Andrei Soen is no big spender — except when it comes to his dog, Kobe.
The straight-talking entrepreneur jokes that the Chow Chow may qualify as his worst personal purchase, just because of how expensive it was. For starters, it came with a $12,000 price tag. "I’d never spent money like that, never dropped anything over $1,000 in my life before."
It can also get costly to feed Kobe. Andrei cooks healthy, nutritious meals for his dog — the likes of brown rice, quinoa, turkey, salmon, spinach, and sweet potato. "He’s got a good diet. Eats better than I do," he quips.
Yet, there’s no doubt that Kobe has turned out to be his all-time best buy. "He makes so many people around me happy, and makes me happy. That’s all it is."
Besides the fluffy pooch, restaurants are another of Andrei’s big loves. Even after a long day at work, the creative juices continue to flow at home as he brainstorms on the team’s next project or collaboration. "That drives me and keeps me going," says the 37-year-old chef, who owns sandwich restaurant Park Bench Deli.
That’s not to say he’s unacquainted with the demands and challenges of the food and beverage (F&B) industry. Standing out from the crowd is tough. Eking out margins is no picnic. "You can’t get complacent, you can’t just chill. It keeps you on your toes all the time."
He puts it plainly: "What keeps me up at night? My business and my dog, who snores really loud."
"I won’t be able to touch my CPF for a long time. So I thought, 'Let's do something with it. Grow this thing.'"
Financial buffer in tough times
Having a safety net in place is critical, especially for a restaurateur. The Covid-19 crisis drove this message home — food and beverage (F&B) players were among the hardest hit by the pandemic restrictions, with many businesses forced to shutter.
That was a wake-up call for Andrei. F&B had been his only means of generating an income, and he was essentially pouring all his savings into the business. "When you don’t have money, it feels like shit. It’s one of the worst feelings. Covid-19 made me think about how if my company closes, I will close with my company too."
He realised he needed to set some money aside — not just for passive income but also, more importantly, as a cushion in case the business fails. "If I put everything in one place and don’t allocate it anywhere else, it doesn’t help me in the long term."
Through his investments, Andrei’s goal is to achieve retirement adequacy and financial freedom over time.
He recognises that ups and downs are part and parcel of the markets. Whether it’s a recession, rising inflation, geopolitical tensions, or another global pandemic, he wants to be able to ride through the cycles and future-proof his finances.
"Things like that are going to keep happening every decade, right? So I want to be financially free and secure enough to be able to endure these cycles. I’m in this for the long run… It’s not about fast money for me."
"Covid-19 woke me up… I realised I needed to have some money on the side as a safety net if my business ever fails."
Specifically for his Central Provident Fund (CPF) savings, knowing that he won’t be able to withdraw them for a few more decades, he decided to work the money harder by investing it with Endowus.
"I had a chunk of change just sitting in my CPF that I won’t be able to touch for a long time, except when buying a home. So I thought, 'Let’s do something with it. Grow this thing.' Hopefully I’ll get higher returns at the end of it."
Not simmering down just yet
In the meantime, early retirement is, assuredly, not his cup of tea. This decision was recently cemented while Andrei was stuck in the US for a couple of months after losing his passport. There, he got so bored "not doing shit" that it made him certain he won’t want to retire anytime soon.
And of course, his ambitions and deep affinity with F&B are hard to miss. He dreams of opening a slew of restaurants under a huge variety of concepts, while expanding his current side hustle of food consultation. To make these a reality, financial freedom is a must.
"Developing concepts and menus and launching restaurants are some of my favourite things to do. It’s been super fun. I really, really want to keep chasing it," says Andrei, who used to work at his family’s restaurants in California, and has been active in Singapore’s F&B scene for a decade.
"I love the creative side of helping people out with their concepts, bringing their ideas to fruition. So I’d also like to grow that consulting thing, really get into it, and create cool brands."
His enduring passion for F&B has only grown stronger over the nearly two decades spent in the industry. Even as he acknowledges that there are many "way better" and easier ways to make money, it’s clear that he will remain in this line of work for the foreseeable future.
"I don’t think I can go anywhere else. That’s why I don’t think I could retire. I love feeding people and seeing a smile on their face. It’s not even about the money — I’m stoked when they’re stoked about my food, you know? That’s really important to me," he says.
"So, yeah, hopefully I’ll grow a big group of restaurants. If anyone wants to invest in that, hit me up."
Eat, drink, and sleep well knowing your long-term plans are sorted. Optimise your CPF with Endowus today.