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Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Lead by Action - Walk the Talk


I was in Shanghai around 1 year plus when HR approached me to be one of the facilitators to evangelise the new process-driven way of looking at supply chains.

You know how it is. Previously, each player in the total supply chain will have their own "silo mentality" and corresponding KPIs - which sometimes do conflict with one another.

The left hand may not be always talking to the right hand.

So here we come as agents of change evangelising the new gospel that's emanating from the Head Cathedral in Sweden.

What's the new unifying KPI? 

It's availability at the selling floor from the customer's perspective.


In each class, there will be participants from different organisations and functions within Shanghai - Retail, Transport, Distribution, Trading, Shared Services (accounting, admin, etc).

You know what? In my first class of 15 participants, 4 giggly young girls from Accounts at Shared Services walked in nonchalantly 5 minutes late.

Yup, I started my workshop on the dot sharp as stated in the agenda.

I sent these 4 girls packing.

My parting words to these 4 girls and to the stunned class:

"Now you know from first hand experience what's the essence of availability at the selling floor from the customer's perspective."


It was a calculated gamble.

And it paid off.

After the workshop, the "news" spread like wild fire. It has never occurred before in any of the Shanghai organisations before.

Immediately, I got a complaint email from the furious manager (local mainland Chinese) of the Accounts girls. LOL!

HR, and all the expat facilitators who done the workshops before me all poked fun at me and patted my back in congratulations. 

Yes, I am the boy who pointed out the Emperor has no clothes...


Oh! What happened to the the manager that complain against me? Well, HR and his boss (non-mainland Chinese) have a good talk with him on leadership in a Swedish MNC...


When I do change management, I start at the serpent's head and work my way down to the tail.

  



Friday, 23 January 2015

There is more to Life than "success" or "financial freedom"


What good is success if there is no one to share your joy?

What's so great about wealth if there no one to share it with?






Wednesday, 21 January 2015

"Investor" in Unit Trusts, ILPs, Wholelife, and Endowment Policies?


Hands up anyone who "bought" Unit Trusts, Investment-linked. Wholelife, and Endowment policies as their first "investment"?

Now after having 5 to 10 years of building up your financial literacy knowledge - putting hand to heart - how many of you will admit they were sold to you, and they were some of your worst financial "mistakes"?

Know any fellow investor who voluntarily knocks on the doors of land banking or MLM companies to buy their products or memberships? I don't think so!


Anyone in sales would know what I'm going to say is true:

If a product or service sells by itself, there is no or very little commission in it. Company not stupid. Salespersons reluctantly offer these products as part of their "service". At best, these products are "loss leaders" to draw customers in so we can trade them up.

If a product or service is very profitable to the company, the commission or incentive will be super juicy for the salesperson who can push these products out to customers. Why? Ask yourself how much you knew about Unit Trusts, ILPs and Wholelife policies when you first "bought" them?


Today's post is not about being sold to per se.

It's more to share my observation of what I see when an "investor" with the above products hit their epiphany, mind-flip, ah-ha, or sudden enlightenment moments....

  

Let sleeping dogs lie

Of course there will be rabid vested interests who will argue till their faces are blue that these product and services I've mentioned are the most suitable to people who do not have the time nor inclination to get themselves financially educated.  

Wait a minute.

I am in total agreement with you!

Next! (下一位!)



Cut-loss 

In the financial blogosphere, we have read quite a few sharings when "investors" realised their past follies with the above products, and how they were willing to undo their mistakes, often at a loss to their capital.

Their reasoning - a short term pain is better than a drawn out journey of bleed and misery. 



Fork in the road

These "born again investors" will now have a new mantra - Buy Term; invest the rest.

How invest the rest? That's where the fork in the road will separate the active from the passive investors.

Do you see any Financial bloggers sharing their journey of financial freedom showcasing Unit Trusts, ILPs, Wholelife, and Endowment policies as their main vehicle of choice?

OK, a tiny few may show Unit Trusts, but these are usually "investors" just starting their journeys; we cut them some slack. They can be nice goldfish test cases to observe when their fish bowls will "crack" and they start sharing their mind-flip moments.


 
Passive investor but active in living!

This group of people have searched within their hearts and found they value living a good life is way more important than monitoring the markets and constantly tracking how many beans they have in their pockets.

Investing is just a part of their lives. 

Time should be better spent building relationships; developing their careers or businesses; and enjoyment of their hobbies, sports, and other leisure activities.

Frequently, these investors will end up with Dollar Cost Averaging with low cost Passive Index Fund Investing.

Please note: Singapore does not have Passive Index Funds (yet). So please don't say you are into passive indexing when they are no such funds in Singapore! 

Unless you are using Passive Index Funds from US or other countries outside of Singapore. (But then, I doubt you are that sophisticated. Most would take the active route after having spent so much time on self-research, and research is very active in nature!)


Low cost ETFs are not the same as low cost Index Funds. I'll leave you to research the differences on your own. What? You didn't expect me to spoon-feed you did you? If you always going to be like that, go buy an ILP lah!


And if you are constantly "re-balancing" your low cost ETFs every month, hey you! Yes you!

You have taken the wrong turn. Walk back till you came to the fork and take the other road called "active".

And stop lying to yourself.


 
Active investor but are you living in the here and now?

Here the journey can be more exciting!

Must be, if not you would have gone to the passive route. Duh?


1.  Traders R' Us

Some may realise they are more into trading and they switch. Ladies can attest to this - no man is more attractive than a confident man who knows who he really is.

Traders have the most interesting stories to tell: 

"Limpeh lost 100K on that stupid Liongold trade!"

"I made 1 million on that short EUR/CHF trade last week. Who's your daddy now?

We can also be the most crass and obnoxious people - its' always about the money and having a bigger "one" than the next trader. We can be super competitive. 

And cut the crap it's a trading "community". It's a zero sum game and we are constantly trying to move the money in your pocket to my pocket. 

It's what Wrestling fans would call a Royal Rumble! 


2.  DIY investors

Here, we are more into country club territory. No breaking of keyboards or cussing at the PC monitors.

A little bit more refined. We can carry a conversation in full sentences and have a robust debate without sending regards to each others' family members.

This group have come to the conclusion that we can't "outsource" our financial freedom journey - no one have our own best interests other than ourselves.

So its to individual DIY stock pickings and our very own DIY asset allocations. 

And that's the nightmare of financial planners!!!  If the majority can DIY, what's the point of their roles again?

Thankfully, going by the millions that were lost to scams like landbanking, Brazilian properties, Gold trading, Fine Wine, questionable MLMs and what not, chill. There's still a big market out there!

Another interesting thing about DIY investors is that they like to form different Guilds.

One Guild for Value Investing, another for Income Investing, and another for Growth... The list is endless.

But looking at the Singapore financial blogosphere, I see 2 titans each with their own fan base.

One is the 10 bagger I tell you so; the other is the 6 digit annual dividend bleeding heart.

I guess this makes sense.

Aren't we forever debating whether capital gain comes first or should we prioritise yield?

Is net-worth more important or cash flow?

And naughty me is having fun watching one of them trying to bait the other into a fight. 

Give it up lah! Come sit down, have a sip of tea, and have a cha shao bao!


3.  You got a life?

Most of these DIY investor or traders have school to attend, a career or business to take care in the day.

I wonder where they find the time to invest and trade? 

Something has to give right?

All we need is 10 minutes a day what!?

Eh? If you want to be so passive, might as well be honest to yourself and join those passive indexing investors and focus on having a life! 

Go!







Sunday, 18 January 2015

I totally bombed in my public speaking yesterday... I'm still alive today!


Well, my Zebra story totally fell flat yesterday afternoon....

As I walked off the stage to a totally stunned, bemused, catch-no-ball audience, you can hear the crickets creaking... 

Awkward to say the least!


You know what I learnt?

It's one thing to write cryptic stories and use obscure metaphors in print, it's another ball game altogether when you tell that same story LIVE in person to an audience who can give you immediate feedback through their body language... 

I should have wore a blindfold.

Well, at least I didn't get booed off the stage! How's that for looking at the bright side of things!?

I'm a cheerleader remember?


I had fun! Not the kind I expected, but it was still fun! 

It's been quite some time since I felt so inept, so totally "blur like sotong", so utterly and completely stupid in front of so many people...

It's fun to laugh at myself once in a while. It's good reminder not to take myself too seriously.
  


Friends introducing friends

B, 15HWW, and EY were there. It was the first time I met B so here's looking at you kid!

I was like playing the role of mama-san:

"John! So nice to see you again! Do you know Peter is here? You must meet him! Come dear! I'll introduce him to you!

Peter, this is John; John, this is Peter.

Have fun boys!"



Never meet your Nemesis up close

I regretted so much that I finally met up with the fisherman.

I was so hoping he got a 超及白 face so I can continue to poke him at will. He deserved it what?

But why oh why!!!

Why must you turn out to be a refined gentleman!? 

And have that friendly uncle next door personality!?
  
This is not making it easy for me... How to poke you in future?

I don't care! 

We must continue to push each other to our intellectual limits! 

Cannot because I've become Oliver Twist standing next to you that you go easy on me OK?

Don't treat me with kid's gloves.



Someone anonymous; someone interesting

After the seminar, I saw a couple remaining at the auditorium.

Like I normally do when I travel, I just went up to say hello to complete strangers.

And I'm glad I did!

The man turned out to be a blogger and he hinted that I've commented at his blog and he did likewise over here. 

But he wishes to be anonymous - not wishing to reveal his name or his blog.

I respect that.

We had quite an interesting conversation even though the time spent was short. 

He's a man of leisure too, and writes for the pleasure of it. Not those who writes for world peace or to build up a side business ;)

After our conversation, I immediately put a stop when my mind tried to CSI who is this blogger. 

I believe in 因缘 (karma). 

Let things take their natural cause. If he is ready to say hello to me without the mask of anonymity, he will.



Making lemonade from lemons

See? Despite a fall, there's always something good that comes out of it.

Would this have happened if I had stayed in the comfort of my home and planning how to improve my public speaking?

Just go out and do it!

Crash got sound one!

Or in this case - total silence...

LOL!



Thursday, 15 January 2015

Etiquette in Asking Questions at Seminars, Townhall meetings, etc.


You'll be surprised quite a few people don't know the etiquette in asking questions during public forums.

Graduates you have less of an excuse in not knowing. 

Unless you have never been to a talk/seminar/panel discussion from a visiting Professor or Esteem Speaker...

Remember this?

"Hello, I am Mickey Mouse, 2nd year student from Can't Make It faculty, University of Guodolongdong.

My question is addressed to that speaker with no hair.

Mumble, mumble, mumble."


Yes, do introduce:

a) who you are, 

b) say a bit of yourself, and 

c) whether your question is to the whole panel (who actually answers does not matter to you), or is it directed to a specific speaker on the panel.


Who are you?

I was going to say there's no such thing as anonymity when you're asking a question in public and in the flesh.

But then, the Oat Meal Guy has appeared on stage with his Ip Man and Blues Brother combo cosplay outfit... Like that also can!?

I guess I were wrong. 

I think it would be super awesome if some of you can come this Saturday in your cosplay outfits?

"Hello, I am Batman. I'm from Gotham City."

Now how cool is that!!!

Eh! We take a selfie together after the talk?


Say a bit of yourself

Imagine if you asked a money question to the panel this Saturday, do you think there is a difference in the replies if you introduced yourself as:

1) Newbie investor

2) Experienced investor

3) Full time/part-time investor (Retired is full-time lah! Even though you spend more time chasing after skirts at OG Chinatown. Your old lecher you!)

What do you think?

Of course it doesn't matter - that's if you are OK with one size fits all platitudes, you know those lukewarm, not painful, not itchy patronizing replies?

 
Question to whom?

Have you been to panel discussions where the panel speakers look at each other like blur sotongs? They give each other the "You answer can?" pleading look. That's what happens when they get difficult questions that's almost impossible to answer!

Do that if you are merely into asking rhetorical questions. And feeling smug you have just stumped the speakers in public. You huh!

But if you are interested in getting a genuine opinion to a difficult question that's vexing you for a long time, may I suggest you throw this "hot potato" to a specific speaker in the panel?

The speaker will either answer you directly, or ask for help from other panelists.

That's how you get their undivided attention without the "Taiji"!


Those coming this Saturday

Feel free to ask me any questions during the Q&A session - sex, religion, politics - anything is boleh unless its about money.

Please hor!  I'm a grasshopper, a man-whore, and some say - a snake-oil salesman! 

Your trust me with money matters?

The only money I'm interested in is how to transfer the money in your pocket to my pocket!





Monday, 12 January 2015

CFDs anyone?


This post is for those who have "Learn by Doing" as their predominant learning style.

You'll be amazed how many people have strong views on certain matters without personally experiencing or trying it out for themselves. 

I know learning from other people's mistakes is wise, but to go through life parroting this is what this person says, that person said, I mean do you have an opinion of your own?


Leverage is bad

How do you know? 

Warren Buffett says so. 

But he owns an insurance company. 

Is using Other People's Money (OPM) not leverage?

Did you use debt to buy your apartment and your car?

So is your fear of leverage logical? Not very consistent are you?

I am not saying you go crazy and use 5 times leverage with CFDs. Just "tikam tikam" 2 times leverage and see for yourself.

It's not about making more money. That's greed.

It's more to see if you can sleep at night using leverage. If yes, there you go! You now have confidence listening to yourself.

If you can't sleep, you confirm confirm know trading with leverage is not for you! 

The good thing is now you can tell others its because you know so! And not because Warren Buffet says so. See the difference?  



Profit from your own homework

As a long only investor/trader, you have done homework on several stocks and found one that provides the best risk/reward proposition. It doesn't matter whether you've used fundamental or technical analysis. And that's the stock you bought right?

How about the rest of the stocks you passed over?

Is there one that is so grossly over-priced or toppish in your view that you murmur to yourself only a fool will buy at this current price!

How about profiting from this conviction from the other side?

Why let all that hard work go to waste? 

Again its not about asking you to bet huge sums on shorting. That will come later when you have mastered the craft of shorting stocks.

Before mastery, you have to take the first baby step in shorting to see if it's OK for you; and you don't get struck by lighting! To hear some talk about shorting, it's like talking about blasphemy!?

No you won't die, or go to jail. The most lose money - just like buying high selling low like you already do now. Just the reversed No difference what?



Johnny come lately

If you are the type that likes to buy stocks on tips and follow the buys of others, but somehow you tend to lose money 90% of the time, how about using yourself as an indicator?

You are at the bottom of the information food chain, but if you have a mind-flip, you could be the canary in the coal mine!

The moment you are excited about a stock, it's time to sell!



You pessimist you

I can't remember where I read this story but it goes that a money manager has an analyst that consistently gave the "wrong" buy and sell recommendations. When asked why the money manager has not fired this analyst, the money manager replied if he did, where would he get the inputs to fade this analyst bad calls and make money for the fund?

Don't laugh! 

Try this trick next time you're in a casino. Spot the person who is down on his luck and bet against this person and see if this strategy works!


Some of us are more pessimistic in nature. You may have an edge in that you can spot trouble or bad news long before others.

Perhaps that's why after decades in the market, you have not made much progress. All this time, you have been trying to fit a round peg into a square hole! Silly you!

Maybe your mind works like the short specialist Jim Chanos of Kynikos Associates fame? 


Why CFDs

First of all, share borrowing is not that cost efficient for retail unless you can borrow shares directly from Prime Brokers for shorting - but that's the realm of accredited investors.

CFDs is much more cost efficient and administratively simpler.

But don't take my word for it.

Explore yourself! Own time own target.

You may want to check out this website as a start: Features and Benefits of CFDs

By the way, for those of you who will be attending the 17th Jan 2015 Bloggers thingy, I found out that CIMB CFD team will have a lady speaker at this event too. 

So if you interested, come prepared and make full use of the Q&A time.

Guys, the lady speaker is quite easy on the eye. If you are coming with girlfriend or wife and not convenient to ask, buy me coffee and I'll find out her number for you ;)

Deal?

I sad case or what? What do do? No job what? Will do anything to get a free meal or drink :)



P.S.  This is not an advertorial OK? I am not plugging anyone nor am I paid to write this post. Last time another reader asked about Futures I also "hantam bolah" gave him another broker's website to explore. You guys are adults; I trust you can do comparison between 3 shops before buying?

Saturday, 10 January 2015

What I want... 我要的是。。。


For context and perspective, I would like to invite you to visit this post by Sillyinvestor.


I know there will be stubborn "iron-teeth" out there...

A quick summary is Sillyinvestor asked his primary school students to choose and write a short passage based on any of the below 12 headings:


智慧 = wisdom
运气 = luck
健康 = health
名气 = fame
钱财 = wealth
幸福 = bliss
美貌 = beauty
自信 = confidence
爱     = love
梦想 = dream 
自由 = freedom
尊重 = respect


Most of his students chose and wrote about Wealth.

Hello! Primary school students!!!

Makes you think where these students get their inputs from? Parents, here's looking at you.

And for those who like to clamour schools should teach more about Financial Literacy. Really?

Is that what you want?

What's the purpose of education again?

May I suggest you take a look at your school motto again.





You can stop reading now. 

Below is what I - a 47 years young student of life - would write if I am given the same task by Sillyinvestor:



我要幸福。 

男人想给他心爱的女人一辈子的幸福。
女人只要托负终生的男人能给她幸福。

父母期望孩子们幸福快乐。
儿女们祝爹娘晚年会幸福。

孤身独我行, 幸福在人间。






Thursday, 8 January 2015

Philately and Currencies Trading


No need to check the dictionary, philately is just the fancy word for stamp collecting.

So why didn't I use stamp collecting in the first place? 

Bite me. My vocabulary big cannot?

Ever heard of the phrase - "Use it or lose it"?


I was active in stamp collecting during my primary and secondary school days. Even as a working adult, I would be extra nice to the receptionists so that they will give me those used envelopes with stamps for me. But that stopped when companies nowadays use the stupid franking machine...

One of the side benefits of stamp collecting is that if we take an interest and research the subjects depicted on the stamps, we can learn a lot about foreign countries and other general knowledge stuffs not taught in school.


My interest in currencies started when I first moved to China. I quickly realised after my first year that no hedging is needed and it's better to opt for a greater share of my salary to be in RMB. It's nice to have a tailwind as in RMB appreciation against SGD to go with the annual pay raises.

However, my move to Greece was another story. From the get go, it was a painful pay reduction every month with the depreciation of the EUR against SGD.

Drip, drip, drip. It was death by a thousand cuts; hence the greater urgency for me to learn the art of hedging my EUR exposure.

Nothing motivates more than a fire burning at your ass!

What started out as a simple hedging exercise has now been blurred with extra layers of leveraged speculative positions added for extra kick and spice!

I stumbled (I did not planned it) to the this awareness that currency trading is a great vehicle to express my macro economic/political views of the word.

And just like stamp collecting, by taking into an interest to the fundamental drivers of the currency pairs, my knowledge of Geography, History, Economics, and other "Hey, this is interesting!" insights have grown as well.

Did you know there are more sheep than men in New Zealand? 

How about the latest Fonterra's diary milk auction price anyone? 

No prizes if I ask you what's the main export of New Zealand? 

And what's the nickname for NZD?


Trading the EUR, USD, and JPY, following Central Bankers' speeches and statements have never been so hair-pulling frustrating... Lucky I'm bald!

Oh great! The FOMC has removed the "considerable time" phrase in their Dec 14 prepared statement. What does it mean? What does it mean!?

And what the hell are macroprudential policies?

Some readers have feedbacked I can be vague and cryptic in my posts and comments... Compared to Central Bankers, I am crystal :)


Trading the AUD is best if you are into mind-mapping techniques. 

All of sudden, you never knew you have such an interest in China's GDP, the Politburo plans, China's under the radar QE programmes (you think why the China local index is outperforming the world? The last one announced was in Nov 14), property cooling measures, etc.

The impact of Gold, Iron Ore, Coal prices, and even the freaking Baltic Dry Index all have their impact and influences too.

Before I knew what I was doing, I have once again blur blur anyhow stumbled into what the professionals call Inter-Market Analysis!? Like that also "boleh"?



So there!

Can you now tell apart those who are in it just for the money versus those who take enjoyment in what they do?




Monday, 5 January 2015

只为了争一口气


The pursuit of our next breath.

Isn't that the essence of living?


Everything else is just smoke and mirrors. And noise. 



Active

We are most aware of our breathing when we are engaged in exercise like jogging, brisk walking, aerobics, sports, etc.

Hard breathing.



Passive

Interestingly, we are even more conscious of our breathing when we are trying to still the mind with yoga, meditation, doing relaxation exercises, etc.

Deep breathing.



Candle in the wind

Let's not even talk about critical illnesses where we see our loves ones wearing oxygen masks trying to catch their next breath.

Just take a common illness like the flu.

With a blocked nose, sore throat, and a heavy head, we are suddenly living in the moment!

We can't picture beyond our next thunderous blow of our mucus. How's thinking coming along?

What was that "one thing" we only care about when we are sick?

One more breath. 




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