Ever wondered what your salary and shopping habits are like in comparison to your peers? Money Talks is a new column by CLEO that takes an honest look at how young Millennial and Gen Z women spend their money. If you would like to submit a money diary anonymously, click here.
In today’s column, we speak* to Sophia Ng, a 28-year-old ERA real estate agent who can earn up to five figures a month, based on her commissions. *Note that this interview happened before the COVID-19 circuit breaker came into effect
Occupation: Real Estate Agent
Industry: Real Estate
Education level: Bachelor’s Degree
Salary: Commission-based, five figures a month
Monthly subscriptions: $200 (The Straits Times, Business Times, YouTube Premium, iCloud storage, Liveup membership, etc)
Living expenses: Adds up to approximately $4,500 a month (food, groceries, daily necessities, etc)
How much she thinks she spends: About $250
How much she actually spent: $280
On investing her money
I earn about five figures per month as the top seven per cent producer at ERA Singapore, and I make it a habit to save 40 per cent of my salary. Over the years I’ve also made it a habit to put aside a monthly sum for investments and rainy days, because the nature of this job can be volatile.
My savings are often translated into investments. I don’t keep my savings in the bank—I only keep enough cash there for daily expenses. My money is like a group of soldiers: I send them out to receive a good return of bounty.
In the very unlikely situation where I have no income, I can still sustain myself by liquidating my investments.
My investments mainly consist of F&B businesses and start-ups. I take great care in investing in the people behind the business rather than the business model itself. Events can be unpredictable but the people equipped with knowledge, passion, and dedication will find ways to keep the business going, especially in tough times.
Thinking of investing in businesses? Here’s my advice:
- Understand the people behind the business. Are they starting the trade for money, or are they doing it because they truly love it?
- Check for business differentiation. Small businesses can be profitable if they are unique in the market, and if they know how to keep up with the times and market demands.
On her spending habits
I’m willing to spend money—I’d like to think that I am contributing to my country’s GDP (haha!). But I make sure I spend on things that are worth every penny. For example, I am more than willing to pay for a good bowl of prawn noodles in a coffee shop (like Da Dong in Joo Chiat!) because of the amount of work that goes into that bowl of noodles. If I feel that a product has no value for money, I can become stingy.
When it comes to items like shoes, bags, watches and wallets, I look beyond the brands and price tags. Instead, I look at whether these items will hold their value over time.
I once owned a Rolex watch. I wore it for an extended period of time, with great care, and managed to sell it for a profit after. The same goes for a Chanel wallet I used to own—the net loss was marginal even after I’ve used it for a period of time.
I didn’t used to be like this. When I was younger, I bought a lot of random watches and bags which I disposed of after a short period of time. They depreciated in value right off the shelf. Today, value is a key consideration in my purchases.
One thing that I splurge on is dining. I live to eat! If time permits, I’ll treat myself to good food once a week as a reward for working hard. To me, the quality of the food and the dining experience are equally important. I usually read the online reviews first—I like to build anticipation prior to a dining experience, in addition to finding out what items to order or what to avoid.
On her well-paying job
I continue to strive to earn as much as I can to live comfortably, even if I am financially stable at this stage of my life. It takes a lot of dedication to continue striving, but I believe that I still have a lot of room to grow.
I couldn’t have done this without the support of my clients, co-agents, and ERA Singapore. The agency has backed me up with various trainings and seminars, ensuring that I continue to push myself to be better and continually improve my current skillsets. Thanks to them, I was able to push through difficult times and earn a lucrative income. Paragraph
Over the years, I have diligently invested the money I’d saved up, earning extra income through them. I had to be very disciplined about setting a set amount of money every month, year after year. Of course there were times where I was mentally and physically exhausted, but with the support of ERA Singapore and my leaders, I was able to continue investing time and effort in learning more about investments and realising my financial goals.
On how COVID-19 has affected her work
With the given pandemic, I have shifted all of my work online with the aid of ERA’s digital tools. For instance, instead of conducting agent training in the auditorium like what I usually do, I have shifted them to Zoom. Ever since the implementation of the circuit breaker, I have been connecting with my team and clients through various video conferencing applications, such as Zoom, WhatsApp, etc. My clients are coping well as I still stay in touch and actively reach out to them whenever they need help with different technology platforms. I have also been closing my deals digitally.
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