Whether you are a twenty-something at the beginning of your career, buying your first home, or sending your child off to pursue an overseas education, one thing’s for sure: it’s essential for you to do your financial planning.
As current netizens of Web 2.0, we are constantly bombarded with information all over the Internet. It’s not always easy to sieve out accurate information when it comes to financial content, let alone information that is readily available within a single platform.
Enter DollarsAndSense – a local website that aims to help Singaporeans navigate through all things finance-related. Be it savings, insurance, investment or property, the site has you covered. And while it may have been around for almost 5 years, it already has a steady stream of over 330,000 visitors a month and 16,000 followers on Facebook.
In August, The Redbrick Team spoke with Timothy Ho, who is the Co-Founder and Managing Editor at DollarsAndSense. Timothy and his team, who are all barely 30, had not even been in the working world for half a decade before they decided that they would be able (and keen) to run DollarsAndSense full time. And so, the team left their respective positions from the corporate world, and subsequently channelled all their time and energy to the site.
In the following interview, Timothy shares more about the start-up that they have built over the past 5 years.
The Redbrick Team (RB): What is DollarsAndSense?
Timothy Ho (TH): DollarsAndSense is a personal finance website that aims to help Singaporeans make better financial decisions.
RB: How long has DollarsAndSense been around for, and what has the journey been like?
TH: We started in October 2012, so we are reaching 5 years soon! At that time, it was also when I graduated and started working full time. For the first 3 years, we ran DollarsAndSense on a part time basis. I was working in corporate communication and investor relations for a listed company while managing DollarsAndSense as a passion. It was quite a struggle, trying to juggle a full-time job, personal commitments, and DollarsAndSense.
Also, DollarsAndSense was not monetized yet back then. It was only after the 3 years, in 2015, that we decided that it would make financial sense to do it full time, so that was when we decided to pursue it full time.
RB: What made you decide to start DollarsAndSense?
TH: We felt that many Singaporeans were not getting access to relevant personal finance information that they need to have. So we felt a website that explain financial concept in simple layman term would make sense.
RB: How big is the team at DollarsAndSense?
TH: DollarsAndSense is made up of a 6-person team. Because our website is content-centric, we get everyone to write. We believe that when you write, you’ll understand the content [that’s being produced] and finance terms and jargon a lot better.
Aside from writing, we have Kang Heong who is in charge of the tech and website; Dinesh who is in charge of client related work, and Deanna is in charge of business development. And other than the full-time team, we usually have 2 interns with us who work on producing creative content such as our videos, as well as be in control of our social media engagement.
As for myself, I am the Managing Editor. So I am in charge of the content strategy for the entire site. Other than writing, I also meet up with clients to plan content strategies for their campaigns.
RB: How would you describe the process when producing an article?
TH: Content is usually run on a 3-week schedule. Week 1 is where we meet to discuss the editorial ideas that we will be working on the following week (week 2). By the time week 2 comes, all the articles would already have been written by Friday. These articles are then published the week after (week 3).
Apart from producing content for our site, we also syndicate to other portals, including asiaone, yahoo and Newsloop.
RB: What does a regular work day look like?
TH: I usually spend my morning writing, editing and clearing emails. Afternoons are then spent on client-related matters.
RB: Where do you get inspiration for your content?
TH: Lots of reading. You need to be genuinely interested in what you do. I am lucky because I am very interested in both finance and digital marketing. I think ultimately, interest is what makes us good in what we do.
RB: What kind of challenges do you face?
TH: Any finance content is challenging because a lot of things are technical, and you need to be able to understand it for yourself first before you can even explain and give examples to people. When it comes to finance, we also have to be able to understand one concept well to write about it. For example, if I want to write about investment returns, I must first understand what is compounding effect and simple interest.
This is especially challenging for new writers, because there’s a steeper learning curve. And of course, when it comes to finance, you also have to be very precise and very accurate with your facts.
RB: How long do you see yourself running DollarsAndSense for?
TH: As long as it takes. I don’t see myself not doing this.
RB: What are your plans for the future?
TH: We are looking to move into Malaysia this year. We currently already have a DollarsAndSense.my site up that was launched last year, but it’s been stagnant for a while, so we’re planning to do a re-launch. The timeline would depend on how we will get the team together; we’re currently looking for content writers.
RB: How would you describe your risk appetite?
TH: I am like most average Singaporeans out there – a risk adverse person. I may be running a start-up so people expect that I am someone who likes to take risk. But that actually make me much more cautious in my own investment.
RB: How do you plan for your retirement?
TH: I make it a point to do something tangible each year for my retirement. Since I went into DollarsAndSense full time, as an entrepreneur, it’s a bit risky to run your own business and invest at the same time, so I didn’t really invest the past 2 years.
However, I did make it a point to top up my CPF Special Account (SA) from my Ordinary Account. I think that the 4-5% long-term risk-free interest is extremely attractive.
I also do cash savings, which is personally important for me.
RB: Any advice for first time investors?
TH: If you are investing for the first-time, start slow. Investment is a marathon, not a sprint.
RB: What kind of investment strategies would you recommend?
TH: Go for a low-cost exchange-traded fund (ETF) if you are new to investing.
Also, a tip for new parents like myself. I recently had a daughter, and I started investing for her. What I did was that whatever grants I got from cash bonuses from the government, I invested it for her. Low-cost ETF at the moment, and I will probably also invest in some blue-chip stock which will eventually make money on its own.
RB: What do you do in your free time?
TH: I don’t have much free time but almost every free moment I have, it’s spent with my daughter. She’s about 5 months old!
To keep yourself constantly in the loop for all things finance and investments related, visit our friends at DollarsAndSense.sg!
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