Whether you know him from pop band The Sam Willows, his online comedy sketches, or the viral tongue-in-cheek ballad The Caifan Song, there’s no question about Benjamin Kheng’s musical, acting, and comedic chops.
But as much as he finds joy in creating content and making music, the performing artist and entrepreneur is acutely aware that it can come at a cost — for him, it’s an incredibly packed schedule with nary a free minute.
Ben points out that many freelancers inevitably become workaholics. "You don’t have off-in-lieus, you don’t have weekends, and you never know when to stop working. You have to create parameters for yourself, and the hustle is real."
Although he knows an overly hectic work schedule is unhealthy, he often ends up clocking more than 100 hours a week. As he puts it, there’s no "off" switch. Working so hard that he forgets to do rudimentary tasks — be it walking the dog, managing his finances, or spending time with his family — is a recurring problem.
Sometimes, it may even seem out of the question to take a sick day. "I mean, you can report (that you’re sick) to your boss," he says, pointing to himself. "But when your boss says to work, you work. I need to get a better boss, but yeah, that’s the reality of the job," he adds half-jokingly.
"My worst money decision was being too risk-averse with my savings. I feel like I wasted a lot of very valuable years not seeking good advice."
Path to financial freedom
Having been self-employed for a decade, Ben is also no stranger to the fact that a regular and consistent income from work is not guaranteed. The odds of losing part of his income temporarily, however remote, are not lost on him.
"What keeps me up at night are my insecurities — the possibility of not being able to provide for my family at some point. I don’t have the most stable of careers. The possibility of not having a stable income is very real for me."
Meanwhile, his hopes to start a family in the future have made money matters ever more pressing. If fatherhood becomes a reality for the newly married 32-year-old, saving and investing to raise the child will become top of mind.
And with his father now retired, Ben is determined to make his golden years as comfortable as possible.
"I want my parents to sail off into the sunset together, happy and carefree… That’s my wish, for them to be comfortable and to not worry,” he says. To help his parents age gracefully and retire happily, he will have to be able to take care of them financially if necessary.
What’s more, with the costs he has incurred so far to kickstart a new business — he recently co-founded a video production company — the value of long-term planning to attain financial freedom has truly sunk in.
"With adulthood… and coming into greater responsibilities… I really have to start thinking about these things properly."
But while Ben is ready to take stock of his financial future, he readily admits that he’s "not the most financially literate person".
For one thing, he describes himself as extremely risk-averse when it comes to investing. That has meant leaving much of his cash simply sitting in a bank account earning paltry returns.
Much of this risk aversion stemmed from seeing his parents hit by unexpected, huge medical bills that depleted a large amount of their savings.
His father kept the family afloat. "Watching my dad rising from the ashes like a phoenix and just taking it upon himself to rescue our family from debt was really moving," Ben recalls.
From that experience, he began to develop "massive trust issues" with his money, which turned him off from investing sooner.
"No matter how many times someone I love tries to explain investing or CPF to me, I walk away with 10% of that information."
Before starting with Endowus, the only major investments he had really made were into passion projects relating to music or film, including a few YouTube comedy sketch series. While he is grateful that these projects have "paid very well in life and laughs" — adding depth and breadth to his career — they did not produce much in immediate financial returns.
Having an irregular monthly income from freelance work also drove him to be highly protective of his savings — to a fault. He now calls it his "worst money decision".
"I feel like I wasted a lot of very valuable years not seeking good (financial) advice," Ben says. "I definitely could have explored investments sooner. In retrospect, I wish Endowus was in my life then to save me from those bad decisions."
If he could turn back time, he would learn to grow and invest his CPF savings early on. "I was not the most diligent with that," he admits. Only when buying his first home did he realise the pain of having too little CPF funds, as he had to cough up a lot more cash for the purchase.
He’s candid about his lack of financial know-how. “No matter how many times someone I love tries to explain investing or CPF to me, I just look at them with eyes glazed over, and go, ‘Yeah, good thoughts, man.’ And then I walk away with 10% of that information."
Still, Ben knows that he’s not alone. Many in Singapore are not the most financially savvy.
"We struggle to understand basic concepts like investments or CPF, and that’s why having a wealth platform like Endowus that can not just explain it but also optimise our (finances) is super crucial."
The vast amount of financial and investment advice out there makes him wary, too. Young adults today are inundated with information online, making it hard to discern which advice is credible and suitable for them. Scammers are also devising new methods, ranging from pump-and-dump schemes and dubious investment recommendations to credit card fraud.
"There’s no Nigerian prince who’s going to give you an inheritance through your email… But I know so many friends who have fallen for scams. Just a few days ago, a friend of mine lost control of all her credit cards. It can really happen to anyone," Ben says.
He urges everyone, especially young adults in their 20s and 30s, to only go with safe and trusted entities to invest their money, and understand that get-rich-quick schemes are unrealistic.
“Aligning yourself with a trustworthy wealth platform that has your best interests at heart, like Endowus, is extremely important," Ben says.
At the moment, his priority is in parking his finances in the right portfolios with a trustworthy source, so the money can grow over time with minimal effort on his part. That frees up his time and energy, letting him focus on pursuing his "many lofty dreams" without worrying about his investments.
"I’m really looking towards the future. That’s why I think Endowus has great synergy with where I am in my life right now."
In the long run, he aspires to build his whole life and career around music and creating, and perhaps even produce a feature film eventually. He imagines that if money were no issue at all, once financial freedom becomes a reality, he would still be doing what he’s doing right now — but on a much larger scale.
"Having that financial security is like a tool that expands your creative language, to achieve bigger and more exciting things."
He quips: "So yeah, (investing with) Endowus is going to help me make that feature film very soon, I’m pretty sure."
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