Christian Pratama went to school for biotechnology. Now he’s a financial planner. The 23-year-old didn’t plan for things to end up this way, but that hasn’t stopped him from making planning his profession and going pro at telling people what to do with their money. Sure beats working at Nutrifood.
What should I do with my paycheck? Which insurance should I pick? How many credit cards should I have? These are the questions Christian helps people deal with on a daily basis. The Jakarta Globe sat down with the planner and asked him how he navigates it all. Luckily, he didn’t put us on the clock.
What are Jakartans’ most common financial problems?
Too many desires, too many expenses. Men who can’t control their spending, who waste their money on gadgets, and women who have the same problem with buying things like clothes and bags. That stuff can be OK if you actually have money, but the problem comes when you just try to ‘swipe’ your way out of trouble.
What are the components of personal financial planning?
The three steps I usually apply to my customers are Protect, Accumulate and Expand. With Protect, I ask my customers whether they have put aside enough of a financial cushion in case they experience a health problem or some other rainy day thing. This is important because making money is useless if you’re not well enough to enjoy it. After Protect comes Accumulate, which means accumulating your money to a certain point. When that is achieved, we can talk about how to Expand your wealth using various other mechanisms.
As a financial planner who is only 23, do your customers ever underestimate your abilities?
Yes, sometimes, but I say that is quite normal. No one wants to risk mismanaging years of hard work. That’s why the way we financial planners offer our services is not as direct or maybe straightforward as something like retail.
Everything has to start with a casual chat, since most people find it very sensitive or even disturbing to reveal their intimate financial details to someone they barely know. It is during this time that we have the chance to show we truly are concerned about the customer’s financial condition and will offer our best customized financial advice. Then if they feel the chat is beneficial, they know where to reach us.
How difficult is giving sound financial advice? How skeptical should people be about what people like you tell them?
If you’re a good financial planner, it means you know more about financial problems than your customers. In my case, I knew a lot about these things, so I got myself an international license for financial planning, called RFP (Registered Financial Planner). It’s not easy to get the license because you have to undergo some training and take an exam. Since I have the license, it proves I am acknowledged as an eligible financial planner.
What’s the highest number of credit cards you’ve ever known a person to carry in their wallet?
There was once someone who was said to have more than 30 credit cards. That was really shocking. It was as if as he collected all those cards just for fun.
What’s the deadliest credit card trap?
Sometimes people see credit cards as plastic saviors that justify not ever using cash. You should only use credit cards when there’s an actual advantage, like significant discounts or low-interest installments you wouldn’t otherwise get. Other than that, only view credit cards as an emergency facility.
If you really can’t help yourself, you need to understand that banks actually want you to delay your credit card payments as long as possible so the interest will keep on piling up. So pay all your debts immediately before they come back to haunt you.
On average, how often do you meet with a client?
It depends. The briefest of consultations could be just a simple text message anytime, anywhere, while a more direct meeting may occur once a month, every three months or twice a year.
You didn’t major in economics or finance in college. How did your parents react to your career choice?
They protested at first because I already had a job offer at Nutrifood, working in a field much more related to my biotechnology studies. But I somehow thought that would have been really boring [laughs]. So I said to them, let me try this job first. And now that things are looking good, they’re taking it much better.
Besides, my background is actually helpful whenever my clients want to talk about things like health or insurance products, because I can explain to them all of those tongue-twisting medical terms that other consultants don’t know about [laughs].
Any universally applicable financial advice you can give out for free?
Always, always separate the things you want from those that you need. Not having the things you need will eventually bring you harm. Try to make a habit out of getting the things you want as a reward for doing something productive, and not before.
Christian Pratama was talking to Andreas Kevin Tedjosugondo.