Here’s the third installment of my series on the life stories of Personal Finance Advocates.
Randell Tiongson is one of the most sought after speakers in Personal Finance. It’s his knack to make you laugh while teaching you that makes it easier for his audience to digest a rather emotional topic called money.
Fresh from his successful iCon 2014 held at the SMX attended by over a thousand participants last Saturday, Randell welcomed me to his home to talk about, what else…money, and of course family, the topics that bind him, my husband and me together.
A believer that money lessons start at home, I asked Randell to share with me his childhood money memories and here’s his narration:
“I belong to a very entrepreneurial family. I remember when I was in Grade 4 and I wanted to replace my aquarium. My father said I should save for it. It was already summer and I was receiving very little allowance so nainip ako. I put up a club called LAF (Learning About Fish) and wrote an essay on the club’s objectives. I showed this to my uncles, aunts and older cousins during family gatherings. They found the idea very novel and in no time I was able to collect enough to put up my new aquarium. I also reported to my funders what I did with the money. That was my earliest experience on how to be creative and smart with money.”
Being the sixth among seven children, Randell knew that his Grade 4 entrepreneurial experience had to be carried on towards his high school and college life if he wanted to always have that extra cash. He continued:
“In high school, I earned extra cash by using my hobby in photography. Together with some friends I also got into the business of mobile music. I took care of marketing while the rest took care of the music. Then in college, I helped raise funds in fairs and other activities. I love cooking and I even sold food at times. While I was a member of the Junior Philippine Economic Society, I produced a concert with Dingdong Avanzado, with Regine Velasquez as a guest and Ogie Alcasid as the front act.”
Career after college:
“After college, I joined PCI Bank as a management trainee then later on went to Account Management/Credit. My salary was very small, entry level salary, almost minimum wage, so I kept my sideline of producing concerts. After a few years, I decided to quit my job to put up my Interior Design business with my girlfriend Mia.
It was doing well at the start that we were able to save up and get married. But later on, it failed. This was the 90s when the economy was bad, and we were experiencing regular brownout. I got into debt. Then one of our clients, who was working with Sunlife, invited me to join as an agent. I got into it, just so I could raise money to bail out our business, to pay off our debts. I was young then, I was just following the money.
As I learned more about personal finance, I realized that it was what I wanted to do. Looking back, I realized that I was not cut out for an interior design business. I was allergic to paint fumes, saw dust. I was a fish out of water there. I realized that my love was finance and investment. We later on closed that business. On hindsight, I shouldn’t have left the banking industry.”
When I told Randell that this is so Basic Law of Money No. 2: Get into a business that you understand. Seek advice only from competent people, as written in my new book, he agreed. He also said that he finds my new project a worthwhile one because he has been looking for finance books that can be understood by kids.
Then he went on to narrate his career story:
“At 26, I started as an agent for Sunlife but I was really interested in teaching financial planning and not just selling products. I rebel against the trend of focusing on just selling. Later on I was asked to join the management committee of Sunlife and was tasked to develop business in Luzon. Paulo Tibig (now an entrepreneur and also one of Randell’s speakers at the recently concluded iCon 2014) was my assistant. The other one was Joseph, who’s now a pastor.
I got tired of the extensive travel needed in my job and I wanted to spend more time with my two daughters so I requested to be moved to a unit that would allow me to spend more time with my family.
Later on, I moved to Generali, the insurance affiliate of BDO. So I was in the insurance business for a long time. In 2005 I co-established the Registered Financial Planners (RFP) Philippines.
In 2008 when the subprime problem happened, I felt that I wanted to be on my own again. The problem affected everyone in the society – poor, middle class and rich, especially in the US. I wanted to pursue something that educated the people and be more independent in doing so. I wasn’t allowed to leave right away so it was only in 2009 when I was finally able to resign.
Very few people could explain what was going on. I think one of my gifts is the ability to simplify complex ideas. Some people say that I’m dumbing it down, some say I don’t know what I’m talking about. But the more you try to sound bright, the more you sound dumb, because people will not connect with you.”
Randell is a happy family man. His lovely wife, Mia, homeschools their two sons, Rigs and Chino. His daughters, Billie and Gabbie are in college. They teach their children by setting the right example, “It’s all about mirroring. Like when we tell them to read the bible everyday, we have to show them that we also read the bible everyday. There was a time Mia and I were also magastos, which was not a good thing. I’ve made a lot of mistakes in the past, I was a latecomer and I had to learn the hard way. When Mia was teaching the kids about saving, she had to do it with a transparent jar, so they could easily see and understand it.”
Randell shared that they teach their children about money by explaining to them about their family’s priorities, “Of course they see other kids have this and that thing, but we tell them that in our family the priorities are roof over their head, food on the table, education, anything else is excess. If there’s extra then we can have them.”
Solution to the country’s poverty:
I like asking finance people this “beauty queen sounding question” If you were to solve the poverty problem in the country, what are your top three priorities. These are Randell’s top three:
- Financial Education – People have to know how to earn and spend wisely. We have huge OFW remittances amounting to US$24 billion and knowing how to handle that is important.
- Education system – There are employment opportunities but the problem is the lack of qualified employees. That’s why the K-12 is important because I see graduates who can’t even write a decent essay.
- Generation of employment – Better employment opportunities in the countryside so people don’t have to come to Manila, or go out of the country to seek employment opportunities.
Randell is optimistic in the country’s prospects. We ended up our chat with his usual happy tone asking about my sons whom he said he “discovered” as he was the first one to feature them as speakers in financial literacy for the youth back in 2010.
What others have to say:
I asked some of the people who know Randell to share something about him and here are some interesting ones:
From Jayson Logan Lo (speaker and author of YOUnique book series): The first time we met was in an event in Shangrilla Hotel. He was approachable and gregarious, chatting for long periods with just about anyone he meets. He loves meeting new people and helping people. I’d like to refer to him as a king maker, building people up and giving them opportunities that wouldn’t have been possible without his guidance. Randell (even with his sarcasm LOL) has a heart of gold, very rare nowadays.
From Salve Duplito (resident Financial Adviser of ANC On The Money): The first time I met Randell, I immediately saw a kindred spirit. Someone who has passion for financial literacy, not as a money making business, but as a real advocacy. He can teach you while having a laugh trip. That makes the teaching moments a lot more enjoyable. I was very choosy in picking the people I feature in the PDI. So glad Randell was one of the people I wrote about.
From Floi Wycoco (co-founder of The Global Filipino Investors, a Facebook investment group): I met Randell when we conducted our Singapore seminar with him as our main speaker. He is actually one of the most generous personal finance coaches I’ve met as he’s more than willing to give seminars to the OFWs and the average Filipinos whether he earns or not. He is the ideal mentor and one of the country’s best personal finance coaches as he can easily make people realize the need to be well-educated in finance.
From Marvin Germo (speaker and author of Stocks Smarts book series): On a financial planning level, Randell paved the way for fee based financial planning and consulting. This has opened up the industry for more professionals to service more Filipinos towards financial freedom. He has also made personal finance mainstream and cool. I believe the personal finance industry would not be where it its now without him.
Let me end this piece with what Randell says in his seminars, may you have financial peace!
To view Life Stories of Personal Finance Advocates 1 (Salve Duplito), click http://www.raisingpinoyboys.com/dashboard/showArticle/MTY2
To view Life Stories of Personal Finance Advicates 2 9Efren Cruz) click http://www.raisingpinoyboys.com/dashboard/showArticle/MTcxC