Coffee Chats: The Fundamentals Of Investing

SAFRA Investment Committee Chairman Ow Tai Zhi shares tips on how, when and what to start with on your investment journey.

By Alywin Chew        30 August 2022

In our Men of SAFRA series, where we sit down for a drink and a chat with key volunteers behind SAFRA’s engine, we caught hold of Ow Tai Zhi, who chairs SAFRA’s investment committee.

His drink of choice: Beer

For Tai Zhi, nothing beats having an ice-cold beer to round off a hard day of work as a chief investment officer at a robo-advisory platform.

But apart from helping his clients achieve their financial goals, LTC (NS) Ow also leverages his knowledge of investments to preserve and grow SAFRA’s financial reserves, which is the objective of the SAFRA Investment Committee.

Q. Where do you normally go for your drink of choice?

Tai Zhi: I like beer because it helps me to relax and wind down. I like going to a bistro along Parkland Green at East Coast Park as it is pet friendly and offers scenic views. I also enjoy having my drink at rooftop bars and taking in the panoramic views.

When I’m at SAFRA, I’m usually at the cafe having coffee or tea and catching up with friends. I’m now mostly at Heavenly Wang, where I like to get an iced Teh C to start my day – it’s light but invigorating.

SAFRA members enjoy 10% off a la carte purchases at Heavenly Wang, and 5% more bonus value when they top up their WANG Loyalty Card. 

Tai Zhi enjoys shooting some hoops at SAFRA Mount Faber.
Book the multi-purpose court there for a game of basketball (exclusive to SAFRA members)!

Q. What do you do as the co-founder and chief investment officer of your robo-adviser company?

Tai Zhi: I develop investment strategies that help our clients reach their financial goals in life. I also keep a lookout on the financial markets so that our investments can adapt and navigate accordingly. Market booms and busts are natural phenomenons, akin to our tropical sunny days and the occasional thunderstorms. Intelligent investors should always be mentally prepared for and take advantage of heavily discounted prices during a crash. Do not squander away huge discount opportunities for valuable items in a Great Singapore Sale.

Q. When and why did you start volunteering with SAFRA’s investment committee?

Tai Zhi: I started volunteering as a member in the SAFRA Investment Committee in 2016 and was recently appointed the chairman. I think that becoming a part of the committee is a very natural thing for me because I’m really passionate about investments. I just wanted to lend my expertise to helping SAFRA invest and grow its financial reserves.

Q. What are some fundamental truths that anyone looking to invest should know?

Tai Zhi: Here’s the most important thing about making investments – you need to start early. This is how you maximise your gains over the long run. 

Another important thing to note: never put all your eggs into one basket. A good investment portfolio is one that is diversified. You don’t want to have only stocks. You don’t want to have only bonds. You need to have a mix of everything because different investment assets perform differently depending on the market environment. 

For example, stock prices are falling now because of macroeconomic factors such as the conflict in Ukraine. On the other hand, government bonds are holding up well. Conversely, there will be times when stocks are soaring whilst bonds post stable, unexciting performances.

Catching up on messages over a drink at SAFRA Mount Faber’s Forest5 Darts Cafe.
SAFRA members enjoy 10% off.

Q. What investment advice would you give to people who have just entered the workforce?

Tai Zhi: People in their early 20s who have just entered the workforce, like someone who has just completed national service, typically have limited investment knowledge and capital to start off with. Fortunately, the emergence of robo-investing allows them to receive financial recommendations on a digital platform and kick off a guided investment journey with limited capital.

Robo-investment platforms help young people to start early without the need for intensive investment knowledge and frees up their precious time for family, career and other things that matter more in life. All they need is just a small investment capital they can spare and five minutes of their time to set things up.

Q. What advice would you give to young parents to start their investing journey?

Tai Zhi: Young parents today are part of the sandwich generation as they have financial obligations towards their parents and children. As such, it is paramount that they prepare for the financial challenges they may face down the road, whilst ensuring self-sufficiency in their retirement years.

An example of a financial challenge would be saving up for our children’s education. As I mentioned, the key is to start early. If you procrastinate and only start saving and investing three years before your child needs to go to university, you will likely find yourself in a bind should the financial markets suddenly crash. 

But if you started investing 10 years ago, your children’s education fund would very likely have doubled even if a recession took place somewhere along the way.

Q. How much should one typically save to pay for his or her child’s university education?

Tai Zhi: Invest at least $500 monthly over 10 years if your children wish to go to the best universities in Singapore. Double this amount if your child has what it takes to make it to Harvard!

Other than investing for your children, it is equally important to invest in their financial literacy. Teach them the value of savings, responsible spending and growth through investing. Research has shown that financial literacy is strongly associated with future wealth.

Unwinding over a game at Forest5 Darts Cafe.
SAFRA members enjoy 10% off.

Q. What’s your take on crypto?

Tai Zhi: The fundamental characteristics of crypto is that there’s no scientific way to value how much it is worth, unlike stocks and bonds, where dividends and cash flows allow you to scientifically value them. Crypto is therefore very volatile where one Bitcoin might pay for a HDB downpayment today and yet could very well be worth nothing in a few months’ time. Crypto can be your sunshine and your greatest nightmare as well.

Q. 2022 has been a terrible year for the stock market. What advice would you give to SAFRA members who have invested in stocks?

Tai Zhi: Always think long term. Despite occasional market crises, markets will always eventually recover and allow you to earn good returns. Don’t panic sell!

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Main photo location: Subway @ SAFRA Mount Faber

SAFRA members enjoy 10% discount for 6” sandwiches, salads and wraps at Subway Mount Faber. For more info, go to safra.sg/amenities-offerings/subway

Photographer: Frenchescar Lim
Hair and make-up: Nikki Fu | Stylist: CK
Outfits: All outfits from TRT