Saving a priority for young investor

PHOTO: Saving a priority for young investor

He may have a modest lifestyle, but Mr Matthew Seah, 25, certainly has a knack for investment.

He graduated with a diploma in biotechnology from Singapore Polytechnic in 2008 before joining the civil service in December 2009.

He is concurrently pursuing a part-time finance degree at the Singapore Institute of Management, and pays $2,400 every semester for the course fees.

Since Mr Seah started investing four years ago, he has put about $105,000 from his savings and salary into blue chips, banks and penny stocks.

His maiden investment of around $20,000 was funded from his savings including what he got from hongbao over the Chinese New Year as well as education bursaries and scholarship awards.

"My parents are thrifty and would buy only groceries that are on offer," he said. "My dad would spend only when it's necessary."

Mr Seah has three sisters - a public relations officer, 35, a housewife, 33, and a graphic designer, 24.

His parents have since retired. His dad, 57, used to do metal work for industrial use while his mum, 56, was a housekeeper at a hotel.

Q: Are you a spender or a saver?

Saver. When I was young, my parents taught me the virtues of saving. All my Edusave bursaries and scholarships during my school days went straight into my savings account. Instead of spending what I've earned and saving whatever's left, I do it the other way round - saving a portion of my income before spending the remainder.

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

I have only just applied for my very first card - UOB One - because of its 3.33 per cent cashback rewards on almost all my purchases. I'm expecting to charge about $300 to $500 a month on it. Q: What financial planning have you done for yourself?

Adequate health and life insurance, setting aside an emergency fund which can support my expenses for a year, have multiple sources of income through dividends and as a last resort, terminate my endowment plans for extra cash from the surrender values.

Q: Money-wise, what were your growing-up years like?

I usually didn't get more than $2 a week in primary school. In secondary school, I had to take part in co-curricular activities and had revision lessons, so I got $300 pocket money a month.

Since I didn't spend much on food, I'd save up to buy things I wanted like trading cards, PlayStation sets and games.

When I went to the polytechnic, my pocket money rose to $400 a month since prices at the foodcourts in school were higher.

It was during this time that I saved up to buy books on personal finance such as The Intelligent Investor, The Complete Turtle Trader and The Millionaire Next Door.

Q: How did you get interested in investing?

When I was about six, my mum taught me how to use the Teletext on television so that I could check stock prices for her while she was working. That was how I became keen on stock investment.

After my O levels, I read Robert Kiyosaki's Rich Dad, Poor Dad book which made me want to be rich rather than poor.

When I found out that my mum incurred a staggering 53 per cent loss on her investment-linked product, I began reading more investment-related books to guide my own investment decisions.

Q: What was your first investment?

I bought 3,000 shares of Las Vegas Sands (LVS) in early 2009 at US$3.75 apiece, or $17,500.

Back then, LVS experienced a delay in the construction of Marina Bay Sands in Singapore amid the mortgage-backed securities crisis.

I remembered LVS' chief executive saying he'd use his own money to fund the construction if necessary. That gave me confidence that LVS' share price would turn around. The share price was rather volatile and I eventually sold LVS at US$7.50 apiece.

Looking back, I made a hasty decision as LVS fell to US$6 before rising again. I bought it back at US$8 and sold it at US$40.

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

That would be a $3,000 Sony Vaio laptop which I gave to my younger sister. For myself, I spent $1,899 on an Asus Zenbook laptop.

Q: What's your retirement plan?

I was lucky because I'd entered the market at the right time during the global financial crisis.

By 40, I hope to have a monthly passive income of $10,000, growing at 3 per cent a year by reinvesting the profits or dividends from my investments. I'm assuming that my investments can yield an 8 per cent annual return.

Any excess from that will be reinvested or donated to charity.

I hope to retire by 45, and if I do find a soulmate, I might consider travelling the world for a few years on my passive income.

Q: Home is now...

A four-room flat in Bukit Batok that I share with my parents and younger sister.

Q: I drive...

The family's two Nissan lorries.


Q: What is your worst investment to date?

I would have to put my worst investment in the last four years as my holdings in Noble Group.

I bought into the stock in March last year.

After accounting for dividends, my paper loss on Noble is about 29 per cent currently.

Q: What is your best investment to date?

My best returns, percentage-wise, would be my investment in Las Vegas Sands which is listed on the New York Stock Exchange.

I bought it at US$8 apiece in May 2009 and sold when it hit US$40 in March 2011, for a total return of 400 per cent.

Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to for more stories.