Living Gaia - Singapore Interior Design Firm

Living Gaia Director's Interview Feature on
Posted 2014-10-14

When the fish smells of money, invest in it

When Mr Clive Tan sets his mind on doing something in work or play, he gives it everything.

The director of interior design firm Living Gaia Interior, which opened for business in May, already has lofty ideas for his fledgling enterprise.

The lover of the natural environment not only wants to bring greenery into homes, but also to entire buildings eventually.

Mr Tan, 35, says: "I've been studying how people are doing it - like vertical gardens, heat rejection materials to keep the internal space cool, and special window solar panels that can collect the maximum of solar energy to be sold to the power grid.

"The ultimate aim is to become a well-known interior and architecture developer. Interior design is the passion, but I'd like to grow the company to make a name in the green interior and architecture space."

The same goes for his hobby and love of ornamental fish, which include rare Black Diamond stingrays and fish with a platinum sheen.

Mr Tan became keen in this area after observing his father's interest in goldfish. "My dad loves keeping normal goldfish. I became interested and started helping him to take care of his fish, and ended up with my own small aquarium. As time went by, I joined fish forums.

"When I was schooling, I could only admire and study the fish - where they are kept, how breeding works; stingrays, for instance, give birth to their pups, and only two to eight per batch."

Mr Tan, who studied fine arts at Lasalle College of the Arts and graduated with distinction, goes all out to pursue his passions.

"I think if you find something that you're passionate about, or it becomes your hobby, you can make it to the fullest because you don't drag yourself to do it."

Q:Are you a spender or saver?

I'm in between. I enjoy spending, especially overseas. My wife and I love good food, so in Singapore, after a long day of work, we just go out for something nice.

We enjoy travelling, and travel up to three to four times a year. When we do, we really enjoy purchasing things we can't find in Singapore, like home decoration items.

And I love to view architecture, especially in Italy. The structures and workmanship there are amazing.

The rest of my money goes into investments. I don't believe so much in saving but making (money) and how you invest to grow your money rather than putting it in banks.

Q: How much do you charge to your credit cards every month?

In all, $2,000 to $3,000; we rarely shop in Singapore, it's just for paying for meals.

I don't like the idea of heavily swiping credit cards. I'm more of a cash and cheque person, so that I don't give the bank the chance to charge me more interest.

But credit cards are useful overseas, I rely on them for overseas spending, and if you add that up, the monthly average is about $7,000 to $8,000.

Q:What financial planning have you done for yourself?

If you save and don't invest, the value of your money will only get smaller. There should always be active income, which is my company, and passive income, which is my hobby-turned-investment - exotic, ornamental fish.

A fish can go for $20,000 to $30,000. The amount can be unbelievable. I collect mainly platinum fish of different species, which are extremely rare due to genetic mutation, and stingrays.

A freshwater stingray about 20cm wide is about $6,000. The more spots the stingrays have, and the more dense the spots are, the higher the grading of the stingrays and they cost even more.

I resell some to fellow hobbyists. There is always this issue where you cannot keep collecting them because you will run out of space.

Of course, you must have an eye for such a hobby - to know how to purchase at a reasonable price, keep it, groom it and some hobbyists may make you an offer.

I invest in entities that I have absolute control of. I'm not into stocks or properties.

(As I don't spend much in Singapore), the money goes into Living Gaia, which is my major investment. I plan to invest heavily in setting up new branches in Singapore, Malaysia and China in the next two years.

Q: Moneywise, what were your growing-up years like?

When I was young, I helped out at my parents' food stall, from Primary 1 all the way to Secondary 4. My family is very warm and loving. I have an older brother and younger brother who helped out too.

When I went to college, I started working part-time. Since I was young, I've felt that money is not easy to come by. You have to put in hard work, long hours, for example, running the food stall needs long hours of standing. I saw the hardship my parents had to go through to bring up the three of us.

My belief is to spend within your limits and make enough to spend. I strive to make as much as possible and enjoy after that.

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