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From Where We Sit

Letter to a young me

Anton Ng

Dear Anthony,
I hope that you have found your second home in your new school. It is definitely much bigger than the previous school you had been to. That institution is going to be a major factor in shaping who you will eventually become. How is first grade? Hopefully, you have already outgrown your feeding bottles. Mom keeps reminding me, every time she gets an opportunity, that you are still bringing them to school. Time to grow up, buddy!

I have been meaning to write to you for a couple of years now. There is so much that I want to share with you as you journey through life. Lately, I have been meeting and talking to a lot of young adults who are about to start their respective careers. They are interested in how I have lived my life and the basis for some of the important decisions that I have made. They are also interested in what I do outside my work, or if there are any regrets hovering over my head.

Through these conversations, I came to realize that it should be you who should hear about this. These things might not make sense to you right now, but please indulge me.
Save. Save for the future.

As I inch toward the midpoint of my professional life, I am starting to feel the need to prepare for what is next for me. What happens upon retirement? The old thinking is that a person should prepare financially for retirement. One must be prepared to at least be able to save enough to finance life in retirement. Here is the first and the most basic thing I want to share with you: save money.


There are a lot of nice things you can buy. Soon, you’ll discover the comics store outside your school. They will also be selling basketball cards. Knowing you, you will buy a lot of them.

Please exercise restraint. I know how fun it is to collect. I, too, have my own collections of comics and basketball cards. They have been collecting dust in our attic for almost a decade now. More than the act of saving money itself, I want you to be disciplined when it comes to money.

Apart from being financially prepared for retirement, I realize that I should also prepare for what I will do. After working for more than half of my life, I would venture to guess that retirement would be a totally different experience. There are no more daily routines. Suddenly, there will be no more deadlines to meet or presentations to prepare. There will surely be a void that needs to be filled. There should be a lot of options upon retirement, but one must prepare well in advance.

You are still very young. It is easy for you to learn new things. I bet you can memorize a new song after hearing it for a few times. Such cannot be said about adults like me. I remember trying to memorize one of Taylor Swift’s songs so that I can sing along with my daughter. I listened to it over and over as I drove home for about two hours. After being numb to the voice of TayTay, I gave up and had nothing to show for it, except for the chorus.

Here’s the second thing I want you to save: save new skills.

Acquire and save new skills, just like how you obtain new abilities in Final Fantasy. Work on it. Grind it out. Be willing to sacrifice for those new learnings. The opportunities and options that you will have when you start and end your professional career are correlated to the number of skills you have. More than acquiring new skills, I want you to love learning.

How is your sister? It is an open secret that you prayed to have a baby brother instead. But I am sure you will love her. Take care of her. She will surely look up to you so be sure to be a good role model to her. You will also meet a lot of new people along the way. Be nice to all of them. You will soon learn in your Christian Living subject in school that you must love others. Take it to heart.

The third thing I want you to save is your relationships with friends and family.

Never let those relationships slowly die down. If you do not nurture them, no matter how strong the bonds were, you will drift apart from your friends and even from your family. Once you drift away, it will never be the same.

The world is changing fast. Technology is evolving faster than ever. Ideologies are evolving.

But if there is one last thing I want you to save, it is this: save your values. Save the values that Papa and Mama are teaching you. Save the values you will learn from your teachers in school. Save the values you will hear in church. In this post-truth era where civility sometimes takes a back seat and the truth is whatever you want your truth to be, you will need those values. For if you lose your values, no amount of money, no new skills, no strong relationships would help you as you navigate these times.

It will be a fun and bumpy ride ahead of you, but I’m sure you are up to the challenge. I hope to hear from you soon. Mama said that you are still playing tennis. Just be sure to put on sunscreen or else your skin will be as dark as mine.

Anton Ng is a partner, Audit & Assurance of P&A Grant Thornton. P&A Grant Thornton is one of the leading audit, tax, advisory and outsourcing firms in the Philippines, with 21 partners and over 850 staff members.


As published in The Manila Times, dated 31 January 2018