Interview with Apelles Poh, Pastor & Financial Advisor

Apelles Poh

Grace says: I was intrigued by how a Pastor can also be a very successful Financial Advisor. In Apelles’ case, he achieved MDRT for 10 years, COT for 4 years and also TOT for 3 years!

Interesting facts about Apelles:

-Preached his first sermon at age 16

-Signed on with the Air Force for 6 years before he left to join the Financial Planning line

-He was initially anti-insurance till he realized that the products were sound, it was just that the behavior of some agents turned people off

-Wanted to quit insurance three times within his first year. He calls it a humbling process

- Clients now look for him at his office instead of him going to meet them, unless the client’s pregnant or needs to take care of young children

1) How did you become so successful as a financial advisor? 

There are 5 Ps (and their accompanying questions) to Success.

1) Passion – Do you enjoy what you do?

2) Professionalism – Are you good at what you do? Three sets of skills are necessary – Core Skills, Soft Skills, Life skills.

3) Profitability – Will people pay you for what you do?

4) Processes – Are there systems for what you do? Systematize and work ON your business instead of IN your business.

5) Purpose *This is the most important one* – Do you know why you do it?

Life is never smooth, so you’ll need the 5Ps and God. :)

2) You mentioned that you focus on your clients (i.e. people) first. Does this mean money naturally follows?

I seek to add value to people and I hope each meeting with me leaves them better than before they met me. For instance, I know most people forget about what they have bought after about a month so I provide a financial summary for them – something they can comprehend at one glance so they won’t forget. I want to give them a big picture, instead of small jigsaw pieces.

I believe in holistic planning. I will advise clients on will writing, debt repayment, CPF nomination, etc. Sometimes, it’s even pro bono work but I am happy to know that I have helped someone.

Don’t care about the commissions. Have a heartbeat for the people.

The proceeds from my first book, ‘Live Well, Love Much, Laugh Often’ have gone to charity – $60,000 to the Children’s Cancer Foundation. I’ve donated another $10,000 to the ST Pocket Money Fund.

Money is like fertilizer, hoard it and it stinks, but if you give it away, it will create life.

I’m sponsoring 20 children – 10 in India and 10 in Batam.

I realized these Indian children watch movies and eat meat only about three times a year. But they have no complaints. They do not choose which soft toys they want to accept. Singaporean kids, in contrast, tend to complain a lot. Here, we have a lot but we really don’t have much because we are not grateful.

3) So, how can we “Live Well” and enjoy Life?

Firstly, slow down by choice. Make time to slow down. Don’t go through life without life going through you. Don’t see without observing, don’t eat without tasting, don’t touch without feeling.

We should not be called Singaporeans because we don’t sing a lot. We should be called Rush-ians because we rush a lot. :D

Secondly, observe Life. We spend thousands to go and see snow. The Swiss spend thousands to come here and see the Botanic Gardens. ;)

We have nice parks so go and walk. Observe the types of green – the different shades are very interesting! New life is always springing forth and we must learn to be like them. Have newness, don’t give up! Observe the different shapes. Listen to the cicada and the crickets. Bring sanity and centering back to your life.

A common objection people have is that of “No Time!”. Make time. Only dead people have no time.

Grace says: I left this interview with many insights – I hope you have gotten at least a few. ;) You can also grab a copy of Apelles’ book or come by for his talk next week. (Details below) :)

Purchase a copy of ‘Live Well, Love Much, Laugh Often’ by clicking here

Attend an in-house talk entitled “Asset Preservation and Distribution Strategies – Will Writing” & “Honey, Where Is The Money?”on Thursday, 19th April 2012 at 7.30pm. (Venue: Novena Square) *Indicate your interest by emailing me at and I will send you an invite from Apelles.

*If you’re new to this blog, submit your email address in the Subscription field on your right and get all inspiring interviews delivered to your inbox free-of-charge! Do it NOW! :)

Interview with Dennis Ng from &

Dennis Ng (and Grace, with Dennis’ 2 books; both bestsellers)

1) What are the biggest mistakes people make with their money?

People often mistake income as what they earn. What you really earn is your savings – the net “profit”. Pay Yourself First!

They save insufficient amounts of money. I recommend at least 10% or a minimum of $300 per month.

They play safe with their savings too as they are scared of losing. You know how the Law Of Attraction works – the Universe hears “lose lose lose”, and they are scared of losing hence they lose. For the investor, losing is part of the equation; it is already expected. While others put money in a safe place which cannot beat inflation, the rich borrow money from the bank.

Some treat Life Insurance as savings. Returns 3%, again less than inflation, which means they are getting poorer.

Investing without adequate knowledge, which is actually gambling.

Blindly listening to others, even so-called experts, without doing their own thinking.

Have the Something for Nothing mentality.

Some are blinded by greed and fall for scams.

Aim to be debt-free as soon as possible. I’m a multi-millionaire and I owe the bank money. Just don’t over-borrow.

I see my income as a function of the value I provide to society. If what you do is the reward itself, then you will enjoy happiness and fulfillment.

2) What habits do you believe have the most effect on wealth accumulation & management?

Pay Yourself First.

Invest in acquiring investment knowledge. Have knowledge before investing.

Make money work for you; returns must be higher than the inflation rate. It is possible to get 15% or more average annual returns per year. Leverage on the Power of Compounding.

Understanding Financial Planning is like Soccer; it requires Good Defence & Offence.

We are just here to perform a specific purpose. People mistake money with wealth. Income is a function of the value you deliver and number of people you serve.

I don’t need to chase after money. Just ask “How can I serve more people, how can I increase my value-add?” Find the answer and your income automatically increases. My income is my scoreboard. To earn a million dollars, I probably have to deliver 5 million in value. The value I deliver to society is what motivates me. My income will be a fraction of that.

3) Which are the core lessons you would like people to learn?

First, want to become rich. Most people WISH to be rich. They don’t want to become rich, e.g. they don’t want to look at financial statements.

Secondly, BELIEVE you can become rich. Stop waiting to win at the Big Sweep. Hope is not a strategy. It is undependable.

Thirdly, start taking action. What do I need to know? What are the rich people in the world investing in?

Learn how to invest like the rich, instead of living like the rich. I made that mistake. I went to learn to play golf and found out I had no aptitude for it. Golf requires time for practice. Haven’t played badminton in 10 years? You’ll still be able to now. But you need to go to the driving range at least once a week. I think golf is for people with too much money and too much time.

Also, it’s NOT the wealth that you will acquire that is the most valuable thing. The most valuable thing is the person that you will become in this journey and process.

4) How can we get started on the path to becoming a millionaire?

Learn to reach financial freedom. Learn how to plan your finances.

The smart investor looks for high returns and low risks. A simple rule is this: the upside must be double the downside. Demand that risk must be low!

Learn. Unlearn. Learn.

5) What is your opinion on “Money” and “Happiness”? Does having lots of money bring Happiness?

No! I have worked for 7 years in a bank and 8 years as a financial planner. I have met rich people who are not happy, rich people who are very happy, poor people who are happy or unhappy.

Of course, a comfortable existence is difficult without money. Happiness is a feeling, a state. Happiness is a decision. If you wake up in the morning and you slip and fall, you can curse, and think it is a bad omen and that everything else is going to fail. OR, you can pick yourself up and laugh about how it’s so funny like you’re watching a comedy. It is all a personal choice.

I asked myself what I really want. Some things I do are not fun but are necessary. Everyone is looking for happiness and fulfillment. We don’t want temporary fun.

Material things cannot give us what we really need. After 3 days, the excitement is gone.

Grace says: I have to admit I usually get rather nervous meeting these multi-millionaires, celebrities and successful entrepreneurs. But I’ve found that most of them are really nice folks. Hard to believe, but true!

Dennis is one of them. Our 1-hour interview stretched to 2 hours, and he gave me a copy of each of his 2 bestselling books (imagine that!). I had already bought Dennis’ first book and he autographed all 3.  XD

That’s not all.

After our interview, I went to another location to interview another entrepreneur and while waiting for the latter, I realised that Dennis had sent me an email after he left, with his detailed answers to my interview questions (I had sent them to him before we met up). It was totally unexpected because I was taking notes with my ipad during our interview. It was one of my rare almost-fell-off-the-chair moments.

He’s such a generous soul that I have no qualms about recommending his books or his training programmes. I’m sure you’ll get at least 5 (if not 10) times more value than what you pay.

I highly recommend you get a copy of at least his first book here

Here’s what Lorna Tan, former editor of the “Invest” section in The Sunday Times said about the book:

“In this book, Dennis has shared many useful tips and practical strategies on managing and growing wealth. I’m sure you will gain valuable insights from it.”

Join me on the path to becoming a millionaire! :)

Interview with Derek Gue

Derek Gue

Financial Consultant at a Financial Advisory firm

1)    Why did you choose this profession and what do you love most about your job?

Since I was young, I have enjoyed the process of interacting with people and negotiating with them. As my family was not well-to-do then, my parents did not buy TV game consoles for my brother and I. Therefore, I invited my friends and cousins to bring their consoles over to my home during the holidays, so my brother and I will also get a chance to play.

During my undergraduate days, I was engaged in many jobs which required me to interact with people – promoting car polish packages and encyclopaedias, conducting marketing and research surveys on the streets, among others.

All these experiences led me to choose a career which has a lot of human interaction, where every day brings new learning experiences with people from all walks of life. The element I love most about my job is that I get to add value to my customer’s life and leave him/her in a much better financial position than before.

After identifying my role and interest, I chose the Financial Advisory industry as a career path.

After my graduation and before I entered the industry, I had difficulty understanding the policy contracts that my parents purchased; the many terms, jargon, numbers and benefits! I believe many customers have similar frustrations. It saddened me a lot as it is their hard-earned money and the policy maturity can take many years, even decades! Because they wanted to support their friends or relatives in the financial planning industry, some of the plans they purchased were not that ideal. Hence, I got this conviction to learn more about financial products and constantly challenge myself to always conduct business with the client’s interests and benefits as my utmost priority as I serve in this industry.

Although I must admit that one man’s work may not change Singaporeans’ perception of the industry, I just want to reach out to as many people as I can and make a difference and a positive impact.

 2) What is the difference between an ‘insurance agent’ and a ‘financial planner’?

I think these are merely titles printed on name cards. Both these groups can be performing similar roles with overlapping functions. More important to me is the client’s experience and impression of me after our meeting. Whichever title I go by is not important to me. Previously, when I worked in a bank for 2 years, I also had the same belief. Everyone (with the right motives and intentions, except robbers, money launderers, etc) who walked into the bank is a customer and held a bigger title than me.

3) Some people shun insurance agents as they are afraid of being pestered. Is this necessarily justified?

This is also a perception of our industry that has existed for a long time. I think it is absolutely crucial at the 1st meeting to understand the client’s needs (which include talking about risk appetite, demographics, investment experience, etc.) so the client will know that this is a solution tailored for them and that they have been through a consultation process centred on them and not just the agent trying to sell a product to hit a quota.

On top of risk management solutions, (ie: insurance), my company provides wealth management tools that grow the client’s wealth through investments (like Unit Trusts and Hedge Funds as well as other sophisticated investment products). Every time clients in my portfolio receive my call, I can hear their happiness and joy because they know I am monitoring their investments and keeping them updated. This keeps the relationship going strong, generates referrals and they are also more receptive towards other product recommendations. Thankfully, none of my clients has called me a pest.

My customers can thus enjoy other sweet rewards of life (spending time with their families, pursuing their hobbies, etc.) and know their financial concerns are looked after by a professional.

4) What is one memorable experience you have had with helping a client?

I can recall serving a client who is suffering from mild depression coupled with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD). The first 2 appointments were a challenge and each appointment lasted an average of 3 to 4 hours. The client did not trust anyone easily and had previously lost money through her investments. I did not even get a chance to present my solutions/recommendations until the 3rd appointment.

For many years, she has not purchased any product from the banks, although she has met up with many bankers and enjoying preferred banking relationship status with at least 3 banks. I guess the client is touched by my perseverance and patience and over the last few months, took up a couple of my recommendations. Through my interaction and experience with this client, I have learnt a lot about soft skills and become a better adviser. She has also given me a few referrals. Hence, I am working hard to keep this relationship strong.

5) Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong recently mentioned that the insurance industry should place more emphasis on term insurance. What’s your take?

My view as an adviser is that we must educate customers about the different types of insurance along with their merits and flaws.

As term plans do not have cash value and do not accumulate bonuses, it may not be suitable for all individuals as some may prefer a plan with cash value to save for their retirement. Those without the time or experience to monitor their investments may prefer to purchase a plan in which their paid premiums, combined with other policy holders’ within the same insurance company, gets invested and managed by the company’s investment team.

Because of the ‘Bonus Smoothing’ practice, most insurance companies will still pay out bonuses even if their investment returns are negative in any year as they have built up a reserve fund during good times. Generally customers who hold their plan till maturity or over a period of 20 years and beyond and do not surrender their plans will still see higher returns compared to those clients who put their money in savings accounts and fixed deposits over the same period.

On the other hand, there is another group of very investment-savvy customers who invest in stocks, trade in derivatives and have the time and experience to manage their own investments and have shown good results and proven track records. This is the group which finds Term insurance more appealing as they pay lower premiums, which frees up more money for them to invest.

Another reason for purchasing term insurance is when clients take up a big mortgage loan. Generally we will advise them to get term insurance or investment-linked plans (if they are still young and want plans with cash value) to cover the outstanding loan less any existing insurance. Clients are likely to benefit more (as opposed to getting an endowment or a whole life plan) if they channel more funds towards paying off their mortgage loan and monthly instalments especially if interest rates are high and their package is not fixed.

Therefore, it is my view that advisers should arm their clients with knowledge, answer their questions, and be impartial in our analysis and recommendations.

Grace says: I guess I am every insurance adviser’s nightmare as I can hardly sit through any presentation without appearing fidgety, bored, or distracted (sometimes all 3 at the same time). I took up 2 policies with Derek within a short span of a month or so this year, testimony to his patience and perserverance.

To ask Derek a question:  Email your question to with your name and contact details, and include “Ask Derek” in the subject title.

Look out for: Another blog post which will be up later today! :D


Interview with Merry Riana

Merry Riana is a Millionaire Entrepreneur, Best-Selling Author & Motivational Speaker. To know more about Merry, visit

1) Why did you choose your current profession as a trainer and entrepreneur and what do you love most about the work you do?

The main reason I decided to go into the training and consultancy business is because of my passion to help other young people to achieve their success. Based on my own experience I know that there are other young people who are probably going through what I went through. They want to achieve success, provide better lives for themselves, their parents and their families but they don’t know how to do that yet. Sadly, without guidance and mentorship, a lot of them will probably just give up on their dreams because they don’t know how to achieve it or think that it is not possible for them. I want to use my story to touch them and show them what is possible and also to groom them into leaders.

My passion is to help people achieve their personal dreams and goals and I feel fulfilled that this has become my business today. When people ask me how I have managed to come this far from the desperate state that I was in after I graduated from University, I tell them about my personal, ultimate success formula: Vision—Action—Passion. Essentially, it is a three-step process that starts with having a Vision, which is to know what your goals are. Next, you will have to commit to taking massive Action that will bring you closer to that Vision. Finally, you must have the Passion to enjoy the entire process in spite of all the obstacles and failures that come your way. Going through these three steps have enabled me to achieve my dreams and the success that I have worked hard for.

 2) What is your mission in Life?

Because of my personal experience I have a strong passion to impact the youth. My aim is to raise up a new generation of successful young people who take charge of their lives, live their dreams, and eventually, contribute back to society. One of the ways we aim to accomplish that is to mentor those youths to achieve financial freedom. I think there is nothing wrong with encouraging young people to live their dreams, as long as they are doing good and contributing back to society. I also believe that the exponential effect of having successful young people sharing their knowledge and wealth can positively change the economic future of the world.

 3) How do you create a work-life balance for yourself?

I usually wake up at 8 a.m. and then I will spend some time with my little girl before going to the office. When I reach the office, it is usually around 10 a.m. and I’ll conduct meetings with my different groups of staff. Once that is done, I will then attend to external appointments, meaning people who have made prior arrangements to meet me in my office. I leave the office at around 4 p.m. and will usually go to deliver my talks in companies that have engaged me as their speaker or trainer. I get home after dinner and spend time with my loved ones. Thereafter, I start work again at night, either writing on my blog or answering e-mails from people who have read my book or visited my websites.

 4) What are some of Life’s lessons that you would want to share with your children as they are growing up?

I have one golden rule in business: Integrity. Whatever the cost, regardless of any implications or consequences, I believe I must uphold this rule without question. Without integrity, I believe there will be no firm foundation for my accomplishments. I can build my business to be as big and strong as I possibly can, but the moment I compromise on my integrity, the whole thing may just crumble down overnight.

I also believe that one of the most important and critical characteristic that an entrepreneur must have is the willingness to continuously learn. I think it is better to learn from other peoples’ experiences than to take lessons from the school of hard knocks. In fact, I always look up to and learn from successful role models who have accomplished their goals. To succeed, we need to learn the best practices from the winners as well as their mistakes, so that we will not commit the same ones they did.

 5) How would you define “Beauty”?

In his 1994 inaugural speech, Nelson Mandela mentioned this quote: “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that frightens us most. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and famous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that people won’t feel insecure around you. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in all of us. And when we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

To me personally, to be beautiful means to manifest the glory of God. And as the quote above said, it’s not just in some of us; it’s in all of us. When we put our best selves forward, our attractive physical features, interesting personalities, good virtues, etc, we are being beautiful. Shine, so that others can shine too! :)

Grace says: I got to see Merry in action at her Women Extraordinaire preview at my office. The preview so impacted me that I made up my mind to get Lasik surgery and braces done – my mini extreme makeover. I had procrastinated about getting braces done for more than a decade and invented many excuses to explain to curious friends why I did NOT need braces. But looking at Merry, I saw a woman who “glowed”, someone who was not only beautiful, but successful. The training industry is choke-full of charismatic male trainers, so we definitely need more female trainers like Merry, who appears like a breath of fresh air! :)