Hers is a success story that is astounding to learn about, even among her peers in the financial planning industry. Merry Riana took charge of her life and career to achieve her dreams, and now hopes to inspire other young people to do the same.
By Leo Kee Chye
Merry Riana’s achievements are nothing short of phenomenal. At the current age of 25, and only four years after graduation, she has earned a whopping S$700,000, clinched countless achievement accolades, and rubbed shoulders with the likes of Anthony Robbins and Ron Sim (founder of Osim).
All the more remarkable are the facts that she is an Indonesian, from a humble family, and started off with hardly any contacts in Singapore, and with S$40,000 in debt.
Born in 1980 to a small businessman father and a housewife, Merry is the eldest of three children. Life in Jakarta was simple but pleasant. Because of her father’s influence, Merry’s childhood dream back then was to become an engineer and perhaps to help in her father’s business.
By chance, not by choice
She had never dreamt of pursuing her studies in Singapore, let alone to start a career here. Things changed after 1997 when the Asian Financial Crisis erupted, which ultimately led to the outbreak of violent riots throughout Indonesia. Fearing for the safety and the future of their daughter, Merry’s parents decided that the best option was for her to leave Indonesia. At the time, Singapore appeared to be the preferred destination, due to its proximity, safe environment and excellent education system.
In 1998, Merry took a study loan and enrolled as an Electrical and Electronics Engineering (EEE) student in Nanyang Technological University (NTU). “I took the subject because it seemed to be the most natural choice I should take at that time,” she says.
The study loan was enough to get by but nothing beyond. Very often, she found herself skimming and saving in order to pay for her textbooks, accommodation, food and other living expenses. It was not too long before she realised she was facing the bleak prospect of being S$40,000 in debt upon graduating. That really set her seriously thinking about her future. “If I were to be successful one day, I want to achieve it while I was still young, before my 30th birthday, not when I have reached 40 or 50,” she says.
Plunging into the unknown
Knowing that the path of a 9-to-5 job was not going to help fulfill her dream, she tried her hands on other opportunities. However, many of them did not work out. In one of her ventures, she invested in some stocks and shares with money from her hard-earned savings, but lost everything in the process. She was totally devastated, but not enough to discard her dream of being an entrepreneur.
Undaunted by her initial failures, Merry made a thorough study of the market and decided to join the financial planning industry, knowing that this career path will bring her closest to achieving her goals.
When she first started out as a financial advisor, she met insurmountable obstacles. Her parents, lecturers and friends were generally unsupportive of her decision. She could not speak Mandarin when more than half of Singaporeans are Chinese. As a foreigner and a fresh graduate, she had hardly any contacts and little work experience to speak of.
“Of course, I did have my own fears and doubts,” Merry recalls. “But being young and without any dependants yet, there was nothing for me to lose even if I failed. I would gain valuable lessons and experience regardless if I failed or if I succeeded.”
Merry eventually found her calling with Prudential Assurance Company as a financial advisor, and has not looked back since. Within the first six months of her career, she paid off her S$40,000 debt with the earnings she made in the company, a feat that is unheard of among her peers.
By 2003 she had clinched the much coveted Top New Adviser Award. In 2004, less than 15 months after joining the company, she was promoted to manager and soon started her own agency, Merry Riana Organization (MRO). In 2005, she received the Top Agency of the Year Award and the Top Rookie Agency Award, with an annual income of close to S$300,000. To date, she has motivated and trained thousands of professionals and executives in areas like sales, motivation and marketing. In MRO, she manages about 40 financial advisors, all around her age group, 21 to 30 years old.
“My motivation comes not only from the desire to provide a better life for my parents,” Merry says, “but also from my desire to help other young people to do the same, to provide a better life for themselves, their parents, and their families.”
Her vision is to raise a new generation of successful young people who take charge of their lives, living their dreams, and eventually, contributing back to society. “The cascade effect of many successful young people sharing their wealth, in knowledge and cash, will positively change the economic future of the world,” she says with a smile.
This vision was what led her to start MRO, a group of young individuals with a mission to achieve financial freedom.
Merry also believes in giving back to society. She sets aside two hours every week to mentor any young person, aged 20 to 30, who wants to take charge of his or her life and to live their dreams, through her “Personal Mentorship Experience” (PME) programme. Currently, around two to three people sign up for her PME programme everyday since it was launched about six weeks ago.
“The one-to-one session is designed to help young individuals identify their goals and aspirations, and to guide them on how they can go about achieving their dreams,” says Merry. She feels that face-to-face coaching and mentoring far surpasses distance learning or classroom training.
Merry believes having a mentor is important so that a young individual can avoid making common mistakes that would force them to retreat to the same ground. “Having a mentor makes the destination clearer and the journey smoother by avoiding common potholes and misleading detours,” she says.
This year, Merry wrote and published a book A Gift From A Friend, which has become a best-seller at Borders and Kinokuniya, less than six weeks after it was launched. In the book, Merry reflects on her life, shares her experiences, and details her strategies that have helped her to achieve her current success.
Merry Riana hopes to help young people — through her Organization as well as her book — realise their true potential and to find their paths to success. So that these young people are able to break free from the trap of the 9-to-5 rat race and achieve financial independence and personal success as entrepreneurs.
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