Financial Advice for Women: An Interview with Anna Haotanto

Growing up, I realised that it was difficult to find financial advice tailored to females during different stages of our lives.

Besides having a good female financial advisor or female friends who are savvy in investing and are kind enough to give you tips, the type of financial advice given online is generally male-dominated and may only address female financial concerns on the surface.

Financial advice for women females The New Savvy

Source: The New Savvy

Recently, a website ( that caters to females caught my eye, not only because it doesn’t sell the same old “how to be man-worthy” tips of sex, beauty, fashion and body image, but it publishes content putting women at the centre of their own lives.

You cannot imagine how important this is till you realise too many other media channels portray how the worth of a female is to serve the lives of others.

So when I got a chance to interview Anna Haotanto, the CEO of who earned her financial independence at age 28, I had quite a few questions to ask her (hence the really long blogpost).

Anna Haotanto the new savvy

Source: Anna Haotanto

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Hi Anna, I’m glad to have a chance to email interview you.

For a long time, I’ve wondered why there is a lack of online advice specifically tailored for women in Singapore, and your website The New Savvy has answered my prayers.

What was the spark of inspiration that propelled you to start THENEWSAVVY.COM?

There are 2 major inspirations for The New Savvy.

First, due to my family financial situation, I have always been fascinated with the intricacies behind the working of money.

I understood that I have to take care of myself and my family and that realization 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 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.

Anna Haotanto the new savvy

Source: The New Savvy/CNBC

Second, 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 have any earning capabilities.

That motivated me always to protect myself financially and to prevent myself from being in similar situations.

If proper financial knowledge and planning worked for me, it would work for many women too — which was why I started The New Savvy.

What are the biggest challenges women face when making financial decisions?

I feel that there’s a lack of focus on financial education.

The New Savvy recently conducted a survey on financial awareness for women. The results are very interesting.

I think most women are afraid to take the first steps.

There are a variety of reasons:

  • Lack of income resources
  • No disposable income
  • No time to spend on financial planning
  • Don’t want to understand financial jargon
  • Cannot understand financial products
  • No idea what their options are
  • Investing is gambling

Most people don’t even know what they want to achieve financially.

It’s hard to work for something when you have no idea what it is.

Most of us have career goals — we want to get promoted or achieve certain milestones in life.

But we don’t focus on what and where we want to be financially.

Despite advancing in our career and earning more, women lack confidence in financial matters.

41% do not invest or manage their money.

As I continued in my career, I realized that many of my female peers did not know how to manage their money; they were simply just saving their funds or allowing their partners to handle the financial security of the household.

I also noticed a lack of media and outlets that were dedicated to teaching women how to empower themselves financially, particularly ones that weren’t filled with technical and financial industry jargon.

I believe most women want investments that are easy to understand, uncomplicated, not overly risky and something they can afford.

I think if there are a financial institution that simplifies the process, use fewer jargons and look after their interests; I think this will spur women to manage their money more.

Financial advice for women females The New Savvy

Source: The New Savvy

The New Savvy is Asia’s leading financial and career platform for women to help women make smarter financial decisions.

We focus on empowering women with financial knowledge, presented in engaging and simplified language that makes it easier to understand finance.

The New Savvy wants to facilitate the financial knowledge of women as they move through their career and life milestones.

The site features investing advice specifically tailored according to the financial climate and habits of women in Asia.

What are the key differences between how men and women manage their finances?

Men tend to suffer from overconfidence.

Men are also more competitive and have a much stronger desire to outperform a boring ‘buy-and-hold’ strategy.

They also have a much stronger conviction that they can outperform the market.

On the flip side, women tend to be fearful, and they tend to invest lesser.

Most women prefer to save instead and not invest.

Female investors tend to be more risk-averse.

They tend to have a more diversified portfolio and shy away from high-risk investments.

Women also research more and take more advice from financial advisors.

Women investors are more patient, and we don’t monitor our investments daily.

Women tend to trade less hence, incurring lesser transaction costs.

Who do you follow to enrich yourself on financial and lifestyle tips and perspectives?

I love Warren Buffett, Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, George Soros and Bill Gross; I spend a whole chunk of my time exploring their philosophies, the Goldbach’s conjecture, and other Finance theories.

Mr. Warren Buffett is one of my top candidates for my financial perspectives. Some of the good investing tips I have learnt from him can be found here: Invest Like Warren Buffett — His New & Best Investing Rules

Additionally, I have quite a handful of women whom I follow for perspectives in life: 15 Motivational Quotes From Women Business Leaders To Inspire You.

I am often motivated by strong women such as Melinda Gates and Sheryl Sandberg.

Name one life-changing book you highly recommend every woman should read.

One is definitely not enough!

I have a favourite list of 6 Personal Finance Books Women Must Read here that I think every woman should read to jumpstart a good personal finance plan:

  • The Women’s Guide to Successful Investing by Nancy Tengler
  • Rich Woman: A Book on Investing for Women — Because I Hate Being Told What to Do by Kim Kiyosaki
  • Every Woman Should Know Her Options: Invest Your Way to Financial Empowerment by Laurie Itkin
  • I’m On My Own and So Are You: Financial Security for Women by Judy Reisnick
  • Property is a Girl’s Best Friend by Various Authors
  • Warren Buffett Invests Like a Girl and Why You Should, Too by LouAnn Lofton

What is the worst piece of financial advice you have ever heard given to a woman?

One of my favorites is “You don’t need to save yet. You need to live your life and enjoy your money while you are young.”

In my opinion, this is a terrible advice!

First, it’s simple arithmetic — to start saving earlier means to have more reserved money for your future.

Second, you are never certain of what may happen to you and your career like sickness, not getting that raise or promotion you were hoping for, changing of career direction, or losing a job.

While we do not want to be extremely negative and paranoid, it is better to be prepared for every possibility.

Third, “young” is a relative term. When exactly does being “young” end? At what age are you old enough to be saving? What is bad is you may end up following this advice until you are only 10 years away from retiring.

A better advice would be to save early, even if that means starting small. It is easier to begin with taking baby steps than promising yourself to get bigger chunks off your future paychecks just to catch up.

Financial advice for women females The New Savvy

Source: The New Savvy

Here are a few more bad examples: 6 Worst Financial Advice for Women To Avoid When Financial Planning

If a woman isn’t employed (e.g. stay-at-home-mum), what advice would you give her on how to plan for her retirement?

I would encourage all women to learn about personal finance management regardless of their employment status.

Why do women have to learn about personal finance management?

More often than not, the spouse or partner who brings in the income is also frequently the decision maker for the entire household.

However, not everyone has a full understanding of finance management and this can potentially reduce opportunities to plan for retirement.

In this instance, I would encourage women to take on the role of learning about personal finance management as she is usually the person who oversees the household expenses.

Equipped with the knowledge of handling finances within a household, a woman can have the ability to path a well-informed finance management plan for both her family and retirement: How To Budget In The Simplest Way — 4 Easy Steps to Follow

Moreover, money is often the topic of disagreement between couples especially in the situation where the woman decides not to work.

According to a survey by SunTrust Bank in 2015, money troubles and financial disagreements are some of the leading causes of problems in relationships in marriage.

Hence, I believe the likelihood of disagreements can be reduced if women has the same level of understanding about money management matters as her partner.

So how exactly are couples supposed to handle their finances if there is only one breadwinner in the household?

The best advice is to work as a team– together.

Talk to each other and try dividing the tasks and responsibilities between yourselves. When it comes to major financial decisions in the family, make it a habit to consult each other before deciding.

By taking this first step, a woman can proceed with a plan of retirement through savings and investing: 7 Ways to Set and Achieve Your Retirement Goals

The government recently announced its Budget 2017. As a female entrepreneur, what are your thoughts about the Budget?

I like the International Partnership Fund, where the government will set aside $600 million to co-invest with firms to help them internationalise.

Budget 2017 international Partnership fund

Source: MOF

One of the common limitations for Singapore firms is always expanding overseas. The monetary support will help to boost local entreprises.

Budget 2017 SkillsFuture

Source: MOF

 I also think that the schemes to help students to get foreign work experience is great.

In universities, I had a chance to work in a private equity firm in Shanghai and it was one of the best experiences of my life.

I think that all students in local universities should try working overseas once in their lives!

Budget 2017 global innovation Alliance

Source: MOF

What is one thing you cannot live without?

The Internet!

The New Savvy is organising an event with SGX titled “The Future is Female”.* Can you share more on why the future is female?

The future is female The New Savvy

Source: The New Savvy

There is a gender equality movement to promote equal opportunities for both gender in Singapore in the recent decade and women are at a very interesting juncture in history.

We are earning more, progressing further in our careers. Women also control most of the household expenditure.

Finally, we are seeing an increase in new occupations that women can fully participate in alongside with men as seen here: Infographic : 10 Jobs That Didn’t Exist 10 Years Ago

Jobs that didn't exist 10 years ago

Source: unknown/The New Savvy

In fact, we can see an increase in the number of successful female entrepreneurs around the globe, including FinTech: Female FinTech Founders : Women Who Created Kickass FinTech Companies.

However, women finance is a grossly under-served market and most financial news are technical and boring.

They don’t speak to women and form real emotional value.

Women want authentic advice that address our struggles. Women have different needs from men and can benefit from unique financial advice.

Furthermore, 41% of women are intimidated by finance and do not invest as information available to them can be complex, technical and often, exasperating.

Financial advice for women females The New Savvy

Source: The New Savvy

We came up with the idea the future is female if women can receive the education they need about personal financial management and be empowered by what they have.

The future is female The New Savvy

Source: The New Savvy

Women need a different set of financial advice from men.

Thus, THENEWSAVVY.COM provides this platform with our upcoming personal financial management conference “The Future is Female” to cater to these needs.

*The New Savvy’s “The Future is Female” conference on April 8, Saturday (supported by SGX) aims to bring the concept of Personal Finance Management, investment products, money management, and financial know-how to women, with speakers such as:

  • Lynn Gaspar, Senior Vice President, Head of Intermediaries & Retail Clients at SGX
  • Junie Foo, Head of Corporate Banking Singapore, Global Subsidiary Banking, Asia Oceania, Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ Ltd
  • Rachel Lim, Founder, Love, Bonito
  • Tamara Singh, Business Manager, Portfolio Execution Group, GIC

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Special thanks to Anna Haotanto and The New Savvy team for helping with the interview and related information.