We live in an age that gives too much importance to instant outcomes. With the popularity of instant messaging, instant food, and online shopping, it seems like we have gotten used to seeing results as quickly as possible. It’s no wonder that there is suddenly an abundance of multi-level marketing schemes that promise big gains within a short period of time, but despite the continued advancements of this fast-paced world, there is still no shortcut to getting rich, according to the pambansang wealth coach Chinkee Tan.
Tan is well-known for his YouTube channel and various TV and radio programs that offer advice on managing personal finances, but it took a long time for him to arrive at where he is now. For the most part, he had to battle discrimination, both from the Filipino community and from his own family.
“There’s a lot of also discrimination in terms of the Filipino and versus the Chinese, since kung nasa Tondo ka, the majority of them are Filipinos. So whenever I go out on the street going to school, I would hear racial slurs like, for example, Intsik, beho, chekwa, diba singkit. So even though I was born and raised as a Filipino, [feel] ko talaga I’m an outsider in this country because of those remarks.”
Tan also shares that his father’s business collapsed when he was still in Grade 6, which became the primary reason why he was looked down upon by some of his friends and relatives. “I can still remember when [I went to] school, there [were] different social classes. Yung mga mayaman magkasama, middle-class magkasama, yung mahirap magkasama. Pag may play, ayaw ka isama. And not only that, I can also feel the discrimination [during] family reunions. Why? Because yung mga may kaya, silang unang kakain, yung mga wala, tira-tira yung kakainin nyo, so I just felt na talagang mahirap maging mahirap, mahirap na pag wala kang pera. People really look at you differently, treat you differently, so I made a vow [at age 12] to become a millionaire before I reach the age of 35.”
“I wanted to become rich for two major reasons. Number one, I didn’t want my children to experience what I experienced when I was young. And [number two,] I want to provide the best for my family, especially for my parents when they grow old, so that they will not be discriminated.”
However, this was easier said than done, and Tan had to try many things before he was able to find his footing. He sold everything he could get his hands on, from toilet paper, to school supplies, to shoes. He cites his mother as his main source of inspiration that kept him going. “Sinabi ng nanay ko: ‘Anak gusto mo ba yumaman?’ ‘Yes, Mama.’ ‘Masipag ka ba?’ ‘Yes mama.’ ‘Matyaga ka ba?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘Will you do whatever it takes?’ ‘Yes.’ Ito yung sinabi nya na di ko makalimutan and it really stuck in my mind up to this very day.”
In 1987, Tan moved on from selling general merchandise to organizing afternoon disco concerts. He managed to profit from it and even popularized afternoon discos, but what made this new business unforgettable for Tan was the fact that it allowed him to meet Randy Santiago, who is now one of his close friends.
Santiago was the one who introduced Tan to the world of show business, where Tan was active from 1987 to 1994. Tan was candid about the struggles of being a Chinoy in the entertainment industry, particularly with how he tended to be type casted as Chinese, Korean, or Japanese characters due to his features. Tan did not let this deter him, and instead embraced his identity even more by taking on the name ‘Chinkee.’
“I know it’s kind of strange, especially when you go abroad. Parang it’s a slur diba, pero here in the Philippines, hindi naman. We can get away with it, and I know it’s not a slur because it’s just a brand. Trivia lang , my real name is not Chinkee. i-Google, niyo na lang kung ano tunay kong pangalan, [but] the one who gave me the name Chinkee Tan was no other than Randy Santiago because I had another name when I was breaking in the movies, [and] sabi niya ‘ ah hindi ka makikilala, hindi ka maalala because of your name. Kailangan yung personality, mo pasok sa pangalan mo’ sabi nya . Tinignan nya ako from head to toe [at] sabi niya ‘ah Chinkee! Bakit Chinkee? Kasi singkit ka e diba kaya mas mabilis ka maaalala.’ So I took my name from Randy Santiago, and the rest is history,” Tan shares.
Tan eventually left the entertainment industry to pursue his first passion. He started another business, which flourished even amidst the energy crisis that happened during the Aquino and Ramos administration because he was the first one to manufacture and sell rechargeable fans. “If you want to look for opportunities, all you need to do is find a problem and offer the solution,” Tan advises.
Tan also began offering advice on financial management, a move which he says was inspired by his mentor, Francis Kong. Tan and Kong were already long-time acquaintances because their fathers used to work together, and when Kong started his business as a life coach, Tan would often invite him to conduct talks at his company.
“There was a turning point in my life in the year 2008, when I sold everything and asked him [Kong] as a coach, ‘What can I do?’ And he asked me, ‘What’s your pitch? Who are the group of people that you want to help?’
“And this is also what I’ve learned from my mentor, Francis Kong. Do not be transactional, but be more relational. If your heart is really to help others, blessings will just follow you. And then [another] thing that I learned in life is to never follow money. The more you pursue money in life, the more money will run away from you. But if you pursue your calling in life, your purpose in life, your meaning in life, then money will follow. And what’s my purpose in life? Simple. I just want to help Filipinos to become wealthy and debt free. Educate them on how to save, how to budget, how to get out of debt, and how to invest, and then everything [else] will follow,” Tan says.
And everything else did follow. Tan was able to monetize his passion for giving financial advice through his shows and books. He also has a strong social media presence and managed to grow his YouTube channel, Chink Positive, from 1000 to 1.2 million subscribers in less than a year. “The reason why I went into social media is because I realized you can only average around, let’s say, 20 talks in a month, and times twelve months, that’s around 240 talks in the year. And you have a total number of, let’s say, 100 people per talk, you can only reach probably 24,000 or 240,000 in the year. But there are millions of Filipinos, specifically Filipinos abroad, who need financial education,” Tan points out and further adds that he is willing to do all this for free, because his job isn’t done so long as there are still Filipinos living in financial stress.
Despite how things turned out, Tan’s journey to success is anything but easy, and he warns us about the dangers of expecting good results to come instantly. “Right now, since everything’s so fast, some people might think that success, money, and fame also comes fast. But one thing that I’ve learned in life [is that] success is a process. There’s no such thing as a get rich quick scheme. You can’t ride the elevator [immediately,] you should learn how to take the stairs [first.]”