Birth of son spurred big career change

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seems like a lot of childcare business sprouting up..
anyone doing this? how e margin?

and seems like he is not owning any property at the moment, bearish view?

Tuesday, Dec 24, 2013
Rachel Scully
The Straits Times
The birth of his son a year ago made banker Elton Kwek take a good, hard look at his life and make a bold decision, one that meant giving up his high-powered career.

Mr Kwek, 32, knew that his desire to spend more time with Lucas just did not fit with the stress and demands of a job in the financial services field.

"It takes guts to leave a decent paying job to start out on your own as it is stressful to balance the household finances when you are jobless," he recalled.

"But it was something my wife and I agreed on for the sake of our family."

He gave up an annual salary of more than $100,000 and, with a childhood friend, bought a franchise licence to run a childcare and pre-school services centre at Marina Square.

"Getting a franchise was the quickest way to enter the business when you want the money to start rolling in soon or have the specific know-how in the field," he said.

Both partners put in more than $400,000 each into the venture.

While Mr Kwek did not have any experience running a childcare centre, he had discovered a love for children while doing community work.

"As a student, I was trying to clock the required hours as part of the community involvement programme," he said.

"But my mum found me this volunteer opportunity to spend time with children admitted at the National University Hospital and KK Women's and Children's Hospital."

Those experiences and organised visits to old folks' homes reminded Mr Kwek of the importance of being financially empowered.

He lives with wife Johanna, 31, and Lucas, who turned one last week.

Q: Are you a spender or a saver?

While I was still working at a bank, I saved about one-third of my pay. From it, I allocated about 30 per cent to 40 per cent to investments.

But for the last year or so, I am the spender in the family, mainly paying for household expenses.

The one indulgence I still keep is the gym membership that I have been holding since I started working.

Q: How much do you charge to your credit cards every month?

On average, close to $3,000 on groceries, essentials and baby products since my son came along last December. My wife and I have hardly dined out since we became parents.

We cook more often now as it is healthier and we know what goes into the dishes.

Q: What financial planning have you done yourself?

Most of my investments are in equities, including stocks in the energy and manufacturing sectors.

I also hold stakes in real estate investment trusts as they give a relatively higher return.

My parents bought me endowment policies when I was young, but I have been paying for the premiums since I started working. These can be cashed out when I am 45 and will come in handy when paying for my son's tertiary education.

But my largest investment is my stake in this childcare franchise.

My son will enrol in the school in the near future, and this is a win-win situation for me as I will get to spend more time with him while earning a return on my investment.

Q: Money-wise, what were your growing up years like?

I had a comfortable childhood and was blessed that my parents were able to pay for my piano and organ classes.

They gave me about $10 a day when I was in secondary school for my food and transport expenses.

Their style of parenting was the "carrot and stick" approach. So, if you wanted something extra, you had to earn it via good results or behaviour.

Q: How did you get interested in investing?

I grew up watching my mum scrolling through the now-defunct Teletext to check on stock prices.

I was curious why the prices were indicated in different colours - green, white and yellow - and one day decided to ask my mum about it.

That piqued my interest and exposed me to what the stock market was before I eventually opened my Central Depository account when I joined the workforce at 25.

Q: What property do you own?

None at the moment. My wife and I sold our condo unit last year.

Q: What is the most extravagant thing you have bought?

I have a soft spot for computers and other tech gadgets.

However, with the arrival of Lucas, I am more interested in buying a better pram or child car seat.

So cost-wise, the most expensive item would be our honeymoon to Europe in 2010. We spent over $15,000 while on a tour to various cities.

Q: What is your retirement plan?

I don't think I will ever retire as life may get too boring.

But by 60, I hope to take a step back to spend more time with my family - and hopefully, grandchildren.

I intend to keep investing and saving so that I can pass on something to my future generation.

Q: Home is now...

A four-bedder, 10-year-old executive flat in Choa Chu Kang owned by my parents.

Q: I drive...

A Mercedes-Benz which we bought last year for about $169,000 after trading in our previous car.


Q: What is your worst investment to date?

A unit trust and savings plan which I bought some time in 2006 from a friend who was an insurance agent.

It was to invest in various Asian funds, including bonds and property, but the product did not generate the returns I was looking for.

Instead, it incurred all sorts of charges and fees as the fund manager collected a fee even if the fund performed poorly or did not do well.

In 2008, I cut my losses, closed out the policy and lost about $4,000.

From this experience, I learnt the importance of picking the right financial instruments for investments.

Q: And your best?

The matrimonial home my wife and I bought in 2010.

She had been eyeing this new condominium at Poh Huat Road in Yio Chu Kang, which we eventually bought after much deliberation.

It was a 1,238 sq ft, two-bedder unit with a patio.

As I was more conservative, I was resistant to the outlay as this came shortly after the global financial crisis.

In hindsight, I am glad I followed my wife's advice as we reaped a profit of close to $250,000 when we sold it some time between September and October last year.

Marrying a prudent and intelligent wife is the soundest decision I have made.

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