Hip, cheap, hooray: Why Allan Wu never shies away from good bargains

7 August 2014 / 2 years 2 months ago

Rachel Boon, 
The Straits Times,
Sunday, Aug 03, 2014

Singapore-based television star Allan Wu can usually get his hands on the latest gadgets or fashion items as a perk of being a celebrity - but he never shies away from a good bargain.

The United States-born actor and host says: "I've always tried to be the lobang (slang for opportunity) king back in the States trying to find good deals, like for a pair of running shoes when I was on the cross-country team or a bicycle.

"I'd enjoy the whole shopping process, just looking for the best deal all the time." He misses shopping in the US, which he calls "the land of excess and abundance", as deals like a $1,000 suit for $100 are common.

Bargain-hunting is part of being a saver for Wu, 42, who used to save every hongbao he received as a child. He learnt how to manage his money when he was at university, having run a business promoting events with friends and investing the profits he earned.

"I had to do a lot of the groundwork... this was before the Internet and I had to print out fliers manually, take the mailing label, stick them on myself, take the stamp, lick it and stick each one on, which could be thousands at one time."

Wu, who has hosted shows like The Amazing Race Asia, was based in Shanghai but moved back to Singapore in December last year. He had been living here since 2001 but moved to Shanghai for work.

His return to Singapore follows his divorce from actress Wong Li Lin, best known for her role in local police drama Triple Nine. Wu has joint custody of their two children.

He says: "As much as I enjoy the so-called celebrity life, after this new change in my relationship status, I realised I actually don't need that much to be happy and I really want to make sure my children are provided for."

The Fly Entertainment artist is now busy developing production projects and has a role in the upcoming second season of Channel 5 period police drama Mata Mata.

Q: Are you a spender or saver?

I'm definitely a saver. I just enjoy saving money, and a penny saved is a penny earned. Once you spend the money, you have that immediate gratification.

You keep buying a new watch or shirt and after a while you want something else, but the lustre is a little bit worn out. Before I had children, I could save at least 50 per cent of my income, but now I save at most 30 per cent. Sometimes it's 10 per cent or negative.

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

I charge $1,000 or a couple of thousand to my credit cards and I spend a total of anywhere between $4,000 and $7,000 a month, depending on the kids and how much travelling I'm doing.

A couple of hundred dollars in cash hurts more than spending the same on your credit card where you don't really see it.

Q: What financial planning have you done for yourself?

I invested in blue-chip stocks, penny stocks... when you're younger you have a much higher threshold for error. When you're older and have a family and you've fixed costs, you're going to be a lot more conservative with your investing.

I've some life insurance policies, some long-term time deposits. Right now, my life's been thrown upside down with my new single status and separation, so I'm trying to pick up the pieces and reassemble everything.

I want to get a trust fund for my children once my financial matters are more settled.

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

I've always been thrifty and frugal, bordering on parsimonious. My mum's a big influence, she was very frugal.

My parents were immigrants from Taiwan and they started with very little in the United States. I'm very much like my mother, I spend only when I need to. My younger brother is more like my father.

He likes to spend when he wants to and worry about the consequences later on. My mother was the accountant of the family; she had a little spreadsheet - this was before Excel - and tabulated everything manually every day.

I think the biggest influence is that she'd always spend on my brother and me and my father, but very little on herself.

Q: How did you get interested in investing?

I started in college; a lot of my friends were economics, bizad (business administration), science majors or lawyers and we just did a lot of stocks. I also used to run a business back in the States with some partners, promoting events for Asian-Americans.

I went to University of California, Berkeley and we had friends in Stanford, UC Davis; all of these universities had a lot of Asian-Americans. So we'd rent out these big discotheques or bars or clubs.

That's where we learnt to make money and reinvest that into the company. With the net profit, I'd take the money and invest in stocks.

A lot of the stocks were high- tech (stocks) because my major was in biology, so I did a lot of research on tech companies like Microsoft and Cisco Systems, or up-and-coming biotech start-ups that had a chance of being acquired.

Q: What property do you own?

I don't own any property now... I moved back at the last minute last year. Now that I'm more settled, I'm looking for a bigger place for the children.

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

A cluster house in Bukit Timah that was sold in 2009 or 2010, before I moved to China in 2011.

Q: What's your retirement plan?

If I didn't have kids, I think I'd already be in retirement mode. Now I plan to still work hard for the next 10, 15 years and hopefully do entertainment as long as I can and... go into business either through investments or management.

Q: Home is now....

I'm renting an old black-and-white apartment in Upper Thomson.

Q: I drive....

A vintage Ducati, it's a lot easier to travel around with the motorcycle. I'll cab or rent a car when I'm with my kids. 

Q: What is your worst investment to date? I had some bad investments in terms of stocks. That's why I've been more risk-averse. I didn't follow them and what was happening with the company.

I've lost US$15,000 to US$20,000 on penny stocks and companies like Advanced Micro Devices, a semiconductor company which looked promising, and another biotech company.

You have to take a chance to make money but I've just been a little more conservative now. I would rather invest in a venture or business opportunity that I'm passionate about, and then I can have more control over it.

Q: What is your best investment to date?

The cluster house here which was sold. I managed to make a decent profit

S-pop, Allan Wu
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