Financial wellness is an important part of one’s holistic wellness. One man champions this belief with a strategic program.
|PHOTO COURTESY OF BERNARD LIM|
Originally established to educate the financial planning industry, Wealth College is the brainchild of Bernard Lim, 47.
“We started with estate planning,” says Lim, “God gave me a vision to transform the way financial planners deliver services to their clients. I decided to start with estate planning, because that is a terribly misunderstood area in financial planning.”
Before the financial meltdown in 2008, which Lim calls “the fallout”, financial planners sold esoteric products that most consumers did not understand. “There was a lot of ‘telling and selling’ going on, and very little in the way of educating the clients. Many were there just to make their quotas, which led them to resort to push selling. But people didn’t mind because the economy was doing well, and they thought, ‘These guys must know what they’re selling.’
“But after the fallout, people have become more wary, and there’s a lack of trust now. Hence, there’s a need for financial planners and distributors to undergo retraining. Our programs teach them to ‘educate and advise’ their clients instead of ‘tell and sell’.” They do this by teaching financial psychology to “transform the practitioner and client relationship from one that is manipulative to one that is collaborative.”
Further on, Lim had a second vision to bring the same kind of training that financial planners undergo to the man on the street. Credit Counselling Singapore identified four major reasons that people fall into debt.
Firstly, people overspend on “things they don’t need with money they don’t have to impress people they don’t like,” says Lim. Secondly, they are unprepared for a major crisis, especially a health problem. The third cause is feeding an addiction, such as gambling or substance abuse. Lastly, people make poor financial decisions, such as bad investments.
With his background in financial planning, Lim knew he was specially positioned to equip people with knowledge to avoid or overcome these pitfalls. To achieve this, he created the LiFE program, which stands for Living in Financial Excellence.
“LiFE is everything we teach financial planners, repackaged into an easy-to-understand format. I believe that the client should know as much as possible. This will force practitioners to become better equipped, and raise the ‘water level’ in the industry. Transformation must happen from both ends,” says Lim of his program.
The program has proven a success, receiving rave reviews from its graduates and recognition as an “International Best Provider” from the Personal Finance Employee Education Foundation, a non-profit organization based in the U.S.A. The foundation promotes financial education in the workplace, and recognizes vendors whose programs meet their standard.Wealth College is the only Singaporean vendor listed on its list of Best International Providers, which has generated great interest in Wealth College’s programs.
“Research shows that an employee will spend an average of 25 hours a month during office hours trying to figure out personal finances. That’s three days of work! When financial wellness improves, work productivity increases, and the bottom line goes up. Now, local government agencies have approached us to do programs for their staff, and several large corporations in the States as well.”
Lim’s hope is that his program will strengthen society on three levels: the individual, the family unit and companies.
“When an individual is in good financial health, he has better physical health, better relationships, clearer thinking. He is able to concentrate better, and produce better work. This helps his family, his friends, and his colleagues.
“A Gallup Poll found that 57 percent of divorces find their roots in financial trouble. Our program helps individuals to understand their own financial psychology, but also that of their partners. Their psyches might not be the same, but they will learn how to work together for their future.”
Statistics from DP Credit Bureau showed that those aged 21 to 29 had the highest number of defaults among all age groups. What was startling was that married individuals had higher rates than single ones.
Lim explains, “Young couples plan a big wedding, and redecorate and renovate their new flat; but they don’t realise that the day after their beautiful wedding, they’re already S$30,000 in debt. Also, when they get married, they think they have twice the spending power because they have twice the number of credit cards. They think they have twice the available cash, but that’s an illusion. They actually have twice the available debt. It’s a horrible start to a marriage.”
Lim hopes the LiFE program can help arrest some societal decay, saying, “Families break up for many reasons, some break because of infidelity, others because of ‘irreconcilable differences’, but many break up because of money. As much as I can, I want to stop that from happening.”
Bernard Lim’s Top 5 Tips for Financial Excellence
1. Stay relevant and excellent in your work to ensure that you will always generate an income. Complacent people risk getting retrenched.
2. Learn to manage your spending.
3. Never assume things cannot go wrong. Use insurance and other risk management methods to protect yourself and your family.
4. Find a consistent system for saving and investing. Constantly seek more knowledge and understanding. Don’t neglect to ask the Lord for wisdom.
5. Learn to give and invest your resources in other people.