Investing is in his blood for NUS undergrad

This column has featured a number of young investors.

Some hold tens of thousands in equities and others, less than $10,000.

But they all share a goal - mastering the discipline to make money grow.

These young investors saw value in investing their savings, whether it was pocket money or from hongbao.

Mr Ryan Phua, 21, is no different.

Partying did not dominate his mind after his A levels.

Instead, Mr Phua was more interested in reading about US investor Warren Buffett and picking up tips to make his money grow.

"We need money to go clubbing right?" he jokingly tells The New Paper on Sunday.

"But in all honesty, if I don't start now, I'll never get started," says the National University of Singapore student, who is in the first year of his Life Sciences degree.

During national service, Mr Phua picked up his first book on investments, The Intelligent Investor by US economist Benjamin Graham. Mr Buffett had recommended it to "all aspiring investors".


"The content intrigued me," Mr Phua says.

"Subsequently, I read up on Buffett's investment approaches and watched hours after hours of his interviews about his investment ideologies."

He started at 18 with about $65,000.

His capital was accumulated from savings and investing in fixed deposits when he was younger.

He says: "I didn't make much money in over two years but that was all right because I was taking a five or 10 year value investing approach."

Among his first buys were stocks in UOL Group, a property development company.

"I got it two years ago and given the huge surprise devaluation of the yuan last year which sparked a massive sell off in equities, my current position dropped to about 3 per cent in the green," he says.

He still has the UOL stocks which he bought at $5.40, despite the slump.

"At its peak, the stock hit $6.80 but dropped to $5.70 after the Chinese devaluation," he says.

"Even at its peak, I wasn't going to sell it. Although I would have a made a profit, the stock is still worth so much more."

The drop in value prompted him to purchase more.

"I'm not too concerned about such market corrections," says Mr Phua.

"In fact, since the market correction, I have taken the opportunity to pick up (other) stocks as I saw the price drop off a few companies as an ideal opportunity to get in."

He plans to hang on to the UOL stocks.

"For me, if the intrinsic value keeps increasing year after year then I guess I'll have to tell my kids and grandkids to continue monitoring its value long after I'm gone," he says.

Mr Phua says he is now managing a portfolio of about $80,000 worth of stakes in 10 companies.

"It is good to inculcate good financial habits when we're young," he says.

"My end game is to retire comfortably. That's why my investing horizon is for the long term, and... (it) gives me ample time to build up decent gains by the time I retire."

Mr Phua comes from a family of investors.

"My gong gong (grandfather in Mandarin) has quite an eye for picking stocks and my mum actively does investments for our family.

"I invest based on what I've learnt on my own. But I seek their opinion when I'm unsure about anything," he says.

He is referring to the Benjamin Graham and Warren Buffett strategies.

He also does extensive research to make sure a company fulfils his criteria before taking the plunge.

Mr Phua says: "If it is a wonderful business at an expensive price, I'll just wait it out.

"If it is a mediocre business at the fantastic price, I will give it a pass and if it is a wonderful business at a fantastic price, I will pounce on the opportunity," he says.

Mr Phua says searching for companies can be tedious and it requires a lot of work.

He says: "It involves just staying home and combing through annual reports hours at a time.

"I guess that's my definition of 'online shopping' and that's where I find the best bargains."

3 tips for investing


Mr Ryan Phua says save any money you can put aside and be disciplined about it.

Have a clear segregation between what you intend to save and spend.

If what you have set aside for spending is not sufficient, learn to live within your means.

Having more in your savings does not justify using it.

Every dollar counts. Before you know it, you will have a good amount of capital to start investing with.


Never buy a stock based on hearsay.

Have your own judgement and stick with it.

It is important to buy with a margin of safety.


Mr Phua says start with a small amount. But when you find a quality stock, invest heavily in it.

It will give you returns that beat fixed deposits. At the same time, it is not as risky as currency trading.

This article was first published on May 29, 2016. Get The New Paper for more stories.