Brunch session talks at Singapore Coffee Festival prove popular

SINGAPORE - Readers packed the The Straits Times Lounge at the Singapore Coffee Festival on Sunday (Aug 6) to listen to financial tips from DBS Bank, and talks by ST columnists Sumiko Tan and Ignatius Low on how they find things to write about.

Hosted by ST journalists, the talks were part of the four-day Coffee Festival at the Marina Bay Cruise Centre organised by ST and presented by DBS Bank.

During the 11am session, about 40 people gathered around the ST Lounge to hear DBS regional head of group research Timothy Wong share investment advice with ST business editor Lee Su Shyan.

He said people tend to invest when prices are high and sell when low because of greed and fear. But that is the wrong approach. He said investments are not a way to make a quick buck. Instead, they should be "a long term way for money to grow".

"The point is to try and resist the temptation to try and time the market," he said.

Mr Wong talked about how he invested in his first shares fresh out of university, but "everything that I made in the first two months I lost in the third month". Instead, his best investments were unit trusts that he has held for more than two decades.

In his 20s, he had put $5,000 each into a Japanese and an Asia Pacific unit trust. Now, the former is worth $6,500 while the latter is at $15,000. "It's the power of compound interest," he said.

Ms Lee said of her fellow speaker: "Mr Wong gave practical advice about how a diversified unit trust can be suitable for investors by taking the emotion out of investing.

"On a lighter note, he also highlighted that while the return on a cafe business may be as high as 30 per cent, only a small proportion of cafes will succeed. That was interesting food for thought."

At 12.30pm, in a talk titled "Coffee with the columnists" moderated by senior writer Wong Kim Hoh, Ms Tan and Mr Low talked about how they find topics to write about and how they deal with negative feedback.

Ms Tan said she does not bother about how she might appear "because if I do, I wouldn't be honest". Mr Low said public opinion does not bother him because while there are haters, "there are also a lot of people who love the writing".

Ms Tan said her husband gets to read her columns before they are published to help check their structure and grammar, but he has never opposed the content - no matter how personal the columns are.

She once wrote about them sleeping in separate rooms due to aircon preferences - something Mr Low said he would have found too personal to share. Ms Tan joked that perhaps she lacks a filter.

Audience member Shermaine, 34, a long-time reader of Ms Tan's columns, said she found the session engaging. "I sensed the sincerity in her columns so I wanted to understand more about Sumiko.

"I feel like what she's written about is what every other woman in Singapore is going through as well. Looking for the right partner in life and how that may not come at the age that you expect it to, but the main thing is to keep believing," said the freelancer, who is single.

Of the session, Ms Tan said: "The whole vibe of the event was very nice and relaxed."