SINGAPORE - If Mr Benjamin Yang had heeded the advice of his friends, he would never have given up his comfortable job with the Economic Development Board (EDB).

He had always dreamed of starting a business and won the support of his family and wife. But his peers were less supportive and some even thought he was crazy.

"I was chided by some friends, and one of them asked me during a Christmas gathering in 2010 if I was going to get a real job," he recalls. "They thought I was stupid for giving up a stable job that I enjoyed."

Mr Yang quit his EDB job as a senior officer tasked to improve organisational development in 2010 and set up a mobile application solutions and customer relationship management business with a partner.

They each pumped in $10,000 to get the venture going.

"The toughest part was the first six months - when no client trusted us with building mobile platforms for them since we did not have a track record," the 33-year-old says. "But we got our big break when a fashion and beauty label believed in our cause."

In the last three years, Mr Yang's business - Balanced Consultancy - has grown from strength to strength and has serviced large clients, including prominent local tertiary institutions and large listed companies.

The business has expanded, with four offices in the region, including Hong Kong and the Philippines. It has nearly 30 employees in total.

"You must put your money where your mouth and heart are and believe in the product or service," he says.

And Mr Yang does the same when it comes to his personal investments - by putting them in stocks, an area he is familiar with.

But this learning point came from an unforgettable experience during his national service (NS) days.

"It was the 2002 World Cup, and the opening match was between France - the reigning champion - and Senegal," he says. "Everyone in camp said betting on France was a sure-win, and you'd get free money!"

So he followed suit and placed a $1,000 bet - the equivalent of three months of his NS pay - on France.

But they lost 1-0 and that was his first brush with a significant monetary loss.

"I've never betted on football again," he says with a laugh.

Mr Yang and his wife, Ms Clare Ong, 33, live with his family in Hougang.

Q: Are you a spender or a saver?

Both. I make it a point to set aside 40 per cent of my income as cash savings and for investments. When it comes to spending, I make sure I give my parents enough allowance to more than offset the household bills since my wife and I are living with them.

Q: On average, how much do you charge to your credit cards every month?

About $500 that mostly goes to food and books, and I charge them to one card. But I get one tailored shirt made a month as a reward to myself.

Q: What financial planning have you done for yourself?

I've life and medical insurance policies for adequate protection. To fall sick is bad, but to be ill and worry about bills is worse.

I also have a keen interest in sussing out opportunities across penny stock counters. On average, the return on investment for penny stocks is higher than blue chips'.

While they carry higher risks, people often forget that you must go back to the fundamentals of the business - even for a penny stock.

Things to consider include whether it is in a sunset industry, whether it has new products, whether that will lead to higher revenue and so on.

You should not be speculating in penny stocks and merely ride on momentum or chance. There are some people who don't even know the nature of the counter's business but bought into it because of market hearsay - and I find that scary.

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

I grew up in a family of four, supported solely by my dad, who rose through the ranks and held a senior position in a supermarket.

He was a firm believer of financial prudence and always said: "Work hard and save now, so you can enjoy life in the later years."

Though I got $20 a week in secondary school, I'd secretly worked part-time at an ice-cream shop near my home to earn extra cash. My parents will be learning about this for the first time when they read this story.

Q: How did you first get interested in investing?

My dad retired at 50 to become a full-time investor.

When I was in school, he'd call me to check the stock prices on the now-defunct Teletext. That was how I was first exposed to the stock market.

Instead of throwing me a birthday party when I turned 18, my dad gave me $7,000 to get started on investing. He felt that educating me on investments was important.

Q: What property do you own?

I do not own any property at the moment but am eyeing an executive condominium or condo in the east, an area I'm familiar with. We may rent it out if my wife and I continue to live with my parents. That would serve as a source of passive income and can cover the monthly loan instalments.

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

A hardcover set of five books - The Belgariad - signed by its author, David Eddings.

At 27, I spent more than $2,500 on the books with my first pay cheque. I bought them from Eddings' estate after he had died and had them shipped to Singapore.

The books have since appreciated to $4,000. So it turned out to be a good investment.

Q: What is your retirement plan?

I intend to walk in my dad's footsteps and retire at 50. That would be a good time to become a full-time investor and also become an academic if I pursue a PhD in psychology.

As for my business, I hope it grows organically and am open to it being professionally managed.

My business partner and I can continue to be the owners and step in whenever necessary.

Q: Home is now...

My parents' four-room 1,055 sq ft HDB flat in Hougang, where I live with them, my wife and my younger brother.

Q: I drive...

My dad's five-seater Mitsubishi Lancer.


Q: What is your worst investment to date?

The $25,000 I put into a fashion label, Eratat Lifestyle, last December.

It was an S-chip, or China firm listed here, and I bought its shares at 10.2 cents apiece.

Trading was suspended in January because the company allegedly defaulted on bond payments.

Many had told me that there would be a second rise of the S-chips, and that they are the forgotten and neglected child of the local stock market.

So I trusted my friend's judgment and gave it a try. My friend hasn't said anything since the stock was suspended.

But I made the call to buy into it, so there is no need to point the finger at others. I just hope I can get some money back!

Q: And your best?

My investment in Juken - a company selling automotive parts - that I bought shortly after the global financial crisis.

I bought the shares at 4.2 cents each, when it was undervalued because it was perceived as a boring business. Selling vehicle parts was not exciting and it was deemed to be in a sunset industry.

In about six months, it soared four times to 16 cents, and I sold it and reaped a profit of $150,000.

I usually determine a selling price from the onset, and tell myself to take a profit as long as it hits this target price. That detaches any emotion from the decision, and I'd rather pump the profit into another undervalued stock.