High on Engineering Financial Sense

“I’m a financial educator – I do financial literacy programmes for the general public in Malaysia.”

Not exactly how one would start a personality piece, but bear with me as I weave this tale.

A rapidly-changing world demands a populace that is able to adapt quickly. On this, author H.G. Wells wrote, “Adapt or perish, now as ever, is nature’s inexorable imperative.”

Now, look around your social circle, and there are bound to be friends and family who have taken a completely different path from what they initially set out to do, whether through circumstance or passion. Writers who become insurance agents, artists who sell real estate, marketers who put on the collar – everyone knows someone who made a drastic career change.

This story is about one such person. He’s in so many fields, he’s practically a chameleon. KC Lau, of kclau.com, is (according to his business card) a financial author, speaker and educator. His site has grown from a humble blog that offers financial tips, to a full-time operation with writers, on top of offering courses on personal finance management.

“There are a lot of trainers out there, and what I do differently is I do my programs online, whether it be courses or webinars.”

Now that you know where he is, it’s time to tell you where he was. And it started with a very niche field of study: aeronautical engineering.

“I was a top student in my school, and I was poor at the time, so I applied to a local university. I actually wanted to study music, but didn’t have the funds. I heard that aeronautical engineering was the hardest course on offer, so I took the challenge.”

Even in the midst of majoring in aeronautical engineering, he pursued his passion – music, which incidentally helped him pay for his education.

“I learnt more about music during my university days – I was a lounge pianist before I graduated. It paid for my school fees, and I earned some pocket money…After that, I became a full-time musician for a few years.”

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Now, leaving a steady engineering job for music isn’t what one calls a solid career choice, no matter your upbringing, and Lau’s case is the same. When I asked about the reactions from family and friends, Lau says, “oh, they were very worried! My parents were especially concerned, but my friends envied me, mainly because I got to do what I liked.”

I was trying to be a famous musician – that was my goal at the start. I failed at that, but I had fun doing it. If I had to drop this, I’d probably go back to music.

Music, however, proved to be one fickle mistress – especially if you’re trying to earn a steady income. “The problem with the industry was that it was shrinking – CD albums weren’t selling well, which meant people in the back-end couldn’t embark on more projects.”

Music’s loss was insurance’s gain – it was an opportunity to do something else, and led him down to the path he’s currently on. “I had time in the morning, so I sold insurance, and I learned as much as I could. From there, I used that knowledge to write blog posts (around 2006), and I continued to build on that.”

Slowly but surely, the blog grew to meet readers’ expectations. “When I did the blog, it was just sharing my writings. However, readers were asking for more. So I did my research on how to monetise the site, and I came up with the course in 2010 – to enable others to do their own financial planning. I am now running this full-time, and have several courses now.”

With most of the money coming from his pre-prepared courses and webinars, this gives Lau a commodity that most urbanites lack – time. “I now get to send my son to school, and I will almost always be at home.”

I asked if he missed performing, since he really did enjoy doing it for a part of his life. “I [do] miss my performing days! I get that high when I perform, and that’s the part I miss the most. But performing meant that I had to sacrifice time with my family. I do miss those days, but I don’t miss the sacrifice.”

I might do it again – for fun!

His advice for people keen to change paths is this, “nowadays, it’s so convenient to change. My advice is you can always pick something up if you want – whether it be from YouTube, Udemy, or some other source. You can learn anything – trust me!”

Compared to the years before high-speed broadband and online course intakes, his words do ring true. Anyone can just hop to a different career path without the need to attend a physical campus – all one needs is a desire to learn.

So, from aeronautical engineering to musician to insurance agent to financial educator – was the journey worth it?

“Oh yes it is!”

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Rewarding and as compelling as it sounds, it is still a risky venture to shift gears and track into the unknown. But for us the bystanders, it’s always interesting to see how people adapt, that they are driven to just up-and-leave whatever they’ve had to pursue something totally different. Which raises two very important questions: first, “What’s next for you?”

And the second, well…

“What’s next for me?”

There’s still a long way to go…

Visit KC Lau’s website: https://kclau.com/

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