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How did AK's student go from zero to hero?

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Some know that AK was a teacher and continued teaching as a private tutor on and off for many years. Tutoring was one of AK's jobs for a few years when he was holding on to 3 jobs in his younger days, working 7 days a week. 

Looking back, it does seem unbelievable but it really did happen. 

Some might think that AK was really money grabbing. Well, in a way, I suppose. 

However, I really did enjoy teaching and, so, tutoring didn't feel like much of a chore for me. I even tutored 2 students for free for 2 years before they took their PSLE because their families could not afford the fees. So, it wasn't all for the money, I guess.

Anyway, some time back, I met up with one student who decided to help out in his father's business selling t-shirts. It is a difficult business. More and more people buy cheaper and more fashionable clothing online these days. It is one of those businesses that are badly affected by the online shopping trend. AK told him so.

Maybe, it is due to filial piety and some other reasons which the student would not say, he decided to continue helping his father. However, he did say that he was worried about his own finances because he was not paid a lot and he would like to buy a 2 room HDB flat when he turns 35 a few years later.

I asked him how much was his take home pay and found out that it was $1,500. 

I asked him how much was he saving and found out that he saved next to nothing.

I told him he was not going to be able to buy even a tile at that rate and he nodded, eyes reddened.

What could AK do? 

Nag lor, as usual.

Recently, I met up with the student again and he felt better about himself.  

What happened? 

Apparently, he paid attention to AK's nagging.

1. He quit smoking. Well done! AK told him he was burning away money literally now and in the future by smoking. He still had a deep throaty cough that wouldn't go away. That is worrisome.

2. He no longer buys Starbucks coffee or Gong Cha bubble tea. Well done! Do you believe me when I say those drinks are bad for our physical and financial health.

3. He has been stashing away a minimum of $500 a month in savings. Well done!

Although he felt better about himself, he was still feeling inadequate with a savings rate of $500 a month. It was obvious to me that his self esteem was still low. That's not good.

So, I told him earnestly that for someone who was taking home only $1,500 a month, saving $500 a month meant a 33% savings rate. Compared to someone who took home $5,000 a month and saving $500, all else being equal, he was doing a phenomenal job. 

That cheered him up.

Always keep the big picture in mind and if we can only take baby steps in the beginning, take them. Don't forget. Every step brings us closer to our goal. Every bit adds up.

All of us have different circumstances. Doing the best we can and doing better over time is what should matter to us and I was so happy when I heard his parting words:

"I will try to be a better person and do better each day. Thank you."

Don't want to be a zero? Well, all of us can be a hero. We just have to zero in on the right things.

If AK's student can do it, so can you!

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