Straits Times: Sun, Jul 22
Getting his first credit card was the start of a slide into financial disaster that left businessman Simon Goh Chee Kin scratching around trying to rebuild his life.
Mr Goh, 34, who now runs two security companies while also working as a property agent and gold trader, began his descent into his personal fiscal black hole when just 21.
Like many youngsters who suddenly find themselves with a credit card and the promise of all that 'free' money, his spending hit overdrive.
He even applied for four more cards and continued to spend and chalked up debts. Then there was a renovation loan when he got married at 23.
About two years later, Mr Goh, then a policeman, had less than $10 in his wallet and tens of thousand of dollars in debt. No wonder he did not dare appear at his family's reunion dinner.
'I could not face my family and had exhausted the kindness of friends and could not borrow money any more,' he recalls.
'My mum later had to borrow from relatives and friends to help me tide through the tough times.'
But risk is clearly in Mr Goh's blood. He left the police force after 11 years to try his hand at land banking sales as he wanted to 'reach for the sky'.
'Life was difficult. My $2,400 (police) pay was gone the day after I got paid. I wondered how people get to live in condos,' he says.
But the land banking job did not work out so Mr Goh combed the classified ads and landed a security supervisor job at $2,000 a month. He eventually worked his way to a manager's position.
Mr Goh and his wife Sophia Low then sold their HDB flat in Punggol in 2009 - after the five-year minimum occupation period - to clear his $50,000 credit card debt and pay off relatives and friends.
They moved in with her grandmother. They had bought the flat for $196,000 and sold it for $358,000.
Mr Goh left his security job after three years to be a property agent and a gold bullion trader. 'With my limited tertiary education, I would head nowhere unless I could smell opportunities to make it in the business world.'
A diploma holder, he set up Valiant Security Services and Valiant Network around the end of last year.
His wife helps him with his gold bullion trading business. They have two daughters, aged six and eight, and a son, seven months old.
Q: Are you a spender or saver?
I am a spender. Spending will oil the wheels of the economy and bring about greater growth opportunities in all business sectors.
I am a risk-taker and believe that money will beget more money. Where my security business is concerned, I am always willing to spend to build a strong base. I will not cut corners as this will impact the long-term success of my companies and affect their reputation.
To me, an organisation's brand equity is of paramount importance and should not be compromised.
My wife is the saver and controls the purse strings at home. I would also consult with her on major business ventures. She is my Minister of Finance.
Q: How much do you charge to your credit cards every month?
My credit cards were all cancelled except for one. Now, I usually use debit cards and I no longer have any credit card debt.
In a month, I normally chalk up about $3,000.
Q: What financial planning have you done for yourself?
I invest in some US stocks and have bought a lot of insurance. I spend $2,000 a month on premiums for my family's life and health insurance.
Most of my money is now invested in my security companies. I believe my business will help make a difference to the lives of the people who have 'invested' their trust in me. I own 51 per cent of my business and have given my directors shares in it to motivate them.
I have also been a real estate agent for three years now, and have helped others reap handsome profits from buying and selling properties. I am now looking to invest in an office space for my two companies.
I am also a manager/agent for a gold investment company as well, and have traded in gold bullion.
My property job and gold trading gave me what I have today so I don't want to give them up. I have strong teams helping me with both so I just make the critical decisions. In future, I may start a fourth business.
Q: Moneywise, what were your growing-up years like?
My elder sister and I grew up in a three-room HDB flat in Clementi with my parents. My father was a taxi driver who worked long hours to make ends meet. He is now doing Christian missionary work in Thailand.
My mother, who used to be a cook in a kindergarten, was the main caregiver and we drew inspiration from her self-sacrifice and devotion.
My parents struggled to put food on the table and I helped supplement the family income by doing odd jobs during the school holidays and weekends.
Growing up was a struggle and it steeled my resolve to escape from poverty.
Now that I am more comfortable financially, I try to do as much charity work as possible. My company is donating and installing biometric intelligent locks at St Andrew's Autism Centre and will soon be doing this for other old folks' homes and needy families.
In my life, I have had the good fortune of meeting people who have helped me progress and prosper and I have always had a saviour during my darkest hours. I feel this is the right time to 'pay back'.
Q: How did you get interested in investing?
I got interested in investing, particularly in my companies, when I realised that I could do so much more for others. A friend once told me: 'You don't live just for yourself. You also need to live for others.'
To me, they can be ordinary people in the street, my employees, the less fortunate.
With the lucrative returns from my gold bullion trades, I can make my money work harder for me and generate more passive income. I can plough the profits back into my security business, which can provide more job opportunities. I can also embark on more charitable work and improve lives.
Investment is not just about making more money. It is more about how you can use money to turn a bad situation into a more positive one.
It is about making the world a better place to live in, not just for your generation but also for future generations.
Q: What property do you own?
My wife and I own a 1,700 sq ft executive maisonette in Teck Whye Lane. We bought it in 2009 for $385,000 and it is now worth $550,000.
Q: What are the extravagant things you have bought?
Last year, I bought myself a brand new BMW 523i series (Highline model) for $240,000 to reward myself. Each time I get into it, I feel a sense of pride, that I have done well after all those years of hard work. This car also inspires me to work harder and do greater things in life.
When my wife gave birth to a son last December, I surprised her with a $11,000 Rolex watch. It is my way of expressing my gratitude and love to her for standing by me all these years.
Q: What's your retirement plan?
I am still young and will continue to work and grow my business.
Q: Home is now...
The executive maisonette. I am in the midst of looking for a suitable home to upgrade.
Q: I drive...
A black BMW 523i series.
BEST AND WORST BETS
Q: What's your worst investment to date?
In 2009, when I ventured into land banking sales, I invested $30,000 in a plot of land in Canada and lost all of it.
My advice is that one should never invest in anything unfamiliar.
I got taken in by the sleek marketing. The firm had remortgaged the land out to banks and then used the money to buy more land. When it ran into financial crisis, it couldn't develop the land.
I also invested $10,000 in getting a degree, only to realise that it was a scam.
When I signed up, the school here sent me a letter with Australia's RMIT University letterhead.
But I found out later that it did not get RMIT to certify the course here.
I have always wanted to upgrade myself as I do not have a degree.
But I also tell myself that to be successful, you don't need a degree. To have a degree means you have to work for people.
So for me, I employ people with degrees to work for me.
Q: And your best investment to date?
I have since made close to a million from trading in gold bullion.
I started by buying 100g for about $7,000 in late 2009. I was a trader and would use my commissions to buy more.
Money begets more money
'I am a risk-taker and believe that money will beget more money. Where my security business is concerned, I am always willing to spend to build a strong base. I will not cut corners as this will impact the long-term success of my companies and affect their reputation. To me, an organisation's brand equity is of paramount importance and should not be compromised.
MR SIMON GOH CHEE KIN (left, with his family), 34, who runs Valiant Security Services and Valiant Network. He is seen here with wife Sophia, daughters Avline and Andrea (right), and son Aden. Mr Goh was once mired in tens of thousands of dollars in credit card debt. Now, he runs two security companies and works as a property agent and gold trader.
Martin Koh | 86666 944 | R020968Z
Sherry Tang | 9844 4400 | R020241C
Senior Sales Director
DTZ Debenham Tie Leung (SEA) Pte Ltd (L3006301G)
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