2021 is the year where the world has adapted and evolved amidst the global pandemic. Businesses in the travel and F&B industry were badly affected, across many sectors, many corporations and its employees abiding government advisory by working from home. Individuals took advantage of this opportunity to look into how they can better manage their personal finances as well as source for reliable and independent sources of information in order to make well-informed decisions.
As an independent mortgage advisory firm, Redbrick understands the importance of reliable information and its challenges of its authenticity. Redbrick prides integrity as one of our core values together with ensuring the bigger community has access for the right knowledge. Therefore, we decided to launch an interview series with like-minded corporations and individuals to gather insights on how they are able to attract and engage their audience with their thirst of educating them through their unique ways.
For our debut series of “Redbrick conversations with”, we caught up with Goh Wei Choon, Co-Founder of The Woke Salaryman, to learn more on their entrepreneurial journey and tap into their minds for advice on personal finance management.
As a product of the Singaporean system, you have been conditioned to think that sticking to the conventional educational route will prepare you for life. Such a route involves going to a Junior College and subsequently a reputable University to improve your chances of landing a “respectable” job. However, there are much more life lessons to be learnt outside of the classroom.
Introducing The Woke Salaryman, who have been gaining popularity with their unique blend of creativity and financial content. Never afraid to go against convention, they created engaging content using illustrations and articles to give life whilst dishing financial advice to their readers; at times even touching on difficult topics.
While their advice might not necessarily conform to what is espoused by our education system, it most certainly is a breath of fresh air.
Our team at Redbrick met with co-founder, Goh Wei Choon and started chatting over coffee about life and work.
Q: Can you tell us more about yourself and Ruiming?
Wei Choon: I met my co-founder, Ruiming when we attended Mass Communications in Ngee Ann Polytechnic. Back then, it was my dream to become an animator. Ruiming was more into the advertising side of things as a copywriter. So, after poly we went different routes, I went to university to study animation and Ruiming studied Criminology in Australia.
We only started working together after I graduated from University and him after his National Service. Ruiming was a writer at Mothership.sg and I joined as an illustrator/animator.
Mothership.sg gave us the opportunity to do random, fun editorial cartoons to reach a lot of people via its platform.
For example, we did a cartoon about the fact that several armoured vehicles belonging to Singapore (Terrex) were seized by Hong Kong, after some political back-and-forth, they were sent back. So, we drew a conversation between the Terrexes talking about how they missed chicken rice, and clubbing at ZOUK etc.
So, we’ve had a good track record and past of working together as a 1-2-punch.
Q: How did The Woke Salaryman begin?
Wei Choon: We always wanted to make money by doing our own thing, and after being in the social media content space for a few years, we had very strong feelings about how content should be done, and we found our day jobs limiting in realizing that vision. Before we founded The Woke Salaryman, we would meet up socially and fantasize about all the kinds of content we would do, so this collaboration had been stewing for quite a while before we even created the Woke Salaryman page in April 2019.
Ruiming had written an article about how he saved 100k by 30 on Medium, and he sent me the article, suggesting I convert it into a comic that we could share on Facebook. I eventually got round to doing that and we put it up on The Woke Salaryman. That first post would garner more than 6k shares in the first couple of weeks. So, we knew then we were onto something.
Q: What does success mean to you?
Wei Choon: My idea of success is modelled after concept of “IKIGAI: The Japanese Secret to a long and happy life”, which is to strike a balance between 4 key things, namely:
– Something you like to do
– Something that society will benefit from
– Something that pays your wages
– Something you are good at doing
This is different from how I thought when I was younger, more naive. I used to prioritize passion and my unique, unfiltered expression; that this was my contribution to the world and it must never be sullied by money. But as I matured and had my ass kicked by Life, my mindset shifted towards also thinking about value that is directly beneficial to others, value creation that would be rewarded in kind by money.
Money is a good indicator of value creation. It is not the “be all and end all”, but it does give you an idea of what you are doing well.
Even as an artist, I see the importance of business models and making money.
I’d say at this point, The Woke Salaryman is the closest thing to “IKIGAI” that we’ve achieved.
Q: What are the main values you want The Woke Salaryman to be associated with?
Wei Choon: Firstly, we have to be relatable to the masses.
There are a lot of technical barriers in the financial content space, so the personal finance community can be quite intimidating. I personally felt that when I first started out on my journey. I asked a question on a local personal finance community and got a bunch of sarcastic and dismissive comments because my question was too basic. Like one comment asked if I knew about Google.com.
I get where they are coming from, I guess, it’s an occupational hazard because basic questions become very boring and repetitive to answer but we try very hard to not become impatient with new people in the space. We genuinely think society as a whole will benefit from the lower and middle classes become more financially literate, so our bigger goal is always to make financial content accessible and interesting to the layman; even if it means potentially annoying an elite personal finance enthusiast because we didn’t delve into disclaiming an obscure nugget of information. These are trade-offs we consider on a daily basis, but our long-term goal is to light the spark, not kindle the fire. When you spark true interest, people will go and read up the rest themselves.
Secondly, we have to be authentic.
As much as possible, we try to be vulnerable and open. Telling our own stories makes it better. We were able to say no to a lot of clients who would not stand for authentic marketing. It’s a risk that not many people can take, but we’ve taken it and profited from it so far.
We might earn less money in the short-term, but we also see social capital as something to maintain. Leaving money on the table in favour of authenticity is painful in the short-run but we also factor in the value of social capital, and it’s important for us to have believable personas so our stories are believable (which hopefully helps us make more money in the long-run)
Q: Can you describe your current residence? Which is your favourite estate in Singapore and why?
Wei Choon: My favourite estate is Marine Parade because I noticed that the social economic status distribution is very interesting there. If you start at Marine Parade and start walking towards Marine Terrace and Marine Crescent, you’ll cross the road and see things change.
I love being in Marine Terrace to see interesting happenings. There are people yelling and a lot more pigeons. Even the “Don’t feed pigeons” signs are much bigger. I once saw a kid’s bicycle in a tree.
I also love being by the sea because it is very windy and it is great that we have access to ECP via Marine Parade.
Marine Parade is great also because buildings cannot be built too high due to the proximity to the airport. So, our view looking out towards Joo Chiat and Still Road is unblocked and unrestricted.
Q: What finance management advice or tips would you give a new salaryman who have just started working?
Wei Choon: My advice would be to “Wake Up First!”, assuming this salaryman is not born into wealth, to wake up to the idea that he/she will need to endure hardship while keeping passion alive.
Passion is what will make you exceptional, so your goal is to get yourself into the special position where you can apply yourself to something that is meaningful to you.
Ruiming and I often talk about the cyclical nature of prosperity and how it affects people.
It goes like this:
And it goes round and round.
So, understand that the point in life is not to alleviate suffering. That’s a pretty boring life. Instead, you want to take on suffering that is meaningful to you. That’s the key to long-term satisfaction.
Check out The Woke Salaryman’s content on their website https://thewokesalaryman.com/. You can follow them on Instagram @thewokesalaryman as well.
Stay woke people!