Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Reflections: Money, Money, Money

As I have promised to post reflections - also to pour out my mind and forget them - and move on with a new life. Now, is towards the end of the year and is time to throw everything out and start a new 2010.

It was one sunny day when I was in my Dad's car at the front passenger seat. As I put on the seat belt, I jumped with excitement and asked Dad to quickly ignite the car and go for a ride. My Dad drew a smile and obliged. "Next time I want a Mercedes, ya.." My Dad will smile again, "Ya, ya... when I strike lottery I will buy one." I was only 3 or 4 years old.

First lesson of money: You can be rich by striking lottery.

Not knowing the family financial situation and being always pampered as the only child in the family, I have always asked for many things in life - toys and books, then the things I wanted got bigger bicycle, motorcycle and then camera, PDA... and now, a big bungalow, a Mercedes C200K, a large collection of Chinese tea, a horse, a yacht, luxury holidays.

Auntie Lena, who brought me up since my parents divorced, was a really good saver. She knew of my Dad's financial situation to try make ends meet and therefore always asked me to save and never try to buy anything extra than needed. Clothes were handed down from my elder cousins so I do not need new clothes.

I remembered throwing tantrum one day before Chinese New Year. I scolded my Dad for always asking if I have studied hard but never asked if I have clothes or things I wanted. Sorry, Dad. I didn't know the situation. My Dad kept quiet as I scolded and cried telling about my feelings. I bet it hurt him, too.

He has been working very very hard as a musician and when karaoke stormed the market, being a band boy was no more the "in" thing. He also study part time to eventually graduate as a Chinese Physician from Guangzhou University, China. Juggling unpredicted job as a musician with no fixed salary, more part time jobs here and there and even studying - I realized now it must be tough for him. Yet, he still fed me through Auntie Lena. It must have difficult for him to take it - a child longing for his love and some material things scolding him in front of whole family when not understanding his financial situation.

Auntie Lena and all other aunties will each buy one set of new clothes for me when Chinese New Year arrives. So, for years I have new sets of clothes to wear, all from my aunts.

Second lesson: Throw tantrum or cry when you need what you want

Auntie Lena's husband, Uncle Phillip was a very quiet man with few words. He worked as a clerk in a school and now retired with pension. He has taught me the first ABC and I still remember how he drew a table with vowels on top row, neatly arranging a, e, i, o and u on each column and all consonants at the first column on the left. He will then write the combination of the vowels and consonants.... as A column meets B row - it is BA and he will teach me how to pronounce that BAaaa - baa baaa black sheep have you any wool~~. From there I learn my first Malay pronunciation. I grew to like Malay more than English in school.

As the income for a clerk was not high, Auntie Lena worked at a restaurant in the morning to make ends meet. She has a son, Colin and she became guardians for my another cousin, Kok Wai and I. So I grew up with two brothers - forgive my manners and graces if they are rated zero.

At times, I suspect that the money is not enough - Auntie Lena will always lament to say that her legs are pain due to constantly standing in the restaurant and how she has exhausted herself just to make more money for the family. Sometimes the family will also have heated arguments about money but as I was young and could not understand, I seldom participate.

I planted a seed in my mind at that time - I want to make a lot of money.

Lesson 3: No money = argumentsWhen I am older, Auntie Lena slowly taught me to manage my money. She will give me daily allowance so I can buy food in school. Then slowly, weekly allowance and then monthly allowance. Most of the time, I will finish spending the money by mid of the month. I am in the spender quadrant.

"Save your money," Auntie Lena always shouted. "Jimatlah wang untuk masa depan," at school we learn. Yet, my nature - a spender - heard no words such as save or jimat.

Then, in school, my friends and I will talk among ourselves. We were convinced that if you open up your palm, hold your fingers together and bend outwards and if the gap in between your index and middle fingers is big, then you are unlikely to preserve money because money flows through that hole. That very gap in my palm is a big one. Confirmed spender!

Lesson 4: Understanding myself - spender (or now, we always call ourselves the freaking spenders!)

Auntie Lena's words were strong on me....

When you are a committee member in any organizations, NEVER hold the position of a treasurer. If money is lost - how are you going to make up for it?

At school, I have a few rich schoolmates. They have drivers to fetch them to school and I was very close to two - always with them and at times take free rides in their luxury cars.

Auntie Lena will warn, "Don't be so close with them... if one day they have missing money, they will blame you."

Lesson 5: DO NOT associate with money and rich people

All the time we will have the age-old advice - Study hard, get good grades and then get a good job so you make more money. Uncle Phillip has nieces and nephews who are engineers, lawyers and doctor, Chew family has none. Auntie Lena will cry to say we will not be successful.

Lesson 6: Higher position - more money, more success

It was in college that I encountered the book "Rich Dad, Poor Dad" and it took me almost 5 years to change my mindset about money. The more Robert Kiyosaki's books I read, the more I confirm that the lessons I have learnt about money so far are all not true.

I have read, attended classes, read more books and all theory was set in me. I took the first bold step to act instead of just passively learn about money. In 2004, I started investing in shares and learn about shares investment. Then I sold all my shares to buy my first property.

As I bought the property and announced it at family dinner - true enough negative comments poured in. It was already anticipated as Robert Kiyosaki mentioned that free advice is the most dangerous advice.

I still remember very clearly my 4th uncle said that so many people had bad experience with tenants, tenants will spoil the house and you will never get the rental on time. I refuted to say I will still buy this house and confident that what I have learnt will help me manage better.

I have read Azizi Ali's books, attended his classes and get to know about being Millionaire Landlord (one of his book titles). My 4th uncle still claim victory by saying, "GO ahead and try... you will see! You will definitely fail..."

Since I bought the first property in 2006, I only had ONE tenant who is now entering the third year of our rental agreement. Sirilah Raman, an Indian lady cleans the house and takes care of it really very well. She will bank in rental before 28th of every month because RM50 discount is given if you pay rental before 1st of every month - all except one month she was late because she was hospitalized.

Sometimes when I pay maintenance fees for the apartment, I will also pay her water bill. She will also pay my Indah Water bills which I was supposed to pay. We are friends on facebook and we can beer together at times.

My second property, though the tenant did not normally pay on time but he did not owe rental more than 2 months. I will gain extra RM50 per month for his late payments anyway.

First IMPORTANT lesson: DO NOT listen to someone who have not tried doing the things you want to do

As I wanted to buy my third property, my Dad will caution that I am going to fast in investing properties. Too fast? I only have 2 apartments in 3 years! Too fast?

Naturally, I think you will know what I do - ignore mode: ON. I took me some time to think that it is alright to sometimes not listen to elders. You know our culture, we always listen to the elders - what they say is always right. But not in the case of money.

My mom on the other hand, is a risk taker. She is a businesswoman so she will be attempting and trying businesses. My step sister grew up with her and mom already start "grooming" her business skills by encouraging her join a multi-level marketing business at age of 18. My mom then allow her to fully manage the reflexology center that she owns. My third apartment, my mom puts under my sister's name - further teaching her property investment. I really want to see my sister learn the path of street smart, risk taking ways and be smart with money. She must really appreciate what my mom is doing.

Second IMPORTANT lesson: It is OK and ALRIGHT to take risks at times. Only two things can happen when you take risks - you success or you learn.

I figured that in all investments, knowledge is utmost important. I have chosen my vehicle to build my finances - property so I have learnt all the ABC about buying in auctions, renting out and manage as a landlord, refinancing to get money out for more investments.... (not that I am boasting about learning all - I said I learnt all the ABC but not the XYZ yet). There are more to learn.

I attended Millionaire Mind Intensive(MMI) for 2 consecutive years and T. Harv Eker has taught me the most important lessons about money. It really has uprooted all my negativities about money and look at money in a larger scale.

If I have not developed the love of education and learning, I will not be where I am today. I still remember attending free previews and looking at RM5xxx to RM20xxx price tags for courses but I learnt many things from free previews alone. I attended many free previews even as a student in college.

Subsequently, I attended RMxxx courses and this year I attended RMx,xxx courses till I spent more than half my annual salary for courses alone.

Lesson 3: Learning is Important - CHOOSE the course you want to learn and have specialized knowledge in that topic before investing( would also add that - shun those courses which may not climb you the ladder of your goal - FOCUS on the subject you want - I figured that I spent too much money and in the end did not focus so this year my focus was on marketing and internet marketing )

Surprisingly, this year I fell into the trap of credit cards. I have cut all cards except one. I have over swiped on my card with RM7,000 in red but just adjusted to RM5,000, had another RM7,800 in education debts (took the Napoleon Hill certified trainer course) and finishing my car loan - another RM1,200 but sent my car to repair - a huge sum of RM5,000.
My target is to have zero bad debts by the end of 2009. Yet, bad debts is what I got. So the Law of Attraction says - you will attract everything you think of whether you want it or not. You bet what I will write in my resolution for year 2010. :)

I still have cash in my financial freedom account which I planned to only spend for investments. However, I guess this year I should finish 2009 with a clean sheet. I do not need to worry about money. Money will come and I will completely erase all bad debts by 23rd December 2009, I am very sure of that.

I will start 2010 with a new fresh year with positive financial statement.

Lesson 4: DISCIPLINE is utmost important in keeping the finance in strong state. CONSISTENCY is the brother, PERSISTENCY is the sister... :)

Monday, November 2, 2009

Reflections: Why I Serve Others?

I think I did deep reflections on why I serve others more than taking care of myself. I always wonder why people say that "If you do not know how to love yourself, you will not be able to love others." For me, I thought serving others means loving them. I love others therefore I serve. Yet, I knew that I did not love myself enough - I had no time for myself, no health, no money (or little money), no life. But I still can serve and I thought that I loved people much therefore I serve much. I thought that - if you cant do A, then you won't be able to do B - so if I can do B, then A will handle itself!

It was only this year that I discovered that I have not really loved myself enough for the past 29 years. Serving others seem to be an alternative for me to express love, fear, gain freedom and even recognition. Dr. Napoleon Hill, author of Think and Grow Rich mentioned that there are 10 basic motives of human.
  1. desire for self-preservation
  2. emotion of love
  3. emotion of fear
  4. emotion of sex
  5. desire for life after death
  6. desire for freedom of body and mind
  7. desire for revenge
  8. emotion of hate
  9. desire for self-expression and recognition
  10. desire for material gain
All in all, 9th basic motive - desire for self-expression and recognition has made much sense in my life.
The main reason why I serve others was because I came from a broken family - I figured. Having a pair of divorced parents and a strict disciplinarian aunt as my guardian. I figured that I have to seek externally for love. Having good friends and teachers around me was great and their opinions were seek first before I do anything. At home, no one I can talk to regarding my personal problems. My family wanted me to focus on my studies so if I can talk about studies, then it is a conversation. Other than that, I seek opinions from friends and teachers.
  • This explains my extrovert nature because I seek externally rather than internally.
  • This explains my very unique behaviours, talkative nature and always naughty - I wanted to express and those are ways to do it and I wanted the recognition. 9th basic motive.
  • This explains why I always love to be outside rather than at home - but this year I have stayed home more than any years before this. I redecorated my living room and bedroom with the main purpose to stay home more.
  • This also explain why I needed words of reaffirmations most of the time and easily influenced by others. I also needed approvals by others. I can tell myself I can do it hundreds of times before I believe I really can do it but it takes only 2-3 people to say that I can do it and I start believing it's true.
  • This explains my nature to argue and finds arguments an art - again 9th basic motive - I want to express, recognized and feel cool to win an argument. At times it was just because I wanted to win. I believe this year I have toned down a lot.
The second reason why I serve, I figured was because of my aunt. So much so my aunt will be disciplinarian and not many conversations to talk about, her words were the most powerful coupled with emotions. I saw her one day in her room. Tears were rolling down her cheeks. She lamented "Our Chew family will never be successful! Look at uncle's (her husband) family - engineers, lawyers, doctors - Chew family has none." My cousins were not very successful but lead a good life enough.

Her words coupled with strong emotions at that time has planted a seed in my mind. "I want to see cry again but this time it will be because we are successful," I told myself.
  • This explains why I tried to gain positions in many many organizations - and I really proved myself worthy of those positions, not just holding on to them. Positions which I think I could not contribute - I resign very soon.
  • This explains why I love recognitions - 2006 Selangor Youth Award, 2008 Great Women of Our Time Award - both these awards, when brought to my aunt, she cried with joy in her eyes. I DID IT!
  • This explains why I want to do things in proper ways - I figured successful people always do things the "right" way - which also explains my kiasi (afraid to die) and kiasu (afraid to lose). I can't fail - I must be successful to prove it to my aunt.
  • This explains why I seek knowledge - successful people are always very knowledgeable. My highly inquisitive mind makes me learn and learn and learn and never tired of it. This year I have spent close to RM10,000 just to attend courses.
  • This explains why I always seek perfections - which has put a lot of pressure and stress to myself till I learnt to relax and understand is OK to be imperfect. We are human anyway.
  • This also explains why I serve people - it is because successful people will serve people. In fact, again and again people say "Once I am successful, I will serve others." "Now is not the time yet, I must be successful before serving." "I want to make money first then only join all these NGOs" - so if I can serve, it could be a sense of achievement as if I am already successful.
All combined, it explained why I even risked my life to save a dying 13-year old girl.
  • I wanted to save a life even if a person not a family member (seeking love externally) because I really love a human kind, not just because he or she is a family member. I thought that if I can love others enough, I will gain love myself
  • I deeply feel for the little girl and wanted to give her a lease of life
  • Self-expression -I wanted to express my opinions about organ donation and spread the words so more people will pledge organs, and walking the talk is surely a way to do it
  • I have never expected the news became a hit with multiple newspaper report, magazines interviews and various media - these "recognitions" has encouraged me to further push organ donation awareness campaigns.
It is because this year I have stopped joining more NGOs and resigned from many, I can have the time for myself to reflect on the many WHYs in my life.

So let me rectify things and slowly turn into, hopefully, a better person. I appreciate that I am still breathing for me to rectify my life, that I have met my editor Mahani Zubedy for digging me out, appreciate a lot for being able to do what I want to do - writing a book and having the strengths to continue on things I am doing.

No words can be enough to explain thoroughly why I serve but sufficient to have 2 main reasons.