At 24, Ms Cris Ong embodies the millennial dream of not just attaining a bachelor’s degree, followed by a master’s degree, and a job she loves, but also the fulfilment of having visited 20 countries in four years. Plus, she has a grip on her finances.
The key for aspiring globetrotters her age, she says, is to find ways to generate passive income, such as investing in the stock market.
Says Ms Ong: “It all boils down to dedicating time to plan your finances wisely, starting early, and being fully committed to it.
“I regret not investing earlier. I used to prioritise other things, but I realise it’s not too late to start.”
Although she did not have a formal education in investing, she has learnt much from books such as The Intelligent Investor and Walk Down Wall Street. She also attends talks by investing firms for trading advice after work or on weekends.
Ms Ong also advocates earning a side income from, for example, a weekend waitressing gig. She believes in saving for a rainy day, and, of course, her next trip.
And it is not just money that she saves. She also packs leftovers from dinner for next day’s lunch.
Each of Ms Ong’s trips usually ranges from one to two weeks and costs between $900 and $1,800. But the expenses, she feels, are worth the experiences she gains.
“I wanted a learning experience that would bring me places where I could learn from the world, instead of within the walls of a classroom,” she says.
Though her work as a media activation executive in Essence Global gives her less time to travel nowadays, she finds time to relax after a hard day’s work by chilling out with friends over an ice-cold lager after work — a practice she picked up from friends she made in Germany.
Ms Ong recalls being bitten by the travel bug in 2010 when she was a Ngee Ann Polytechnic student. Her course in International Business led to several overseas work experience trips, and she eventually took up a six-month internship at an events management firm in Shanghai, China.
With the exchange rate in her favour, she spent freely without giving much thought to saving.
But going to Britain for her undergraduate studies in 2013 brought her sharply back to reality. Everything was suddenly more expensive, from groceries to rent and public transportation.
So she started to save on transport costs by walking as much as possible. She did not mind long walks as she enjoyed taking in the sights while exploring different routes.
Ms Ong also cooked her own meals, and although that meant missing out on the chance to dine out to sample local cuisine, she picked up a good life skill.
She got her housemates to join a “cooking roster” so everyone took turns to cook. This kept the menu fresh, and was a good way to bond with them.
Her most obvious tip is also the hardest: simply stop spending money on unnecessary things. Black Friday sales aside, she does not spend on clothes for the rest of the year.
“Especially in winter, no one actually cares what you’re wearing, so you don’t need new outfits all the time,” she says with a laugh.