SINGAPORE - The importance of insurance - and the support of friends and family - were brought home to businessman Richard Gavriel in a dramatic way last year.
Mr Gavriel, 45, found he had a tear in his retina that would have caused him to go blind in his left eye if left untreated.
Fortunately, he had upgraded his health insurance policy two months before discovering that his vision was at risk.
The top-up cost him an additional $561 annually but it ended up saving him $17,000.
"I was seeing black dots or floaters in my vision and didn't think too much of it," he recalls.
"When I learnt that I had torn my retina and that delayed treatment could have left me blinded in one eye, it was a stressful and life-changing experience."
But it was through the ordeal that Mr Gavriel was reminded of the importance of his family, friends and partners at work.
"I felt love from my wife and daughter in an even deeper way - which is something money can't buy," he says with a smile.
"Like how my only child would offer to put eyedrops for me every six hours, or my wife would offer to massage my back that was strained from the recovery position."
Mr Gavriel had to spend a month hunching over a table face down, resting his forehead on his arms while the cut on his eye healed.
His siblings were there to support him while seven of the speakers he manages at Richard Gavriel Speaker Management helped in the business operations and brought in future projects as he could not work.
Mr Gavriel is married and has a daughter, aged 11.
Q: Are you a spender or a saver?
I was more of a spender in my mid- to late-twenties and would splurge on food and entertainment. I'd even "belanja" (Malay for treat) my friends to meals and be spending unnecessarily.
But that slowly changed after I got married in 1999 and realised my income has to go towards supporting my family too.
Q: On average, how much do you charge to your credit cards every month?
I do not carry any credit cards now, only debit cards. In my mid-20s, I chalked up about $30,000 in credit card debt and got help from my family to clear it. I decided to do away with credit cards so I won't spend future money.
Q: What financial planning have you done for yourself?
In 1993, I bought my first life insurance policy because I wanted to ensure that I had income protection in the event that I suffered total and permanent disability. Or if I were to die prematurely, at least I would be able to leave something for my parents.
After the ordeal last year, I also picked up an investment-linked policy, that can be given to my family as an inheritance upon my death.
We also invest in some blue-chip stocks and currencies to work our money harder rather than leave it in the bank.
Q: Moneywise, what were your growing-up years like?
I'm the youngest of six siblings and cash was pretty tight in our household. My dad was a taxi driver and the sole breadwinner.
When I was 10, I asked my dad for money to buy some tidbits and biscuits,and stacked them into a cake. It was my first birthday cake!
I also worked part-time to supplement my allowance.
During the festive season, I got a part-time job selling non-stick frying pans at the "pasar malam" or night bazaar, and spent my weekends during my pre-university years singing with local groups.
Q: How did you first get interested in investing?
I've always found the stock market interesting but was too "bochup" (Hokkien for nonchalant) to learn and lacked the in-depth knowledge to invest.
My siblings would invest in stocks and shares but we didn't talk about it much when we met.
So it wasn't till I got married and learnt that my wife had better money management skills than I did. She was more in tune and aware of how the stock market worked.
Q: What property do you own?
A three-bedder, 1,012 sq ft executive condo unit in the eastern side of Singapore, which my wife and I bought in 2001 for $441,000.
Back then, a new executive condo in the area would cost as much as a four-room flat in the resale market, if you factored in cash-over-valuations and cost of upgrading the piping and refurbishing the old fixtures. So we thought getting an executive condo was a good investment.
Q: What is the most extravagant thing you have bought?
A brown leather jacket that I bought in 2008 when I went to Hong Kong with my family for a holiday.
I'd always wanted a leather jacket and fell in love with this piece that I saw.
We didn't realise that it came with a $850 price tag and I was reluctant to get it as it was really expensive. But my wife told me that I deserve to pamper myself once in a while, so we got it eventually.
It's extravagant because I've worn it less than 10 times in the last six years!
Q: What is your retirement plan?
I'm so used to working and don't believe in slowing down. I hope to grow my speaker management company as it is something I am passionate about.
I also recently started a speaker's academy that aims to coach aspiring speakers and trainers to hone their craft and set up their own businesses. I hope to pass these businesses to my daughter if she is interested in learning the ropes and helming them in future.
Q: Home is now…
A three-bedder executive condo unit where I live with my wife, daughter and our domestic help.
Q: I drive...
I do not drive because I do not have a driver's licence!
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