Empowering Nonprofit Professionals Through Personal Finance Advice

Have you been ignoring your finances? Pull up a chair and join me for a conversation with Anna Haotanto, Founder of The New Savvy, an online resource that empowers modern, independent women through meaningful, relevant and practical financial support. The team at The New Savvy also advocates for greater awareness and healthier financial habits for women.

Anna’s career in the financial sector spans ten years, including experience in wealth management, private equity, and research, as well as corporate and investment banking. Her experiences have also made her adept at identifying key ways of evaluating your finances when you work in the nonprofit sector. Read on for Anna’s advice!

Thank you for speaking with me today, Anna! I’d like to start by asking, “What got you interested in finance as a career?”

Since I was young, I have always been fascinated with the intricacies behind the workings of money.  I understood that I have to take care of myself and my family and that realization sparked off my wealth-building path. The idea of making my money work harder for me really fascinated me, and I felt that was a way out for me from living pay cheque to pay cheque and feeling very stressed every month. 

Anna HaotantoAs a result, I started learning to invest by reading Security Analysis by Benjamin Graham while in Junior College. I also read a lot of other finance books.

I am lucky to have had the opportunity to study and work in Finance. I learned financial management skills, picked up economic principles, and started investing at the age of 21. I am familiar with financial products and managed to build a comfortable portfolio for myself.

Describe your career history to us- how did you get to where you are today?

I have 10 years of experience in the financial sector including wealth management, private equity, research as well as corporate and investment banking. My previous work experience includes positions at Citigroup, United Overseas Bank, a regional role in Business Monitor and a boutique private equity firm based in Shanghai.

I provide advice to high net worth clients and am proficient in managing assets.  I was the Top Offshore Senior Client Advisor for 2 years running, within just 3 years of entering the industry.

As you know, Idealist Careers readers are interested in developing their careers in the social good sector. What advice would you give to someone who wants to make a career out of “doing good”?

Always pursue your passions and do not be discouraged. I always believe that if you choose your passions, you can always be the best in it. I am sure it’s tough and you will question your choices but focus on your long term goals.

What are the top struggles you see among nonprofit professionals when it comes to personal finance?

First, opportunity cost – what you can potentially earn working elsewhere in comparison to what you’re earning as a non-profit professional. This is a fine art of balancing wanting to do good and earning more money. Two, not having enough as you might not earn as much as those in corporate sectors. That might lead to worry and unnecessary stress. Last, not saving enough for future goals and retirement.

What are some of the myths regarding jobs in the nonprofit sector?

The first myth is that nonprofit professionals have no ambitions or ideas- that they don’t have the same dreams or goals as corporate professionals.

The second is that nonprofit jobs have no upward mobility, that you cannot get promoted or move forward in your career.

So I understand you live and work in Singapore. Many of our readers are interested in working internationally. What barriers to entry exist for US citizens who are interested in working in Singapore?

In Singapore, you need to get a work visa to be fully employed. Before coming Singapore to work, I suggest that you find out what you want and if there are opportunities available in the sector.

As Singapore is a small country, our opportunities for non-profit might not be as much as in the States.

What are some of the charities you participate in? Which have been your most significant contributions?

I am involved in various charities supporting women and children causes. I also donated $25,000 into building a library for underprivileged girls very early on in my career. This was a significant sum of money for me but I did it as I believe in the cause of female empowerment and education. Someone once told me, “When you teach a girl, you feel a village”.

What are the best ways to research the ethical practices of organizations you might want to invest in?

Find out how these organisations spend their money. Are the funds going to the people the organisation intends to help? Get public records, income statements and available information to assess this. See what are some of the mistakes these organisations they had made and how they can prevent these mistakes.

Currently, I feel that there are a lot of scepticism regarding charitable organisations. I read that research shows that 70% of donors felt that the organisations waste money. I think we need to focus on finding out facts before investing in any.

How do you make sure that your charitable donations are being used ethically?

Get an accountability report if possible. Ask the management to show where the funds are deployed. If possible, get an annual report.

How can a nonprofit professional balance their charitable giving initiatives with their financial goals?

First, track your expenses and budget. Know what you are spending on and rank them according to necessity. Spend less than you earn. It sounds simple but a lot of people forget this.

Automate your savings. Always pay yourself first. Many people make the mistakes of paying for everything and spending on unnecessary items.

And, focus on having a retirement fund. Find out how much you need (here’s our Retirement Calculator) and work towards that goal conscientiously.

Was great speaking with you today, Anna! Thank you for your time!

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I became acquainted with Idealist in late 2000 while working in the career development office at a private liberal arts college in NYC. I used it almost daily to help students and alumni find meaningful careers. After a 12-year stint in higher education, I worked as a career coach for professionals in various industries (and still used Idealist). During one of those many searches, a listing really caught my eye- the one for the newly-created position, Careers Program Coordinator. So... I jumped at the opportunity. Since then, I took on the role of Manager of Career Content for Idealist Careers, creating career content for job seekers, leaders, and other nonprofit professionals. Understanding the roles that a positive outlook and holistic self-care play in career success, I've shared with our readers time-honored methods for improving confidence and productivity. Now, as Manager of College and Professional Development, my focus is on lifting the advice from Idealist Careers "off the page". Drawing from my experience in career development, I propel job seekers and career changers towards taking control of their searches with confidence and removing fear, uncertainty, and other blocks to success via in-person workshops and seminars, webinars, and conference programming. My great loves are cooking (preferably without a recipe, otherwise I doctor it up), dancing, live cultural performances, identifying the tasting notes in a good cup of coffee, exploring neighborhoods for hidden gems, and anything else that sparks the senses and allows me to experience all the beauty, dynamism, and intrigue that vivaciously living in a remarkable world offers.
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