Thinking about getting your financial life in order but don’t know where to start? Don’t fret! Our featured lender for the month: Carlo Cojuangco, business investor and co-founder of Cryptocurrency Philippines, might just have the timeless money tips you need to help you tide over season in, season out.
If there’s anything more telling of how Carlo learned about money matters, it’s definitely his beginnings as an entrepreneurial prodigy.
As a young boy, Carlo spent a good portion of his childhood naturally venturing into classroom gigs almost unique to kids his age. From being a walking candy station and selling sweet treats to his playmates before even learning the multiplication table when he was in first grade to launching his own ice-candy business in school back in his elementary days, Carlo was a young entrepreneur way before he even knew what entrepreneur meant.
“Natutunan ko kasi sa family ko na pwede mag-business, pwede magbenta ng kung anu-ano (I learned from my family the basics of doing business and the idea that you can things for profit),” he explains, tracing his early inclination and interest in doing businesses from his exposure to their family‘s own enterprises growing up.
“Noong high school ako, around 3rd year or 4th year, ‘pag kagaling from class, pupunta ako agad sa gas station (When I was in high school, around my 3rd year or 4th year, after class I would immediately head to our gas station),” he candidly shares, reminiscing about a time when he would sideline as their own runner doing errands such as doing the daily inventory or depositing money to banks for their gas station business, “So sanay na kong, parang natuto na kong humawak ng large amounts noon. Kasi ako pinapabilang noon (That’s why I’m used to handling large sum of money, I had always done the basic auditing for our business then),” he recalls, “Tapos sa piggery namin, ako ‘yung nag-aalaga ng baboy (When it comes to managing our piggery business, I was put in charge of breeding pigs).”
Learning early on that no job is too small, too dirty, Carlo admits that these early experiences taught him about the importance of managing money and managing it well: “Yung discipline sa paghawak ng pera, doon talaga na-build up sa family business. ‘Yun ‘yung challenge sa iba na kahit maganda ‘yung business nila, (dapat) built up ‘yung, ‘yung paghawak nila sa pera (The discipline of handling money, it was really built from helping our family business. I think that’s the challenge for most entrepreneurs, even with a good business model, managing money wisely should remain a priority).”
For Carlo, valuing hard-earned money begins in understanding its worth and translating it into a general practical resolution of living a frugal life. While living within one’s means is a piece of classic, irrefutable advice in handling your finances, Carlo notes it’s important still to always aspire for balance in saving, investing to grow your means, and having fun: “Regret ko rin, sa sobrang tipid ko hindi ko na-maximize ‘yung pera na (nakuha) ko. Kasi yung ipon ko, nagiging ipon lang siya (I also regret being too frugal, I was too cautious in spending money then I wasn’t able to maximise my earnings. My savings were just kept as savings in the bank).”
This disposition on the value of money is ultimately solidified by what he had witnessed in the lives of his parents, arguably his biggest influence in building his financial principles — among these is the understanding that money is not everything, it’s a means to an end.
“Growing up, ‘sa family ko, yung parents ko may businesses, pero aware din ako na naging employees sila hanggang sa tumanda na sila. Hindi na nila na-enjoy ‘yung pinag-hirapan nila until they got older, ang liit na nung pensions tapos wala na silang energy (Growing up, in my family, my parents had businesses but I am also aware they still worked as employees until they retire. They weren’t able to enjoy what they worked hard for until they got older, the pension they were receiving was too small and they no longer had the energy).”
Before he had made it big in his career as a cryptocurrency trader, Carlo had his own fair share of weathering downturns. Chief of which, perhaps, is witnessing his own start-up he co-founded collapse and eventually die down.
“During my time sa startup, I was living on my savings. Ang hirap pa dumepende from our revenue sa company, so lifeline lang noon talaga is ‘yung savings ko. So nung naubos ‘yun, no choice na ko but to look for work (During my time in a startup, I was living off on my savings. It was still too difficult to depend on revenues then, so my lifeline really were my savings. When that ran out, I had no choice but to look for work).”
Spending most of his life being involved in traditional businesses in the province — the startup ecosystem was an entirely different world for Carlo, and an enticing one at that. However, beginner’s luck seemed sparse; his initial toe-dipping on running one proved to be unsuccessful. Charging everything he learned to experience, Carlo then went on to pack his bags and get a day job.
One day in his new chapter as a government employee, while he was loading cellular phones for his officemates (another sideline he had found in his new career), he tried tinkering with the mobile wallet app he was using and experimented with its option to convert peso to Bitcoin, a growing digital currency that’s gaining ground in facilitating virtual payment and as a viable source of profit.
It only took a few finger taps and some loose change for Carlo to discover another door that would take his career into a surprising turn. What started as a mindless tryout eventually grew into a habit, and later on, a serious investment.
Counting on the last remaining Php 15,000 in his bank account, Carlo took the risk and poured it into Bitcoin as initial capital. Carlo seemed to have struck his luck this time as shortly after, this grew into Php 100,000. Earning in a month’s time what he would have earned in more than a year (as a government employee, Carlo was only earning Php 8,000/month — and this is gross of taxes) prompted him to consider trading cryptocurrency as a more worthwhile means to generate income and led him to yet another big life move — quit his job and pursue trading full-time.
Later on, with the help of capital for trading he borrowed from friends and family to kickstart his newest career shift, Carlo grew the last few thousands in his savings account to millions.
Looking back, Carlo attributes 90% of his successful career in trading to pure luck. According to him, he just happened to catch the industry picking up its pace and going on an uptrend when he was just starting.
Yet, the thing about luck is, it can go as swiftly as it comes — and it also runs out.
“Then the year after, nag-lose ako ng 80 or around 90 percent. So parang halos walang natira rin sakin. So nag-start over ako…doon ko narealize na hindi okay yung risk management ko (Then the year after, I lost around 80 or 90 percent of my earnings. I was almost left with nothing. So I had to start over again…this is when I realised that my risk management had to improve).”
After this extreme incident, Carlo rose to a wake-up call and reflected on the reality of losses and the insecurities of uncalculated risks and ill investments. “Pwede na ko mag-retire noon eh! Pero well, if hindi ka prepared for that amount, parang ‘yung mga nanalo sa lotto, mauubos din through bad investments. So mas risk-averse na ko ngayon (I could have easily retired then! But well, if you really aren’t prepared in handling that amount, like a lot of lottery winners, it could easily run dry and get placed in bad investments. Now I can say I’m more risk-averse).”
Now learning about the lack of risk management plan he had in place for his investments, Carlo became more intentional in scouting for other interesting assets he could put his money in. He shares, “noong may losses na ko nun, (narealize ko) kailangan ko na mag-set aside ng funds (When I started to incur losses, I realised I really have to start to set aside funds.).”
Being mindful of his financial health entails creating a backup plan and diversifying funds . Allocating his investments in multiple places , he learned, was the best way to put a seatbelt on his investment to safeguard it from any unforeseeable “accidents” in the future (e.g. market crash).
The lessons he learned about investments and the significance of taking calculated risks helped Carlo realign his goals and values when it came to his financial life. “Na-realize ko na kailangan munang kumita, then (dinedicate) ko sarili ko na focus muna ko na magkaroon ng stable source of income, tapos doon ko na eenjoyin ‘yung gusto kong gawin — kapag may pera na (I realised I had to earn first, so I dedicated myself into focusing at building a stable source of income. That’s the time I’d enjoy the things I want to pursue — only when I already have enough fund.).”
Experiencing gut-wrenching loss grounded Carlo in living a practical life where setting financial goals is necessary and always kept in check. This involves thinking in big pictures and painting the life he wants. Then from there, he starts writing in numbers — putting price in the income he wants and even leisure he’d like — that would make this vision realistic and more importantly, achievable.
“Kinompute ko na kung ano ‘yung monthly income na okay na ko…na okay buhay ko dito sa Philippines, ‘yung magkakapag-bakasyon ako like three to four times a year. Iniisip ko talaga is long-term… (I already computed the monthly income I’m comfortable with living here in the Philippines, with which I could also fit in three or four vacations in a year. I really think long-term…)”
In a simple statement, Carlo’s plan is to retire and be financially free by the time he’s 30. “Feeling ko pinaka-main reason kung bakit ako ganito, kasi tamad ako (Perhaps the main reason why I think this way is because I’m lazy),” he teases, with his joke slightly tugged from his and his parents’ experience in their career, “parang ayoko mag-trabaho ng ganun katagal (I don’t feel like working that long).”
To attain this, Carlo has already started building his retirement fund at the age of 25, composed of investments he made in different businesses outside trading.
Thankfully, his cumulative experience in investing left him some indelible lessons in worthwhile investments. For Carlo, there are two things worth considering in investing in startups, or any businesses, in general:
“Nag-invest din ako sa ibang startups, and main na tinitignan ko is ‘yung founder and ‘yung feasibility ng business model. Pero nasa founder talaga if kaya nilang ma-pull off ‘yung operations ng company(I have also invested in other startups and the main things I consider in deciding to do so are the founders and the feasibility of the business model. But I believe it really depends on the founders if they could pull off the operations of a company).”
Coincidentally, he found the two boxes ticked off with InvestEd. While it took him a while to get on board with the company’s never-before-heard business model, his confidence in its founders, starting from it’s CEO Carmina Bayombong, whom he had met a few years back during her time as a COO in another startup, was already well in place. At one point, when InvestEd was still starting with a team comprised of just Carmina and her co-founder Melissa Dee in early 2017, Carlo got to share their cramped-up co-working space in Quezon city as his own workplace and witnessed firsthand the dedication they put in building the company from the ground up, “Nakakasabay ko talaga sila magwork, until 6 in the morning (I’ve co-worked with them sometimes even until 6 in the morning)!”
This developed trust in InvestEd founders eventually reeled in Carlo’s curiosity to know more and explore the feasibility of lending to the company.
“Since ayoko mag-deposit sa bank, so ‘yun ‘yung best alternative ko instead of depositing sa bank na, or time deposit. Nakita ko na mas good ‘yung interest, so dito ko na lang nilagay (Since I don’t want to deposit in banks, I figured lending at InvestEd would be my best alternative. I saw it has better interest rates, so I decided to grow my money here.).”
Carlo also considers InvestEd’s social impact as a novel value-add in an investment. “Once na may nag-graduate na students, or parang ‘yun na ‘yung parang tithe ko since nakakatulong ako sa iba. And gusto kong umayos ‘yung Pilipinas, na may mga students na maka-graduate, kasi sila ‘yung magiging voters ng next generation. Kailangan educated ‘yung youth natin (Once I help a student graduate, I consider it almost as my tithe since it’s helping others. I also want the Philippines to develop and be better, to have more students graduates since they’ll be the voters of the next generation. It’s necessary that our youth be educated.).”
Since 2018, Carlo has been supporting InvestEd as part of its community of lenders and takes pride as an early adopter in its lender program. In fact, he is among the 90% of its lenders who choose to reinvest their earnings in the startup.
Weighing in on his journey as a lender in InvestEd, Carlo shares, “Before ‘di ko gets talaga kasi ‘yung sa lending industry. Recently ko lang talaga na-gets, kasi if alam ko na before, like nung mas may pera pa ko, nag-lagay na ko sana noon (before I couldn’t seem to understand the lending industry. It’s only now that I’m starting to grasp what it’s about, otherwise had I known all about it before, back when I had more money to invest, I would have placed my money here then),” he laughingly declares, “hopefully, hopefully ma-sustain ng InvestEd ‘yung (business) until tumanda ako…kasi ito ‘yung retirement fund ko (hopefully, hopefully InvestEd sustains the business until I grow older…because I’m counting on this as my retirement fund).”
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