Yale-NUS Holds First Personal Finances Workshop for Alumni and Students

By Jermayne Ong; Photos by Taesun Shim

On Wednesday, August 28, over 30 Yale-NUS students, alumni and members of the public attended the Personal Finances 101 Workshop organised by the Dean of Students (DOS) Office, the first of its kind in Yale-NUS.

With the goal of equipping students and alumni with tools to better manage their own finances, DOS invited guest speaker Kenneth Lou, the co-founder and CEO of Seedly, to share tips on managing money for young adults.

Seedly is a local fintech startup that aims to help the public make smarter financial decisions. It runs a blog that shares tips on topics ranging from travel insurance plans to managing student debt. Its online community also shares useful information with one another with regards to personal finances.

Kenneth Lou, co-founder and CEO of Seedly, sharing about investments.

During the workshop, which was held at the Tan Chin Tuan Lecture Theatre, Mr Lou, who graduated with a Bachelor of Business Administration from NUS three years ago, focused on three key takeaways: managing cashflow, the insurance young adults really need, and easy ways to get into investing.

Mr Lou spoke about the concept of “paying yourself first”, and advised saving 20% of one’s income, putting aside 50% for personal expenses (including repayment of debts), and investing the remainder.

On the importance of saving and investing, Mr Lou shared, “As Warren Buffett once said, ‘Someone is sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago’.”

He also spoke about the importance of buying the right kind of insurance — for young adults, he recommended health insurance (public hospital) and ‘term life’ life insurance, and discouraged attendees from buying Investment Linked Policy (ILP) insurance.

“Focusing on coverage is the typical working adult strategy if you’re looking to save or invest on your own,” he said, adding that one should look for more coverage in the beginning part of working life.

Mr Lou recommended going on Seedly’s community page to learn more about the best travel insurance packages available in Singapore. The discussion threads on the page are also available on Seedly’s mobile app of the same name that helps track users’ personal expenses.

On the topic of investments, Mr Lou shared a list of guidelines that young adults should follow before starting to invest their money. The checklist included having manageable debt, having “rainy day funds”, or at least six months of monthly committed expenses, and determination to commit to continuous learning – for a period of five to ten years.

According to Mr Lou, the efforts taken to invest pays off, as it helps to lessen the effect of inflation on personal wealth and, most importantly, grow one’s money.

As for the best way for young adults to start investing, Mr Lou recommended dollar cost averaging, which refers to buying a fixed dollar amount of a particular investment regardless of share price, on a regular schedule.

He explained that consistency is key, and dollar cost averaging gives better returns than lump sum management, as it bears lower risks.

“Time in the market is better than timing the market,” quoted Mr Lou.

The workshop was concluded with a session of Q&As with the audience. Some of the questions included managing student debt and buying insurance in a country that one did not intend on staying in long-term.

In answer to these questions, Mr Lou advised clearing student debt before starting to invest, and considering universal insurance, or insurance that offers coverage regardless of one’s country of residence. He also reminded attendees that more information can be found on Seedly’s blog and community threads, and encouraged attendees to peruse them if needed.

Among the workshop attendees was William Hoo, from the Class of 2022. He found the workshop useful, and said that he had wanted to learn more about personal finance, particularly investing, for quite a while prior to attending the workshop.

“It’s good that (Kenneth) covered common knowledge (about personal finances), as not everyone would know about it,” he said.

Alumna Jane Zhang, who graduated in 2019, said that she was glad that the college had organised a personal finances workshop for students. She had chosen to attend as she is about to start a new job, and thought the information shared might be useful for her.

“Investments aren’t something I think about a lot, so it’s good to hear about it and break it down,” she shared. “And I’m inspired to go back and write a budget right now.”

Both William and Jane hope that the College will continue to organise similar workshops, with the former looking forward to workshops that are more specific to investments in the future.

Another of the workshop’s attendees was insurance agent Jeannine, 42, who had learned about the workshop through EventBrite. She was interested in the information that would be shared at the workshop, and wanted to better understand the concerns of young adults in buying insurance plans.

“The workshop gives youngsters a head start, a platform for them to start thinking about insurance,” she added, as it’s easy to get overwhelmed after starting work upon graduation.

She added that she was glad to see such workshops being held, as she had no access to such help when she was still in university.