Wed, Dec 19, 2012
The Sunday Times
So much for taking it easy: Businessman Roy Kee was easing into semi- retirement when his passion for promoting healthier lifestyles and protecting the environment lured him back into full-time work.
Mr Kee, 54, is now chief executive of Envizyme, a Singapore-based company that develops and manufactures natural and environmentally friendly household cleaning products.
"I came across Envizyme by chance. In Mandarin, we call this yuan fen, or fate," he says.
"The founder of the company is a very passionate person, and one of the nicest people I have met. It took me five months to make the decision to invest in this company."
He used the products himself, to ensure they were really what the company claimed, before passing them on to his friends and relatives for their feedback.
Envizyme products are made using recycled fruit and vegetables that the company collects from wholesale markets.
Mr Kee, who is married with three children, said he felt very strongly about keeping his household as "chemical free" as possible.
"I feel Envizyme can give me a better platform to further my cause and share my belief in the importance of having good health and living in a safer and cleaner environment."
Q: Are you a spender or saver?
I actually do not draw any salary as the chief executive of Envizyme, so technically, I do not have any income to set aside for savings.
I guess I am a spender, then?
My monthly expenses are funded by returns from investments I have made over the years.
However, the virtues of having sufficient savings and living within one's means are very important.
Our lifestyle and spending habits need to adjust according to our earning patterns.
Most of my expenses concern my children.
I do not buy expensive watches.
The one I usually wear is a Casio G-Shock, which was a gift from my wife.
I have only one pair of leather shoes (and) they are more than a decade old.
I eat very simple meals, and 90 per cent of my diet is vegetarian.
At this stage in my life, I really don't need much to live on.
Q: How much do you charge to your credit cards every month?
I have two credit cards, and on average, I charge around $6,000 to them each month.
I pay off my bills on time.
I have only one ATM card and I seldom use it to withdraw cash.
It is mainly used to top up my CashCard.
Q: What financial planning have you done for yourself?
I have a few life insurance policies that cover me for about $2.5 million.
I do not believe in over-insurance so I have very little life insurance coverage for my wife and none for my children.
To me, the point of having life insurance is to make sure that, in the event of an unexpected death, the family will have enough to pay for existing liabilities and maintain an adequate lifestyle.
My wife is a housewife, and my children do not have any income, so I do not see why there is a need for life insurance now. You cannot insure against emotional loss.
However, they all have health insurance.
About 20 per cent of my portfolio is in the equity market, and about 25 per cent is in my art and wine collection.
The rest is in property and in the bank.
I used to trade quite actively in the United States market and would stay up late to do it, but I don't really do that any more because I now need to wake up early for my daily qigong.
Cash is still king and the key is to make sure we live within our means and have sufficient savings to weather unforeseen situations.
Q: Moneywise, what were your growing-up years like?
My father was a businessman and my mother was a housewife.
My growing-up years were pretty comfortable as my parents provided for us well.
I am the eldest and I have two younger brothers and a sister.
My dad was a kind, reasonable and honourable businessman.
He ran an industrial chemical company that focuses mainly on printing and painting.
All his business associates considered him to be a trustworthy, reliable and dependable person.
He believed in the importance of education and he made sure all four of us completed our university degrees.
He also taught us many important values in life.
Today, my siblings are running our family business and I remain as a shareholder and director without any day-to-day executive function.
Q: How did you get interested in investing?
When I was doing an MBA in the US, I attended a finance class where we played an investment game in trading stocks.
Each group started with the same amount of capital and, at the end of the semester, my group topped the class with the highest returns.
That gave me the inspiration to learn more about the stock market.
After I started my first job in Silicon Valley, I opened a trading account and began trading with real money.
Unlike in Singapore, investors there do not have to trade in lots of 1,000 shares.
I could trade in as little as 100 shares per transaction with relatively low fees.
I spent quite a fair amount of time doing research on the company and market prior to making my investment decision. It was rather technical.
I started trading shares in Singapore when I returned after spending 13 years in the US.
Initially, I asked my stockbroker many questions about the counter I was keen to buy, until one day he told me that no one in Singapore asked those kinds of questions.
All I needed to do was to tell him how many lots and at what price.
So it is more sentimental than technical. I find this kind of trading mentality becomes very speculative.
Today, less than 20 per cent of my investment portfolio is in the stock market.
Q: What property do you own?
I have two condominium apartments in the Newton area.
One is 1,345 sq ft, and I bought it for $1.9 million in 2009.
Currently, it is worth about $2.6 million.
The other apartment, which is worth about $2.7 million now, was bought in 2005 for $1.25 million when the market was at a low. It is 1,446 sq ft.
Q: What's the most extravagant thing you have bought?
It has to be a Tibetan Thangka painted by a monk that I bought many years ago from a collector in China.
It was love at first sight; I knew I must have it.
After several tries on my part, he finally agreed to sell it to me. It cost $30,000 but to me it is a priceless artwork.
Q: What's your retirement plan?
I was actually semi-retired until I invested in Envizyme last year and got myself a job as the CEO.
I am thankful that at this stage in my life, I am able to do what I like and do things that are meaningful.
I found out many years ago that life is not just about chasing money.
Knowing what is enough does take a lot of courage and it took me a while to figure that out.
The scary part is to get used to being poorer by the day without really knowing how long I will live.
My aim is to divide how I spend my remaining time into three portions - 50 per cent for my family, 30 per cent for work and 20 per cent for community and charity work.
I do not have plans to fully retire and do nothing.
Time is running out and every second is precious.
I always remind my wife and children that every day they see me is one day less that they can.
Q: Home is now...
The bigger of the two condos that I own.
Q: I drive...
A black Lexus RX300 SUV.