Live Well and Be Happy

Financial Freedom After 50

by Siew Ping

Our inaugural talk on 24 March 2018 for the Autumn Life Speakers Series featured Mano Sabnani, Chairman and CEO of Rafflesia Holdings. 

Mano Sabnani is a former investment banker, executive director and advisor to several companies, journalist and editor. He was Director of Research at DBS Securities, Chief Editor of Singapore's Business Times, Managing Editor of The Straits Times, CEO and Editor-in-Chief of TODAY newspaper, among other corporate leadership roles.  

Mano Sabnani is also the author of Marbles, Mayhem and My Typewriter. The book offers unique stories and insights from the story of his life - "the unfadable life of an ordinary man".   

 Mano’s talk on “Financial Freedom After 50” was the story of how he managed to achieve financial freedom for himself and his family. He took Autumn Life members on a journey through parts of his life, with side anecdotes, to illustrate his approach to managing, saving, investing and using money. 

On that journey, our members learnt that investing in stocks and bonds should take place only after they have enough cash savings set aside, their home paid for and insurance covered. They also learnt about Mano’s strategy of building up a portfolio of stocks to yield passive income, with the capital remaining untouched or even growing over time. 

Listening to Mano was like listening to a good friend whose down-to-earth wisdom had stood the test of time. Clearly, his wisdom came from years of “persistence, perspiration and patience” in his investment approach.

Mano told the audience bluntly that if they had no time or inclination to learn to invest, they should just buy mutual funds or exchange-traded funds. They would get better results though by investing directly in good companies with growth potential at attractive valuation. Five to ten stocks would be enough, but effort was needed. 

“Do your homework!” he said. This means doing research on the leadership, business models, performance and corporate governance of those companies.

As an active investor, Mano would make a point to stay behind during meetings of the companies to question. This was a chance to gain valuable insights from the management. He considered it a waste to make a beeline for the buffet table like many investors did. 

Mano said that he would set a fair value for each stock and sell it once it was fully valued. He would then invest the proceeds in other stocks with attractive value. “Rebalance your portfolio. Do not fall in love with your stocks,” he said. Mano added that he kept about 20% of his portfolio value in cash as ‘bullets’, to capitalise on opportunities to buy.

As Mano spoke, his ideals as a family man, a champion of financial literacy and a person who wants to give back to society, also became apparent. 

The talk, including questions and answers, overran by at least half an hour. No one seemed to mind. The upper room of downtown café Bakery & Bar provided a relaxed setting. The coffee was good and the muffins delicious.

Mano brought along only five copies of his book Marbles, Mayhem and My Typewriter. They were snapped up quickly, at a special price for Autumn Life members.

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