She saved her first million dollars at the age of 29, was featured in CNBC, Forbes, Fast Company, The Straits Times, Business Insider, INC and Executive Lifestyle. She was making a good six-figure annual income working in the wealth-management industry and was a living a debt-free life. Just this year, she was nominated and selected for FORTUNE Most Powerful Women Conference in 2016 (Asia).
Yet, Anna Vanessa Haotanto’s heart was not in all these achievements and accolades.
Drawn by the desire to help women become financially independent after her community service stint during her junior college years where she saw women stuck helplessly in marriages in spite of physical abuse and unfaithful spouses due to the lack of savings and earning capability, Anna decided to set up The New Savvy to educate women on being prudent and savvy with their finances.
For our Member Spotlight this month, we caught up with Anna to find out why she does what she does, and if entrepreneurship has changed anything for her yet.
8 Questions for Anna
How did you get interested in investing?
Due to my family’s difficult financial situation, I have always been fascinated with the intricacies behind the working of money. I understood that I had to take care of myself and my family and that realisation sparked off my wealth-building path. The idea of making my money work harder for me really fascinated me, and I felt that was a way out for me from living pay cheque to pay cheque and feeling very stressed every month.
As a result, I started learning to invest by reading Security Analysis by Benjamin Graham while in Junior College. I also read a lot of other finance books.
I am lucky to have had the opportunity to study and work in Finance. I learnt financial management skills, picked up economic ideas and started investing since I was 21. While I am no expert, I am familiar with financial products and managed to build a comfortable portfolio for myself.
When I was in Hwa Chong Junior College, I did some volunteer work and noticed how many women were stuck in unhappy situations or marriages as they were not working or had any earning capabilities. That motivated me to always protect myself financially and to prevent myself from being in similar situations.
When was that moment you knew you had to make The New Savvy happen?
Coming from a finance background with very decent earning power, it’s difficult to turn to entrepreneurship. I was giving up a good income and some people told me not to be naïve and “get a real job”. That affected my morale.
For a long time, I was wondering if I am just impetuous or silly. Should I just continue earning money and be in banking? There’s societal pressure, especially when you don’t know what’s going to happen and I am doing this mostly to help other women.
In the beginning, I struggled a lot. My background was pure Finance and Banking. I was clueless on developing a website, producing content, doing digital marketing, and publishing. But I knew it was something I wanted to do and HAD to do. It was a desire that couldn’t be ignored any longer.
If proper financial knowledge and planning worked for me, it would work for many women too – which was when I knew The New Savvy has to happen.
What was the motivation & inspiration for the business?
There is no shortage of financial media, yet they are mostly catered to men. Women Finance is a grossly under-served market. Most financial news are technical and boring. They don’t speak to women and form real emotional value. Women don’t want to know stock picks or technical analysis; we want to know how certain financial choices can better our lives and improve our net worth.
Women want authentic advice that addresses our struggles. We want relevant insights that are tailored to our complex needs.
Over the years, my female friends have approached me to share with them on how to invest, how to open a securities account, which loan makes sense, the difference between a bond and a bond fund. Truth be told, even as someone trained in Finance, I don’t want to read yet another stock picks or technical analysis.
As a woman, I want to know how smart financial management can impact my life and how relevant it is to my needs. I want something I can relate to, something that can inspire and motivate me.
Why the quest to help women become financially savvy?
Women are at a very interesting juncture in history. We are earning more, progressing further in our careers yet still lagging behind men in financial literacy. Women control most of the household expenditure, yet we save and invest much lesser than men.
Women have different needs from men and can benefit from unique financial advice. 41% of women are intimidated by finance and do not invest. Information available can be complex, technical and often, exasperating.
Women need different financial advice from men. Most women I knew always tell me that they know financial knowledge is important and they have wanted to learn but kept procrastinating. So when they know about The New Savvy, they are more motivated to be in charge of their finances.
What is your biggest challenge as an entrepreneur?
A good product is useless if there are no users or traction. How do I get the word out? How do I market TheNewSavvy.com to ensure that more women are aware that my product exists?
Most importantly, this difficulty had been in my mind continually since I embarked on this journey. How do I make women more interested in financial literacy?
We focused on having original content that are engaging, fun and relevant. I was very sure that we didn’t want to be another financial site which teaches you to make 20x in a week. I wanted The New Savvy to be relatable to women, so they won’t be intimidated.
What’s the biggest change you’ve noticed in yourself since becoming an entrepreneur?
I’ve become more conscious of my expenses. When you are working in a corporation, you work within a budget. You don’t really think about a lot of other expenses. I use to spend money on watches, bags and dresses. Now, I am very careful on how I spend. Every dollar matters. I tend to think, “What can this buy me in my business? “
I’m passionate about financial literacy and how it can transform lives. This feeds my soul, and the rewards are probably intangible but I am happier than before.
How have you structured your daily schedule to be most productive?
I don’t have a structured schedule as I travel a lot. Every week, I always make it a point to set goals and priorities. In a week, I focus on what I want to achieve, what I need to clear and who I want/need to meet.
I meet a lot of people and sometimes, it gets overwhelming as I have high introversion. Working in Trehaus has also been very helpful as I get support and friendships from many wonderful women. And when things get too much, I sit alone and get my me-time. I always make it a point to exercise and read. Those are my indulgence.
What is your best investment yet?
Monetarily, my properties. On average, I made around 15%; one of them are almost 25% positive return. But it is a long-term asset.
Emotionally, The New Savvy. I’ve always wanted to help people and finance is the best way I know how to. I’ve met many strangers at different events who told me that they read and LOVE The New Savvy. Many women have written to me and shared their lives and financial situations. Most women I know always tell me that they know financial knowledge is important and they have wanted to learn but kept procrastinating. So when they know about The New Savvy, they are more motivated to be in charge of their finances. Every feedback and heartfelt sharing is precious to me as they are my motivation when I am thinking of giving up.
I hope to keep empowering women financially.
Anna is the Managing Editor of The New Savvy – a financial platform that aims to empower women through meaningful content that are relevant and practical. Anna has 10 years of experience in the financial sector including wealth management, private equity, research as well as corporate and investment banking. She currently works out of Trehaus and is our go-to in-house expert about matters concerning personal finances and how to manage them effectively.