A business and marketing strategist, psychologist, and TEDx speaker, it comes as no surprise that Yasmine Khater was named one of Cosmopolitan Magazine’s “Fun Fearless Females” and won the “World of Difference Award” from the International Alliance of Women.
Given all that, it is even more inspiring to hear of how she came to be; holding an extremely high position in a Fortune 500 but eventually quitting due to personal reasons. At the same time, it was only after such a life-changing event that she recognised what she was truly passionate about which is fearless therapy.
She now works as Strategy lead at VSStory, a company she co-founded to help visionary companies or “empire builders” get more visibility by crafting compelling stories to inspire both employees and customers.
What are the top two financial goals you have in 2018?
I want to be savvy with my money and learn how to start investing. Secondly, I also want to build a strategy for my financial portfolio.
Why do you want to achieve these goals?
When I was a teenager, my father decided he wanted to move back to Egypt. When he got there, he couldn’t find a job for three years; this caused huge stress as he had three children and a wife to provide for.
It put a lot of strain on my parents’ relationship and his own health. He ended up finding work and moving to Saudi Arabia for years to support us. In other words, he didn’t have the option of spending time with us when we were growing up.
I feel the accumulation of stress eventually led to his diagnosis of cancer when he was 55.
In terms of my second goal, building a financial portfolio represents freedom, flexibility and security; all of which impact the possibility of doing and being whoever I want to be without having to worry about money.
How would you describe your relationship with money and financial management? Has this evolved?
My relationship with money has been quite bad. I know this sounds terrible to say out loud… but I always thought it was something that my future husband would look after.
As a result of that mentality, I used to be reckless with my money and never really budgeted; I always felt that money wasn’t an object of concern. When I graduated and started working, my mom gave me an account where she had been keeping all my birthday and Hari Raya money; that account had $18K.
With that as my first salary, I felt rich. I had moved from Egypt (a developing country) and with such a salary I thought I could be and do anything. I made a group of friends who I travelled with once or twice a month. While these were cheap trips, they added up. To top it off, I also decided to move out to a place which I could not afford on my salary.
I refused to listen to people’s advice about the difference between rent and the real cost of running a household (i.e internet, groceries, utilities, etc).
I literally lived paycheck to paycheck even though I should not have been doing but no one ever educated me. It got to a point where I would avoid looking at bills because I didn’t want to know what else was coming up. I had to borrow money from my mother which is the most embarrassing thing to do as an adult.
After living like that for 5 or 6 years, I realized it was not sustainable.I have been working on it ever since with it slowly getting better. I started to build my awareness about money by first tracking my spending and it made me deal with some really poor money mindset issues.
I also talk more openly about money because I feel not enough women are comfortable with it. At VSStory, I recently ran a lunch and learnt about this because I wanted my team to be in better control over our business and their own future.
I now know that even after I get married, I need to be responsible for my own and family security.
Have you received financial advice before? If yes, what did you think of it? If not, why not?
Last year, I spoke to a young insurance broker about purchasing an investment/ retirement plan. Within 20 minutes, the broker tried to sell me an ILP that would cost $288K to pay off over 30 years; I felt very sceptical.
When I went home, I read all the forums and decided I would rather learn about finance than pay someone in a sales job who would obviously get a big cut.
Thanks to the recommendation of TNS, I attended a workshop on the “Beginning of Financing” by the Motley Fool which led to me setting up my own brokerage account and buying my first stock in Raffles Medical and another REIT.
In fact, I found the insights from Motley fool and TNS to be more trustworthy than the insurance broker.
How would you describe your current financial situation? Are you satisfied with it? If not, how would you describe your ideal financial situation?
As my company is only 15 months old and I was living off savings for 9 months, I am not satisfied with my current financial situation. I only starting drawing a small salary 6 months ago and have only recently paid off my credit card debt and built a small emergency fund.
I would love to have been debt free and have my money working for me. At this point, however, I am working for my money.
How do you manage your monthly income?
There is an amazing book that I read two or three years ago that has changed my life called “Profit First”. Although it’s designed as a business accounting book, I have adopted the principles for my life.
The premise is that most small business owners will end up paying everyone else first before they pay themselves. The author suggested that we switch that; pay ourselves first and then invest in things you can afford.
Now with my monthly income, I have three different accounts (see below). The weekend I receive it, I start by paying myself first and put the rest into my everyday expense budget.
Payments & Investments:
- Emergency Fund
- Short term goal (Travel)
What are some of your most pressing financial concerns?
Making sure I have enough in case shit hits the fan. My closest aunt got diagnosed with cancer last year and I now have this new obsession with making sure I am secure in case something happens to me.
Financial freedom means different things to different people. Personally, what does being financially free mean to you?
Although a lot of people are living longer, a lot of people are living like they are already dead. For me, it’s about making sure I can choose the work that gives me meaning and makes me feel alive. It could be doing something big like travelling to see the Northern Lights, see penguins or something “small” like being able to have a great lunch with my family without having to worry about how much money I have my account.
How far along do you think you are in your financial journey?
I feel like I am at the beginning of my financial journey. I feel I’ve only started being more conscious about money a few years ago. At the same time, I do try to implement what I can. For example, I have learnt the art of saying no and letting go of the need to do everything.
I feel that having gotten my basics covered, I can now be more strategic in learning how to invest and build the right portfolio to really give me financial freedom.
Can you tell us more about VSStory.com – How did the idea come about? Why did you start it?
I met my co-founder while I was cycling the world’s toughest mountain bike race Tour de Timor to raise 50K for women entrepreneurs. We hadn’t hit our goal… so we thought making a doco would help; we called her up and literally a week later we were in Timor.
Jacqui had wanted to work together and would ask my yearly; it never felt like there were synergies but after years of helping businesses with their sales process, the move towards 80% website traffic being video finally make sense.
Both of us were actually in a really rough patch and we decided to take control over that. We both believe that business can be used as a force for doing good and that visionary businesses need more visibility. With those aligned, the rest was/is history.
How did you come up with the initial capital (loan, personal savings etc.)? Why did you choose to fund your business this way?
When we first started, we had 4 partners and we all put in $5k. It wasn’t much, but it was a symbolic symbol to show our level of commitment.
At the time, I had around $7K saved and had to move in with my aunt to save on rent. Also, none of us drew a salary.
We decided to fund our business through customers acquisition. In fact, when we first started, I was going to sales meeting/coffee chats with 4-8 companies a week to gauge interest.
I believe that it’s always better to be in beta so we started offering our service for a very low price and continued to increase the price as we improved our services.
As an agency, the goal was to put aside 6 months of liquid cash as an emergency fund but the number has continued to grow as our team did. Recently, we raised 100K business angel money which we didn’t look for or didn’t need. It came about simply because of aligned visions and how the other business had the network to open even bigger doors for us to make a bigger impact around Asia.
With a business that has been running for almost six years, how do you go about managing your monthly business expenses and funding resources? Has this changed over time?
I started consulting 6 years ago and didn’t know anything about money. Although I was a consultant, I didn’t distinguish that all money I made was actually not for me. In other words, I didn’t budget for anything – it didn’t matter whether it was the software courses I was attending or seasonal drops like Christmas and summer.
With VSStory, though, it’s very different. I have a bigger team and I am much more conservative in how we manage money given the responsibility for my employees’ livelihood.
In our first year, we didn’t have much to base on given the trajectory of our operations. Now, just a year later, we have set a budget that is aligned with our strategy and are very strict on adhering to it.
Also, we have built up a 5-month cash reserve in the bank to allow us to make the decision from a place of security instead of fear.
Can you share some of your personal investment strategies?
I don’t have much of a personal investment strategy which is why I am so excited to work with The New Savvy on this.
I started reading a lot on various websites last year and started to make sure that I was working on getting my basics (emergency fund, health insurance, retirements savings, and investments) covered.
I come from an Arab family where a lot of wealth building is around buying real estate. With real estate being so expensive and so liquid in nature, my interest has been in learning more about REITs, ETF, stocks and a small portion in cryptocurrencies.
Are there particular investment products (financial tools) you find useful?
Last year, I signed up for fundsupermart and coinhako.
For tools, I use a spreadsheet and an app called ‘Seedly’ to track my daily expenses. I checked out some of the robo-advisors and didn’t like them because I don’t like to invest in something I don’t understand.
What were some financial adjustments you had to make transitioning from a corporate job to running your own company?
The biggest adjustment was realising that I am responsible for myself can’t blame the environment aka my boss or the company.
I also realized that I am responsible for coverage of my own insurance and retirement, so I am increasingly conscious about things like that.
Can you share some of your business’s financial achievements and struggles along the way?
- Spending money and not making any (first 6 months of business)
- Adjusting to living with 500$ a month
What are the current methods and strategies you adopt for your financial security net whilst running a business of your own?
I live with my family, limit my spending, and spend most of my money on paying off my payments I also say no to travel which used to eat all my money.
How has your overall financial outlook changed since being in charge of your own company?
I have come to realise that money is a powerful tool to enable people. Money is not meant to be a bad thing; it’s really important, empowering, and can be used as a force to do good.
Although Yasmine realised that she needed to manage her finances a little later, Dawn is determined to help her get back the lost years of financial management.
Dawn Cher better known as SG Budget Babe, is a 27-year old finance blogger. Through her blog, she documents her efforts to achieve financial freedom before she reaches the age of 45. Although she is currently working as a compliance account manager and one of Singapore’s top female financial bloggers, she did not study finance in school.
Growing up, she was always solving money issues on her own due to her family’s tough financial situation. Dawn almost had to forgo university owing to a lack of funds, but she was determined to find a way out. Through research and hard work, she saves money as well as uses trading as one of her strategies to achieve her financial goals despite the rising cost of living in Singapore.
Dawn is also the owner of Singapore’s first mass-market organic skincare line, Blended and just recently got married.
She believes that it is important to pay yourself first. She tries to spend money on things with high utility value. Dawn is excited to work with Yasmine as they are not just both into yoga, but she wants Yasmine to know that managing her personal finances isn’t as difficult as many people perceive it to be.