Monday, February 21, 2011


If you have always wanted to start your own business, but feel you might be too old to take on the challenge, you might want to read the Sunday Times interview with Mr William Yong, 84. Three years ago when he was 81, Mr Yong set up ODC Healthcare, a company that distributes health supplements like sheep placenta capsules and garlic capsules. The average turnover of the firm is $1 million.

Mr Yong has two other successful businesses. He started ODC Technologies in 1958 to supply office equipment, and ODC Investments in 2000. The latter serves as a holding company for his property investments.

It is an inspiring rags-to-riches story of a young man who worked his way up from accounts clerk to millionaire property investor and entrepreneur.

Here are excerpts from the interview. You need to be a subscriber to read the full interview.

Q: Are you a spender or saver?

I am largely a saver. I could save 60 per cent of my pay when I was saving very hard to start my business. Branded goods do not appeal to me. While I do eat at restaurants occasionally, especially when entertaining business guests, I am equally comfortable with hawker food and home-cooked meals.

Q: How much do you charge to your credit cards every month?

I charge about $3,000 monthly to my three credit cards and my cash withdrawal is about $2,500 monthly.

Q: What financial planning have you done for yourself?

My investments are in shares, commodities and properties. I have invested $500,000 in shares, $1.2 million in commodities (gold and silver), and my office properties are worth about $4.8 million.
For stock picks, I read broker reports and talk to my remisier friends from DBS Vickers. I monitor about seven counters regularly and will sell the counter if the share price rises more than 20 per cent. The shares include OCBC Bank, Ezra, SembMarine and Swiber. In 2006, I read from the newspapers that gold is a good investment. I bought gold and silver certificates at United Overseas Bank for $450,000. Now they are worth about $1.2 million. I plan to keep them for the long term.

Q: Moneywise, what were your growing-up years like?

My parents were Chinese Hakka immigrants who came to Singapore in the 1920s. I had a dozen siblings and I was the fifth child. We lived in a rented three-storey shophouse in Cross Street in the Chinatown area. My father was a tailor and my mother, a housewife.
Times were hard during those days, and I had to quit school after Secondary 1 to start working. My father became depressed and drank heavily after the Japanese Occupation because his shop was looted and he lost everything he had worked for. He died at the age of 56 in 1946. Those early growing-up years taught me to appreciate the value of money and to be frugal. Back then, our meals were mainly porridge with tapioca and sweet potato. My siblings and I shared books and clothes.

Q: What property do you own?

I own a residential property and an office-cum-factory. I bought a freehold 2,000 sq ft condominium in Lower Delta Road in 1985 for $520,000 and it is now worth about $2.8 million. My 12,000 sq ft freehold office-cum-factory premises at Tong Lee Building in Kallang Pudding Road, which comprises four units, was bought in 1990 for $1.8 million. It is now worth about $4.8 million. Of the four units, I am using two and renting out the other two at an annual yield of 8 per cent. At one time, I owned 10 office-cum-factory units in the building, but have since sold six of them.

Q: What's the most extravagant thing you have bought?

In the 1980s, I bought four Rolex gold- and diamond-studded watches for about $25,000 each, and one Vacheron Constantin diamond watch for $40,000 from Great Eastern Watch in Singapore. The watches are now worth about $50,000 each. They are good investments. I change watches daily during the work week.

Q: What's your retirement plan?

I have no retirement plans. I am still strong and fit, and intend to continue working for as long as I can. It is not so much for financial reasons as I have sufficient assets and cash. But working keeps me going, both mentally and physically. I contribute to the National Kidney Foundation and the Children's Society on an ad hoc basis and will continue to do so.

Sound advice from one who has proven that success in life can come at any age, and to anyone who works hard.

No comments: