Friday, 24 June 2011

It’s better to start young

Yes, it’s better to start young to me. (But not so young that its child labour!)

The Singapore business times have ran quite an interesting series of articles on young investors in Singapore.

I think it’s a good way to foster “entrepreneurship” and “self-reliant” amongst Singaporeans. Look beyond the usual trodden path of:

Study hard, get good grades, get a job in MNC or Govt, get married, have children, and work for life…

I started “late”. OK, I tell the truth! I am more a late developer (some call it slow. Hey! No labeling!) I started investing in stocks at 32 years young. Bought my first HDB property even younger at 35 ;)

Imagine if had started my investing journey at 25 years old. I now would have 20 years of real battle scars and experience. Not book theories and opinions!

I probably would have failed and lost all my investments at age 35. But so what? I can take (or continue with) a job and claw back by age 45. Now imagine peak earnings power coming together with street smarts? Alas, it’s not meant to be. Past is past. I must look forward.

Just take a simple test if you are in your mid 30s or 40s. Look for your cohorts that bought their first HDB in their 20s. They probably have got 2 bites of the HDB subsidized "cherry” before you bought your first HDB. Who is sleeping on bigger “paper gains” or see it in another way – bought at a cheaper price? (Missed the Singapore Great Sale?)  

Don’t get me wrong. I am not advocating risk-taking for the sake of risk-taking.

But imagine being ultra “conservative” all through life, and at age 55 or 65, when we have “big” money in our hands, we start to invest in “exotics” without full understanding of their true “risk and rewards”:

1) Bank’s structured products (Bank’s advice can’t be wrong!)

2) Synthetic swap-based ETFs (Guru say ETFs safe what?)

3) Land banking

4) Fine wine investing

5) Starting/investing in a new business (I’m on thin ice here)

6) And so on…

By themselves they are no different than any other investments. But imagine doing all the above at age 55 or 65 with the experience of a “newbie”? Won’t the odds of success be greater if we have 20 to 30 years of prior investing experience (both failures and successes)?

Ah! Starting young’s cost of failure is much smaller than later. Fall down from riding a bicycle at 25 or 35 is one thing (bruises and hurt ego the most!); but at 55 or 65… Hospital and Surgical plans anyone?

P.S.  For all the singles out there who can’t afford private housing, I know I know… Must wait till 35, buy resale, and cannot qualify for HDB concession loan… What to do? But life is not about all about money and what’s fair or not. Life is… (This you may have to figure out yourself)


  1. Hi SMOL,

    Haha, I disagree that we should start young :) Money can be earned in the future, but when are we ever gng to find the energy or inclination to do whatever silly things that the youths should do in their prime years?

    I always feel that while financing literacy should be taught as young as possible, but investing/trading should be done at a more mature age. Of course, if you're 20 yrs old and you're super inclined towards such pursuits (because it's fun), then go ahead!

    Go towards the direction where you are most interested, I say!

  2. Love ur blogs. Me a new reader. Keep ur posts and stories coming :)

  3. haha LP, still disagree? its better to make mistake when you are young.

    not only i agree with SMOL but i too started serious trading when i was 31 (now i'm 50). very late. fortunately there is no retire limit for trading and investment.

    all successful professional of any trade start their journey very early don't you agree?

  4. Investing Can Wait

    Before you master First Rule of Finance and the three Cs, investing can wait.

    Read? Financially stupid people are everywhere. Don't be one of them.

  5. "Financially stupid people are everywhere. Don't be one of them."

    after reading it i don't have a clue what this topic is about. maybe i'm financially stupid.

  6. Hi coconut,

    Ya, haha, still disagree :) I think those successful professional are interested in their trade, and not only because they started young. I can find many examples of pple who started late but is immensely interested in the topic of interest, and end up being successful anyway. Of course, the ideal scenario is investing/trading is interesting to them and they started young lah :)

    That's my view of course, you can disagree with me :)

  7. is not that i disagree with you LP, everyone will start when they are comfortable and ready. who to tell them when to start?

    my point is i regret starting late myself haha.

  8. My daughter wanted to invest her little saving. I told her to wait and save up to $30K first.

    Anyone who come to me and I will still say the same thing regardless of their age. It is the size of capital that really matters and may have some room for learning in the battle field.

    The market is War. You can't go to the battle with 2-3 men. Minimum formation in the army is a Section. LOL

  9. What an interesting dialogue!

    1) LP and CW8888,

    I respect your views. My post is a reflection based on our personal experience.

    If someone wants to start young, I would say: "Go for it!"

    If someone wants to start much later, I would say: "Whatever makes you happy!"


    2) Hello Coconut,

    Hey! You are as "young-at-heart" as me! Then you and FAT88Trader belong to the same cohort. Respect qian bei!

    3) Hello anonymous,

    Really appreciate your kind words. I will do my best!

  10. hi CW8888, understand your concern. still its better to lose a few soilder than the entire army. when we start learning, we are sure to lose money no matter how smart we are.

    when we start its the experience that is important, when we becomes a pro, capital is critical.

    i confess that i try to push my 2 teenager to take risk, even to the extent of gambling but they don't seem to have the interest, too bad.

  11. sorry SMOL i forget something important haha...

    the reason why i encourage my 2 kids to invest is not to make money for them. rather it is for them to feel the pain of losing money, thats right.

  12. Spot on the pain of losing money and learning. But it must be so painful that we can remember and learn from it.

    Read? Small retail investors so excited over SCB

  13. pain pain! especially trading with leverage, not even bones are left to be bury.

  14. Nice to read so many financial experts give their views. Good to start young to know what investments are available and to start basics like Uncle 8888 mentioned eg saving, credit card debt to avoid.
    One thing cannot wait though is leveraging on banks to invest in property. Think bank only lend up to max age of 70 yr old unless ultra high net worth. So property investment may have to start early, esp since it goes in cycles too.


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