By Lorna Tan
As a former grassroots organisation volunteer, Mrs Goh Poh Geok, 44, who runs two franchises, is familiar with the myriad of issues that the man-in-the-street grapples with daily.
It was through her experiences that she concluded that a good education is a must for those who want a better life.
With this conviction, she ventured into the education business and became a franchisee of mathematics and language learning centre Kumon, which was started in Japan.
In 1999, she set up a 3,000 sq ft Kumon centre at a Civil Defence shelter in Choa Chu Kang Avenue 1. This was followed by a second centre in Choa Chu Kang - Yew Tee in 2004. Its lease ended last November and she is on the lookout for another suitable location.
When her first Kumon centre became more established, she decided to use half of the premises to run a women-only gym, Contours Express, in May 2007. The latter turned out to be such a success that she is opening another gym at Nanyang Community Club in Jurong West tomorrow.
Prior to her business ventures, she worked for about 10 years as a systems analyst and as a finance and administrative manager in her next two jobs.
A business administration graduate from the National University of Singapore, she is married to Mr Roland Goh, 48, who works in a statutory board. They have two children - Amos, 13, and Rene, 11.
Q: Are you a spender or saver?
I'm very careful with my money and I never overspend. I'm conscious about what I buy and I always ask myself if it is a need or a want.
I have a fixed amount that I save every month, which is about 10 per cent or less of my monthly income, and more at the end of the year.
When I have a surplus, I reinvest it in my businesses or in new business opportunities.
Q: How much do you charge to your credit cards every month?
It varies from a few hundred to a few thousand, especially if I'm shopping overseas during holidays. I make it a point to pay my credit card bills fully every month.
Q: What financial planning have you done for yourself and your family?
Besides my businesses, about 80per cent of my portfolio is invested in insurance and fixed deposits, as I have no time to monitor other investments.
The balance is in capital guaranteed products and unit trusts. I'm also holding on to some stocks like DBS Bank and SingTel. My average annual returns are about 5 per cent.
I own some life insurance, medical and investment-linked policies and my life cover is about $500,000. The annual premiums for my family's policies amount to $24,000.
Q: Moneywise, what were your growing-up years like?
I come from a humble background. Both my parents were hawkers selling drinks and cooked food. They later sold food at a school canteen. I was the third of four children.
I helped my parents in their food business from the time I was 11 till my university days. I would wake up at 5am and help them prepare ingredients like chilli sauce and pack the noodles and nasi lemak. To earn additional money, I gave tuition after my A levels.
We had enough to eat but there were no luxuries. My parents were very thrifty. Through sheer hard work, our circumstances improved and we became the richest family in our kampung in Choa Chu Kang. My dad could even afford a Nissan Bluebird. And I started having piano lessons when I was 15.
Q: What's your retirement plan?
I don't have a specific timeframe to retire. I hope to continue to work for as long as I can.
In the next 10 years, I would like to do something for the unfortunate such as a school for special needs children, and perhaps a centre for the elderly.
In terms of our daily needs, Roland and I can survive on very little. I think we would need about $4,000 a month for both of us when we do retire.
Q: Home is now...?
An executive maisonette in Choa Chu Kang, which we bought in 2000 for $400,000.
Q: And you drive...?
A white BMW 320i.
This article was first published in The Straits Times on February 08, 2009.