An investor, now that she's a mum

PHOTO: An investor, now that she's a mum

SINGAPORE - Novice investor Crystal Yeow, 32, had always found the stock market daunting as it was such unfamiliar territory to her.

However, life's milestones such as marriage, a new home and having a child made her realise that she could not leave her cash sitting in the bank, earning very little.

"I had to do even more financial planning to make sure there's enough for my daughter," said Ms Yeow, who handles membership management for a publishing firm.

Her father, 64, has retired from the shipping industry while her mother, 64, has been a housewife and looked after the family.

"I probably picked up my spending habits from my dad," she said with a laugh.

"He'd indulge me by getting me toys and taking the family on holidays at least once a year. My father and I are also the sort who'd buy new clothes, and wear them a day after washing them!"

Her mum, however, is more thrifty and always reminded her to save.

"When I first started working in 2004, I'd end up taking cabs to avoid being late for work," she said.

"My mum would urge me to wake up 15 minutes earlier, so I won't spend as much."

Her mum also told her that what the fresh graduate could earn in 15 minutes then would not cover her cab fare.

After Ms Yeow got married in 2008, reality hit as the couple had to bear the full expenses of living away from their parents.

They applied for a Build-To-Order flat around 2008 in Sengkang and have been living there since 2011.

Their daughter, Isabelle, was born last year.

Ms Yeow's parents help to take care of her girl as she and her husband, who wanted to be known only as Mr Goh, 34, hold full-time jobs.

Q: Are you a spender or a saver?

I have to admit that I'm more of a spender. Somehow there always seems to be another pair of shoes to buy or hair treatment for my tresses! But ever since I became a mother, I've been more prudent with my spending.

It also helps that when you're busy looking after a baby, there's less time for retail therapy.

Q: How much do you charge to your credit cards every month?

On average, I charge about $500 a month to my credit cards. I've four cards now which offer different dining promotions, rebates or cashback on groceries.

But I try to consolidate my purchases on one card so that it's easier to keep track of my expenses.

I also use Nets or cash whenever possible so that I have a better sense of my cash 'outflow'.

Q: What financial planning have you done for yourself?

I've three life insurance policies - of which two were bought by my parents when I was younger. I bought the third one when I started working and am paying for all three policies now.

The bulk of my protection comes from term life insurance.

I think everyone should have some form of coverage - and it matters even more now that I have my daughter.

I saw how my friend's parents - who were involved in a car accident which left his father wheelchair-bound - used their insurance coverage to defray some of the medical costs incurred.

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

In secondary school, my parents gave me a daily allowance of $5. As a result, I saw no need for financial planning compared with those with a monthly allowance since I'd get more money the next day.

But when I pursued my undergraduate degree in Perth, that was when I had to apportion the lump sum I received to rental, school fees and other living expenses. Q: How did you get started in investing?

In June, I logged into the online banking system and learnt about OCBC's blue-chip investment plan. It has no lock-in period, requires a minimum investment of $100 in a stock at one time and suits my risk-averse nature.

Under this plan, I don't have to fork out too much money at one go, and yet I can buy into blue-chip stocks whose names I'm more familiar with and are more stable. I made my first investment last month with $150 and bought into Singapore Press Holdings' stock because I am familiar with its name and heard that it pays good dividends.

Prior to this, I'd always thought investing in the stock market was something very complicated.

But with the arrival of my daughter, I need to make my money work harder for me.

I'll try to cut down on my usual expenses to free up cash and channel it and some of my bonuses towards this plan in time. I'll be investing at a slow and steady pace.

Right now, my focus is to build up the portfolio and accumulate the odd lots into a "full" one before scouting around for other stocks.

Q: What property do you own?

My husband and I bought our four-room HDB flat in Sengkang for about $250,000 in 2008.

Q: What is the most extravagant thing you have bought?

It'd have to be a Lenovo laptop for my personal use at $2,500.

For the family, it's my contribution towards our family car that my husband and I bought for over $130,000 last year. We used to drive a hatchback but needed a bigger set of wheels for the stroller and baby stuff.

Q: What's your retirement plan?

As it's getting increasingly expensive to live in Singapore, my husband and I are open to retiring overseas in Australia or New Zealand. I'd studied there and like the environment.

But we think that we need maybe $1 million to $2 million to retire comfortably and will have to save up and expand our stock portfolio with time.

We also try to keep our debt levels low by paying down our home and car loans whenever possible.

Q: Home is now...

Our 990 sq ft HDB flat in Sengkang with my husband and daughter.

Q: I drive...

The family car, a Volkswagen Touran, which we bought last August.

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