Toward financial literacy in National Finance Congress 2021

The DLSU Management of Financial Institutions Association (MaFIA) hosted National Finance Congress 2021, the ninth iteration of its annual flagship event, over two Facebook Live sessions last August 14 and August 28. With the theme Gearing for Financial Versatility in the Current Times, the event featured industry speakers who tackled topics ranging from personal finance and cryptocurrencies to the stock market and real estate investment trusts (REITs).

Committing to the process

Speakers for the first day of the congress focused on building up basic financial skills and understanding its benefits.

Antonette Aquino, a certified associate financial planner and founder of Money Health Check, a TikTok finance channel, emphasized the importance of having a proper mindset, which requires one to first look back at one’s “money story.” “You learned about money not from what your parents taught you alone but how they behaved around money,” she explained. “That’s why  the way you think, the way you perceive money, is going to determine how you’re going to spend it.“

In the end, however, while one can be rich by amassing wealth, Aquino stressed that what is important is investing in oneself. “You have to realize that if you lose money in your investments, if nag-fail ‘yung business mo, you have yourself…Basically, you are your most important source of wealth,” she emphasized.

On the other hand, Joel Abante, a trader and analyst, posited that cryptocurrencies could be one way to obtain financial stability. He provided an overview of the fundamentals behind cryptocurrencies and dove into the mechanics behind Axie Infinity, a popular cryptocurrency-based online game.

While investing in cryptocurrencies might seem lucrative, especially given how often the products make headlines, Abante maintained the importance of making informed financial decisions. “You have to commit to the process and you have to put in the time,” he told the audience. “‘Wag magfocus nang magfocus sa pera. Focus on the process, and money will surely follow.”

(Don’t focus too much on the money.)

Investing smartly

On the second day of talks, Erwin Lee, a private investment fund manager, delved into the stock market. Lee began his discussion by exploring why people opt to invest, citing reasons such as building up financial security, creating a secondary source of income, and preparing one for retirement.

He then explained the concept of compounding interest and exponential growth to show that given enough time, investments will grow. “How do you give yourselves more time for your investments to grow? The easy answer is you start early,” he summarized.

But beyond simply growing one’s wealth, the skills one gains from the experience is also an important investment.

“Remember that whatever you learn, the experience and skills that you learn, you get to carry that with you for the rest of your life,” he noted. “Don’t just learn for today; learn for yourself when you’re 30 years older.”

Meanwhile, COL Financial Head of Research April Tan introduced the audience to REITs, which are publicly listed companies that finance income-producing real estate such as apartments, malls, and office buildings.

Directly purchasing properties often requires a large amount of capital and selling them afterward is also not as simple. REITs, she explained, help address these drawbacks. “You can invest in properties, but instead of requiring a lot of money, they are very affordable,” she argued, highlighting that one can purchase a REITs share for less than P10,000. REITs are also easier to buy and sell as they can be directly traded in the Philippine stock market. 

While it does seem attractive to invest in these products, there are some caveats. Tan pointed out that poor market conditions and low rental rates on the properties can affect share prices and cash dividends one would receive from the investment.

But regardless of where one chooses to invest, what is important is one remains aware of current events and manages their risk accordingly. “During normal times you want to be careful na nga eh, but during times of a pandemic or a global recession, be extra careful because the economy is facing challenges,” Lee stressed.

By Deo Cruzada

By Frank Santiago

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