Good Super caught up with Karam Singh during Pride Month to get his perspective on what it was like to live in Sydney after growing in Kuala Lumpur, challenges in his work life, the Marriage Amendment Act and his advocacy for Beyondblue.
Karam is a wealth strategist at Conscious Money. He has worked with the Securities Commission of Malaysia as well as a few boutique financial planning firms. He is deeply passionate about providing holistic advice with a special interest in investments. He is a strong advocate for mental health awareness and is proactively involved with BeyondBlue. Outside of work, he is an aviation geek, MasterChef nerd, fitness freak and a fan of politics and social issues.
Which television shows are you currently watching?
I am currently re-watching Suits as I am absolutely in love with Princess Meghan and, as always, keenly following MasterChef!
If you could do high school again, what would you do differently?
I wouldn’t do it differently at all – I loved every moment of my high school life. I had a good circle of friends and we had a great time together – I was also a hockey player, did drama and debating on national level, became the head prefect – so it was a perfect high school life for me.
An international perspective
Having experienced life growing up in Kuala Lumpur, what commonalities and differences do you perceive in the culture and sense of community?
The culture and sense of community is fairly similar in Kuala Lumpur (KL) and Sydney. Both are huge cities with close to 6 million in population – Sydney is probably more culturally diverse than Kuala Lumpur while Kuala Lumpur is certainly a food hub. Being a foodie, I certainly miss the food back in KL although the sense of belonging is the same for both cities.
I must admit that I felt accepted in Sydney very quickly and I did embrace it just as fast. I do love the beach life in Sydney, something which you don’t get in KL as its an inland city. Sydney is also a much more liberal city in terms of the LGBTI community compared to KL, but there is a wind of change in KL and hopefully it will be more welcoming and accommodating for the LGBTI community going forward.
What is your working background, how did you become involved with what you do today?
I started off by working in the Securities Commission in Malaysia where I was in the Market Surveillance and Economics department. I have always had a passion for investments and funds management. I am also very passionate about mental health awareness and am a strong advocate for it, volunteering with Beyondblue as much as I can through fund raising activities and the Blue Voices program. Combining these 2 elements led me to the financial planning industry. Finances are often a worry to many, which results in emotional stress – using my expertise in managing client emotions and knowledge in financial planning, I am able to help my clients make their finances less complicated. A motto I live by – “life is complicated, your finances don’t have to be”
What are some of the challenges you have faced in your working life and what did you learn from it?
The main challenge in my working life on a daily basis is to always be alert with the client situation, each and every one of them. I treat my clients as the individual that they are – by listening to them, getting to know them and then discussing all of their options with them – be it financial or not.
Almost always, conversations about money will involve your emotions around the values in your life, your principals, people around you and your goals and objectives. For this, I have to remain conscious of the fact that everyone is different and to treat everyone for who they are with utmost respect and dignity.
The challenge also lies in building a portfolio or strategy that will suit the client in the long-term. In today’s complex financial world, it is important that I am always educating myself to ensure that I am able to provide my clients with the best strategy for them. It is important for me to believe in the advice I am giving and knowing that it will benefit the client according to their goals and objectives.
Sometimes, it may be the case where I tell the client that there is nothing that needs to be done – that could be the best advice for them. The challenge is to convince them what is best and to educate them along the way.
The Marriage Amendment Act 2017
The Marriage Amendment (Definition and Religious Freedoms) Act 2017, is one step forward, but in terms of company practices and structures, what sort of improvements do you hope to see companies embrace to better support the LGBTI community and their families?
I do feel that many companies are doing well in providing support for the LGBTI community. However, assistance for any of their LGBTI staff and consumers to deal with the anxiety of coming out in the work place and to be in a safe environment in the office to be themselves could be a great step moving forward.
As we spend most of our day in the office, it is important that the LGBTI staff member feels safe and inclusive in the office. Another aspect would be within the community itself – its steps to bring the different aspects of the community together – ethnically, socially and economically.
I do hope that moving forward, more companies will encourage their staff to take more interest in their financial plan – regardless of their sexual orientation. I do find this to be something that is lacking across most organisations – encouraging your staff to consider having a financial plan will also benefit the employers in the long run as you are helping your staff not only financially, but emotionally as well.
In light of same-sex marriage becoming legally recognised, what are some of the impacts you perceive surrounding how your clients manage their finances? What challenges exist and are becoming more noticeable?
A new challenge for some will be that they must now plan their finances together. With many same sex couples getting married, it is important that they understand their new situation and their new responsibilities. How do you plan your wedding financially? How can we achieve the goal? Do you have a combined super account? When is it ok to start a joint investment plan or to have your debts in joint names?
Also, unfortunately, the reality is that there will be some divorces in the future – so that would be something that I do see as a challenge as well if they don’t get everything in order early on.
As always, it is important that before you marry or live with someone you love, you ask yourself, are we financially compatible?
Financial compatibility is very important as it helps you plan your future better together, which will hopefully lead to a healthy relationship in the long run.
Companies such as Telstra, KMPG and IBM have established LGBT employee networks, do you see such networks as being beneficial to LGBT employees, if so, in what way?
Absolutely, it is important to have such networks as they are used as a support group for the employees to speak out, reach out and help others in the most effective manner. Such networks encourage a healthy and progressive mindset for both employees and the employer – thus improving workplace relations.
What is the role of financial institutions in bettering the circumstances for marginalised communities?
Finances is one of the most sensitive topics for any individual. Financial institutions can show that they truly care, simply by making the marginalised communities feel more accepted.
To start off, advertising campaigns using real people from marginalised communities will have a positive impact as they will see themselves as being accepted and included in the institutions target markets.
They can also reach out more to the marginalised communities and offer them financial support through financial counselling, for example, which will help build the trust and bridge the gap in the long run. It’s all long-term effort and it needs cooperation and effort from both sides – but it’s worth the effort.
We understand you work with Beyondblue, a non-profit working to address issues surrounding mental health such as the stigma associated with individuals with mental illness. What sort of involvement do you have with Beyondblue and what made you interested in getting involved?
My volunteering with Beyondblue was through Blue Voices and through various fund-raising programs that I have undertaken for my involvement in City to Surf. I am passionate about mental health as it’s a topic very close to my heart due to my own experience and because I lost a friend to depression and mental health. A lot of my work in this space is dedicated to him.
We all have our struggles and we all battle things daily. It is important to know that there is a strong support system that is there to provide you with the support and care needed. It is important that everyone know that they matter. People matter, people appreciate you and there are people who want to support you – you are never alone.
I would love to be more involved in this space in the future and will do what I can to help in any way possible.
What words of support might you have for young people struggling with their mental health due to feeling alienated by their sexuality?
My word of support is – you matter. Who you are is important, your opinion matters and your future matters. You have a strong support network and you are not alone. It’s ok to feel down, it’s ok to feel sad, but always know that you matter and there are people out there who will support you and believe in you.
Karam Singh is an Authorised Representative of Madison Financial Group Pty Ltd ABN 36 002 459 001 AFSL no. 246679. He can be reached at email@example.com or 1300 193 136.
Madison Financial Group Pty Ltd (ABN 36 002 459 001) ‘Madison’, their officers, employees and agents make no representations or warranties with regards to the information contained in this presentation as it is general advice only and neither represents nor is intended to be personal advice on any particular matter.
We have not taken into consideration any individual circumstances. Madison strongly suggests that no person should act specifically on the basis of the information contained herein but should obtain appropriate professional advice based upon their own personal circumstances.
The information is current as at the date of this presentation. Madison Financial Group Pty Ltd holds an Australian Financial Services License number 246679.