Reading Dawn’s insightful posts on BudgetBabe, it comes as no surprise that she had dreams of being a writer when she was younger. In her words, she “dreamt of seeing [her words in print, [her] bylines in magazines and newspapers, and eventually going on to publish books of [her] own that would make their way to Popular bookshelves..”.
At that time, however, her parents had the typical Asian mentality and didn’t think too highly of her desired career of choice due to the stigma that writers were generally paid poorly in Singapore.
This mentality also led to her parents declining her desire to pursue media studies before heading to University; even though that was what she knew was relevant to the field she eventually wanted to work in.
The self-driven individual that she is, Dawn made a deal with her parents – she would adhere to their wishes in terms of going to junior college but if she did well enough in her A-levels, they would have to respect her wishes and choice of University course. She went on to graduate top of her school’s cohort with straight A’s… and insisted on doing it her way as she had been promised.
Despite an initial “bump” when her parents told her that they would have no money to pay for her university studies, Dawn went on to get a full scholarship where she was basically paid to study. In fact, she even managed to go overseas for an overseas program by scrimping and saving up, working numerous jobs, approaching an aunt for a loan – all while balancing that with her studies!
Ironically, this time overseas helped shaped her perspective towards money and personal finance. Aside from the need to save up, she had to watch every cent while overseas because she knew she couldn’t just phone home and ask for money if she ran out of cash. This heightened appreciation of how difficult money was to come by has served an inspiration for many of her posts on Budget Babe!
How did your upbringing lead to your perspective of finances now?
I grew up in a middle-income household where money was always a point of contention. My parents didn’t believe in spoiling us and giving us whatever we wanted, so we had to save up to buy our own toys (or books, in my case) if we wanted anything.
When I was younger, I resented my parents for also giving us less pocket money (compared to what my classmates were getting). Looking back, I’m actually glad that my parents raised me the way they did! If not for their tough love, I might not have appreciated how difficult it is to earn and save money.
Tell us more about your finance blog, SG Budget Babe. How did you get started?
I started my blog in December 2014 out of boredom! At the time, I was at a point in life where I wanted to pursue something meaningful outside of work, and I remember asking my then-boyfriend (now husband) what I should do.
He was the one who suggested starting a blog, given how much I love writing, and even suggested the idea for my first post (How I Saved $20,000 In A Year)! I didn’t expect that my writing would become such a hit but I’m really thankful that people appreciate the work and effort I put into each and every article!
How has the response been to your blog? Any interesting statistics you have observed regarding your blog? Who is your typical website visitor?
The average monthly visitor count to the blog ranges from about 80,000 to 120,000. I don’t really have detailed statistics on website visits as I’m not doing this full-time, so there is little incentive for me to spend time and money on getting deeper insights on the types of visitors or the duration they spend on the blog, etc.
From my interactions with readers and via my social media channels, however, it seems like the typical website visitor would be a young Singaporean (or Malaysian, or Indonesian, although I’ve no idea how they got to know about my blog) aged anywhere between 17 to 35.
There’s also a good mix of male and female readers although a lot of people seem to be under the impression that my readers are only female!
How do you keep in touch with your reader base?
I make an effort to reply each and every email or comment from my readers, and try to respond ideally to the day if I have the time!
How do you come up with fresh content ideas for your blog?
A lot of what I write about revolve around issues that I’m personally concerned about. For example, whether it is better to buy insurance through an agent or directly, how to budget for a wedding, what type of investments I should look at, what risks are involved with different investment instruments, etc.
Sometimes, brands also approach me to write a review of their offerings, such as high-yield saving accounts or the latest value deals.
Inspiration can come from anywhere! I also get a lot of ideas from readers, as their questions can sometimes lead to an entirely new blog post! For instance, I got to know of DBS’ Be Your Own Boss (BYOB) promotion simply because a reader asked for my thoughts on it!
Any memorable stories to share your blogging experience or the interaction you have had with your readers?
I really love hearing from readers about how my blog has inspired them and shared one of my favourite stories here.
How do you deal with criticism or hate mail from people who read your blog?
I generally ignore them, but sometimes I address them. You can read about that in this post.
Was your university education beneficial to your work today? Which courses have proven the most valuable to you in your work?
Yes, definitely. It taught me a lot about the media; what the media should stand for, the bigger role and influence that the media has on society and why we should be careful with our words. I think the most valuable module was on Media Law where issues about defamation online were addressed.
What is the most useful tip you received/ follow when you manage your money?
Pay yourself first every month. I do this by setting up different bank accounts for expenses and savings. This was something I picked up during my university days when I needed to save up for my exchange studies – by setting aside my savings first and only spending whatever was left, it was a lot easier to make sure I did not overspend.
What are your top financial priorities and how do you go about planning for them?
Saving up for our future house, building an emergency fund to guard against unexpected hospitalisation (my husband and I are single-handedly shouldering the financial burden of 3.5 parents), preparing for retirement, and building up a steady stream of passive income so we can both retire by the age of 45.
Tell us more about your financial portfolio.
I have a small portion in ETFs and the bulk of my money in equities.
Do you invest? What is your risk appetite?
Yes. Moderate, given that I’m investing long term. However, I do not dabble in volatile instruments like shorts or speculative. At this point, I am also not vested in cryptocurrencies.
What will you like to learn more financially?
Personal finance is a never-ending journey.
How can we improve women’s relationship with money?
By empowering them to believe that they have the ability to become financially independent.
Top 3 finance-related books you deem a must-read for everyone and why?
Millionaire Teacher (by Andrew Hallam), The Intelligent Investor, and One Up On Wall Street.
I’ve also detailed my top picks here.
What is your greatest indulgence?
Movies (in the cinemas) and travelling.
Give us a parting quote!
If you don’t take care of your money, no one else will.
Take a look at Dawn’s #SavvyUpTogether journey as Yasmin’s financial expert!
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