Friday, August 12, 2022

The best is yet to be - My adventures at ACS Independent


It is good that investment trainers to do some pro-bono by visiting secondary schools and presenting to students. If you're lucky, some students will get the message and you'll get to shape some lives, but it is also good for the trainer because you get practice to see whether you ideas can find traction in young minds. It is always challenging when the audience did not pay for your time or may not have the inclination to listen to lecture.

So I was delighted when the Entrepreneurship society of ACS Independent invite me to speak to their students for an hour and spent the afternoon in their campus premises. This is actually he first time I'm presenting in school premises as my slides have only been deployed in RI over Zoom for the past 3 years.

The talk was fine, but I felt that the material, honed over two years at RI, could not fully resonate with ACSI audience but I was mostly able to maintain the attention of these teenagers when I spoke of my personal story - about how outsourcing work can lead to suicides in the workplace and the scholar-farmer divide in the government sector is alienating to those labelled farmers. But I think I won the crowd eventually when I spoke about how the effects of compounding wealth over the years is literally the reason why "the best is yet to be". 

Why do I know it works? Because I love triggering RI students about how compounding of wealth is embedded in their rival's school motto, and relying just on brains and not capital is a loser's game. 

[ In such situations, I see myself as a cross between Magneto and Professor Snape. ]

Anyway, I was actually disappointed that kids have moved on their personal interests. I tried sharing my own personal interests on one slide but no one perked up. I think that's fair, you can't really tell young people about Pink Floyd or David Bowie ( but my son loves Rick Astley ). I also suspect my slides, being keyed to League of Legends, may not actually be played by teens today.

Naturally, I broke the news of speaking in ACSI after the fact, then my FB was flooded by extremely negative people who claim that ACSI does not need any help in financial management and some already come from billionaire families. One joker even said that ACS is so wealthy that my audience were probably all paid body doubles. 

Maybe it's cool to demonize the wealth of ACS twenty years ago, but I find the kids in my class very ordinary. 

The most intelligent question I was asked yesterday was whether I felt it was fair for policy makers to give 2.5%/4% for CPF when invested returns far exceed that amount. I was not very inclined to catalyse the birth of the next Chee Soon Juan, so I told him that while returns are low, the risk or standard deviation is zero, so CPF is actually a very attractive savings instrument.  Furthermore, Singaporeans actually rushed to contribute to CPF during the pandemic so I am not inclined to disagree with current returns are puny.

Anyway, for the blog reader, what is the moral of the story ?

Harsh truth - ACSI has a very dedicated team of teachers who supported their CCA by inviting an investment trainer into campus.  RI even has a dedicated segment for students who aspire to be future investment bankers. In every case, when I worked with our elite schools, no one burdened me with humiliating checks over my course materials and attempts at censorship. 

Fact is people pay thousands of dollars to hear me speak.   

The saddest story is that I took so much pains to volunteer to teach personal finance in my own secondary school and so far I've not managed to gain any ground over this as communications get dropped and people just wander off to take on other projects.

So in the future if ACSI and RI groomed more billionaires or generates the greatest number of jobs for Singaporeans, don't be salty, ask yourselves how much red tape the neighbourhood schools are saddled with before demonize others for their prosperity.

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