FREE Advice is The WORST Advice? Think Again.

If you ask me, two of the most important assets in our lives are time and money.

Both these assets share some intricate relationships too.

We doggedly spend time on our careers and businesses to build a bigger pot of gold. Yet the irony is that sometimes, when we finally have the money we think we need, we realise there’s not the time or energy left to spend it on our passions and loved ones.

Can we do it in a wiser and more enlightened fashion? How about managing money in a way such that it buys us more time to ultimately, spend it with who and what matters?

For all that’s worth, money and personal finances have been pretty hush-hush topics in the society we live in when I was growing up.

But thankfully with social media and content creation, young people these days are more empowered to educate themselves on money management as well as share their insights on managing their personal wealth better.

Yet, I’m not saying trust everything that you read on the Internet since everyone’s contexts, constraints and objectives are different. But there’s no denying that the playing field is a lot leveled with more quality financial education.

Of course, discernment is always the key.

NAV Hub — Your Financial GPS

So you can imagine, when I was invited by DBS as a Millennial Coach & Blogger, to the media launch of NAV Hub, Singapore’s first financial planning centre by a bank which offers free advisory services, with no financial products being sold… I would be lying to say I wasn’t skeptical, at all.

After all, we are talking about the largest bank in Southeast Asia. Not the largest non-profit organization or charity.

Nestled in a quaint shophouse in the Tanjong Pagar district of Singapore, I had in fact found it initially difficult to navigate (no pun intended) myself to the hub. Largely because, there was not a single DBS logo at the office front and in its interior. Later, I realised it was an intentional move with the intentions of neutrality and staying true to their mission of financial education.

Designed for young adults as the primary beneficiaries, anyone can enjoy free personalised financial planning sessions with NAV crew, where they can learn more about their current financial health, as well as understand their financial goals and how to achieve them through an individual planning session that spans between 45–60 minutes only.

During the launch proper, here were the 5 lessons that truly resonated with me:

1. Financial Planning Is Not A Common Practice — a DBS study with its customers aged 20–35 years old revealed that over 50% of their customers do not plan and do not know how to plan their finances. Furthermore, the majority of young adults who actually do plan for financial goals do not know the estimated target amount needed to achieve each goal!

2. We All Hate Getting Sold To — I still recall the first financial product I purchased was an Investment-Linked Product (ILP) / savings plan from a pretty financial advisor (yes, judge me) outside a MRT station as a National Service Full-time (NSF) personnel. Later I realised that it was poorly performing and when I had terminated the fund, I had even gotten back less than the principal sum I invested! The truth of the matter is that when it comes to something as sensitive as our finances, the worst kind of situation to be in is a sticky one where you’ve a pushy advisor who’s trying to hard sell you products.

Which brings me to my next point.

3. Financial Education Need Not Be Intimidating — although I had an education in accounting, numbers don’t come intuitively to me. What more, learning about the financial jargon and formuales. But at the NAV Hub, I took comfort that the NAV team has gone to great lengths to collaborate with IDEO, a human-centred design agency, to develop an innovative engagement tool called a ‘Mindset Card’.

With this exercise, you ease yourself into the process and walk away finding out if your present or future mindsets are the likes of a ‘Sleepy Panda’, ‘Impulsive Magpie’, or the ‘Passion Saver’

Intriguing enough if you ask me.

4. What Gets Measured, Gets Managed — the NAV crew was clearly trained and knowledgeable when they ran through the “deliverables” of the advisory session. The participant walks away with a 6-page personal financial report that gives you an immediate snapshot of your financial health, key metrices like availability of an emergency fund, savings ratio, debt-to-assets ratio and also, your progress towards the standard financial goals like getting married, purchasing your home and retirement.

I find the report informative enough for you to walk away knowing the gaps and opportunities for your financial planning but not intimidating in the sense that it paralyzes you for any further action.

5. Free Financial Advice — Yes, It’s For Real — finally, towards the Q&A part, a fellow media participant and I asked about the “end outcomes “of the free advisory session. After all, not everyone will have watertight financial plans. Furthermore, there are also bancassurance and personal wealth management business units within DBS so I’ll be the first to call bluff if there’s not a referral mechanism in place to help generate new business.

But I was assured that the NAV Hub was strictly a place for their dedicated crew to conduct the free financial planning session and their staff are not advisors whose remuneration is premised upon product sales.

Of course, the caveat is that if and only if, the participant does ask for a follow-up session to look into the relevant products to support their financial planning, there will be relevant personnel from DBS to follow up upon the request. Otherwise, there is whole assurance that you are free to walk away with your personal report and go grab a cuppa at one of the hipster cafes nearby.

I personally found that this process is a fairly clean, straightforward and justified one.

And the 70+ participants who have had their financial planning sessions done since the soft launch a month ago, would probably agree with me too. After all, they gave big thumbs up with a 4.6 (out of 5) rating for overall experience and 4.7 for the usefulness of advice.

The proof of the pudding is in the eating. And as much as the skeptic in me will say FREE advice is the WORST advice, my experience with the NAV Hub proved otherwise.

Don’t believe me? Make an appointment, head on down and judge for yourself!


45 Tras Street

Singapore 078984

Opening Hours

Tues — Fri, 11am — 7pm

Sat, 10am — 5pm

Disclaimer: This is a partnership post with DBS. However, the opinions and experiences in this post remain true and authentic. 

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