I like this lady! She has the guts to sink in $150,000 and strike out on her own, plus she shares my view that cars are simply too expensive on this little red dot!
The Straits Times Oct 30, 2011 me & my money Healthy finances through pilates Avid saver says the money she put away gave her confidence and courage to open her fitness studio
By Joyce Teo
Candice Chin took less than a year to decide that she wanted to start her own business. She had a marketing job at SingTel but wanted a change. She started teaching pilates, found that it could be a viable business and plunged in.
Two years ago, when she was 29, she invested more than $150,000 - mostly her own savings - to start Pilates Fitness Studio. She employs four full-time staff members and a few freelance instructors.
'I could either use that money to buy a car, put down a deposit for an apartment or build a business. The latter seems more exciting and offers immediate returns," says Ms Chin, who is single.
'As I am young and had everything I needed at that point in my life, the worst that could happen to me was for me to sell the company and find another job.'
Having her own business allows her to put her ideas to work - something she relishes. 'My biggest source of satisfaction stems from creating new revenue streams from existing products.
'But working in corporations stifled my creativity. As I climbed the corporate ladder, I felt that I was spending more time managing egos than ensuring profits for the company.'
The computing science graduate from the National University of Singapore has been taking pilates classes since she was 24. She got a whiff of running her own business during her short freelance stint when she made cold calls, wrote to corporations, tapped her contacts to get jobs as well as sourced for space to hold the classes.
'But I didn't want to be just teaching. The business side is also fun.'
Q: Are you a spender or saver?
I am a saver. The easiest way to save is to view savings as part of my expenditure - I will only spend after I have saved a minimum amount each month. I saved a lot when I was working for Optus in Sydney about five years ago.
I do indulge in designer bags and watches. I am willing to part with thousands for a leather bag that can last a lifetime, but I won't pay more than $200 for a canvas bag even if it is a brand name.
Q: What is your general approach to money and savings?
I strongly believe that one should never spend more than what one earns. It is a matter of finding contentment rather than chasing after what society thinks you should possess at a certain age.
When I quit my stable, well-paying job to start out on my own, I cut more than half of my expenses as I was not sure if my venture would make it. Strangely, I got by pretty well.
I learnt two important lessons during that period - first, everyone should save for a rainy day because you never know when you will need the money. Second, cutting down on your expenses does not mean that you will not be able to enjoy life. I am glad I had saved throughout my career as the money gave me the confidence and courage to pursue my dreams and make it a reality.
As a rule of thumb, I save 30 per cent of my monthly income, invest 10 per cent and spend the rest. If I overspend in a certain month, I would save more the following month to make up for it. I pay off all my bills as I dislike the idea of having a loan.
I charge about $3,000 to $4,000 to my credit cards every month. It's a mix of business and personal expenses.
Q: What financial planning have you done for yourself?
I have term policies that cover hospitalisation, critical illness and permanent disability amounting to $1 million.
When I worked in Sydney, I left my Aussie dollars in the bank because of the high interest rate. The Aussie dollar has since appreciated against the Singapore dollar.
I co-own my five-room HDB flat with my parents and have been looking to buy another property.
I have invested mainly in blue chips such as SingTel and StarHub and funds via dollar cost averaging since 2006. I am a risk-averse long-term investor and find that this is a safer way to invest as the highs and the lows will even out to give me a stable profit margin over time.
I leave it to my planner to recommend the funds but I check on them regularly to ensure that I am making money.
I aim for annual returns of 6 to 10 per cent.
Q: Moneywise, what were your growing-up years like?
My dad used to run a video rental and stationery shop and we lived in a three-room HDB flat. I have a younger sister. Life was comfortable.
I spent a lot of time in the shop helping my parents and learnt about the sacrifices one has to make to earn a living. There, I also developed my business intuition and negotiating skills. I watched how others bargained and how my parents turned a negative situation into a business opportunity - it's a key survival skill in today's business environment.
My parents retired about 10 years ago. Although I had an unlimited supply of stationery when I was young, they always made me exchange a used item for a new one.
I dislike the idea of owing anyone anything. I started working one month after graduation and aimed to finish paying off my university loan as soon as I could. I took up three tuition jobs on top of my regular job and paid up 80 per cent of the loan in 18 months. I went on a trip to Europe after the loan was cleared. It was one of the best trips I ever had.
Q: How did you get interested in investing?
I believe investing is a smarter way to make money. You just can't leave it in the banks here. My first stock was given to me by SingTel as part of my top performer bonus. On my own, I first bought some funds through my best friend's sister.
Q: What property do you own?
I co-own a five-room HDB flat with my parents. We bought it for $260,000 10 years ago and it is now valued at about $480,000.
Q: What's the most extravagant thing you have bought?
A Bulgari watch that cost about $5,000. I have no regrets as I wear it every day. I set aside $10,000 for holidays every year but since starting Pilates Fitness, I have travelled less.
Q: What's your retirement plan?
I'm contented with a comfortable lifestyle that allows me to enjoy life's little pleasures - eating good but not necessarily expensive food and travelling frequently. I think I will need at least $5,000 a month to continue with my current lifestyle.
Q: Home is now...
The flat in Sengkang.
Q: I drive...
Owning a car is at the bottom of my to-buy-list. I think we are paying ridiculous sums of money for cars here.
WORST AND BEST BETS
Q: What's your worst investment to date?
One of the European trust funds that I bought dipped almost 30 per cent. I held it for two years and sold it at a loss of $1,500.
Q: And your best?
Pilates Fitness. I earned back my previous salary in the third month after I left my stable job as covering marketing director at SingTel.
It feels good that my ideas work and I can pay myself, provide employment and at the same time, help others to achieve a healthy lifestyle.