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He parks his investments mainly in mutual funds – The Straits Times

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Not being the “brainy, science type” or the “eloquent arts type” was not an issue for marketing veteran Jerry Low – numbers was his thing and he knew it.

That was why he decided to choose commerce – which “had a more practical aspect to it” – as his stream in junior college.

But Mr Low’s passion for investing started around the time he enrolled to study business administration at the National University of Singapore (NUS).

“The influencing factors were all around me,” the 41-year-old recalls.

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From professors to peers, everyone talked about investing, which is what got Mr Low hooked, and he poured the money he had into the markets. He got his fingers burned in his initial investments, which were based on gut feeling and rumours alone, but he persisted.

He became better acquainted with the world of finance through newspapers and went on to take a learned approach to investing.

And while he is employed as the head of marketing at Schroders Singapore, his intense interest in investing has led him to complete high-level programmes like those for chartered financial analyst and chartered alternative investment analyst. It has also led him to build a healthy six-figure portfolio.

  • Worst and best bets

  • Q What has been your best investment decision?

    A I believe the most valuable investments one can make are non-financial. Personally, my best investment has been the time and commitment I’ve put in cultivating the relationships that I treasure – be it family or friends – which has in turn continually rewarded me with a fulfilling life.

    Nevertheless, monetary-wise, I would probably say that I made my most “profitable” one-off investment decision about 12 years ago. I bought a studio apartment in Robertson Quay for around $550,000 and sold it less than a year later at a profit of around $100,000.

    Of course, in hindsight, it was not a significant amount, considering how property prices have spiralled upwards since.

    But it did spark my interest in the property sector, such as the regulations and other factors that could influence the market.

    The experience was helpful for the research on my current home, as well as any other property investments I may make in the future.

    Q What has been your worst investment decision?

    A It was some 15 years ago when I invested $20,000 in the stock of a firm in the electric motors industry, on a tip-off from a friend.

    At that time, $20,000 was a substantial amount to me, but I plonked the whole sum without thinking. A few months later, I found out that the company had run into financial trouble and today, the investment is worth around $500.

    On a more positive note, I received my first dividend in 15 years in June 2017 – of $20. Nevertheless, it was a good lesson for me to make all investment decisions wisely and prudently.

Q Money-wise, how were your growing-up years?

A I was brought up in a frugal environment and therefore have been very thrifty since young. My brother and I got enough pocket money to meet our daily needs but not more.

Nevertheless, our parents instilled in us the importance of placing relationships above money, so I tend to be generous with people who matter to me – a value I still hold close today. It was only after I started working did I become more liberal in spending money.

Q How did you get interested in investing?

A I started learning about financial basics and concepts when I was pursuing my business degree at NUS. Together with some friends, I started dabbling in stocks to understand more about investing – after all, I believe there is no better way to learn than by gaining first-hand experience.

MONTHLY STOCK-TAKING

Due to the nature of my work and lifestyle, I’ve little time to research individual securities and therefore prefer parking my investments in mutual funds. About once a month, I take stock of the portfolio and make adjustments according to market conditions, either through rebalancing or additional investments.

MR JERRY LOW, most of whose mutual funds are managed by Schroders Singapore, where he works.

Although markets were in the throes of the Asian financial crisis then, I still managed to turn in small pockets of profits from those investments. In retrospect, I believe luck played a large part in it, considering that I made decisions mostly on gut feel, but I have since learnt to always go with sound investment logic.

Q Describe your investing strategy.

A I segregate my savings into two pools – one parked in low-risk vehicles for wealth preservation, such as my Central Provident Fund (CPF) account, endowment plans and bank deposits. The second – my growth portfolio – is for wealth accumulation, investing in higher-risk products with the objective of achieving higher returns. It’s a rough 30:70 split.

While I consider myself a risk-taking investor, I still believe in diversification and investing for the long term.

Due to the nature of my work and lifestyle, I’ve little time to research individual securities and therefore prefer parking my investments in mutual funds. About once a month, I take stock of the portfolio and make adjustments according to market conditions, either through rebalancing or additional investments.

Q What does money mean to you?

A As they say, money can’t buy happiness. To me, it is more important to lead an enriching and happy life.

This is why as I grow older, I make a distinction between bad and good spending. It is the latter that brings about greater satisfaction to me, be it by buying experiences to share with loved ones, or through investing in self-development for personal growth. I believe this in turn gives me greater fulfilment in life.

Q What are your immediate investment plans?

A I am hoping to buy another property in a few years’ time.

Although I do believe that the days of making easy money from property are over, I have a keen personal interest in the sector and enjoy doing my own research to suss out pockets of opportunity. Otherwise, I hold a long-term view with regard to my investments, although I do keep a constant lookout for emerging investment themes and market trends.

Q What is in your portfolio?

A My portfolio is a six-figure sum primarily invested in mutual funds, with most of them managed by my company – in part because in my role I get to monitor their performance regularly.

I also hold several funds managed by other asset-management companies – just so it is easier for me to monitor competitor performance against ours!

Besides multi-asset funds, I favour Asian equities, with a heavy slant towards Singapore. I also have some allocation to emerging markets equities, Asian bonds and alternatives such as commodities.

Q How are you planning for retirement?

A In planning for retirement, I am aiming to achieve diversified sources of income. Currently, I hold a separate retirement portfolio, which is made up primarily of three components. The first is my Supplementary Retirement Scheme (SRS) account, which is my wealth accumulation portfolio invested in higher-risk assets.

The second is my CPF account, which is my wealth preservation account, given the attractive guaranteed interest rates it offers.

I am also invested in a pension plan that my company offers for employees – the Schroder Retirement Benefit Plan – which aims to supplement our retirement savings. It invests with a multi-asset strategy.

In planning this portfolio, I am conscious of three considerations: market risk, which is addressed by diversification; inflation risk, addressed by being invested in the right vehicles; and longevity risk, the risk of outliving my savings, which I am probably addressing by working as long as I can!

That said, I would have been better off had I started planning for retirement as soon as I joined the workforce. Given the power of compounding, I could have been looking at as much as a 50 per cent bigger retirement portfolio. But better late than never!

Q Home is…

A A 926 sq ft walk-up apartment in Holland Village, where I live with my beagle, Scooter.

Q I drive…

A A nine-year-old silver BMW Z4.

The certificate of entitlement is due to expire by the end of this year, and I am still considering my options.