Tuesday 29 November 2011

Sea turtles and minority retail investors

The life of a sea turtle is hard.

Even before it’s hatched, most of the hundred of eggs that were laid will be eaten by opportunistic seagulls…

After it’s hatched, the young sea turtle hatchlings instinctively do a reverse Normandy invasion – make a mad rush to the waters!

Along the way, many more will fall prey to the crabs, lizards, dogs, foxes, more shorebirds, you name it!

This is the most dangerous phase of a sea turtle’s life.

The few that finally got into the ocean will have to face more under water predators like small marine mammals...

It’s said that less than 10% of the eggs that were laid will survive their first year.

As the young sea turtle feeds and grow in size, the less natural predators it will face. A fully grown sea turtle can only be threatened by the bigger sharks - like the tiger sharks. You need strong teeth to chew through the shell!

Only by braving and surviving all these dangers that an adult sea turtle will earn the “right” to mate and lay new eggs for the next generation of hatchlings.

A sea turtle never have the luxury of feeling “safe”.

But that’s about wild sea turtles.

Imagine some bleeding hearts animal lovers bring the turtle eggs home, incubate them, hatch them, feed them, treated them like pets…  

After several generations, can these “domesticated” sea turtles ever return to the wild?

(By the way, you may have to watch that some of these bleeding hearts are not operating a sea turtle farm in disguise!)

Which kind of minority retail investor do you prefer to be?

Sunday 27 November 2011

Minority shareholders – what about your duties and obligations?

I can’t help be amazed at the way some retail “investors” sometimes mistake owning a few shares of a listed company as if they really “own” the business.

All this talk about aligning the management’s compensation with shareholders interests… How the laws and regulations can be better improved to “protect” minority shareholders, etc…

I guess calling myself a speculator makes life a lot easier for me. And my trading cousins must be smiling at me and giving me a high five! What matters to us is how much skin we bring to the game, and when we leave the table, whether our pockets are flushed with more cash than we entered the game!?

Come on! Let’s admit it. We are all greedy “freeloaders” when we “invest” in a listed company.

We part with our money, and in exchange for doing absolutely nothing, we either:

a)   Hope to make a capital gain by selling our shares to a greater fool out there. (If you think the price will go higher why are you selling?)

b)   Or like a leech, we just want the get the regular “ang pows” (dividends) every year from your “investment”. We see our penny invested as bigger than a bullock cart’s wheel!

I won’t talk about your minority shareholders’ rights. You know them better than me. I just would like to gently point out:

  1. Where were you when Management has decided to “downsize” 5% of the workforce in order to meet your incessant demands to show earnings growth?
  1. What about the employees’ benefits and rights when you applaud management’s wise decision to “outsource” non-critical business activities?  
  1. Have you ever once considered the environment impact and whether child labour was employed by the units outside the shores of Singapore? Far from our prying eyes?
  1. Did you notice that most top management teams have only a token number of female executives? How about the Board members? You only question about their “independence”; but never wonder why so few female Board of Directors?
  1. How about the quality of the products and services of the listed companies you own? Did you ever ask during the AGM how the customer experience can be improved? Or were you only interested on the buffet spread? 

I can go and go – like the energizer bunny. But you get the picture. It’s all about me, me, me!

Me? I am an equities man-whore. I’m in it for the money. (I never said I was a saint!)

I employ a “don’t ask; don’t tell” policy.

Hey lady! No kissing on the lips 

Friday 25 November 2011

被動 - 伍佰 and 蘇慧倫

This song is dedicated to a flawed tulip friend and her partner in crime.

Thursday 24 November 2011

Good and Bad Debts - My practical application

Do scroll down and look at my previous post Good debts versus Bad debts - especially the comments page if you have not read it previously. You would get the context and perspective for this post.

We can basically group the opinions into 3 main schools of though:

1) It depends

2) Debt is bad

3) Debt is good

It depends

Most of us will belong to this group. We will say if we buy this, debt is good. And if we buy that, debt is bad... 

Conventional wisdom is that it's "good" debt if we take up a student loan for our MBA . Didn't they say the return on investment for education is the best!?

Tell that to graduating MBA students in a recession... You start with a financial minus the moment you step out of school.  And with no job, how are you going to pay the rent? Never mind about paying down the student loan...

Conventional wisdom will also say it's folly to take up a car loan since the moment you drive the  new car out of the showroom, it's value drops significantly. Your car loan will be worth more than your car's resale value!?

Tell that to those wise car buyers who bravely took out a car loan and bought when COE prices were at their lows during early 2009. Fast forward to today. And we wonder why we like to buy high; sell low for our stocks!? 

(Readers here may want to relook at my previous post's comment page and figure out why I agree with Coconut that during bad times, debt is good!?)

How to classify a debt is good or bad based on the item purchased? You tell me ;)

Debt is bad

For those who believe all debts are bad, I won't ask you how you bought your first home or car. I just ask whether you carry a credit card?

If you truely walk your own talk, you would only carry a debit card - not a credit card.

Otherwise, I will treat you as belonging to the "It depends" school. I don't listen to what you say; I listen to what you do.

Debt is good

During my jouney towards my own financial freedom path, I studied those poeple whose networth were much bigger than me and financially free themselves.

One interesting fact is that all of them have used credit/debt/leverage or other people's money (OPM) during their journey!?


I also noticed that street-smart and savvy businessmen will secure credit lines with banks when their business are doing well and cash flow positive!?  That's how you can secure the best rates and credit limit - when you don't need loans from banks! Try getting a loan on favourable credit terms when your business is going through tough times...

Similarly, private banks are jumping over themselves to offer favourable credit facilities to high net worth individuals - at interest rates mere mortal like me can't get.  (Who said life is fair?)

And proactive investors with private properties, they already have got their home equity loans pre-approved by their banks - just waiting for the stock or property markets to crash - whichever comes first.

It's good to know that you have access to ready funds when opportunity present itself. Not see the opportunity, then apply for loans (and hope it will be approved) or run here run there asking family members and friends for loans.... It's better than cry daddy cry mommy when others have pipped you to the opportunity; and complain no one believed in your "investment idea"...

Luck is preparation meeting opportunity.

Me? I belong to the Debt is good school.

Since I am the HDB heartlander class of speculator, I have more limited ways to secure credit. I only have the margin account, CFD, and futures route. Big fish got big fish methods; small fish got small fish methods.

When I moved into 50% cash and the balance of my equities are showing healthy paper gains, I applied to my broker to increase my margin limit :)

Hello!? Try asking your broker to raise your margin limit when your account is showing lots of red and very much under water! Why give your friendly broker a heart attack?


There's no right or wrong answer. Just be honest with yourself. Walk your own talk.

Wednesday 23 November 2011

Good debts versus Bad debts

No, I am not going into an academic discourse on what’s good or bad debts.

All of us would have our own bias and subjective opinion on this interesting topic based on our own life experiences or “what other people say”…

But if you would indulge in me for a few minutes, by answering 2 simple questions, we can find out whether you walk your own talk:

Question 1:

Write down your view on Good debts versus Bad debts. (Hey, a few lines will do. Not write a whole essay or thesis! We are no longer in school)

Question 2:

Do you own a credit card? Just answer yes or no.

Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I rest my case.

Monday 21 November 2011

Listen to your Heart

Sung by DHT and a tribute to Sailor Moon (don't ask me why?)

Several weeks ago, a beautiful event took place – the King of Bhutan wed his young and beautiful queen, and they even visited Singapore on a private visit!

It brought to focus Bhutan’s use of a Happiness index instead of the more commonly used Gross Domestic Product (GDP) index.

Of course each index serves its own purposes. I wonder how many people who argued for the use of the Happiness index in Singapore would apply it on themselves and in their own households…

1)   No need to compare salaries between peers and neighbours. Happy got job can already! If you happy, you wouldn’t care if ministers or MPs earn more or earn less than you, right?

2)   And especially on the education of their children. No need to ask or pressure your kids on what grades they’ve got. Just as long they pass can already. And not need to fight for the “brand” name schools. Focus on their children’s happiness instead? Hmm…

I can imagine what a Singapore Happiness index would look like.

Instead of a simple yes or no answer to the survey question: “Are you happy?”

Our index would probably ask about external material stuffs like: what home we live in, have car or not, have air-con, have big screen TV (min 37 inches and above), have smart phone or not, etc…

Hey! Isn’t that similar to GDP measurement?

If you have not already discovered, happiness is an emotion or state of mind. How to measure a feeling? Do I have to prove I am happy to the Happiness survey? How to measure something internal in me?

My take is that at least the GDP measurement is more “honest”. It just shows what it’s meant to measure: the wealth or material growth of a nation. Nothing more; nothing less.

But a Happiness Index? Its name by itself is an oxymoron. With lots of humility and my limited knowledge of Buddhism, if I wanted to know whether Bhutan or Singapore is a happy nation or not, I just need to tour round the country and mingle with the people. Be on the ground, not in air-con offices.

It’s my: Why look at a statistics when you can look at goldfish directly principle.

Ah! That brings me to the question of Financial Freedom or Independence.

I prefer the word Freedom. Independence sound a bit “negative” as it gives me the impression I want to “separate” myself from society or others.

If Financial Freedom is a goal by itself, then it’s quite easy to measure to know when you have “arrived”. It’s usually a big $ amount target or if $X (passive income) is more than $Y (living expenses).

But if Financial Freedom is a means to an end, ah! It’s a whole different story!

A remark by a forum member in Valuebuddies.com comes to mind: “Then what?”

This “simple” remark is the question men have tried to answer since the days of Socrates and Confucius – then what?

If you have already got the answer to the question: “Then what?” I envy you!

You could be the 18 years old who is “free” to choose his field of study as that makes you happy – you are not “chained” to the desire to study a particular field just because Salary.sg shows it’s the best paying profession when you graduate. 

You could also be the under 30 executive who discovered you are actually “financially free”!? Take home $3,000 and living expenses $1,500 per month. Can afford whatever you want and desire and can’t wait to go to work every morning – what’s wrong with “active” income anyway? Doing something we love means we never have to worry about statutory age limits ever!

By the way, you already have a head-start on those who hate what they do everyday and their only ticket out is to be financially free at 40, 45, 50, etc; so that they have the courage to quit and do what they really want!?

Are these the same people who shouts the loudest for the adoption of the Happiness Index!? I hope they are not more concerned about proving their “unhappiness” than seeking happiness for themselves…

For the younger readers, you may want to pause and think about the “then what” question before you rush madly towards your journey towards Financial Freedom. Decide for yourself whether it’s the goal or the means to your “then what?”

My epiphany, paradigm shift, Zen enlightenment, and “ah ha” moment came around Christmas last year at 43-year-young. I have just stepped across the door’s threshold; still feeling my way around. So don’t believe whatever I say!

Listen to your heart.

Friday 18 November 2011

Connecting the past as we move forward?

I would like to recommend this wonderful nostalgia blog that I stumbled upon recently:

Remember Singapore - remember the good old days

Why nostalgia? Hello!? I am into oldie songs!

If you have grown up during the 80s, you die die must visit his 2 wonderful posts on the 100 Things We Love About The 80s Part 1 & 2

By the way, the Ladybird storybook series is where I got most of inspirations for my bite-sized stories. Amazing  I still remember the stories! 

Jan 1980 was when I entered into Sec 1. And I left NS at Dec 1987. So my teenage years were in the 80s! 

Now people tweet, facebook, and chat. In the 80s, it was the era of the pager. Remember: "You never return my pager!?" LOL!

For those of you that have elderly relatives or parents, and you have difficulty connecting the old names of places of their time and the present names of today, this post is something I will boookmark, print, and save!!!

Old, Common Names of Places in Singapore, and their Origins

It meant a lot to me. When my maternal grandma was alive, she would tell me stories of her life at Singapore River and the surrounding places. I know where is 大坡, 小坡; but where exactly is 水仙门, 乌桥头 I have no clue... (You may want to test with "youngsters" below 30 on where is 大坡, 小坡!)

Now I have the "decoder" to translate the memories of yester-years to the present! Grandma is gone; but now I can connect better with my mom. Finally I can tell her where Kovan is using the old common name she can identify with!

These old common names, pronounced in Teochew, are especially close to my heart as they are how I remember them from my grandma and mom.

Singapore River is Hokkien and Teochew "territory". Chinatown is Cantonese :)  These old common names pronounced in their own dialects have another flavour than mandarin. You try!

CW8888 recently blogged about dementia. There's another kind of dementia - the external kind. I remember bringing my mom back to Singapore River 5 years back, and she had a hard time recognizing the place of her childhood...

Same goes for me. My Gan Eng Seng School at Anson is long demolished and now replaced by tall skyscrapers... My Hua Yi Primary School at Margaret Drive is also demolished last year and now new BTO flats will be built around it.... The old Commonwealth hawker centre is gone too...

I will make a visit to my former Taman Jurong 9 RITC army camp when I return home. I want to experience the lost and bewilderment that my mom had. The army camp is long gone and I've not been back for 24 years since my ROD!?

Singapore not big; but I am sure you too have places you have not re-visited for donkey years. See if you also experienced "dementia"?

You may laugh at my philosophical musings on finding anchors to my roots... What's the difference between calling myself a Singaporean and being a citizen of the world - if the anchors and memories that tie me to Singapore is being slowly demolished and chipped away?

All in the name of growth and progress?

In my journey toward financial freedom, what have I myself torned down and forgotten too? (1 finger pointing at others, 4 pointing back at me)

P.S.  RemSG is also a fellow CFD trader. Small world indeed!

Thursday 17 November 2011

Sparrows, spiders, and unintended consequences…

During China’s Great Leap Forward campaign from 1958 to 1962, there was this campaign to rid China of 4 main pests:

1)      Rats
2)      Flies
3)      Mosquitoes
4)      Sparrows

Unfortunately, the Chinese leadership realized too late that sparrows not only eat grains (that’s why they were on the list), they also eat insects too!

Without the checks and balances of nature, the locust population mushroomed and it contributed to one of the greatest man-made famine and catastrophe of human history… Over 30 million Chinese perished due to starvation during the Great Leap Forward years… More Chinese died than the whole of World War II!!?? Talk about well-intention gone bad…

When I moved into my studio apartment in Athens, I noticed there were spider webs on the 2 windows that let light into the room. Yucks!

Since I am not a big spider fan (who is?), I decided to “sheltox” the spiders and remove the cobwebs. Guess what? During summer evenings for the past 3 years, I am now terrorized by kamikaze mosquitoes in the night! I guess they must have slipped through the gaps in the windows…

When once upon a time the spiders’ webs would have done me a great service… I now “sheltox” myself in the dark whenever I hear the buzz of the mosquitoes…  Realization came too late. The spider never did me any harm; the mosquitoes did more damage. Sigh…

Now your turn! Have you done anything in the past that you thought would be good for you, but only to realize that the unintended consequences are even worse!?

For those of you lucky enough not to have this “ah ha” experience, you’ll know when you know it!

P.S. You can read this post in any way you like – depending how deep you want to “mind fxxx” yourself. From the high macro social-political level, to relationships, and down to the your investing/trading oops moments  J

Tuesday 15 November 2011

There's no bad weather; just bad clothes

My Scandinavian colleagues like to quote this saying:

There's no bad weather; just bad clothes

It's not clear whether its the Norwegians or Swedish who first coined this saying... Both countries claim credit to it. Just like Malaysians and Singaporeans debate whether Laksa is a Malaysian or Singaporean dish! LOL!

Just for a bit of trivial for those who are into languages, the words "weather" and "clothes" rhymes in both Norwegian and Swedish:

Swedish: Det finns inget dåligt väder, bara dåliga kläder
Norwegian: Det finnes ikke dårlig vær, bare dårlige klær

Back to this saying.

I like it a lot as it helps me to see things from another angle.

So instead of "complaining" about the morning rush hour (can be the jam in the morning trains or if you drive, on the road) for eg, if I start work early at 7:00 am instead of the official 9:00 am, I can save time and lower my blood pressure at the same time! Alternatively, I may try negotiating with my boss to allow me to start work at 10:00 am instead? Flexi-time?

I know you are not interested in having a solution to the morning rush hour headaches you are facing. That will take out the fun you all have in "shooting the garmen". Wink wink.

How about I "adapt" the saying above into:

There's no bad service; just cheap customer

It's perfectly OK in today's internet age to engage in DIY trading/investing. Some even practice DIY selling/buying of properties themselves!

For me, the focus on transaction costs is normal and very human nature. I see discussions and postings on forums and blogs who is the "cheapest" broker, who provides "free" stuffs, and so on...

Eh... How about which broker/agent helps you the most to make money?

I remember when I was in working in Retail, I have a list of "best" customers whom I  contact when there's "promotion" or new stock arrivals - customers who have bought from me before and we both know will continue to buy from me. I don't do it for free. I do it for the commissions. Good service my foot! (I can talk like that since I am taking off my mask)

No money; no honey!

Sometimes I wonder why we don't "tap" the services of our remisiers/dealers and property agents more.

Of course if I am a small account, I can't expect to be served by the top honcho. I'll probably settle for a "newbie". But that's OK, we both can learn from each other. The "newbie" will be very glad to have "real" customers to practice their theory on. And I can ask lots of "silly" questions!

Instead of paying $XXXX in group seminars/trainings, for those who prefer one to one human interactions, I am sure your remisier/dealer will be glad to show you the ropes over coffee? (Over dinner get permission from your wife first if your broker is a she!) Can be equities, futures, forex, charting, fundamental analysis, etc. If the remisier/dealer no good... Change?

And if my portfolio is not chicken-feed, hey! It's time I make myself heard! Where is the service? Of course I cannot ask "stupid" questions now... I am expected to be financially literate (or act like one). If not, I may be taken for a ride big time! (They will smell blood if you don't know how to protect yourself)

Don't get me wrong. I am not talking about getting marketing "spam". I am after opportunities (some call it tips) from people who will get rewarded if I make money. Win-win.

The trick is to get on the "best customer" list. And to stay on the list, we have to act on the opportunities that were presented to us some of the time. Nothing is free! No money; no honey! LOL!

Try having a different mindset? Instead of thinking how others are making money off you, try thinking who can help me make more money? If the broker/agent you are using is excellent, feed him or her!

That's how the rich gets richer. The rich surround themselves with an army of talented specialists who are eager to help the rich get richer - for a slice of the profits of course! 

Disclosure - I like to DIY myself (now don't get naughty on me); but I am never shy to take advice or counsel from others. I can't do it alone. I don't just leverage on OPM (other people's money); I like to leverage on OPT (other people's time) too!

Sunday 13 November 2011

Boney M - Rasputin (Fraudsters and why some like them still!)

Besides the Bee Gees, Boney M is another of my top 3 bands of the late 70s!

Their music to me is the epitome of the Disco era! Yes! Remember Disco?

Boney M's musical influence is still being felt today...

Did you know that the "Barbra Streisand" hit single from Duck Sauce was based on Boney M's "Gotta Go Home hit?

And even Lady Gaga sampled the "Ma-Ma-Ma" hook from Boney M's "Ma Baker" for her hit single "Poker Face" last year.

Good to know that I not the only one "borrowing with pride" :)

Boney M was put together by German singer/songwriter Frank Farian. Is he...? Yes, he is the producer to the group Milli Vanilli who caused controversy when Farian admitted that the guys who fronted Milli Vanilli did not acutally sing the songs... Fraud happens in the musical industry too!

And yes Farian also sang the male vocals in the studio for Boney M too...

Despite this "controversy", I still love Boney M!!!

By the way, the male singer in Boney M is called Bobby Farrell, and he did sing his own vocals at live performances. Bobby performed live until his death at St Petersburg on  29 December, 2010 last year. Bobby was 61 years old when he died; disco dancing till the end!

Which is also an uncanny coincidence to one of their biggest hit - "Rasputin".  Rasputin also died at St Petersburg on 29 December.

Rasputin was 47 when his body was recovered from the Neva River at St Petersburg - after being poisoned, shot 4 times, badly beaten, and thrown in the river!? Talk about over-kill or hatred of the man...

Now for a bit of history and trivia to complement the lyrics of Rasputin:

Born the son of a peasant in 1869, Rasputin was a self-styled 'holy man' who is believed to have had a huge influence on Emperor Nicholas II, but especially his wife Alexandra, and their son Alexis, who seemed to miraculously overcome his haemophilia when Rasputin was around, and the family began to trust him and call him their 'holy man' and 'our friend'.

Queen Alexandra acted as ruler when Nicholas took command of the Russian troops fighting the Germans during the First World War and Rasputin acted as her "advisor", giving her advice on how to run the troops and the nation, which Nicholas went with, but eventually left the country in ruin.

Members of the Russian nobility, including Grand Duke Dimitri Pavlovich and Prince Felix Yussoupov, blamed all the troubles on Rasputin and plotted to kill him...

But if you ask Queen Alexandra, Rasputin has done no wrong! Just like I still love Boney M today despite the "controversy".

I guess it's also true to some of the "victims" of Singapore's MLM Sunshine Empire fraud, and the followers of the American evangelist who have twice predicted "falsely" that the end of the world will happen this year...

We believe what we want to believe - facts are like ink blots... We see what we want to see in them...

Which comes to my little reflection on this lazy Sunday afternoon:

I should not be so smug or think I am "cleverer" than thou when I read news of people being conned or swindled...

I am just a mouse, and it's just my good fortune that the snake charmer is playing a snake's tune. But if it had been the pipe pier... I would be following him merrily along...

Thursday 10 November 2011

What if tomorrow never comes?


"Borrow with pride" from Swakoo's posting

I would like to share another "borrow with pride" moment!

We were having a great discussion at the below investors' forum and I was totally inspired!


Another forum member Orang asked a very thought provoking question: "Then what?"

We tend to think in linear terms. And we extrapolate in straight lines - using past experience to predict the future!? This is very much like driving using the rear view mirror...

When it comes to Financial Freedom or Independence, most of us will say - if I achieved this and that, then I will...... The targets we give ourselves are more or less a combination of below:

1) When I've earned my first million (Then what? Change the goal to my next 10 million? When is enough enough? Hit 10 million increase goal to 100 million? It's a journey with no destination?)

2) When I've earned my first million by age 40 (Why the rush? I know I will die much younger than my peers? Or is it more so I can "smile down" others who did the same but at a later age than me?)

3) When my passive income exceeds my living expenses (Hey!? Do I need a million now? And what has age got to do with anything?)

11 months ago, I was having the same kind of dialogue between my mind and heart. And I am glad I've taken the first steps towards living my life in accordance to: "What if tomorrow never comes?" 

Is my net worth at an ideal level? No. (It's never enough!)  

Is my passive income at a healthy gap with my living expenses? No. (If I got an expensive and long drawn illness like kidney failure I will be in deep shit!) 

And don't talk about age... I am already past 40... (So? On some days I feel like 21 years young! And it's defintely not that I in a rush to "smile down" others past 44...)

I've decided to follow what Deng Xiao Peng advised: "Feel the rocks as we gently find our way across the river."

Of course it's equally OK if you prefer to wait for a boat to come along, or to build your own bridge across the river. Hey! Different strokes for different folks!

P.S. For new readers, you may want to read my first bite-sized story on my interpretation between "having lived and making a good living".

Wednesday 9 November 2011

Which kind of shepherds do you prefer?

In my previous post on My England not Powderful, I briefly alluded to the
below 3 kinds of shepherds:

  1. Wolves in sheepskins

  1. Fellow sheep shepherds

  1. Human shepherds

Wolves in sheepskins – now that’s simple enough! These are crooks out to eat us alive. The trick is to identify them – despite their camouflage.

My method would be to look at their feet (or shoes to be precise). It’s hard to explain, but women readers will know it instinctively. You may have to develop your own method of spotting wolves in sheepskins. I can't help you here...

As retail salesman, I can spot who “dress” rich and who “is” rich by looking at the shoes or feet (if wearing sandals).

On a side note, I would die for a pair of Jimmy Choo! No, I don’t wear them silly, but I like ladies wearing them ;) I have shoes fetish?

Fellow sheep shepherds – Hello! You have what I have. I have what you have. So why the hell am I following you!?

If I am a bitch and you are the Alpha male, that’s another story…

When I meet such “peers” talking down to me, I will do as follow:

They stand, I stand on my toes.

They sit, I stand up.

They talk from high podium; I go to the toilet and don’t come back.

Human shepherds – Now these are the most common kind. They are mostly ever so nice. They feed us, house us, and take good care of us when we are sick. We are practically part of the family! It’s a nice feeling to know we are part of their “assets” – the more sheep they own; the wealthier these humans appear to their peers.

That is until I realize there is no “free lunch”! Human shepherds are so nice to us because they can shave, milk, and slaughter us sheep to satisfy their human needs!

OK, I may have to get back to you on milking sheep… I’ve seen humans milking goats, but not sheep... Anyone been to New Zealand sheep farms that can help me out?

Cutting the umbilical cord

We were all sheep once upon a time… And we have been handled by Human shepherds – all of us with no exception. Human shepherds can be our parents, our teachers, our bosses, our political or religious leaders, etc.

Of the 3 kinds of shepherds above, I would of course prefer the Human shepherds! Bless their bleeding hearts!

But I will never lose track of the “why” they so nice to me. The trick is to cut the umbilical cord before the “harvest” time ;)

Bye mom! I need my own space!

Bye boss! I am working for myself now!

Oi! Isn’t it time you step down now? (Sometime its about you replacing the Alpha male. Shh…)

Disclosure: I will be living with mummy dearest when I return to Singapore in 8 weeks' time. I will never cut this umbilical cord. Never. 

Tuesday 8 November 2011

曾心梅-天公疼憨人 - Lady Luck

A song dedication to OT.

Now a poem dedication to myself:

Lady Luck

I was a little dumb, a little slow, and a little naive as a child
Lady Luck would come and to pat my head with a smile
Whispering gently to my ears that I so silly, so cute!

As I grew, I got too clever for my own age
Always calculating this benefit, securing that advantage
Who needs Luck when whatever the mind can conceive I can achieve?

Fall I did but thank goodness I never cried or blame
I laughed myself silly at my stupidity and shame
A familiar hand picked me up and dust the dirt off my knees

Hey it's Lady Luck!
Why would she come to me if I am always so sure of myself?
Ah! It's good to be a child again

Monday 7 November 2011

Counterparty risk – it’s more common than you think!

The recent collapse of MF Global has brought up lots of discussion on counterpart risk.

Some commentators were espousing why certain over-the-counter (OTC) products or derivatives were not suitable for retail investors…

2 legs bad; 4 legs good! Just like in George Orwell’s Animal Farm, it’s too simplistic to make blanket statements…

I would like to offer my “bottom-up” views on counterparty risks:

1)         There are so many CFD brokers in Singapore, have any of the MF Global investors made comparison shopping before deciding on MF Global?

Did you choose because it’s “cheaper”?

Or did your “friend” recommend it, and you “trusted” your friend?

Eh… Perhaps you are a counterparty risk to yourself by being “cheap” and not doing your own research? (And you shout here and there must hire Singaporeans first; but what you do? Sign up with foreign broker…)

2)         Some are very secure in the knowledge they only stick with “safe” blue chip stocks. Never touch derivatives you say?

But did you check whether the blue chip stock you invested in – is it heavily dependant on a few big customers? What if these customers default on their obligations? You have done fundamental research on the blue chip stock, but did you do the same for their customers? Not so secure now right?

And I have not even mentioned political risks (contracts in Libya gone poof!), or legal risks (BP oil spill), or warranty risks (Honda quality recalls), and Act of God risks (flooding, earthquakes, etc)?

These are not counterparty risks you say! OK, if you say so. And you are most probably right!

3)         The good thing about thinking in “shades of grey” - instead of in “black and white” - is that I treat RISKS as all the same. Never mind in what “form” or “definition” they come in.

The moment I part with my money in an investment or trade, better don’t take things for granted or lull myself into false sense of security.

a)     I open my eyes wide wide.

b)     I dig my ears a few times and put one hand to my ear.

c)      I take a few sniffs now and then to check the air quality.

d)     And I stretch out my remaining arm to feel my way around. 

Yes, I am a silly rabbit! Well, once upon a time, US bonds were considered “risk free”. I don’t know about you, but now I believe in:

“Trust is good; but control is better!”  (Got to love the Germans!)

4)         What? You just work and save? No investments whatsoever. So no counterparty risks?

If the company you worked for lost a major account/customer, no corresponding “restructuring” to align the company’s cost structure with the new revenue stream? (Ask PSA workers when Maersk went to JB)

How about legislation’s counterparty risks that may affect your industry or company? You have never “suffered” from bad policies and legislations? (censored, censored)

Serve you right for not voting to minimize counterparty risks! You can’t legislate against stupidity you know!?

Friend, eat tofu not careful can also choke to death! LOL!


Saturday 5 November 2011

The willow and the oak tree in picture!

Ta da! I've drawn my own picture for my "The willow and the oak tree" post!

I used MSPaint (Windows XP) and the result is a simple stylised picure of what I see in my mind :)

The oak tree on the right is represented by the 2 rectangles. The brown rectangle symbolise  strength and uprightness, while the green rectangle symbolise the outreach arms of the branches - spreading themselves far and wide with abandonment. But somehow, I sensed the 2 rectangles may topple anytime soon!

On the left is the willow. I've not only drawn it to bend and bow to the wind, I've added the twist and turn effect - just to twist the dagger after I've plunged it to myself...

The blue background is of course the wind that is always around us all the time. Watching our every move...

Did you notice I've not drawn any ground? It does not matter whether we are the oak or willow - if we do not have an anchor point, we are pretty much blowing in the wind anyway...

I've been plagued with this question ever since I've moved overseas. How do I introduce myself to my overseas friends? Am I...

1.      A Singaporean?
2.      A Singaporean Chinese?
3.      A Chinese Singaporean?
4.      A Chinese?
5.      A citizen of the world?
6.      A local born Singaporean? 

Disclosure: The ranking and order is not random. I am struggling between my idealised version of me and the "ugly" side of me.

Thursday 3 November 2011

I am a Diverger (li kong simi?)

After my previous “What’s your learning style?” post, I think it would be a good opportunity for another “peeling the onion” moment.

According to Kolb’s Learning styles, I am a Diverger. In plain England, I feel and watch. (Is that why my hands always wander whenever I watch movies with my ex…slap!)

That perhaps also explain why I tend to give “off topic” comments in my blog and at other people’s blog…

People talk about serious serious business, I go and say things like:

“Eh? You also like tarts?”  (Not the Orchard Towers kind lah!)

“Your daughter so very cute!” (Oi! I not paedophile leh…)

“Your drawing so nice! I also want!” (OK, I admit. I copycat!)

I have the need to get to know you better. I am a people person.

I always envy those guys who can meet a girl for the first time and dare to ask the girl whether she is interested to visit his place to look at his “stamp collection”.

I cannot. I have to do lots of small talk like:

“Wah! Your baju very pretty! Where you get huh? Is it designed by Poly and Esther?” (Poly + Esther = ?) Slap again! LOL!

I need time to warm up to people. So if I meet someone new, I can be very “tao” or “shy” (my friends always laugh to the floor when I say I shy… I wonder why?) But once I get to know you better, I can get “no big no small” with you!

Yup, I am not the bing, bang, roll-over, and sleep kind of guy. I need lots of foreplay. I am the man with the slow hands.

Hey! Am I a bit “ku niang”!?

Lucky the consultant who did the test with me says I am normal. Phew! It’s just that I am in touch with my feminine side. Whatever that means!

Is that why I can also talk a lot? Or write a lot? (OK, female readers who got my double meaning can slap me again! And again!)

And in the rare moment I quiet down to listen, that means I am enraptured by what you have to say. I am your no.1 fan!

OK, some of you may want to get SMOL repellant spray now…

Tuesday 1 November 2011

What’s your learning style?

I have the good fortune of attending “free” trainings from my company from time to time.

And one of the best training I did was this learning style training:

It has helped me understand myself better, and during the journey of self-discovery, I’ve found out that I don’t know I actually knew certain things all along!

There are many versions or schools of learning styles. Just google and you will get swarmed by the many different versions – some simple; some quite complex (I suspect it’s a ruse just to charge more for consultation!)

It does not matter. Below I will share my unscientific and DIY ways to find out your learning style:

1)     How did you learn in school?

Do you prefer traditional lectures where your teacher tells you what you should learn, via school projects, or you prefer tutorials? (Disclosure: I never attended pre-u or JC. So no clue what are tutorials!)

2)     How did you learn at work?

Do you prefer to read your company’s Standard Operation Procedures (SOP), learn from a mentor/senior, or via discussions with colleagues, or when got problem, always go to your boss and ask what you should do?

3)     How did you learn from your hobbies or interests?

Let’s say you buy an IPAD or IPHONE, do you start playing around with your new toy immediately and figure out the apps and functions yourself, or do you prefer to read the manual from A to Z, or do you prefer a buddy to show you how to use the device?

And when thinking about a song, do you hear the melodies and tunes in your head, or do you “see” the song being performed by the artiste?

Some by now may have a rough idea what’s your learning style (never mind if you don’t know the exact textbook definition for your particular learning style); while some may prefer to have a proper test done by professionals with the right certification (you need precision of definition!) – ask your HR dept on it. Best if “Ah Kong” (company) pays! Hey! Whatever works for you!

Round peg to round hole

If you are an audio person, you may want to buy CDs on investing or trading and listen to them while on the MRT or driving – a great time saver!

If you prefer reading, you would invest in books or surf the internet for the information you need.

If you prefer human contact, you may have to dig deeper on what kind of human contact you prefer before simply signing up for an investment or trading course/seminar ;)

If you need hands-on “show me how it works” examples; perhaps workshops where the trainer gives live demonstration would be more suitable for you.

If you learn best through interactions with fellow like-minded people; perhaps get together sessions/conventions with fellow investors or traders would be a better option?

And of course, due to Singapore’s style of education, I believe most of us would prefer the classroom kind of lectures where the trainer talks down to us from his podium. (Somehow I have a nagging suspicion that’s not how we learn best…But then, what do I know?)

So take advantage of the “free” preview sessions and ask how the training will be conducted ;)

Why set yourself up to fail?
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