Wednesday, November 16, 2011

His real estate ambitions

LOCAL actor Benjamin Heng (right) may come across as the archetypal Ah Beng, given his memorable roles in the 1999 indie film Eating Air and the Channel 5 dramedy Anything Goes.

And it would appear he adopts a devil-may-care attitude towards his finances as well.

Heng, who has also been a part-time real estate agent since 2007, admitted to The New Paper: "When I was younger, I didn't save very much at all. I had a very carefree life."

But after unsuccessfully venturing into the food business, he is now taking a more mature and cautious approach to his finances.

Heng, 35, still vividly remembers his biggest failed investment, a "six-figure loss", resulting from the closure of his Flowerbed Kitchen & Bar noodle eatery at Far East Square in 2007.

He said: "I used my retrenchment package from SPH MediaWorks (when it merged with MediaCorp in 2005) and borrowed some money from immediate family members to help fund this investment. Significant loss

"It was a very significant loss. In fact, to this day, even though I've recouped (the losses), I'm still recovering (mentally) from it."

Heng feels that it was a very good lesson for him and a "real eye-opener".

He said: "I learnt that doing your homework before investing is vital - the game (of investing) is very, very real and you must know your limitations.

"I'm open to investing in future business ventures but for now, my main investments are my properties and my family."

Heng said he earns a five-figure sum each month, mostly from his acting jobs.

He is now filming local movie Dance Dance Dragon which is scheduled for a Chinese New Year release next year. He plays a lion dance performer who is a fierce rival of lead actor Adrian Pang's character.

But Heng has more than just acting on his mind.

He said: "I think that people who have enough money should seriously consider investing in real estate."

Heng - who lives with his in-laws in a condominium in the western part of Singapore - owns a four-room HDB flat in Sengkang and a 420 sq ft studio apartment in Kuala Lumpur that is still under construction.

He said: "My mother is occupying the HDB flat in Sengkang. For the apartment (in Malaysia), I will cash out if I can get good capital gains, over and above the RM$600,000 (S$245,000) I paid for it. "Otherwise I will just hold on to it and rent it out for income."

Heng explained that he prefers investing in property because of the volatility of stocks in the present day.

"I'm a long-term investor, at my age it's a little late to be speculative," he said with a laugh.

"I would really like to invest more in Singapore properties, but the rules are quite rigid.

"In fact, I see a pattern in property prices in Singapore. A lot of the fluctuation in prices is either directly or indirectly affected by the Government's policies.

"I feel that Malaysian property prices can only go up over time, so if you can afford to hold on to (Malaysian) properties, it's a very worthwhile investment.

"Having said that, HDB flats are still quite a solid investment here, for investors who are starting out - provided they have enough in their CPF (Central Provident Fund)."

And since he's in this line of work, Heng has some tips for would-be property investors.

He said: "Invest in an area you are familiar with...Do not overcommit yourself, only invest what you can afford to lose.

"I also really don't recommend investing in private property if you can't afford to do so out of your own pocket."

Heng's circumspect spending is largely due to his idea that it is his responsibility to provide for his family.

He said half-jokingly: "I don't go out and spend as much as I used to - sad but true!

"I give my wife half of my earnings because she has sacrificed so much by being a stay-home mum (to our two-year-old daughter).

"We also have a joint account into which we put 20 per cent of our, or should I say my, earnings."

He added: "My immediate aim is to build my (real-estate) portfolio, and have more savings on hand.
"Having savings is very important as a buffer against things you can't predict in life.

"A trust fund for my daughter in future would be nice - if I can afford it!"

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