Tuesday 30 July 2013

I could have died just now!

I was going to Holland Village to buy some coffee powder, and at one of the traffic light pedestrian crossing, a SUV did not stop for the red lights!!!

I have a habit of waiting for cars to come to a complete standstill before walking off at traffic lights and zebra crossings. Time is on my side and I value my life more than the few seconds saved.

Of course this habit started after a near miss traffic accident eons ago when I was a young teenager. I was too engrossed in my thoughts while crossing the zebra crossing then...

Today, the traffic light crossing is at a busy 3 lane main road.

When the traffic lights turned red for the cars, the vehicles at the first 2 lanes nearest me stopped. I started crossing. Two aunties in their late 60s followed behind me.

There were no vehicles on the 3rd outer most speeding lane. But I saw a SUV approaching us. Fast

I instinctively stopped at the middle of the road and spread out one hand to warn the 2 aunties behind me.

To my surprise, the SUV did not slow down and stop for us. It just sped past us! The driver never even glanced at us!!!??? 

When all 3 of us finally make across the road, one of the aunty was quite agitated. Scolding and complaining to her companion and me about the horrid and idiotic driver. Her companion was clearly in a state of shock.

Me? It felt surreal.

If I had been lost in my thoughts and cross without watching for signs of danger, or worst, playing with my smart phone, I could be another addition to the statistics of fatal road accidents in Singapore.  

Thank goodness for living in the moment and being aware of the here and now!

I feel relieved that I did a small part in warning the 2 senior aunties on the danger.

Roar of  the heart 

1)  Drivers who speed. I know you won't change. But just imagine the two aunties could be your grandma or mother. Or maybe your little daughter happily making her way across the road. 

2)  Pedestrians, do keep a lookout for and assist seniors and young children at traffic light or zebra crossings. Help young mothers with prams. Singapore is not a cold country.

3)  Yes, we may be in the right; but what's the point if we are injured or dead? You'll be surprised how many people cross roads while texting or watching movies on their smart phones! 

Do not take for granted all of us will return home safely after saying bye in the morning.

Every new day is indeed a blessing.

Treasure life.


Monday 29 July 2013

That's How The Fight Started

My wife and I were watching Who Wants To Be A Millionaire while we were in bed.
I turned to her and said, 'Do you want to have Sex?'
'No,' she answered.
I then said, 'Is that your final answer?'

... She didn't even look at me this time, simply saying, 'Yes..'
So I said, "Then I'd like to phone a friend."

And that's when the fight started...


I took my wife to a restaurant.

The waiter, for some reason, took my order first.

"I'll have the rump steak, rare, please."
He said, "Aren't you worried about the mad cow?"
"Nah, she can order for herself."

And that's when the fight started.....


My wife and I were sitting at a table at her high school
reunion, and she kept staring at a drunken man swigging his
drink as he sat alone at a nearby table.

I asked her, "Do you know him?"
"Yes", she sighed,
"He's my old boyfriend. I understand he took to drinking
right after we split up those many years ago, and I hear he
hasn't been sober since."

"My God!" I said, "Who would think a person could go on
celebrating that long?"

And then the fight started...


When our lawn mower broke and wouldn't run, my wife kept hinting to me that I should get it fixed.
But, somehow I always had something else to take care of first, the shed, the boat,
making beer.. Always something more important to me.

Finally she thought of a clever way to make her point.
When I arrived home one day, I found her seated in the tall grass, busily snipping away with a tiny pair of sewing
scissors. I watched silently for a short time and then went into
the house. I was gone only a minute, and when I came out again
I handed her a toothbrush.

I said, "When you finish cutting the
grass, you might as well sweep the driveway."

The doctors say I will walk again, but I will always have a limp.


My wife sat down next to me as I was flipping channels.
She asked, "What's on TV?"
I said, "Dust."

And then the fight started...


Saturday morning I got up early, quietly dressed, made my lunch, and slipped quietly into the garage. I hooked up the
boat up to the van and proceeded to back out into a torrential
downpour. The wind was blowing 50 mph, so I pulled back into the garage, turned on the radio, and discovered that the weather
would be bad all day.

I went back into the house, quietly undressed, and slipped back into bed. I cuddled up to my wife's back;
now with a different anticipation,
and whispered, "The weather out there is terrible."

My loving wife of 5 years replied, "And, can you believe my stupid husband is out fishing in that?"

And that's how the fight started...


My wife was hinting about what she wanted for our upcoming anniversary.
She said, "I want something shiny that goes from 0 to 150 in about 3 seconds."

I bought her a bathroom scale.

And then the fight started......


After retiring, I went to the Social Security office to apply
for Social Security. The woman behind the counter asked me

for my driver's License to verify my age. I looked in my pockets

and realized I had left my wallet at home. I told the woman that

I was very sorry, but I would have to go home and come back later.

The woman said, 'Unbutton your shirt'.
So I opened my shirt revealing my curly silver hair.

She said, 'That silver hair on your chest is proof enough for me' and she processed my Social Security application.

When I got home, I excitedly told my wife about my experience at the Social Security office.

She said, 'You should have dropped
your pants. You might have gotten disability too.'

And then the fight started...


My wife was standing nude, looking in the bedroom mirror.

She was not happy with what she saw and said to me,
"I feel horrible; I look old, fat and ugly. I really need you
to pay me a compliment.'

I replied, "Your eyesight's damn near perfect."

And then the fight started........


I rear-ended a car this morning...the start of a REALLY bad day!

The driver got out of the other car, and he was a DWARF!!
He looked up at me and said 'I am NOT Happy!'
So I said, 'Well, which one ARE you then?'

That's how the fight started.


One year, I decided to buy my mother-in-law a cemetery plot
as a Christmas gift...

The next year, I didn't buy her a gift.
When she asked me why, I replied,
"Well, you still haven't used the gift I bought you last year!"

And that's how the fight started.

Friday 26 July 2013

Be Great; Powerful Beyond Measure

In the media, there is a risk of encouraging materialism by the ironic stories of how you can "save" X amount by Y age.

If hoarding money is not materialism, what is?

Thankfully, there are inspirational stories in the media to counterbalance the lemming worship of money.

I like the story of the ex-gangster and convict that graduates with a law degree at 35. 

Ditto for the ex-gangster that turned his life around and became a chef.

Then there are stories on entrepreneurs that braved heavy debts and near bankruptcies to become what they are today. Where others gave up; they soldiered on.

Life is not a straight line extrapolation.

Along the way, there will be setbacks and disappointments.

Sometimes it's not fair. 

And not your fault.

We have been lucky too. Getting things we don't really deserve.

Who can admit to have that tinge of guilt behind our success?

But a sense of greatness we do have. However fleeting it may be.

We remember that time we got up after a fall.

Or bouncing back after being punched in the face.

Thank goodness memories and vision in life are told in pictures and stories!

Pity the soul that shares his excel file to his grandchildren:

At 30 I got $100,000

This is Ah Kong at 40 with $1,000,000...

Hey! Don't run away. I got more numbers to show you!



Tuesday 23 July 2013

Low probability of success; high demand

As a followup on my previous post: The Art of Goal Setting,

the practical manifestation can be observed as follows:

The more limited the places and the harder it is to get in, the more we desire to apply to that primary school, faculty, or university. If we can help it, we do our best to avoid the anyone and everyone can get in learning institutions...

Hundreds and thousands apply to join reality TV talent shows - all for a shot of their dreams - knowing full well that only a few will emerge the "winner".

Why are there long queues to buy Toto especially when the top prize has snowballed? Despite the great odds against us, it's precisely that which attracts us! Imagine striking first prize only to realise we have to share it with 1,000 other prize winners... Hard to strike is better right?

This is all good as everyone goes in with eyes wide open.

But something strange happens when it comes to speculation. I use this word precisely to demonstrate when we substitute it with words like investing or trading, somehow we will park  our common sense at our homes. 


How then do you explain why people believe the spin at seminars when snake oil salespersons say if you follow their easy to follow steps, anyone and everyone can emerge as winners?

If you have attended these "free" previews, you would know what I mean.

I would have thought alarm bells would be ringing out loud!

I mean if anyone and everyone could do it, shouldn't the payout be something similar to "minimum wage"? 

I am not promoting materialism. For people who have discovered spirituality, material possessions are no longer as important as they used to be.

Many do talk about about "giving up" or "removing clutter" in their lives - that's another alternative path to financial freedom - consume less; want less.

Guess what? Precisely! Only a minority can achieve this simplicity in their lives.

It's definitely not anyone and everyone.



Monday 22 July 2013

Art of Goal Setting

If you've set a goal, and is totally convinced anyone and everyone can achieve it, you may want to pause and reflect why you set the goal in the first place?

If it's a personal goal, hey! Whatever makes you happy!

But if it's a goal you want to present to your overlord while working for others; you may want to cease and desist.

If you are a business owner or a manager, and your minion submitted such a goal to you, what's your first impression?

Let's pretend you've taken a liking to this minion and you would like to groom this person to greater responsibilities. How would you get your point across without dampening the minion's enthusiasm?  


Thursday 18 July 2013

Common Ways to Earn More

For someone who earns below $1,000 per month, it can be patronizing to tell this person to save more... 

To get out of the poverty trap, the long term solution is to earn more. That's why micro-financing is so much better in helping others help themselves. Compare this to the destructive effects of subsidy and aid - good intentions; unintended consequences...

Let's say if you earn a good comfortable income of $6,000 per month, and you desire to own a landed property in Singapore, you do the math. Can you save your way to one?

Sometimes, we just have to earn more. Period.

Exchange time for money

For non-executive workers, it's very common to volunteer for overtime and work on our days off, if we need extra money. I know; I was there.

For executives with no overtime pay, it's to take a second job. Like giving tuition, teach at night schools, or work as consultant to companies if you are in academia. Sell property or insurance part-time anyone?

Students working part-time reading this, yes, some things don't change even when you leave school. Don't get discouraged. Thankfully there are many other roads to Rome!

Upgrade our skills

A more sustainable alternative to earning more can be to upgrade our skill sets.

A delivery driver with class 3 driving license may decide to upgrade to class 4 or 5 driving licenses - it's the same driving, but it pays more as a container driver and/or if you can handle those heavy construction vehicles.

Learning a new language opens up a new market if you are a tour guide. Similarly, if a remisier learns Japanese, you now can tap the Mrs Watanabe business amongst the Japanese expat community here in Singapore.

And of course there is the paper chase very prevalent in Singapore. Just make sure your skill sets have improved at the end of the course; not just collecting a piece of paper.

You guess why I showed the driving and language examples above first? Practical skills and academic knowledge are not the same.

Get promoted

It's no secret that the higher you are up on the corporate ladder, the more you earn. 
That's where the less you do, and the more you talk, the more you earn! Amazing!

For those who trade or invest during company time, you think your colleagues or boss not aware? You may want to read this: committed versus involved

But if you are already "condemned" in your job, then never mind. Carry on.

Otherwise, do be conscious that success is what you have to give up to achieve it. 

Switch to hunter professions

We may whine and bitch about the high minsters' pay, but no one complains when superstar salespersons earn more than our Prime Minister.

Why? It's meritocracy at it's best. And the entry barriers are frequently quite low - can speak can oredi!

(OK, you may need at least O' levels as now the regulators require more tests and certifications... No worries lah! If you can pass the Driving Highway Code, you're safe.)

The highest sales earners are frequently found in hardcore sales activities - no basic salary; pure commissions.

Just think property and insurance agents - you see their photos in the papers when their puppet master exalt their success. But no free lunch. Can you imagine the stress and pressure if your photo is not in the papers?

By the way, is multi-level marketing still hot in Singapore? Norni juice anyone?

Be your own Boss

Being an entrepreneur allows you to leverage on other people's money and other people's time.

That's where others work to help you earn more money. Cool or what?

Sometimes we don't even have to be our own boss. If we are brave or lucky enough to work in a small startup for a pittance in pay, we can hit the jackpot if the company manages to thrive and makes an IPO. 

That's where we can cash-out our stock options (would be worthless if the startup fails) during the IPO!

Hold that thought next time you apply for an IPO. Someone is rushing out; someone is rushing in.  No wonder Warren Buffet don't buy during IPOs.

Probability of success diminishes with the higher payout

From the order of the various roads to Rome, can you see a pattern?

The higher the potential to earn serious money, the lower the probability of success.

It makes sense right?

How much can you earn in an endeavour if 90% of the participants succeed?

I've deliberately left out speculation for financial freedom - be it forex, equities, options, property, etc.

You decide where it fits.

It's back to who you are again

A young fellow blogger hits the nail on it's head.

Some of us are naturally risk averse. So we choose to play not to lose. We minimise volatility in our lives. Steady as she goes.

Some are crazy risk takers! They opt to take the Roller-Coaster ride instead of the Ferris Wheel. Today a millionaire, tomorrow bankrupt. Like a phoenix, they rise again to start a new venture all over again when spring comes. 

They play to win.  

Of course the price is you fall badly if you lose. Some never recover... 

No one route is more superior than the other. We walk our own path. 

Be at peace with who we are.



Tuesday 16 July 2013

Earn more or Save more?

We all know the secret to having more money is either to earn more or save more. And doing both together is even better!

As a saver myself, it's not my intention to slap my own face or to belittle the savers. But we need to see things in context and have a proper perspective on which comes first.

The Chinese have a idiom for it:

开源节流  to broaden the sources of income and economize on expenditure

It's no coincidence in my previous post I put Earn More before Save More.

As investors, don't we prefer companies we own to secure their profits through top line revenue growth? Why? That's a sign of virility! The company is growing and gaining market share from it's competitors. It's or-yi-or Tarzan stuff!

But if the same profit is engineered through downsizing, rightsizing, outsourcing of non-core processes, will that comfort you? Does the image of a leaking ship - where everyone is busy jettisoning the dead-weights off the ship - comes to mind?

Saving is important. What's the point of earning $10,000 but you spend $11,000? 

A jolly good time? Eh! I never asked you! Keep quiet and sit down!!! 

Ahem, as I was saying... What is the maximum savings rate a person can achieve for his/her income?

100% of course. And it's possible!!!

That is if you are lucky enough to be still living off your parents as an adult. Or you have a high income earner spouse that you can sponge on. My mainland lady friends call it securing a long term meal ticket ;)

For most of us, a savings rate of 30% would be great. 50% would put you in awesome  category. And for those who can save 70% of their income, that's MONSTER kill!!!

That all and good in percentages.

There are 4 big chinks in the saver's armour:

1)  Your money saved cannot exceed your income - there's a cap. 

You cannot save $11,000 if you earn $10,000. Or?

2)  100% savings rate on zero income is still zero. 

Life is not a straight line extrapolation. You could be laid-off, fired, met with an accident or contract an illness. 

Ok, ok. Choy choy and spit spit. Touch wood touch wood. Why you touch my head? It's not wood ok?

3)  Growth is better than austerity.

If I earn $3,000 per month, to save $2,100, I need to save 70% of my income and make sacrifices on my lifestyle choices. 

But if I focus on broadening or increasing my sources of income, let's say I double my income to $6,000 per month, saving the same $2,100 income per month now represents 35% savings rate. Which is more sustainable?

It's a bit like evaluating income stocks. Do you prefer a stock with 90% dividend payout ratio that yields 5% or another stock with 45% dividend payout ratio that also yield 5%?

4)  Crossing over to the dark side

There's a fine line between being thrifty and stingy. Between financially prudent and simply being a scrooge.

Delayed gratification is good; but delayed gratification till the afterlife is over planning! Albeit hoarding cash is better than hoarding thrash; it's still the same psychological disorder. 

Just flip through the obituary pages once in a while. You may see quite a few who left for a better place at 55 or 65 years young.

When making beautiful plans like when I have XX amount at YY age; or when I retire then I will do this and that - do remember to include: What if tomorrow never comes?

In my next  post, I talk more about Earn More.

Sunday 14 July 2013

Friday 12 July 2013

The Centre Of The Universe

I was having this conversation with my trading friend coconut in my previous post.

Found this video with a simple explanation on why there is no centre in the universe.

But with the sidewalk and balloon examples, my mind still "sees" a centre?

Isn't the guy in the middle of the sidewalk the centre?

Isn't the centre of the ballon the centre?

LOL! I blame it on my low intellect...

I guess that's why most of us need an anchor. A bias. A perspective to look outwards from.

Spiritually, seeing a centre where there is non can bring up quite a hornet's nest of debates between faith and science. OK, I'll stop here. I am dumb; but I am not stupid!

Let's talk trading instead! With a big up day yesterday, and a blow-out Singapore GDP this morning, how many expected the STI to be in the red today? Talk about reversal day!

It's about bias or perspective no? 

If you were bullish, you may have jumped on board yesterday only to be disappointed today.

If you were bearish, you would have sold into the rally yesterday, and glad you did this morning!

But if STI were to rally to 3300 next week, the sentiments of those who bought and sold yesterday would switch again!

Perhaps in the investing and trading universe, there is no centre too?

I guess the only truth that matters is the money in your pocket.


Tuesday 9 July 2013

A buddhist humour on perspective

A student is on one side of a raging river. There are no bridges. He has no boat. He shouts out to the master on the opposite bank. “How do I get to the other side?” 

The master shouts back: “You are on the other side.” 

For those of you who grew up with Sesame Street like me, you may recall Ernie trying to explain to Berd the difference between here and there. That's a funny sketch right?

Beyond the humour, there's something profound underneath. But reflect on it first before reading further - that's if you have the preference to think for yourself.

From our perspective - and we often think we are the centre of the universe - where we stand is here and on the right side. Other people are standing over there on the other side.

What happens if you are a 3rd party looking at both student and master?

What if you are the student and you have the ability to look at yourself from outside looking in?

If you take away the concept of "I", where do place here and there?

Show me the money

For those more practical and not into mumbo jumbo, let's use this investing/trading example. 

If you place an order to buy an equity, you may be thinking who is this idiot selling to you at this attractive price? Surely you won't be buying if you think the price is expensive right?

Similarly, the seller may also be wondering who is this dump money that is still buying at this rich valuation? Now why would the seller be selling if he thinks the price is cheap?

Who is right?

Can both be right?

Can both be wrong?


Saturday 6 July 2013

It's the adjective silly! Never the noun.

We often like to use labels on others and ourselves.

I guess as gregarious social animals (I certainly don't think humans are the chosen ones on this planet), we feel a lot better belonging to a group. There is safety in numbers.

Who wants to be the odd one out?

If things go wrong, we can say: "Others also do it what! Not only me OK?" 

The price of membership? Monkey see; monkey do.

We focus on nouns and labels like:

I am XX born and bred, you foreign talent.

I am investor, you trader.

I man, you woman.

You get the message.

With membership, we expect certain natural benefits and entitlements. Thinking that just by naming ourselves as part of a group, we are superiour than thou.

However, just like my school science experiments, we quickly realise that oil rise to the top, water stays in the middle, and sediments stay at the bottom.

Yup, there is a hierarchy or distribution curve in each labelled group. OK, meritocracy is a bitch! Who ever said life is fair?

What's the differentiating factor? The adjectives!

If you want to hire someone, or find a partner for life, what do you look for? Definitely not "Oh! He is a man and is from XX, that will do." 
So what are these adjectives?

Sorry I won't patronise you. You have the answers yourself. 

If you don't or can't figure it yourself, then nothing I or others say matter.


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