Smart Investor Malaysia


What Cooking Taught Me About Financial Planning


During the COVID-19 lockdown period, I took charge of cooking meals for my family as a measure to keep me sane, as well as to further explore my interests. In the process of thinking about what to eat every day, prepping meals, and getting feedback from my ‘patrons’. I observed there are parallels between cooking and financial planning. 

Here are some of my findings listed down below:

Prepare With The End In Mind

Allow me to quote a little something from one of my favourite fairy tales: – 

“Alice asked the Cheshire Cat, who was sitting in a tree, “What road do I take?”

The cat asked, “Where do you want to go?”

“I don’t know,” Alice answered.

“Then,” said the Cat, “it really doesn’t matter, does it?”

― Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

If you do not have a clue about what to cook next, you might as well just order takeaway. You need not plan for a grand Turkish all-day breakfast, or a Han Banquet unless you are in the mood for it. Knowing what to cook can be as simple as saying we will be having fish, vegetables, and tofu for our meal.

If you can say we will be having chorizo con patatas (Mexican style sausage with potatoes), even better!

The same goes for financial planning, as without an end goal, you might end up in some place you may not like. With a goal in mind, there is a good chance, you may actually like the destination. It is always better to have a general sense of where you are heading towards. Once the destination is clearly defined in your mind, the rest of the puzzle will fall into place. 

Get The Right Tools For The Job

Have you ever tried frying eggs with a non-stick pan, or cutting meat with a serrated blade? An amateur chef in the home kitchen should be aware what is the best tool to use for the task at hand. You would only need to improvise if you do not have the right device needed in your arsenal for a specific dish.

In financial planning, planners often match the tools to the objective – liquid short-term tools for funds that need to be accessed within a reasonable time frame. For every purpose, there will be something that matches your needs.

The challenge here is whether you know someone trustworthy that has your best interests at heart that you can refer to. Knowing this, I am sure you would not choose to buy life insurance plans for the purpose of retirement savings, right?

Ask The Professionals

When I am dealing with an unfamiliar ingredient or new method of cooking, I seek help from the pros. In my case, this would be my lovely grandmother. Her years of experience in the kitchen is a blessing for young budding cooks like myself. As you cook, you realise there are a lot of variables like how thick the meat must be sliced, how long to steam the fish, how much salt to add into the soup etc.

Often, I must interrupt her TV viewing session to get her into the kitchen to ask questions or help me with a taste test. Even if I bring in exotic ingredients like Thai vermicelli or guanciale (cured pig’s cheek), she would have an idea about how to prep it for cooking.

Professionals know best about how to handle certain situations that pop up and will guide us accordingly on what to do next. It is the same with financial planning; it would be good to have a panel of professionals in your contact list that you can always refer to.  

Do Your Research

When inspiration strikes me for what to cook next, I do not just buy the ingredients and get down to business. I will always watch a few videos and search online for an ingredient list. It would be courting disaster if I just jump over the proverbial cliff and wing it without any prior knowledge of what I am attempting.

As we do our research, especially from online sources, we may also find many ways and methods to produce a dish. Not all will carry the same experience and cost, or require the same amount of time. Likewise, when we try to learn about personal finance online, we also need to be mindful about the source, and if it is comprehensive or contains any limitation in points of view.

Before committing to any financial products, it is good to always do some research about what you are buying. There will always be a product disclosure sheet or a similar document to read through in a language we can all understand – government institutions like Bank Negara Malaysia or Securities Commission Malaysia makes sure of that! We can also read articles or watch video reviews about these same products by service or education providers.

Review, Review, and Review

Every time I serve a dish, I would get feedback from my family members on what they think about it. I would do so even if I am serving the dish for the fourth time! This helps me further refine my recipe over time.

Usually, when clients buy a financial product, they then quickly forget about it. I believe a yearly review of finances is required to refresh what was discussed previously, and whether the current action plan is sufficient or not. A review will not necessarily mean there will be a need to buy or do something new. However, it keeps you aware of the progress made over the years. 

What other similarities can you see between cooking and financial planning?

About the Author

Raymond Chan, CFP CERT TM is a licensed financial planner that believes with the right guidance anyone can achieve what they set out to do. All they need is to have a goal in mind and a nudge in the right direction. He can be reached at

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