All-important survival skill

TAN Ee Wah's lifelong love and insatiable appetite for reading eventually made his dream of becoming a writer come true. And his maiden effort focused on his interest — stock investing.

Tan graduated in 1987 with double majors in Economics and Communications Arts and Media from Queens College of the City University of New York (CUNY). However, he had only visited the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) twice during his stay in Flushing, Queens.

At that time, he was not bitten by the investment bug despite being among the greatest stock markets in the world: NYSE and Nasdaq.

It was only several years later after Tan had returned to Malaysia and joined the multitude of Malaysian speculators that his interest in stocks was kindled, and he participated gleefully in the 1993 super bull run.

Tan said he also suffered losses along with the other speculators in the "school of adversity" during the bear market of 1994.

"Several years later, I was again among the millions of traumatised people in East Asia who experienced the harrowing 1997-98 financial, economic and political crisis.

"In retrospect, this momentous period was Malaysia's version of the 1929 Wall Street crash of the NYSE," he said. "I started collecting the materials for my book, Surviving and Prospering in Stock Investments, during the super bull run of 1993 and started writing it on Oct 23 in 1997, the day Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index plunged more than 1,200 points in a day."

The book was completed in 1998.

Tan said he had found a publisher when the book was near completion. Unfortunately, the plan came to a halt due to the economic downturn. He managed to find another publisher but that plan, too, did not materialise.

His next best alternative was to turn to a digital book publisher in 2000, which saw the book being sold on Amazon.

Last year, Tan stumbled upon Once Upon A Time In Bursa by Tradeview while he was at a mall in Kuala Lumpur. Seeing that the book had topped the weekly bestseller list for business reading, Tan decided to launch an updated version of his own book.

He got in touch with publisher Acepremier Sdn Bhd and the updated 460-page version of his book appeared in Malaysia.

"There are challenges aplenty for the average person to take care of fundamental needs for living expenses. Be it the costs of food, transportation, education, entertainment, housing and healthcare, as well as for raising children and taking care of elderly parents, such activities require money.

"So it is best for individuals to learn to raise their financial literacy level. This is to understand the good old concept of needs and wants and to embrace
thriftiness as a lifelong value and habit. Children should be taught the importance of delayed gratification or impulse control, of saving money and prudently invest their savings.

"Inflation is a great foe of money and investing in common stocks is among the best ways to fight inflation and for building wealth over the longer term.

"The only thing is investors must learn how to go about such investing prudently so that their all-important capital will not be lost through unwise speculations," he said.

Tan, the youngest of four siblings, runs a business in his hometown of Mentakab, Pahang.

He urged investors to respect stock markets as a venue for serious investing and not as casinos for gambling activities.

"People should live within their means or even below their means. Often, it's the rule of Parkinson's law, in which expenses are ever rising to meet the increases in incomes.

"Youths who are from the middle class and have received support from their families in terms of sufficient education or capital if they wished to venture into business may fare better than those from Bottom 40 households already struggling with daily expenses.

"Many young Malaysians have reportedly fallen into bankruptcies after failing to deal with mounting debts.

"It is also sad to see so many older people about to go into retirement having little money in their Employees Provident Fund savings after working for a lifetime.

"Just look at the people who throng the betting outlets. It seems that winning the jackpot is the Plan B retirement schemes for many Malaysians. Will many of the current day youths also suffer from lack of retirement funds in their distant future?

"Financial literacy is very much lacking in terms of the importance of savings and investing, as well as the basics of needs against wants — such taking on debts for frivolous expenditures."

Tan will be at MPH Mid Valley in Kuala Lumpur for the book launch and a meet-and-greet session from 2pm to 3pm on Saturday.

The writer was a journalist with the New Straits Times before joining a Fortune Global 500 real estate company. This article is a collaboration between the New Straits Times and Tradeview, the author of 'Once Upon A Time In Bursa'.

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