Personal Story Of Tan Chin Yu | Making Life Changing Decisions

As we go through life, change is one thing that remains constant. However, this does not mean that making any changes to your life is easy, especially when it involves relocation of your family, career change, and following your passion.

Join us in this discussion as Chin Yu, Client Adviser at Providend, shares more on his life changing decisions and how he uses his experience to help guide his clients along their journey.


Video Transcription:

Chris Hello Chin Yu, thank you very much for joining us for this interview to share a little bit about yourself to everyone that is watching this video. Now, as a start, maybe you’d like to talk a little bit about what you do at Providend.

Chin Yu I’m a Client Adviser at Providend. And I help clients work through their most important goals, then help to plan out how we can best enable them.

Chris So maybe you’d like to share with us a little bit about your, you know, career history, the journey that you have taken, and actually, you know, what made you join this industry which is pretty new for you, right? So maybe you can share with us, you know, this whole entire journey of finally transiting from somewhere that you are so comfortable with to a place whereby, yeah, totally unfamiliar in the past.

Chin Yu Okay, so this is actually quite a long story. I graduated in 2010 from NTU Materials Science and Engineering. And I graduated with First-Class Honours and Valedictorian of the cohort. So I thought that I did quite well study-wise. But I actually did not have a very clear idea about what I wanted to do at that time. Mostly what went on in my mind was, “I have a good degree and I should be trying to maximise my career prospects and earning while balancing my own personal interests to a certain extent”.

Then I came across Singapore Airlines, which a friend told me about. So I applied for the Engineering Specialist role. But they also shared with me a generalist track, which you will get exposed to a range of different roles across the company. So I thought that was quite interesting and I’m always keen to expand my scope of knowledge. So I took up that track.

So in terms of my career history, my first thing was in revenue management. And my job was basically to do a lot of data analysis of historical passenger demands, revenue, forecasting the future demand as well. So we can optimise the various ticket prices that is sold to the market.

Chris SIA was your first job?

Chin Yu Yes.

Chris Your first job. Okay.

Chin Yu Yeah.

Chris Okay, sorry. So you were talking about revenue and all that. That was what you were in charge of?

Chin Yu Correct. Correct. So I thought that was quite interesting. A lot of numbers. You try to forecast. Basically, you know, your airline prices go up and down, that’s basically what I was doing at SIA. So I’m a numbers person. And I thought the role suited me very well. Spent 2 years there. And I think that shaped a lot of my interest and skill set in terms of the numerical analysis portion of financial planning.

So after that 2 years, I applied for what we call The Overseas Manager Scheme, where you have to put your hand up, go through an interview to be placed overseas with the aim to become an overseas General Manager or VP. So I got accepted into the pool. But I still needed to get experience in Head Office. So they placed me next in an internal audit, which was quite useful to learn the ins and outs of how everything works in SIA. Because the airline is actually quite a complicated business. So you need to get as much exposure across everything as possible. You know, from finance, PR, marketing, sales, operations, services, H.R., especially if you want to become a GM.

So halfway through my time with internal audit, actually H.R. contacted me to say they’ve shortlisted me, together with 3 other candidates, to go for an interview with CEO for a Staff Assistant position. Basically, it is a position to serve the Chairman and CEO. So this is quite a rare opportunity for me. As you get exposure at a very Senior and Board level while you also get the visibility in a large organisation like SIA. At the time, there were actually 2 Staff Assistant roles, 1 for SIA, 1 for Tiger Airways. So I got the role–

Chris Who was the CEO then when you went for the interview with?

Chin Yu The CEO?

Chris Yeah, at that time.

Chin Yu CEO was Choon Phong. Goh Choon Phong. But I didn’t get the SIA Staff Assistant role. I get the Tiger Airways one. Yeah, so, Tiger Airways, the Chairman at the time was Mr. J. Y. Pillay.

Chris Right. Right.

Chin Yu So he was also the Ex-Chairman or Managing Director of SIA, GIC, MAS, I think SGX, DBS. And he was actually also the Chairman of the Council of Presidential Advisers of Singapore at the time. So basically, he was the acting president. So it was a very, very big honour and privilege for me to be working directly under him.

Chin Yu Sorry.

Chris Probably a better deal than being accepted by SIA.

Chin Yu Yeah, it’s very– It’s really a very, very rare opportunity. I mean, there’re pros and cons for each. But for someone like him, you get to see how he works, in certain ways. But even the CEO at that time, Peng Yeng, I thought he was a very, very smart man. Now, my CEO is also a very smart man. But I thought that I learnt a lot from all of them.

Chris For a while, I wasn’t sure who you were talking about. Thanks for that. So actually now we can ask you to predict the price next year for SIA fares.

Chin Yu No, that’s not something I can do anymore. In fact, that time was predicting demands so I know what to charge passengers.

Chris So, it seems like, you know, you had a pretty illustrious career. I mean, at least during that period before you left and joined us. I mean, SIA, it’s a very well-known company, you know, good company. Of course, unfortunately because of this Covid-19, you know, now it’s going through tough times.

I mean, people who have got a long history in SIA, good job, probably good pay, good benefits, wouldn’t be thinking about leaving, right? So actually, what made you decided or what made you even thought about leaving, you know, and venture into something that’s totally new?

Chin Yu Yeah. So the– My whole career was very long. So after that, basically, I went to Jakarta, went to Canberra, went to Sydney. So in total, I spent about 9 years in SIA. Canberra was the one that I thought was quite, quite interesting. Basically, they threw me in the deep end. I was there with 2 temporary staff. I needed to set up the operations. I mean I have a team supporting me but I had to set up operations, I need to build up the team, I had to build up the office from scratch. Turn the– From a domestic operation airport to become something that’s ready for international. So that was quite tough, but quite rewarding in a sense as well.

So why I choose to move? It’s got to do with more on the personal side of my story. So basically, I started learning about personal finance after I earned my first pay cheque. And of course, along the way, there’re a lot of financial salespeople who are very keen to speak to you. And I’m someone who’ll always like to ask questions. What’s the basis for this? Why do you say that? Is there something that you’re not telling me? Or is there something that actually you don’t even know yourself? So after speaking to them, I would go back and forth and do tons and tons of research to validate my decisions.

Chris So all the financial salespeople don’t want to talk to you

Chin Yu Yeah, I think they don’t like to talk to me also.

But the more I dig, the more I become very fascinated with how I can optimise my finances. And that was how I started my whole obsession about financial planning, which is another whole industry by itself. But while that is a sort of a passion and a hobby, it just stayed that way. So in the early years, like I mentioned, I wanted to just do well in my job, advance up the career ladder and starting from scratch wasn’t really part of the question. Because that would mean that I’ll be slower than others in this race. Or that was how I viewed it at that time. Life is a race. And if I restart in a career, I’m sort of losing out already.

In fact, some of– At some point, I actually wanted to explore being an actuary because of my whole obsession over numbers and all of that. But I dropped the idea because that would mean setting me back a few years. But I would say life priorities change along the way. Especially when you get older, you realise that it’s a never-ending comparison if you’re always concerned about where you stand versus others. You start to place more weight on other aspects of your life, such as family or pursuing a particular purpose that you strongly believe in.

So venturing into this whole new industry or passion of mine has always been at the back of my head, but I didn’t have the courage to do so. But it was only about 3 to 4 years back that I seriously thought about what I actually wanted for my future. Does continuing on to advance the career ladder give me fulfilment? Or does making more money provide me more happiness? And what do I need this money for? And basically, you have to bear in mind that the time you’re trading off is something that you can never get back. So basically I become very clear that life isn’t a race or comparison. And you want to derive your own meaning internally and what gives you the greatest joy. So from then on, the thought of starting from scratch is not an issue for me anymore.

Chris Yeah o you finally did resign. And I remember you told me that, you know, your boss tried to dissuade you, right? Maybe share with us, you know, what happened. What was the conversation then, you know. And how come he failed, you know, he didn’t manage to do it?

Chin Yu Yeah, I was actually quite nervous on that day that I decided to hand in my resignation letter. Like I said– Like I’ve shared earlier, SIA was my first and only job. So actually, I’ve never done this before. And it was actually during a time where we were undergoing quite a few major organisational changes over in Australia. So things were very busy at the time.

So I braced myself. I walked over and asked, “Do you have a minute to speak?” And when I first said that I would like to hand in my letter of resignation, his first reaction was “Aiyo!”. But then I explained that actually I’m perfectly happy working at my current role. There was no push factor in any way. There’s nothing that I’m unhappy about working in SIA. But rather a very strong pull factor in pursuing something that I really wanted to do, which is in financial planning.

So to sidetrack a bit. Previously, I actually requested to be posted back to Singapore, where I am closer to home and can actually explore my passion to get to know Providend a bit more while still working with SIA. So he mentioned that there were plans to move me to planning roles in head office since I was interested in planning. And he also shared that, “Actually you’re due for a promotion,” and to see whether this would factor into my consideration.

So with regards to the planning role, I shared that this wasn’t exactly the same as what I wanted to pursue. It’s very different. In financial planning, we always say, “It’s actually life planning, where you make a big difference to someone’s life”. And the purpose is very different from a corporate planning role, which of course, the aim is to maximise returns for the company.

And to the point of promotion, I told him that money and titles actually have very little significance in consideration. The bigger driver, the biggest driver in all of this is to go for something that I feel excited waking up to every day. And I see more of a calling rather than work in itself. Another thing he also asked me is that, “Is this a poor financial decision to do a restart since you are talking about financial planning?” So he said, “Do you think that’s a good idea financial-wise? You know you want to be a financial planner”. And I thought that that was quite interesting to think about. And it’s something that I thought it represents how many people view financial planning.

To me, financial planning is top thought, maximising the wealth you have or to go for the highest paying job or to chase up to the highest returns or ROI. Money is an enabler. And it’s about optimising how it can enable you to pursue the things that are really important. So this requires you to really sit down and think deep into how do you define success for yourself. And how are you allocating time and money, in line with your intentions, that will bring the greatest fulfilment.

So basically, we continued to have a good chat for about 2 hours on different topics. And at the end of the meeting, he asked if I could firstly, reconsider my decision or if not, delay my departure due to what I mentioned, a major reorganisation happening at the time, which I agreed to that. But he also mentioned that he would be happy to have me back any time down the road if I decide to change my mind. So I thought that was very nice of him.

Chris Yeah, I mean, actually I can really empathise with him, you know. Yeah, to have a good staff, in the midst of a very busy period and somebody I can really trust, my right-hand man, come to me suddenly and say, “Do you have a minute?” I will hate those conversations. And of course, I had those conversations before. It’s always very painful to let someone go. And especially someone whom I know will do very well in the current position or the current organisation.

But then this person wants to join an industry that generally doesn’t have a good name. Because most people– Like what you say, most people misunderstand what financial planning, financial advisory, wealth management is all about. Because he hear of horror stories of what sometimes financial institutions do to their clients. People look at, sometimes, financial advisory, wealth management as just a sales position. So I can imagine, you know. It’s like, “Why?? Why??? You know, I mean if you tell me you were to join another airline and all, I can understand, right?”

Chin Yu Yeah.

Chris Brand new industry and THIS industry, right? So, I mean, you must have gone through some research, planning, preparation before you finally made such a big move. Maybe you want to share with all of us what were all the preparations that you made? And that you were sure enough that I think I will be okay. Before you.

Chin Yu Okay so, there are basically 3 parts to my whole preparation before I made the switch. Because firstly, I’m not a huge risk-taker. So I need to make sure that firstly, number one, I can still take care of my family. Because I always say I cannot be selfish. This is something that personally I want to pursue but I have a family to take care of. And I have a wife and a daughter who was 3 years old at that time and basically they followed me around overseas for the past 4 to 5 years. My wife left her job to follow me. So at the very least, I need to ensure I can take care of them.

So being overseas means that we are taken care of or supported with accommodation. We have car, the school fees are also taken care of. Allowances on top of that. So the good thing is that we saved quite a large proportion of our income and allowances because we don’t spend a lot. So there are 2 key benefits to me. One is that we– Like I said, we don’t need a lot to continue on the same standard of living. Number 2 is we have built up enough assets to ensure that we have sufficient buffer in case anything unforeseen happens. So basically, I worked out how much I need when I move back to Singapore. Such as home renovation costs. What are the ongoing expenses I need to cover? Am I still on track to meeting my own future financial independence goals? My daughter’s tertiary education? And then work out whether or not it is still possible for me to make this jump.

And the second part actually is more in terms of my qualifications. Because formally my education– So I shared that I studied Materials Engineering and Science. My professional experience is in the airline industry. So there wasn’t any formal education, although I was reading up a lot on a personal basis. So my own financial planning for the past 9 to 10 years, I’ve gained quite a bit of knowledge. But these were not in the form of formal qualifications.

So the first thing I noticed that everyone in Providend had a CFP qualification. So I said, I think this should be the area that I should be looking at first. So what I did was I looked into getting myself CFP certified. I went to pay for my own self-study course. But because I was overseas, I need to, I can’t attend the physical classes. But when it comes to exams, I need to fly back and forth just to take the exams. But actually, that wasn’t too much of an issue because I was working for an airline. Just that weekend, I need to fly back, take exams then fly back to Australia again. So I was spending quite a bit of time on the airplane. But also through the CFP exams, it also serves as a validation that the knowledge I built up informally over the years was actually quite relevant and actually very useful.

So the third part, actually was figuring out, “Okay, how can I get into this community?” Of course, network wise, I know people in the airline industry. If you say you want to switch to a career in a similar industry, you know people and you know who to talk to. But in terms of the community, I was wondering how do I actually get in?

So actually, I’ve been reading this blog called Investment Moats written by Kyith who is a colleague of ours now. I’m a long-time reader and I like how deep he goes into his discussion. So I wanted Kyith to help me validate my decision from a financial standpoint. So I wrote in to him. And along the way, he asked me, “Okay, what industry are you looking at?” And so I shared, “Okay, actually it’s my dream to join Providend”. So in addition to actually helping me review my numbers, he helped me to provide your (Chris) email address and asked me to reach out directly to you. And I just spent quite a long time to draft that email out to you. But long story short, happy that everything worked out well.

Chris I mean, thanks for sharing that. You know, it’s really an honour to have you at Providend. And of the many firms that you can choose, you chose us. So maybe share with us, you know, what made you choose Providend? I mean, I’m sure in your own research and you are definitely a research guy. You spent so much time on preparation, right? So what actually made you join Providend?

Chin Yu Yeah, I can assure you that I researched a lot about Providend prior to coming in.

Chris And sending your own mom to be the spy.

Chin Yu Yeah, so I first knew about Providend about 7 years ago. And basically, at the time, I was searching about CPF. So I saw you giving a seminar recorded on YouTube. And as you know, I can be quite skeptical about things. So actually my first typical impression was, “This must be another salesperson selling his product or courses”. But as I listened on, I actually found you very engaging and funny. So the phrase that I always say that I can never forget is, “Our government is like our father. Doesn’t matter if you agree with me or not”.

So I thought that left a very deep impression. And actually the topics covered at that time were very useful for me. But that basically sparked my whole interest in, “Actually what is Providend? What does Providend do?” So I started looking into your website, reading your articles. You have written a few articles both on the media as well as on the website, followed Providend on social media, and subscribed to your mailing list. So quite a few things that I looked into Providend.

And along the way, in my own journey of doing my own financial planning and research, I learnt that using term insurance is the best way to ensure that I am adequately covered. And investing through index funds is the best way for most people to get wealth. So that is what I’ve been doing for myself. And I find that it’s very, very rare to hear similarly from someone in the industry.

So that was what I thought. Firstly, the difference that I noticed. And through speaking to a lot of people, I can see that most people lack this knowledge and they continue to be invested in expensive products without a proper financial plan in place. And I also realise that the level of competence within the industry, in general, is not quite there. Or perhaps it is just for my own personal experience. I’m very passionate about topics related to personal finance. But I found it very difficult to find someone, even within the industry, to have a meaningful conversation or discussion about real financial planning at a time.

So through my research about Providend, I realised that Providend is a firm that strongly advocates term insurance. Very, very rare that I hear this. And investing also, its philosophy– The philosophy is based on evidence and investing at a low cost.

And Providend is convicted with a mission to serve clients through honest, competent, and ethical advice. And basically it does so through a structure that minimises as much conflict of interest as possible. And on top of that, I also realised that Providend emphasises a lot on achieving the life goals rather than just the monetary goals. So I thought that all of these align perfectly with my own personal beliefs and principles. And at that time, also what moved me knew was how strongly you fought to change the industry, despite a lot of pushback at the time. So Providend just represents to me another extension on myself but at a much larger scale. But also with the courage and conviction to really do things in this industry.

But that said, I’m still a very careful person. So earlier you said that I sent my own parents because I want to be really, really confident about my decision to join Providend. So I basically came in as a potential client. I wanted to see for myself what is the work that Providend actually does. But at the same time, I knew that my parents needed some retirement planning. So hence I paid for my parents to come on board, which they have actually benefited from the process. But this gave me also the confidence that Providend actually do what they preach.

Because, of course, you can say things on the media. You can say things in the public. But what I wanted to see for myself is what do you actually do for clients? And apart from that, that also gives me a very good idea on what I would be expecting to do if I become a Client Adviser myself.

In terms of other firms, I actually did try to see if there are other potential firms if Providend doesn’t accept me. But there was really no one else that checks all the boxes for me. So you can see the pull factor was so strong that I was willing to give up my long time career in SIA, my nice overseas benefits, being willing to restart my career amongst other things in life.

Chris Thanks Chin Yu for sharing that. That’s really very encouraging to hear. I also know that you have a very inspiring story to share. I mean, you have played competitive ice hockey for Singapore. Representing the Singapore team. Because of your decision to move to Australia to work, you had to give it up, right? You had to give up this passion of yours. And I can understand because, you know, my son is a sportsman. I know, you know, after you train so hard, you want to play for the country. And then to give it up. I remember you said you had to return your jersey and all that. I can imagine, you know, how that can be.

You know, maybe share a little bit with us about that decision of giving up something that you really enjoy, leaving your teammates whom you have been training with for a long time. You obviously know how to make important trade-offs in life. So maybe share with us on that and how some of these decisions, you know, not just that decision of leaving a good-paying job from a prestigious company, but giving up a passionate sport, you know. How have that whole decision-making process and principles help you even as you become a Client Adviser of Providend?

Chin Yu I suppose that’s actually quite a similar thought process as the earlier thinking about whether I should make that move. But basically, at that time, the priority was very career focused. So I got this opportunity to move overseas, which I thought that that was kind of amongst the most important thing during then. Focus on my career. These are hobbies. You recognise there are things that you need to give up. So although I enjoy playing ice hockey, like I said, it’s something that I recognise that I need to accept giving up here in Singapore if I were to pursue something else that is important to me as well.

And it’s actually not only ice hockey, but rather moving overseas meant a lot of other trade-offs also. That includes not being able to see family as much, my wife needed to give up her career to join me, I had to accept that I would be in a foreign place with much fewer friends than if I want to stay in Singapore. But on the other hand, I saw it as a good opportunity, which is hard to come by to gain experience working overseas. And looking back, this stint has benefitted me a lot.

But of course, like I mentioned, life priorities do change. It is never static. Maybe you have a kid. Maybe your parents are getting old. And then things change your perspective in life. So what this has taught me is that there are always trade-offs to make in life, whether in terms of time or money or attention you choose to place on career or family health or your own sports or even to the community. But you just have to be very, very clear on what is most important to you. Then I find that your decisions will follow accordingly.

So the first step is to be very, very clear about what you want. Because the difficult decision is not what do you want. That is very easy to answer. People say you can have anything you want, but just not everything. But the difficult question is, what are you willing to give up?

So as a Client Adviser, my advice for clients is always that we want to focus on your life goals and then, if possible, do spend time to really think deep into it. And if that is a bit challenging, always remember to fall back on a principle that you really want to be choosing fulfilment and happiness at the end of the day. What really gives you fulfilment? Money itself is a tool, but how do you use that to bring you joy? And what does money mean to you? This is the question that we often ask clients. So does it mean to spend more time on family or does it mean to be able to climb up the social status ladder because that’s important to you? Or does it mean freedom? Or you want to support something that is more meaningful for you? And these are the questions that only the individual can define for yourself. And my job as the Adviser is to help you guide through these, some of these thinking and questions. And then work out how do we use money to enable those personal aspirations.

Chris Thanks so much Chin Yu for sharing. Those of you who are watching this video right now, I’ll just say that although Chin Yu has joined us for less than a year, I think his knowledge and experience far surpassed the number of months he has been with us. And I think that’s largely because he has spent quite a bit of time reading up about personal finance. But not just reading up, you practice it on your own. You plan for yourself.

But also, you know, financial planning, retirement planning, whatever you call it, is really life planning, right? Because as you have correctly put that at the end of the day, money is an enabler. And for Chin Yu, you have made many, many important life decisions. And because of these decisions, you have got to make trade-offs and financial trade-offs. And so you understand this.

So for those of you who are watching this video, if you want to get in touch with Chin Yu, you know, you want to speak with him more, you want to get him to help you with your own life goals, life plan, supported by your financials, feel free to write in to us.

Because I am very sure that he will be able to help you. Not just because of knowledge, but because of experience. And some of these experiences are not gained in the financial services industry. These experiences are gained through his own personal journey in life which is a lot more important, right? Rather I preach a theory, I try and sell you something, but actually I don’t do it myself. Yeah, but Chin Yu has shared how he has actually practiced many of these principles that Providend espouse himself. So feel free to get in touch with us if you would like to speak to him. To get him to help you with your own personal retirement, financial, or life plan.

So, once again, thank you Chin Yu for sharing with us a very personal aspect of your life. And I hope– And I not just hope, I believe that many of the people who watch this will greatly benefit from this interview. Thank you very much.

Chin Yu Thanks, Chris.


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