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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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temperament said...

Hi AK,

TwoThumbs Up!
i think this post is one of your best.
i am more impressed and touched then all your other posts that i have read.

AK71 said...

Hi temperament,

You like?

I also dunno why wor.

How liddat? -.-"

Unknown said...

Hi AK:)

May your student keep his 'reformed' lifestyle up!
He is lucky to have his life compass grounded with your assistance. Tell him that there are lots of people who have gone down those difficult roads and if a village helps him, his future is bright.


AK71 said...

Hi dorshii,

Thanks for the encouragement. :)

ted said...

A quote of a quote.

Every time I feel drowned like that whether it's knowledge, or a skill that I am falling short at, I always think of the Neil Degrasse Tyson quote:

|"Whether or not you can never become great at something, you can always become better at it. Don't ever forget that! And don’t say “I’ll never be good”. You can become better! and one day you’ll wake up and you’ll find out how good you actually became."

And then I focus on gaining the next bit of knowledge or improving the skill that's right in front of me.


Chris said...

He is lucky to have AK as his tutor, good job!
I am lucky to discover AK's blog a few year ago...keep it up!


AK71 said...

Hi guys,

Thanks for the encouraging comments. :)

Unknown said...

Hi AK71

Do you teach tuition for subject "Investing for Beginner"?

AK71 said...

Hi Eugene,

Alamak. I received no formal education in that subject.

How to teach liddat? Cham... -.-"

Solace said...

For your student to keep in contact with you since PSLE time, your teaching must have left a deep impression in him since then.

Clothes retail have it tough. Just recently, Aeropostale has filed for bankruptcy. During the peak, its market capitalization was nearly US$3 billion. It's strong brand was recognized as one its economic moats eearlier.

Consumer preferences have changed rapidly, I hope that your student will eventually come up with a backup plan in the events things take a turn for the worst.

AK71 said...

Hi Solace,

Apparel business is a terrible one. I heard from a friend in the industry that A&F as well as GAP are also not doing well.

I am more of a Giordano and Uniqlo guy. Recently, I also became a Cotton On guy. What's more? I actually buy their stuff only when they are on special offer.

I know. AK is terrible. ;p

Ca3kidslee said...


I have been following your articles for some months. This is the first time writing a comment, please pardon my poor English. Your investing and saving articles benefited me. I browse your blog almost everyday, hoping to learn something in investing, saving, life...etc

I copied and pasted this particular article as a start to share with my 3 teenagers . I told them about your story - how you earn a very good passive income, how you offer great advice to others about saving, investing, lifestyle etc.

I will keep on sharing some of your writeouts to my teenagers and want them to get inspired and learn how to save and invest from younger age.Hmmm... They are lucky to have parents teaching them... and I am lucky to have someone like AK to learn from... :>

BTW, is there anyway to know and reserved a seat beforehand for any of your free seminar/talk or event that you may give?

AK71 said...

Hi Lee,

Welcome to ASSI. I am glad that you have found my blog helpful.

An evening with AK and friends? Had 5 sessions last year. This year, not yet. If I do organise another session, I will blog about it. However, it won't be free. The last session was priced at $25 a ticket. :)

AK71 said...

Hi AK,
I have been following for your blog for more than a year and one of the first blogs I read was about your student who quit smoking. I would like to share that story in class next week but I cannot find that blog now. I am a school teacher, by the way. :)

Here it is. ;)

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