From crunching numbers to high fashion

An auditor's lot is not often considered a glamorous one but it turned out that way when Mr Shane Goh had the chance to invest in a modelling agency.

The offer from left field came after Mr Goh, 35, set up his own training and consulting business with a partner, following a four-year stint at Big Four firm PwC.

Their entry into the world of style and fashion came in 2010 when they were invited to take a stake in Carrie Models International.

Mr Goh, an accountancy graduate who also runs a general accounting practice, says: "It was a good price and came to a middling six-figure sum. We decided to invest as the company has a long and solid history.

"We were good friends with the owner as well, and we felt we could add value to the overall business of the Carrie group."

Mr Goh, who has two sons aged six and one, says the investment made sense, noting that "mergers and acquisitions are another way to grow a business as it's challenging to start and champion a new revenue line".

His auditing background has come in handy too, making him careful with his investments, while his risk-taking nature has helped him open doors.

"I am generally quite open to listening to new investment opportunities if I feel comfortable. Given my training as an auditor, I'm naturally a little careful about investments, but in order to operate a business successfully, you must take risks," notes Mr Goh, who is also a director at Carrie Models.

"So finding my balance is important to me. If I'm uncomfortable with an investment opportunity, I'm more likely to...pass. I don't invest blindly."

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

A I am from a working-class family. There was no real lack of anything essential, and we had regular holidays to nearby destinations.

My sister, who is younger by five years, and I had a regular education with typical enrichment classes like piano lessons.

I'm not a hardcore saver who squirrels all my money away in a bank. I spend on what I need, and go out with friends because keeping a good social circle is important to me.

Then I save whatever is left.I remember waking up at 3am every morning to deliver the Wall Street Journal to offices at Raffles Place, then heading to lectures as a university student.

I was paid $1,200, and I spent part of it to maintain my first car.

Q How did you get interested in investing and business?

A I started investing in stocks during my university days.

My first play was penny stock Goldtron. I was at the computer in my hostel room with a roommate and figuring out how to use the trading platform.

We lost a little money, as we bought it without thought - we only knew it was cheap.

In primary school, I lent money to friends and was supposed to collect it back with a bit of interest, without knowing that it was illegal.

Obviously, it did not work out as some people did not pay me back.

But I was keen to do my own business for the longest time. I set up my first real business, a tuition agency, when I was 18.

I started my consultancy with about $10,000 in 2004 as a final-year student at Nanyang Technological University.

Q Describe your investing strategy.

A I realised from one of my university courses that there are different forms of risk. Somehow that stuck in my mind, and that's how I decided to categorise my investments.

For low-risk items, I look through what's in the market with my good friend, Finexis adviser Ian Wee.

I have invested in some wealth policies that will "ripen" when I am about 50 years old, for instance.

With medium-risk instruments, I decide on good stocks to invest in by reading up and going through the market news.

Stocks of firms that have good fundamentals and that are still doing well despite previous recessions are those I like to keep. I don't have to buy them right at the trough, as long as I can hold them through tough times.

For high-risk instruments, I trade in foreign exchange on a daily basis. If I'm busy, I rely on market signals on 15-minute charts that I subscribe to, as I have no time to do charting. I do two to three trades a day.

I'm also trying to dabble in new digital currencies such as Ripple and Ethereum. They might not have much liquidity in the market now, but they are rather cheap.

I also invest in items with controlled risk, which are the businesses that I own as I'm in a position to influence how the business is managed, unlike in the other categories, which are controlled by others.

Q What's in your portfolio?

A I have several United States stocks such as General Electric, Legg Mason and Bank of America. I chose them because they are liquid, have good historical records and are dividend-paying.

I have about 15-20 per cent in stocks and 10 per cent in foreign currencies. I've kept the rest in fixed deposits as I'm waiting for the right moment to invest.

In addition to my newly purchased freehold three-bedder apartment in Telok Kurau, which I bought recently for about $1.1 million, my wife and I have a studio apartment in China, which we got for less than $100,000.

Q What's the most extravagant thing you have done?

A If anything, it would be taking my family for holidays, usually twice a year - one long trip and one short one with the children and my parents.

And maybe one holiday for just my wife and myself.

These expenses are the most extravagant I incur each year, but the life experiences we gain and the family time are things that cannot be quantified using money.

Q What are your immediate investment plans?

A I hope to collect a few overseas properties and possibly get passive income. Singapore properties still seem a little expensive despite the cooling measures.

Business-wise, we've set aside a couple of hundred thousand to make some acquisitions or invest in smaller companies over the next few years.

Q How are you planning for retirement?

A I have my wealth policies, for instance, and I feel that, in 15 years' time, the Supplementary Retirement Scheme would be a good plan as well.

Q Home is now...

A A three-bedder apartment in the east (shared) with my parents.

Q I drive...

A A Toyota multipurpose vehicle.

Worst and best bets

Q What has been your biggest investing mistake?

A I learnt over time that one must not trade for the sake of trading and must overcome the emotional aspect of trading, which is sometimes a huge barrier to overcome.

For instance, when the US dollar-Japanese yen pair fell some time last year, I lost a good five figures and then some within a few days.

It was simply because I did not want to cut my losses and was clinging to the hope that the price would rebound since it had already dropped so much. But eventually, I realised the mistake.

Now, I always remind myself that if such trades hit my cut-loss level, I should cut my losses as it means that the idea I had for the trade was wrong.

However, sometimes, when it comes to emotions, you always hope for a reversal. So I'm still learning how to be disciplined.

Q And what has been your best investment move?

A A university lecturer once said to buy low and sell high. The low usually happens when the stock market crashes.

Apart from my own business, my best investments were in 2008 when the markets crashed.

I simply picked up US stocks such as Visa, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac - all historically strong companies.

They were going at a price which I could afford. I sold Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac at profits of almost 60 to 70 per cent a short while after I bought them.

This article was first published on Feb 26, 2017.
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