Financial Freedom

“What is your definition of financial freedom?” One day, she asked me.

“When my passive income exceeds my expenses, then I am financially free.”

“No. No. What is YOUR definition of financial freedom?”

I kept quiet. Eyes straight at her. My mind was blank. I really didn’t have any answer.

“You’ve got to have YOUR own definition of financial freedom,” she continued. “You have to have a goal bigger than yourself. And your financial freedom will fuel that goal.”

“Frankly, I have never really thought of that. Can you tell me yours?”

She cleared her throat. “I am financially-free when I can comfortably spend 50% of my income for goals greater than myself.

You know me. I don’t fancy dresses, barely use handbags and I eat what I need. I don’t have much desire for things. But I set a benchmark to increase what I give to society gradually. Not only money, but my time and energy.

In another conversation, I asked, “Kak, how do you manage your income?”

“30% for the past.
30% for now.
30% for the future.”

“What does that mean?”

“30% to manage debts.
30% for me to spend.
30% to save and invest.”

‘Only 30% to spend? Oh my!’ I thought to myself.

“The other 10%?” I asked more.

“You are sharp.” She smiled. I chuckled. “10% for akhirat. That’s for causes in Allah’s name.”

She added, “I have a long way to go to reach that 50% I told you.”

Our conversations always give me something to think. Kak, you have set a very high benchmark. MasyaAllah! Now I am losing sleep, thinking about this.

May Allah grant you your dreams, kak.

Re-evaluating my financial goals.

#ajanstorytelling #deathbydesign #financialplanning #financialgoals #bucketlist


Commitment to People

Just a few weeks back, I read a quote from a famous people, quoted in Facebook that goes something like this:

Make commitment to people. If you make commitment to money, people go away from you. If you make commitment to people, both money and people stick to you.

These lines struck me, made me paused my scroll when I saw it the first time. I was reminded to those times when I kept saying “I’m not a people person”. Maybe, I think, maybe… it is because I think that a relationship must be built on a need or for a cause.

In my case, that motivation may not be money. But I’ve always thought that to start a relationship, I must put the effort, thus I found it a little bit of an obligation. The obligation to reach back to the other person, the obligation to start the conversation and keep it moving and so many other things that my mind could made up (not surprisingly, they are all in my mind). But the truth is I had forgot the deal behind:

hablum min Allah wa hablum min an-nas

I had forgotten that the need to hold to HIS ‘rope’, the need to remember HIM also includes when I’m connecting to other people. I forgot the fact that human’s my mind and heart are also HIS. I forgot all these when I don’t feel like connecting to strangers around me.

I also forgot that the prophet Muhammad (pbuh) taught us to extend silaturrahim (brotherhood) and to greet people warmly because those are the basics of connecting with people around us in peace and kind way.

Surprisingly, though not coincidentally *SubhanALLAH*, not many days later, a friend reminded me of something almost similar. This friend said:

Our mistake in doing good things, anything, lies in our perspective. We focus on making the systems work. We focus on keeping to the rules. We do not focus on the relationship-building, the people skills and out networks or contacts.

Again, something about making commitment to people. Systems may crumble but as long as noble people exist, new and better systems can be re-built. Rules may change, but noble people change them for better. People evolve, but systems and rules don’t evolve unless humans make them so. It is important to ‘produce’ good people and keep them in your circle. Some big businesses recognize this and that’s why they spend a lot on building their ‘people’.

Networking, connecting, relationship-building or whatever term you want to call it is something that we hear almost everyday. That’s why Facebook was created. That’s the basis of every business. That’s what salespersons do in their job. But now, I have a fresh perspective on the foundation or the right philosophy on this subject.

Earlier today, I went to my branch office at Menara Public JB. As I observe people, some familiar, some strangers, I can’t help noticing. Some people smiled at me and some people even avoided my eye-contact. Since most of those coming there are working the same job as mine, salesperson, I can’t avoid thinking, “Do these people really make commitment to people sincerely?” They mind their own business here, why? Because UTCs are surely not their prospective clients? Because other people other than prospective clients are not important so there is no need to notice them?

It is not my job to judge others. But this situation taught me to evaluate the way I connect to people. Sincerity. Do I make friends or do I seek benefits?

Do I do this for me or sincerely?

Unit Trust Bloggers

When I’m writing this, I’m actually sitting in a blog-making class with some 15 fellow unit trust consultants. One unit trust leader, who is also a Toastmaster, a friend of mine is conducting this class- Fadzilah Mamat. One of the people who had inspired me in the unit-trust business.

Though I’m not new to blogging world, I came to gain some new insights because in this world called ‘the internet’, things change very fast. I might gain some additional knowledge, something I didn’t find when I explore by myself.

I’m determined to stay active as a unit trust consultant. I consider myself lucky because I found this opportunity earlier compared to most people in this line of business. I found this when I had many choices in life. I found this when I’m at the peak of my motivation and energy. I found this when my knowledge is at the time when it needed action and reality tests the most. This is it – the decision.

Marriage & Customs

Many of my friends are married by now. Some of them even have already have kids. This month, perhaps because of the Hari Raya mood or the fact that holiday falls on festive seasons, I received lots of wedding invitations. Since Malays usually set wedding receptions on weekends (because it usually takes one whole day), I have more than two wedding invitations for every weekend of this month. Obviously, I won’t be able to attend most of them. Speaking of it, I’ve missed one today at Negeri Sembilan.

This wedding ‘season’ brought up some interesting stories to be told (and turned out to be a good idea for a blog entry too). Marriage, in Islamic perspective, completes half of a Muslim’s faith. It is a sunnah (good deed done by prophet Muhammad p.b.u.h. and followed by Muslims) and therefore considered to be a big part of a Muslim’s life. However, modern Muslim weddings can’t help not to be mixed with traditional culture and modern lifestyles.

Since most Malays are Muslims, we can observe the fact that there is a very thin line between what’s acquired by Islam and what’s traditionally in the local customs. For example, dowries and wedding receptions are Islamic requirements while ‘hantaran’ (gifts exchanged between the bride and the bridegroom) and food packed for guests are traditional customs and door gift is a modern addition to the wedding ceremony. Traditionally, the bridegroom is required to pay for ‘hantaran’ (including the ones from the bride side – weird huh?) and the wedding reception, but modern couples usually do this collaboratively.

Here is the interesting part of the story – two of my friends are getting married this month with two very different stories. My first friend, Farah (let’s use some names to keep them anonymous) is getting married to Faizal. Faizal runs his own business, so his fiancé assumes he has a lot of money. Farah’s parents, under the impression that they’re going to have a rich son-in-law, asked for a dowrie of RM 5,000 and ‘hantaran’ of RM 20,000. A friend advised Faizal to get things straight to his parents-in-law to-be. After all, he’s going to be in the family too. Better get facts straight from the beginning. Apparently, he almost gave up and he’s considering to break the engagement. He added that Farah does not understand him and he thought that he could change Farah but it will took him some years to do that. I almost yelled at him, “Then, why are you in this relationship for years (YEARS!) until now? Are you into her beauty that much it clouds your decision?” He reminds me of Stu from the movie, Hangover, who dumped his girlfriend, Melissa at the end of the movie. Irony…

Another friend of mine, Maya got married to Muluk yesterday (May they live happily till their last breath and even meet in heaven, ameen). Their case is totally a different story. They knew each other through their family a few months ago. Maya’s family didn’t ask for a specific amount from Muluk but he promised them RM 10,000. I knew this because Maya came to me to ask about unit trust investment. She told me there will be some amount left after the wedding. I was amazed. “How do you manage a wedding reception with less than RM 10,000?” She told me that she reuse some stuffs from her engagement ceremony, she only buy things she needs for ‘hantaran’ and plan ahead to make sure there’s leftover for investments.

Some people get into relationship because they are afraid to be alone, they are following the mainstreams – everybody else is in relationship, they think that makes them happy or they need to satisfy the need to belong to someone and having someone on their side. Some people get into relationship because of a higher purpose in life – the relationship serves them in achieving greater goals, the love that they felt for that someone strengthen their faith or that someone completes their life and compliments their lacks. Some people get married because it is a natural thing to do after you reach certain age or they are afraid of being alone when they get old. Some people get married because they want to live the ‘sunnah’ or they want to serve their other half.

I believe in love at first sight. But I also believe that if we have very strong principles of life and we set some criteria or limits, we would be very, very careful to every first sight we take. So, which group of relationship do we belong to?

Rahsia Penjual Juara – Dr Niki Shuhada Shukor

Last weekend, I went to a sales workshop conducted by Dr Niki Shuhada Shukor – the mother of unit trusts. The experience was invaluable and the feeling I felt after the workshop was indescribable. It was definitely no ordinary workshop.

That was my first formal workshop on sales, so I didn’t know what to expect. Before this, I only read books on sales or grasped tips from experienced salesperson. Whatever my imagination was before the workshop, the benefit was beyond my imagination. From the fundamental and philosophy to the practical, word-to-word basis techniques, all skills taught in the workshop were applicable in sales career.

The best thing that I’ve learned from Dr Niki is, to put it simply, ‘If we love someone, we must show our love by showing results.’ I’ve never really thought about this before. I understood that we show our love by taking action to our loved ones, but it never occurred to me that love is the best motivation to accelerate our sales and showing the results – our success – to our loved ones is an act of love. The idea is not in impressing our loved ones, but to use LOVE as a catalyst to ignite our spirit and force us to achieve success and greatness.

I can recall from history how Rasulullah the Prophet kept muttering “My ummah… My ummah…” before he died. I guess all that he had done, the greatness that Islam had achieved during his time was due to his love to us, his ummah, alongside his greatest love to Allah. Love had been a great motivation for he wanted the best that he can leave behind for us. Subhanallah. Praises for HIM.

All in all, it is my duty, now, to show the result – to be a success – for that was my pledge to Mummy Niki. After all, every human was created by HIM for greatness. Life is too short to take a free ride. Greatness is not impossible. Our duty is just to do the job and HE will take care of the rest – that’s HIS promise.

Celebrating Evidence of Succes

I believe in celebrating success, no matter how small. Therefore, I write.

I have so far accumulated seven customers as UTC. Even though not many, I am very happy at the fact that two of them became my customers via referrals. Also, one of the referees is not (yet) an investor because she is still studying.

I can see here that I must promote myself, no matter who I meet, be it student or even a jobless person. We never know who are their friends, associates or family. Furthermore, they might be interested or financially stable enough to invest with me someday.

I couldn’t describe the happiness I felt when these friends texted, “Ajan, my friend would like to invest with you.” The happy feeling was just like when I got my first hand phone, when I received a motorcycle as a surprise gift from my parents or when I won a state-level speech contest on my first attempt. Perhaps, this is why people said the success after a long, hard work felt sweeter.

I believe I just have to continue the work and then after long enough, the referrals I get will bring me even more happiness and bigger success. Perhaps, the success is even beyond my current imagination. At least I know now, at this point of my life, any dream is worth it as long as I strive for it.

To Better Yourself, Just Do It

A friend, once, asked, “Why do you become a unit trust consultant?” I answered that I want to learn how to sell. I learned through reading that successful leaders of the world are great salesperson. I also learned that to be a good salesperson is to do it extensively, regularly – Learning By Doing.

I registered as unit trust consultant (UTC) in August 2010. Honestly, so far, I’m not very proud of my personal sales. But the point is I’m not giving up. The fact that I’m progressing very slowly does bother me, but I’m not stopping. I just have to give myself some more time, as long as I’m not stagnant.

The main reason of this slow progress, I believe, is the fact that I’m an introvert kind of person. Though I’m not the type of introvert who prefers to stay at home, when I socialize I prefer to observe and listen to other people talking rather than giving my own opinion, especially when I’m with people I barely know. And most of the time, I’m not comfortable when people ask for my opinion about things not directly related to me.

To some people, speaking in front of audience is way harder than selling one-to-one. To me, it’s the other way around. I’m not sure why. Perhaps, it’s because I found Toastmaster first before embarking in this journey of selling (that’s a little overly dramatic but I’d keep it that way).

My team leaders said, “The best way to improve your selling skill in this line is to join as many roadshows as you can.” I couldn’t agree more. We can meet a lot of people in roadshows and make as many mistakes as we can so we can improve our presentation scripts by those experience. But first, I need to learn to approach people naturally before steering the conversation to my presentation.

In the few roadshows I’ve joined, so far, I’ve found that when I speak to people and they give unexpected answers, I can’t continue the conversations the way I want to. So the conversation ended with the prospect saying “I’ll think about it and this is my number” before I even begin my presentation.

One of my UTC friends said, “You haven’t found your punchline. You’ll correct your scripts along the way as you meet many people.” That’s what I think so, too. I’m grateful I’ve enthusiastic leaders and helpful friends alongside me in this journey.

I just make sure that I progress, continuously, regardless of my speed. “Life is not a race”, says Aamir Khan in Three Idiots. In the end, I know, I will find the success I yearn for. Ameen Ya Rabb.