Wednesday 30 September 2015

Experience never gets old

Yup, Tuesday afternoons are my movie concession watching days.

You know what? This movie by Robert De Nero and Anne Hathaway was surprisingly good!

No fast car chaser, explosions, or body counts; just simple old dialogue and relationships.

Corporate climbers

There are some useful scenes and clues on:

1) How to get liked by your co-workers and boss.

2) How to be proactive (get things done before being told).

But then again, it's all pretty useless unless what you do is already a habit of yours; and they reflect your true self. 

We can fake it in the beginning; but under the scrutiny of time, it may do more damage to be found out as a "fake"...  

Still, it's good to know why your colleagues are being noticed and liked by the boss - and not you.

Women, your worst enemy is not men

You know it already.

It's other bitches.

Success is what you have to sacrifice to achieve it

Two of my ex-bosses are now divorced. One had a nervous breakdown.

Between my ex-colleagues and classmates, I need more than one hand to count the number of divorces amongst them.

Why is Robert De Nero still acting?

Robert De Nero's real life age is 72 - not far from the movie character he plays.

You mean he hasn't secured financial independence yet?

Of course not!

Well, that's for those who are treating financial independence as a "goal" to figure out. 


Sunday 27 September 2015

You don't worry about being late?

I was at an investment seminar this afternoon.

The session was supposed to start at 1:00 pm "sharp".

However, at 1:15 pm, quite a lot of people were still streaming in...

Since I was sitting near the entrance, I started to "people watch" and "time" the late-comers.

The last person to walk in was an elderly male gentleman in has 70s? He came in at 2:10 pm  - a princely 1 hour late!? On a Sunday afternoon?

I'll poke the organiser next time I meet him - don't print on the programme sheet the session will start 1:00 pm sharp when you don't mean it.  

No, the organising side did not start on time too... (But that's a post for another time)

You are definitely not a trader if you are habitually late

If you consider trading a craft - and not a play play hobby to pass time - you would know that discipline is one of the key attributes for consistent performance. 

The amount of work and preparations before a trader turns up at work (or turns on his PC if trading from home) is almost a daily lifestyle.

Repetition becomes habit; habit becomes lifestyle.

If I'm to visit a place I've never been before, I'll google the street directory and find out how to get there the night before.

And if the meeting is very important - like a job interview - I'll even visit the place 2-3  days before the actual meeting to time the journey and familiarise myself with the surroundings.

I don't want to get flustered by being unprepared on the actual day. (Guess why we have rehearsals for National Day parades?)

Isn't this what we do as traders all the time?

The last thing we want is to miss a trade because we were late (unprepared)...

You a long term investor so no need to respect timing?

OK, you are right in a sense that you can be slightly early or late and it won't make a big difference in the grand scheme of things.

Warren Buffet wrote in his op-ed in the NY times during Oct  2008, encouraging fellow Americans to invest in stocks despite the wide spread fear of equities at that time.

If you had listened to Warren Buffet and bought, you would see the S&P fall a further -20% until it bottomed in March 2009.

Fast forward 6-7 later, does it matter? 

If you bought Singapore stocks similarly during Oct 2008, is that considered late or early?

How about buying Singapore stocks around April 2015? Is that considered late or early?

Now make a wild guess who did more preparations - those investors who bought in Oct 2008 or April 2015?

Friday 25 September 2015

How much you charge for being "Ah Long"?

How much interests do credit card companies charge for lending money to consumers? 

Write it down.

How much do licensed money-lenders charge?

Try google or make a phone call.

Write the rates down.

Ever wondered how much do illegal money-lenders charge?

Talk to a taxi-driver.

Write it down.

Now, if you have $1,000 to lend to a stranger (can be a company) you have never known before, how much interests would you charge?

If you charge lesser than the credit companies, someone is sniggering behind your back.

Remember, credit companies have access to your credit report before approving your credit card application. 

If you default, there are quite a few legal recourse to recover their money:

Wage garnishment

Levy on your savings accounts

Lien on your assets or property

Pray tell how are you going to recover your $1,000 in the event of a default? Small claims court? Ask big daddy for help?

Yup, by now, you probably want to charge "Ah Long" rates for the risks you are taking!

Before you do so, you may want to check with your religious shepherd whether this may fxxx-up the end game for your after-life...

We don't want to be more financially literate than those amateur retail "money-lenders"; but end up committing the sin of usury, do we?


Wednesday 23 September 2015

When even a doctor engages in snake-oil...

Think about it for a moment.

When a surgeon and medical doctor says things he knows full well it ain't true, all for the sake of TV ratings and product placements by "vested interests", what more can we say about other "experts" we think we can trust?

Now extrapolate this reflection onto other realms.

Monday 21 September 2015

Preaching to the choir boys on CPF top-ups

I don't like to talk about this CPF thingy as the headline pretty much sums up how I feel about it.

But now that there's an opportunity to poke both sides of the debate, how can I let it pass? 

Here's my contribution to muddying the waters a little more!

Muddy waters

Look, if you can earn and save $100K per year, how is voluntarily making a $7K yearly CPF top-up (optimise tax relief) a bad thing?

OK, $100K is over-kill. How about $50K then? 

You still have plenty set aside for opportunity and/or emergency funds. You win liao lor!

But if someone earns and saves $10K per year and make a monkey-see-monkey-do voluntary $7K CPF top-up, wait, what is that dumb-fxxx doing?

Ah! See? So easy to jump to conclusion...

What if that person is in his late 40s or early 50s, and has decades long track record of making losses in properties, equities, mutual funds, etc. 

A Charlie Brown when it comes to investing. You still want to give advice against him topping up his CPF?

How about someone in his early 20s, haven't bought his first property yet, doing a transfer of his CPF ordinary account to special account?

Ah! Now you smarter!

Before opening your big mouth, you verify first the context and perspective. 

Yup, this young person's daddy and mummy already invested in a 2nd rental investment property when he was a toddler. How's that for a 21st birthday gift? Song bo?

Do you still have the urge to give advice to people better off than you?


Brush up on your Literature

Still remember your Sec 1 and 2 literature classes?  

You know what's more fun than figuring who's arguments are more correct or wrong?

It's to analyse and study - who said what - like characters in a play or storybook.

You may identify who are climbing up the mountain, who are coming down; who are speaking from land owner/shepherd/sheep perspectives; who have holes in their hearts; who have an axe to grind; who sees the world through rose-tinted glasses; who have blinkers on; etc... 

I find reading people infinitely more interesting!

P.S.  Isn't the markets about people? Sentiments and emotions?  


Friday 18 September 2015

That bad huh? 0.25% also scared to raise?

Move along now. Nothing here to see...


Tuesday 15 September 2015

Cash as an asset allocation. What currency?

Singaporeans have struck the ovarian lottery just by being born in Singapore. No thinking or physical effort required!

Not sure whether its a good or bad thing, but Singaporean investors have one less thing to worry about compared to investors in our neighbouring countries.

We don't have to crack our heads to figure what currencies to put our cash in.

Yes, SGD has weaken against the USD from the low 1.20s plus to the current 1.40s. But you don't hear Singaporeans complaining or worried.

That's because our SGD has strengthened against popular holiday and investment destinations like Japan, Australia, Malaysia, Indonesia, etc.

If you were a Malaysian working in Singapore in the early 70s - when the MYR and SGD were on parity - were you glad you kept most of your cash (retirement savings or opportunity funds) in SGD at our Singapore banks?

Just make a wild guess why the wealthy Indonesians like to come to Singapore to purchase Life insurance policies denominated in either SGD or USD?

Investors from an emerging countries may have lost money with their investments in Singapore properties on a nominal basis, but after currency conversion back to their home currencies, they may still come out on top!

Perhaps that's why Singapore has a thriving private banking sector? The rich in Asia not only have to decide what currencies to put their cash and/or assets in, they also have to decide where to store them.

Now, is it a good thing to have all our cash in a single currency? 


Thursday 10 September 2015

Hurting words financial bloggers say

Of all the hurting words a financial blogger or so called "financially literate" wannebe can say, none is as condescending, belittling, and patronising as this quote below:


First, I can't verify Bill Gates actually said those words. And if he did, what context and perspective those words were uttered.

But it seems that didn't stop others from freely quoting "Bill Gates" whenever they need to prove a point or win an argument...

You know someone is at their wits end when they have to hide behind someone famous, rich, or powerful. It's the typical cowardly Singaporean response, "Not I say one hor. They all say one!"


OK, there's only two context the above quote can be used in "positive" light.

The first is where you are in a motivational seminar or course where you are being sold to cheered the 'If you think you can, you can!" mantra. 

The second is where you are psyching yourself "I can do it!"

For both instances, you desperately need to buy-in to the notion that you can influence and control your own fate in life. 

The last thing you want to hear are destiny, alignment of the stars when you were born, luck, and heaven forbid, randomness!

You think you are better than others

Just like Jamie Dimon of JPMorgan Chase putting down a journalist with, "That's why I earn more than you", you feel smug about yourself telling others that if they die poor, it's their fault. 

Well,  so much for empathy...

You could be also feeling exasperated, angry, or even vindictive during a debate or argument with a "non-believer" (why must everyone be interested in financial freedom?), and in the heat of the moment, you let loose this Bill Gates quote knowing full well this would hurt.

And now you are feeling remorseful...   

Karma is a bitch

Don't give me the crap how you were poor or disadvantaged in your early days, and how you studied and worked hard to be where you are today.

That's even worse! You now twisting the bayonet and implying all those who die poor are lazy and don't apply themselves in life?

There's a Hokkien saying, "Words don't say too early."

It ain't over till the fat lady sings.

The day may come you lost everything through no fault of your own, and see how you feel some smart aleck tells it to your face, "You die poor, it's your mistake."


Tuesday 8 September 2015

Don't fire until you see the whites of their eyes!

In the American Revolutionary war, Colonel William Prescott commanded the American rebel forces in the Battle of Bunker Hill against the British forces.

Low on ammunition, William Prescott gave the below (now famous) order to his men:

"Don't fire until you see the whites of their eyes!"

Remember, in the 18th century, they were using muskets - not rifles. Muskets are smooth bore firearms; the shorter the range its fired at an enemy, the more accurate and lethal the shot would be.

This is easier said than done.

Imagine the enemy marching towards you. You can see them clearly. You naturally instinct is to panic and fire. 

If you miss, imagine the horror while you are furiously re-loading your firearm, the enemy has closed even nearer to you and is now taking aim at you... A volley before the bayonet charge. Mama!

By the way, once the ammunition ran out, the Americans retreated. Technically, it was a "victory" for the British, but the British sustained much heavier deaths and wounded than the American side. 

Morale is higher on the American side.

Investing and Trading

Isn't this what we agonise and go through as investors and traders everyday?

Fire too early, we get stopped-out or suffer the gut-wrenching disgust with ourselves seeing red all over our portfolios.

Fire too late, we find ourselves standing at the platform looking like idiots as the train peals away without us...

Do we conserve our resources or throw everything (and the kitchen sink) at the first sign of an opportunity?

When low on resources, do we retreat to live and fight another day? Or do we stand our ground come what may? Ego versus objective?

For those of us who have been in the markets for sometime, we know how's it like to "win" the battle but lost the war...

And weren't there times we were glad and morale super high when we have "retreated" from the markets?

Saturday 5 September 2015

Thursday 3 September 2015

You still want to play equities in your 80s?

Today woke up late at 9am.

Teeth haven't brush, face never wash, first thing I did was to see if I can pick a "fight" with my nemesis. Or in K-pop or J-pop's England, my "rival". 

(What? If aunties can watch K-drama I cannot meh? )

One thing led to another; I also don't know how it led to me thinking do I still want to be in equities in my 70s to 80s?

I've noticed in my investment/trading journey, I've morphed and adapted to changes in my investment life cycle - if there's such a thing.

For example, I started out (as with most newbies) playing penny stocks. Now I don't.

Equities and cash were once upon a time the only 2 asset class I dabbled in. Now it has expanded to different asset classes and even "instruments of mass destruction". 

From paying in full with cash to margin accounts, to now using leverage of up to 10 to 1. (Don't try this at home without parental guidance.) 

I was thinking, will I want to be messing with all these shebangs into my 70s and 80s?

OK, trading to achieve that I can keep with a small account. It's like mahjong; to keep my mind active and dementia away. Not to worry.

Is there an asset class that's less volatile and "exciting" to the heart?

Can you imagine me living off dividend stocks in my 80s going through 1997 and 2008 all over again??? OK, maybe you are more optimistic on your heart condition than me...

I think I'm leaning towards a 2nd investment/rental unit that's paid in full during my "happy years" (乐龄 - now that's a good euphemism!)

I mean it can be good exercise to walk every month to my tenant and bang on doors, "Collect rent! Pay up!"

Also, if I move on, I think it's a lot simpler and easier to inherit property - something that can see, feel and touch - than a portfolio of arcane asset classes?

Unless of course you are super confident the persons you bequest to have the same financial literacy and investment acumen as you.

I don't know. 

Just saying...

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