If there’s one thing we learnt from watching recent Ch 8 blockbuster A Million Dollar Dream, it's that being a high-SESer isn’t as enviable as one might think.
The recently-concluded drama revolved around retrenched ad-man Zhang Zi-Cheng (played by Chen Hanwei), who unexpectedly wins a million-dollar lottery.
And (SPOILER ALERT) its later episodes see Zi-Cheng’s domestic bliss unravelling as his million bucks bring more problems than happiness to his family.
The star-studded cast (which included Ah Jie Zoe Tay) all gave stellar performances, with veteran actor Wang Yuqing standing out as the odious, money-grubbing businessman Wang Qian Sui who extorts Hanwei’s character and (SPOILER ALERT again) gets schooled by a life-altering heart attack.
Ask the 56-year-old about money management and staying humble in real life, and the man will have plenty to tell you.
Since becoming a household name in the ’80s after starring in the SBC swimming drama The Flying Fish, he has steadfastly avoided the pitfalls of fame. Instead, he turned his back to full-time acting and became an insurance agent.
“When I first became an actor, [the late comedian] Wang Sha told me that in Singapore, you need to use your [famous] name to earn money. But some showbiz veterans then advised that I shouldn’t count on being famous in Singapore to make a living. They said, ‘At the end of the day, we are just employees’. So I joined the insurance industry to safeguard myself financially,” Yuqing recalls to us in Mandarin over the phone during a “simple dinner” with his family to celebrate his birthday.
8 DAYS: You had a memorable turn as a money-obsessed cad in A Million Dollar Dream. What is your money philosophy like in real life?
WANG YUQING: Personally, I’m more easygoing. I don’t strive to get rich or ask for a lot. Too much pressure is not good, so it’s best to just live with what you have. When I was young, people told me, “You’re so eligible, you can surely find a rich wife.” But I’d rather earn ‘clean’ money. My parents taught me to live simply and make an honest living. I don’t need meat and fish at every meal. Just give me a bowl of porridge and I’m happy! I don’t compare myself to other people.
You’re an insurance agent and financial planner. It sounds like you’re financially savvier than the average guy.
(Laughs embarrassedly) I don’t dare to say I’m very good at planning my finances lah. I just try to save as much money as I can for a rainy day. Being an insurance agent is my full-time career. I love this job and I won’t give up on that. I’ve been in the insurance line for 28 years, and showbiz for 36 years. I only had three main jobs in my life! I did some odd jobs before NS, became an actor, and then an insurance agent. And I’ve persevered through all of them.
Do you get clients just because you’re Wang Yuqing?
I must say there are some clients who bought policies from me ’cos they knew who I was, but that is a small percentage. They think they can trust a famous face more, ’cos if anything goes wrong, they can go to the TV station to find me (laughs).
I also had curious people who arrange for meetings just to see me. But I’ll still meet them, regardless of [their intentions]. I once waited for a potential client for over two hours, and didn’t dare leave in case he shows up. He didn’t. Every job has its pros and cons, and I have learnt how to filter the genuine clients.
What was the most expensive money mistake you’ve made?
I once sold my condominium in Holland Village at the wrong time. My agent told me it was a good time to sell, so I felt a bit cheated lah. But I can’t exactly blame him, ’cos I’m also responsible for making that decision to sell my house.
It was a pretty big apartment, 1,500 sqft. I didn’t research [the market prices] properly before I sold it off, and just three weeks later, its price ballooned to two or three times the amount I sold it for. My heart still aches when I think about it now! That incident taught me to be more alert (laughs).
Would you go into business, like what so many celebrities are doing now?
Many years ago I set up a restaurant selling Asian food with [fellow actor] Chen Shucheng and two other friends, but stopped after six years when the rental lease was up. I also opened a boutique selling men’s underwear, but later switched to selling kids’ clothing. When the shop’s contract ended I gave it up too, since there were manpower problems. It was a waste of time. I wasn’t focused on my businesses since I was also juggling selling insurance and filming. I saw other people doing business and thought it looked easy. No harm trying. Everyone wants to be a boss! But being a boss is really hard (guffaws). I did consider going into business again, but it’ll likely be in F&B this time. Not everyone needs new clothes, but everyone needs to eat.
Do you believe in buying lottery?
I don’t have much luck with the lottery. I only place small bets; no more than $10 each time. I struck the first prize once, but got only $1,000 since I bet small. Everyone laughed at me [for winning so little], but I’m just happy to win something. Striking the lottery is considered ‘heng cai’ (an undeserved windfall in Chinese), which is not always good for you. I’ve seen friends who are worse off after winning the lottery.
What would you do if you won a million bucks?
I’d donate about 20 per cent to charity and put the rest towards my retirement (laughs). I’m currently volunteering at a tuition centre opened by a temple. They have six centres now. They conduct classes for underprivileged kids, and I help them raise funds by organising performances and selling table tickets. My good friend donated $30,000, and recently we invited Tony Sun from [Taiwanese boyband] 5566 to perform here. My wish is to help this village in Cambodia which has a curious phenomenon; most kids there are born with cleft lips. I will feel really happy when their lips are fixed and they can smile!
Catch Yuqing in A Million Dollar Dream on Catch-Up TV on Toggle.sg.