining financial knowledge in the army during national service, and realised there was a need to consciously have a budget, and to be aware of how much you actually have.

I started becoming more aware as I chanced upon one or two financial articles online, and would occasionally read up.

Q: How did you get interested in investing?

I really started getting interested when I entered university. I started reading financial blogs such as investmentmoats.com and A Singaporean Stockmarket Investor.

I also read the Money pages (of The Straits Times), and started keeping up with current affairs.

I found the idea of money growing on its own interesting, and wanted to learn more about companies and what they do and how they generate revenue. That's also what one does when researching stocks.

Q: What investment property do you own?

None.

Q: What's the most extravagant thing you have bought?

The most expensive was an Acer laptop that I bought four years ago, but that was a necessity. I've never bought anything that was more than $2,000.

I'll probably buy the iPad Air 2, and that's about $600. After I won $10,000, my iPad died (laughs).

Q: What's your retirement plan?

Maybe I'll retire at 55 - I haven't really thought about it. For now, I aim to work in Shell as an engineer, or in an engineering-related job.

I do envy those people who are able to create passive income from their investments.

I am still lacking in financial knowledge to reach that stage, so I'll go for more talks and read up more often, apart from studying for my degree.

Q: Home is now....

A terraced house in the south-west.

rachaelb@sph.com.sg