TV Host. Actor. Model. Emcee. DJ. Mother. Wife. These are but some of the roles Daphne Iking plays in life. What are the pragmatic aspects of managing a career in the public eye, especially when it comes to dealing with finances? Daphne spills the beans on her relationship with money and how she stays on top of money matters.
TiC: Who taught you about managing your finances? Did you have a mentor or guide?
My mother was very frugal and my father was the complete opposite. I have a little bit of both of them. My dad’s resources were usually depleted due to his generosity (mostly in assisting the kampung folks and saying yes to people who wanted to borrow money from him (and almost never getting paid back).
Mum was more careful with her money and was resourceful in looking for side income (she was a nursing tutor) be it selling insurance, or spending time at the kampung cafe at night selling food and making drinks. But she barely rewarded herself and would rarely buy herself new clothes or shoes or makeup unless her old ones really, really gave way.
So I knew I wanted to earn my own money at a very early age. I had already started selling mom’s tomatoes from her garden at the age of 10 (didn’t make much but I felt all grown up selling them by the road side using my baking weighing scale to weigh my tomatoes) and helped my sister make nasi lemak – we sold it at the family tuck shop.
At 15, I was working as a banquet waitress in a 5-star hotel. I knew I wanted to buy certain things and there was no way my parents were going to fund all these “tiada guna punya barang“. They’d only invest in books and even then, only if they could not be found at the library. Until now, all our encyclopaedias are intact and remain in our study. So I knew in order to get [what I wanted], I’d have to work for it. Which I did. With no complaints.
Fast forward to my Uni days, my father’s generosity towards his community, quite often put a strain on our financial priorities. He did not have savings as most went to helping others (with the promise of them returning the money or that the project/”investment” will bring forth good returns). My father, though stern with work and his immediate family, was a softie with others around him. I never quite understood that part of him.
One day, our telephone line was cut off because dad forgot to pay the bill. I was at the age when I wanted to bergayut with my friends and was so annoyed when the line was not working. I vowed that I would manage my finances better but also be kind to myself when it came to rewarding my hard work.
So to answer your question, my parents approach to managing their finances sort of influenced how I manage mine today – I didn’t want to be too much of a scrooge but neither did I want to not have savings for rainy days.
I am anal about paying my bills on time (I pay my credit card bills in full). I have a budget drawn and monitored monthly, reviewed annually and I keep all receipts to see where I could have saved more and stick to a plan, BUT I also allocate an entertainment fund that allows the family and I to enjoy certain treats and decent holidays together.
It helps that my husband is extremely frugal too. We go through thorough research before buying anything and even for holidays, we plan and book way ahead to save costs.
As painfully hard as it is sometimes, I’ve set aside money in a savings plan for my retirement and for the children’s tertiary education because quite frankly, I don’t know if I can still earn what I do now as a freelancer by the time they hit their college and Uni years.
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TiC: Do you manage your finances personally or use the help of a business manager or accountant? Why?
I manage it myself but when it comes to the business accounts, we assign it to our company secretary to handle.
I like to know where my money is going and how I can trim costs. Now that I don’t have a full time helper, I am more involved with upkeep of the pantry and household products. I used to find it odd that I’d spend so much on detergent and softener and conditioners for the kids when my previous helper handled the household matters (as I was busy and depended on her to tell me what had run out, and to manage my own home).
Now that I clean, wash and cook, I find I save so much and more – probably because I use the household cleaners in the right amount? I don’t know. Even with food, I portion my produce accordingly so I just take it out for one meal and not have to defrost the whole chicken for instance (when I only need 3-4 pieces).
I am a firm believer in segregating my waste. Especially kitchen waste, so I feel the pinch when I see good food go down the bin. I always cook according to portions.
TiC: How do you prioritise what you spend your money on?
The bulk of my money goes to paying off the damn house mortgage and insurance for the whole family (which is also a saving plan for the kids and myself).
I am realistic when it comes to setting a budget and I stick to it. There is no other way.
TiC: Do you have any financial goals? How do you set them?
When I have a bit more to save, it goes automatically to my ASB cause it is more “ma fun” to withdraw it. LOL. And then it’s such a thrill to see how much bunga I make a year later.
The kids have their own savings accounts and all angpows go right in. They come to the bank and see their money deposited and see it written on their savings book so it gives them a sense of pride being able to save what they can. Even if it’s RM15 in coins.
I want to ideally be able to be free of debt (we have settled our cars and that’s a wonderful relief) and to save enough for the children to go through at least their tertiary education. My retirement dream is to head back to Sabah and stay in a sustainable community, growing my own produce in my organic farm … fishing my own fish. That sort of thing.
TiC: Have you thought about when you might like to retire and have you begun planning your retirement funds?
I have simple dreams of seeing my children complete school and choose a path that will make them happy and sustain a livelihood. It all goes back to the kids first, huh?
And then I wish to travel with my husband. Maybe travel and do odd jobs or volunteer tourism. That sort of thing?
I know if I balik kampung, I will never not have food. I’m quite good in gardening though I’m not too sure about slaughtering my own chickens (we used to rear pigs and chickens and ducks and I’d feed them so I always treated them like my own pets. Wasn’t much of a meat person due to this. LOL!) I think I can even learn to harvest my own rice. You don’t need too much if you lead a simple life. That’s the plan. But first? The kids. They deserve the best mama can afford. Once they get through their education, they’re on their own. I won’t even pay for their wedding. Or car. Or house. They’re on the own. They can live with me for a bit till they find their footing. But yup. They’re on their own after that. And they know this.
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TiC: As a personality who’s often in the spotlight, you get invited to a lot of events and looking good is part of the job. However the cost of new outfits, hair and makeup can rack up a sizeable bill. How do you manage this?
I usually do my own hair and makeup. In university, I danced part time as a cabaret dancer. It was there that I learnt to do my own makeup and hair. If the event sponsors makeup and hair, I would gladly let someone else do it. They are, after all, professionals. But yes. I spend less time and money doing it on my own.
I have no qualms about reusing my dresses. I’m practical. Plus I buy classic cuts and colours. Most times, I’m lucky as I can get designers to sponsor the dresses on loan, but even that takes a toll as the dry cleaning bills can eat away at your savings.
As a performing artist, I can actually claim these as expenses of the job. But again, I look at it on a case per case basis. Where I can save, I save.
TiC: In your line of work, what tax breaks do you get to take advantage of?
I suppose it’s the same like everyone else. I keep receipts of my insurance premiums, books, sporting equipment. All these add up and help. I also find paying my taxes in installments, is kinder to the heart when e-filing comes knocking. You don’t feel the pinch as much if you pay in installments compared to one lump sum. But whatever it is, it’s so important to declare your taxes and to keep your receipts. The folks at LHDN are actually very helpful if you are unsure of what’s what. Many feel intimidated filing their taxes and I remember that feeling. You can also hire someone to help you but if you invest in reading up, keeping all your receipts and making sure your bookkeeping is up to date, you can save costs and do it yourself.