In our Dare to Dream series, we invite 12 inspiring individuals who have courageously stepped out of their comfort zones to dream about a future they can truly call their own.
Having started ‘The Financial Coconut’, Singapore’s first financial literacy podcast, Reggie is no stranger to all things finance. Growing up, the thirty-year-old describes himself as the “kid who had a never ending stream of questions”, so it’s no surprise that Reggie loves his job as a podcaster!
Despite being at the helm of one of the most popular financial podcasts in Singapore, Reggie is quick to admit that he didn’t always have the healthiest relationship with money. In fact, it was quite the opposite!
In this interview, we talk to Reggie about his journey to financial health, the common financial mistakes he sees, and some of his top tips for those looking to start the process of investing and saving.
How did you wind up doing what you are doing today?
So, to give a bit of an introduction, I am Reggie from the Financial Coconut podcast. We’re more than a podcast, but really a financial media company and our aim is to create new things with more insights and answer questions out there surrounding financial health. I guess that kind of also sums up why I started doing what I do. Basically, I had so many questions that I wanted answered. I was also just irritated with all the quick-fix “miracle” pill advice that was out there.
At that point of time, I had just moved to KL (this was pre-Covid, sometime in 2018-2019). While I was staying there, I had a lot more bandwidth and time – I was essentially chilling. So, I decided to start recording my thoughts, put it on the web, and see if it would work out somehow.
Admittedly, I was pretty lucky because at that point, there was already an organised community in Singapore (thanks to certain companies such as Dollars and Sense, etc). It would have been much harder to start something if there wasn’t something already established, so I’m extremely thankful for their efforts in paving the way.
Naturally, since I started, there’s been a lot of evolving and growing in regard to the company. There’s a world of difference between what I started and where the company is now.
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As a financial “coach” of sorts, do you take your own advice?
Yes, I would say I do practice what I preach BUT I do struggle at times. Most of the time, there are certain principles that I anchor myself on but that doesn’t mean I’m not shaken from time to time. When I get new information, I do question my original thesis. When I feel emotional, fundamental principles can sometimes go out the door.
It’s really like anything else you’re trying to pursue. For example, when trying to get fit or healthy, the core idea is to eat well and exercise. It’s the same idea. When it comes to managing professional finances, the fundamentals are things like covering your bases, understanding your needs and the mediums needed to achieve them etc. The core ideas are there and I do practice them, but, at times, they are definitely hard to follow.
So, I totally get it when people talk about how they struggle to eat well, control impulses, save money for the week. I mean, I practice what I preach but at the end of the day, I’m human too.
What are the most common financial mistakes you’ve noticed or seen?
Within the community, I do see a lot of people trying to invest and trying to do so in a rush. That definitely is a cause of concern for me. Service providers out there capitalize on starting early, compounding, and I totally get it. From a mathematical angle, it works. From a human learning angle, though, there’s a lot more to learn.
It’s true that the earlier you start, the more things compound and such. The reality and science is there. At the same time, one common mistake I see is that individuals harp on ideas and rush into them rather than taking a step back and reflecting about what their goals are, how markets move, and the like.
It takes a lot more work trying to learn about these things and to get yourself in a better “psyche” than to “just to do it”. Of course, there are mistakes related to the overspending of credit cards and whatnot. Surprisingly, though, there really aren’t that many and they’re in a minority. That being said, there’s no shame if you struggle with that.. It’s just something you have to work through and it is what it is.
Is there any setback that you’ve learned from, that has led you to where you are today?
There are so, so many – uncountable! I’m one of those people who likes to push the boundaries. I was that kid in class who asked “why” to the point where teachers would tell me to stop. I vividly remember that being the case from primary school days all the way to when I was in the army! When people couldn’t answer, they would flare up at me. In the process of pushing boundaries, however, there’s naturally lots of pain. I lost many friends. I even took part in a financial scam. I didn’t intend to scam others, there’s a psyche-bias and a large part didn’t want it to be a scam.
I’ve faced lots of setbacks. I dropped out of University and took a path that not many in my social circle took. I’m admittedly a serial failed entrepreneur (TFC is my biggest success so hopefully, that can keep going). All that, however, has led me to where I am today. I mean, who asks a lot of questions? It’s the individuals who are out of the system, the ones stretching the system. If you’re well within the narrative, why would you question?
What does your dream future look like?
So, not sure many know but I’m currently in Georgia. The food isn’t as amazing as what the bloggers make it out to me (Lesson learnt: never trust a non-Asian food blogger). Other than that, though, life here is interesting.
My dream future would probably look very much like me living on a hill, not too far from the town centre. By that, I don’t mean Orchard Road, but more like town hall, markets etc. In other words, the tranquility and quietness that comes from living up on a hill. Honestly, it’s not very expensive to live that kind of a life.
I also want to continue doing what I’m doing – interviewing people. Hopefully, I’ll be able to interview some of the biggest names out there at some point.
What’s a habit, belief or behaviour that has positively impacted your life in recent years?
Truth is, I’m still figuring out a lot of these habits. I’m quite sporadic as an individual which isn’t always great as I go through lots of cycles and changes. One habit, though, that I think has changed from before is my clarity of what I know, what I don’t know, what I think I know, and what I have absolutely no clue about. This kind of clarity gave me a lot more comfort to recognise where I am and let my team know where I am as well so they can come and help.
Let’s be real: we won’t share everything with everyone but the ability to be comfortable enough to share that I’m struggling with a select few, has definitely changed my life.
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What advice do you wish you had been given earlier?
I wish my family and society would have told me that I’m a peasant. (laughs) Jokes aside, I firmly believe this is important. I think there’s this narrative in the media and society where we don’t like to be told that we have class differences. To me, that’s just arbitrary and unhealthy. The earlier you know where you are and where you’re starting from, the easier it is to play the game. If I knew early on that I came from a struggling family, and that I was a “peasant” child, I could have played the game better.
There are a lot of people out there who talk about the fulfillment of life and doing what you love – but honestly, a lot of them are relatively privileged. A lot of those people leading the conversation come from a privileged background and share what works for them because of what they already have. That doesn’t, however, help those that don’t come from such a background and are still trying to figure things out. This is also the best advice I can give others – you want to know who you are and where you stand. Different parts of society have different games to play.
Where does your concept of money come from and how do you think that has impacted your relationship with finances?
For a very long time, I had a very unhealthy relationship with money. As mentioned earlier, I had multiple venture failures, didn’t come from a wealthy family, took part in a financial scam, etc. Even when I did have some money after all that, I didn’t spend it as I had financial anxiety. Even growing up, I didn’t have a very serious concept of money. I was surrounded by individuals who looked at money as a very emotional tool; individuals who didn’t have answers for me when it came to money.
I guess things started to change when I started to change my relationship with myself. I reached a point where I gathered enough money to take a break. With that bandwidth and space to think, my concept of money started to change. I thought about my needs, my dreams, and how I could go about achieving those. I started to let go of the need to be so emotional when it came to money. Rather, I started to see money as a tool in this game of life. Just like any other game out there, it’s really just a tool that helps you achieve what you want to achieve.
I would encourage people to focus on what they want to achieve. Many people think about personal finance without focusing on the “personal” part – what are your goals, where do you stand in society, etc. That’s just as important as the “finance” part.
What do you find most complex about money?
Definitely the emotional relationship that individuals have with money. For example, a lot of people starting out in personal finance tend to build an attachment between how the cost of something and how many hours of work it would take to “buy that” (ie. a macbook at $2000 would cost 20 hours of work). If you think about it, though, this is just drawing a bridge between money and a tangible life you live but it only focuses on the negative aspects of work. It only accentuates the shitty part of work and creates emotional disdain. It creates a reason for not to spend by harnessing all the pain it takes to get there.
That’s, I guess, part of the “plan”, to create that wall and barrier so you don’t “anyhow spend”. But, this can get complicated and isn’t always beneficial. When you have accumulated a lot of wealth and start investing a lot more, these emotions can impede your ability to make judgments. The emotional attachment to money definitely becomes a problem when you start to make more money. I really think this is a complicated and complex issue when it comes to money – I don’t hear anybody talking about this in the content market.
What are little steps our audience can take today to move towards their dream future?
The first thing you probably should do is wake up from the dream. A lot of people do dream building and envisioning of their dream future. That’s all fair but you must stop dreaming when you’re trying to get there. You must be real. You must think about what you need to do, what you need to sacrifice, what the habits and practices you need to put in place in order to achieve that kind of dream.
When I tell my listeners about setting goals and themes for the year, I tell them to also focus on the process – as much as the dream. For example, if your goal is to buy a certain something or create an investment, break it down and start the process. When you become more efficient with the process, the dream will “happen”, as cliche as it sounds. If you keep looking at the goals without thinking or taking action, nothing is going to happen.
Set that goal. Focus on the process. Do it bit by bit. There’s no miracle pill but you’ll eventually get there.
Follow Reggie’s #DaretoDream journey on our socials. This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity. Enjoyed this article? Take your little step today – write your dream pledge card for 2022 here.