Before we begin, repeat after me:

Hope is a double-edged sword. Hope is a double-edged sword.

If you’re feeling greedy and hopeful, don’t. We’re going to look at two case studies fresh off the pages of the local news and we’ll see why hope, which is something generally regarded as a good thing, can be such a terrible thing that people with ill intentions can exploit.

Case 1: Kong Hee and Friends

So after what seems like an eternity, the verdict on the City Harvest Church (CHC) six is out and the courts here in Singapore have found them guilty of ALL charges. I’m not going into too much details here as this case has been covered to death and almost everyone who’s someone (and some who aren’t) in Singapore’s cyberspace  has weighed in on the verdict. (I highly recommend Mothership.sg’s coverage of the CHC verdict.)

The more interesting thing to see was how the CHC followers reacted to the news. It’s pretty clear that their followers are some really ardent fans of Kong Hee and gang. And to be fair, who are we to tell them how these followers should be spending their time and money right? After all, they ARE giving their tithe out of their own free will and it’s not like CHC is pointing a gun at their heads.

The problem with that whole line of reasoning is that sometimes, people really do need to be protected from their own stupidity. I’ve heard the odd story of how the only ones who seem to be really benefiting from this so-called Prosperity Gospel are the pastors of these mega-churches themselves while their church-goers continue to tithe month after month while being stuck in the same dead-end job without realising that what they believe in may only make them richer in spirit but definitely poorer in their pockets. If they are in the church, bearing that in mind, then by all means, go ahead. However, if they really believe that this church is going to make them rich while they continue with their normal lives, then to these people, I would say, “I have a bridge I’d like to sell.” If anyone thinks that the mega church pastors here are doing anything new, they should go check out what John Oliver has to say about how such churches operate in the US. And please don’t tell me that we have higher standards here than in the US. If that were true, we wouldn’t be seeing mega churches in the first place.

Case Study 2: Valiant Capital’s investors left in the lurch

And while everybody is focussed on Kong Hee and friends, they may have missed this piece of news- Gold investment firm director ‘goes missing’. I recommend reading the whole thing, going to google for that fella’s name and realising that the local newspapers even featured him in their ‘poster boy/girl’ series, Me and My Money, in the Sunday Times.

As the old adage goes- if it’s too good to be true, it usually is. There is no quick and easy way to riches. Those who run a business that ends up being successful will usually make it quicker than the rest but even so, it won’t be something you expect to happen within a year or two; And it certainly won’t be easy.

Those who take a much easier path such as being prudent in spending and investing those sums for the long haul will also make it but they definitely won’t do it in a year or two either. In fact, make that a decade or two. Or more. Those who fail to heed the above two truisms can probably prepare themselves to be like the poor security guard who fell prey to this horrible scheme. I leave you with his story (excerpted from the article).

Singaporean investor Chandran Nair, 63, lost $374,000 with Genneva Gold, and said he invested another $79,000 with Valiant Capital because he trusted Mr Goh…

…The retired army officer and father of three said he is now working as a security officer to make ends meet. “I trusted (Mr Goh). He was a real sweet talker. Now we’re all in limbo.”…

…But for some investors, the safeguards come too late. Mr Nair said: “My 36 years of work, my lifelong savings are all gone.”

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