Friday 29 April 2016

Do what you like; like what you do

I've always envied others who knew what they wanted to do when they grew up.

Me? I've no clue except I know I don't like a desk bound kind of job. 

My career was a series of job hopping until I found the right fit (see my story). Its more a "crash got sound" way of finding out what I liked; what I hated.

I think the more "educated" way of saying is "Learn By Doing"?

So I'm probably the last person to give you any career advice.

Just would like to share with you a story from my past.

During my secondary school days at Gan Eng Seng School during the early 80s, I think I was in Sec 2 (1981), the Army came to our school during one assembly to do a sales pitch for the SAF Boys' School.

Basically its to sell to those of us who are not academically inclined to join them. We can earn a small allowance while we "study"! How cool is that!

Further more, we can have a head start if we sign on to the Army!

While our peers are recruits, we are already NCOs lording over them during NS. Wink.

Interestingly, the SAF Boys' School closed in 1984. (You pause and reflect for a moment)

Fast forward to my NS time at 9 RITC Taman Jurong Camp. 4/5 of the store IC sergeants were from the now defunct SAF Boys' School.

Let's say all except one managed to renew their contracts when they hit 28 years old.

When I bumped into them in civilian life, they were now either storemen or despatch riders...

What do you do when you have a shortage of NCOs?

What do you do when you no longer have a shortage?

What do you do when you now need thinking soldiers who can operate computers and complex equipment? (You prefer Poly graduates )

Do you still care about those words written on water that you have uttered when you were doing your snake charming to impressionable 14 years olds?

Don't get me wrong. There will always be those ex-SAF Boys' School who had successful long military careers as warrant offices, and when they left the Army, became well to do business owners.

They will wax lyrically how they would probably end up as gang members, and if without the early discipline in their lives, they won't be where they are today. Sob, sob. Can you pass the tissue? 

There will always be a bell-shaped distribution curve thingy... How about the majority that fell through the cracks? 

Remember when we had a shortage of teachers?

What did they do?

How's the attrition rate and morale of teachers today?

Now we worry we may have a shortage of engineers.

What did they do again?

If you wanted to have a military career, be a teacher, or an engineer, you would do it even if the pay or the prospects suck. Anything more is a bonus! That's knowing what you want!

If you no clue what to do (like me), well, nothing wrong with "tikam tikam", try try. That's the Thomas Edison's "crash got sound" way of discovering what element to use for the light bulb's filament.

Now you know one profession you either like or hate! 

But if you go in knowing in your heart that's NOT what you like; you are just in it for the money. Well, you deserve it, doesn't it?

There's a name we call those who do it just for the money.


P.S.  Welcome to the club. Although I call myself a man-whore when it comes to investing and trading, somehow, I don't think we have much in common...

Tuesday 26 April 2016

Heuristics - short cut or blind following the blind?

When we chit-chat or do bantering at our neighbourhood coffee shop, it's OK to do a bit of talk "male chicken" here and there.

You are welcomed to do it here at this watering hole too.

But when it comes to putting your own money on the line, you may want to do a few more verification questions before you swallow what others say hook, line, and sinker...

Let me share some examples where blindly relying on other people's heuristics may do more harm than good:

Top floor no good; too hot

Often we hear this urban myth shared by parrots who heard it from a friend of a friend or from their ah ma.

Not that their friend or ah ma were wrong, mind you.

Problem lies with you. Did you verify the context and perspective of their feedback?

The 4th storey of 4 storey walk-up apartment is "top floor".

My current HDB flat's top floor is 10 storey.

Contrast it with the newer HDB BTOs where top floor can be 47 storeys!

How about the 2nd level of a 2 storey landed bungalow? Is it "top floor" too?

Feeling sheepish now?

Blue chip stocks are safer

Eh? What exactly is a blue chip stock?

Are NOL, Chartered Semiconductor, Standard Chartered Bank, and Olam considered blue chip stocks? They big daddy owned you know? 

How's that working out for you?

Do you know the differences between a stalwart blue chip and a cyclical blue chip?

I didn't think so.

Warren Buffett says we should do passive index investing

There is a difference between buying into low cost index funds and ETFs. If you can name the differences, it shows you know what you are getting into. Superb!

Some US proponents of low cost indexing have found the S&P 500 too "narrow focused" and have recommended the Wilshire 5000 instead.

And some passive indexing gurus have even warned their US followers not to commit to a single country focus and seek greater diversification by having a global low cost index fund. 

Now what do you think of our STI ETF of 30 component stocks as a passive indexing strategy?

You sure this was what Warren Buffett had in mind?

I wanted fish ball noodles, but can't find; so I bought bak chor mee...

Please don't say bak chor mee is fish ball noodles OK?

Develop your own heuristics

One man's meat is another man's poison.

A mentor will facilitate his mentee to become his own man.

A snake oil shepherd will encourage his followers to become part of his flock.

Cats can't be herded.


Friday 22 April 2016

Landed property and car with $6K per month household income

Success is what we have to sacrifice to achieve it.

Hold on to this thought as I share with you this story about my colleague. I think their story can be a good counterbalance to financial bloggers and readers who think (and plan) too much.

Husband and wife in their early 30s.

Combined household income around $6K per month.

One is a technician, the other in retail sales like me.

Both non-graduates. Nope. Not even A' levels or Poly.

They are now living in a landed property, and have a car.

No, they never invested, start a business, or embarked on any financial freedom journey.

So how did they do it?

Both got married early.

Bought their HDB 4 room flat before prices went ballistic.

Rented out the whole flat.

With the rental income in Sing dollars, they in turn rent their landed property in JB near the 2nd link with Ringgit dollars. That area is fast becoming Little Singapore.

Not those huge Bukit Timah or Katong houses mind you.

More like those quaint SIT/HDB landed terrace houses that lined Commonwealth Avenue, or similar to those 70s private landed houses that lined the Macpherson road area.

But still, they have small garden in front and a yard at the back, plus space for 1 car driveway/garage.

Got left over from their Sing dollar Ringgit arbitrage that they can afford a Singapore car.


Earning power in Singapore, cost of living expenses in JB. Power!

Of course there's no free lunch.

They have to sacrifice extra 2-3 hours each day braving customs.

Before you argue back, when was the last time you are able to leave work on the dot when you have a high power career? No 60 hours work week to justify your high salary? You lucky basxxxd!

Wednesday 20 April 2016

Some people just sucks at science...

Yup, it's another case of "stealing with pride" from Patty's facebook again!

I can't stop laughing.

Some years back, got "friends" tell me not to drink Coke. They tell me how Coke can remove rust from rusty nails so imagine the damage to my intestines and stomach!!!

And these are graduate "friends"!? Can score in exams but...

By the way, Coke is the secret trick to wash pig intestines by our "kway chup" hawkers. Wink.

Saturday 16 April 2016

Sculpture Art At Hindoo Road

Wednesday afternoon, I went to Mustafa to do some shoe-leather research.

After which I just roamed around Little India a bit bit.

Lo and behold!

I chanced across these sculpture art pieces at Hindoo Road.

Brilliant isn't it?

I think we can do more of such activities on empty plots of land instead of those boring "No Trespassing" signs.

If I more entrepreneur, I would go sell ice-creams there!

Thursday 14 April 2016

Can Procrastinate Lah!

After reading the butterfly's latest post on procrastination, I went speechless...

Normally I can come up with some wisecracks and poke back when I disagreed. But this time I just felt uncomfortable - the kind where I can't pin-point where or why I am uncomfortable.

You ever had such a feeling?

Thankfully Patty came to the rescue with this link in his Facebook:

Ah! Idiot!

No wonder I felt something was not right...
The butterfly was masquerading as an ant! Almost got me for a moment!

A person that reads 50 books a year is definitely a procrastinator!

Who so "wu liao" (boring) as to want to put a tick on a box every week? Unless one is a procrastinator too?


If you don't see the humour in this, may I hazard a guess in that you are struggling with your investment/trading journey right now?

Yup, you are not procrastinating enough!


Monday 11 April 2016

Get married early to enjoy early bite of the HDB cherry?

Those of you who are in your later 30s or early 40s would have noticed this interesting anecdotal realisation:

Your peers who got married 5 or 10 years earlier than you are either having a housing mortgage that's 100 to 200K lighter than you; or living in condo land while you are still "stuck" in the HDB heartlands...

Yes, there's such a thing called 2 bites of the HDB cherry and springboard to the next realm of private properties.

Even if your peers had stayed in the same HDB flat all this time, you are envious their housing mortgage is a fraction of yours, and can be debt free by 55 or earlier; while you continue to have this housing loan albatross hanging around your neck till 65...

That's where you also see married graduates in their 30s buying resale HDB 5 room flats in mature estates to be neighbours with despatch riders or bus captains.

You study while others got married in their early 20s. You bought resale while others bought direct from HDB 10 years ago.

Those of us with less formal education will flash our wry smile to those "educated types" who try to "tell" us to marry late... Sorry hor! We can think for ourselves! Thank you very much!

P.S.  I would like to share this piece by a new blogger who gives an interesting viewpoint from a younger person perspective:

Yes! Don't you dare "propose" to a girl with, "Want to apply for HDB BTO together?" 

If I'm the girl I'll probably kick you where it hurts the most and show my longest finger to your face, "Neh!"

Girls, let's sing together now, "If you want it, put a ring on it!"


Thursday 7 April 2016

How to choose your HDB BTO unit

I'm normally not a bleeding heart.

Now that I've got what I wanted, I can do a bit of "giving".


It's like trading or investing. Only after I've bought or sold will I share what I've done. We are not stupid; it's human nature.

Never trust anyone who tells you otherwise. (Or those with no skin in the game)

There's 2 ways to go about choosing your HDB BTO unit during your queue selection:

1) Measure you own feet (use other people's yardsticks) way

2) Put your own feet into the shoe way

And then you pray hard those who are in front of you in the queue think differently from you!

Measure your own feet

Some people just don't trust grey grey, qualitative, I feel you feel, way of doing things. If it's not measurable, it can't be trusted.

You don't trust your own intuition or analysis. Just like for investing, you prefer to rely on sell-side analyst reports or analysis done by your favourite financial bloggers. They say jump, you jump!

There's an excellent blog to analyse new HDB BTO developments by a Senior Architect Associate (I've no clue what that means; is he qualified architect or not? Don't look at me!):

It's purely non-solicited, and I've no financial gain whatsoever if you like his free analysis so much that you want to pay for his paid versions.

Although if this blogger realise I've been sending him new readers, and would like to buy me a drink, it would be very much appreciated!

Put your own feet into the shoe

I went down to all the 5 SERS replacement sites.

In the morning, in the afternoon, in the evening, and in the night. Yes. Physically. Not the same day of course! Spread out over several sessions.

And to experience how different floors and orientation may affect our unit selection, I made use of my past experiences - my own past dwellings and observations while visiting friends and relatives.

I also visited the nearby completed HDB developments to get first hand feel of the different areas. Checked out the top floors, middle floors, and low floors. No climbing of stairs lah! There's such a thing called - lifts.

Yup, I don't buy shoes online. Wink.

Monday 4 April 2016

Got lucky again! I got my HDB SERS Penthouse replacement!

OK, its not a penthouse, I exaggerated. Pardon my happiness. 

It's a HDB BTO top floor corner unit that's my first choice! Wink.

First sign I noticed Lady Luck was blowing my way was my ballot queue number - it's around the 1/3 quartile? Not the best; but at least not the bottom of the queue like some of my neighbours...

Second luck factor was that most of the current HDB flat owners are in their 70s or 80s. Those ahead of me were definitely not out to take full advantage of their better ballot queue numbers like in regular BTOs. Older folks don't like high floors. 

Kudos to HDB as the flat selection process was very transparent. There's a website where we can see the units being "booked" by those ahead me. I watched with incredulity and a sigh of huge relief as many were selecting the mid and lower floor units!?

Without the above luck, all the factors I can "control" and somewhat "influence" below will be for naught.

1.  I spent 6 years of my primary school in that area so I knew the 5 SERS replacement sites extremely well. That's the advantage of property over equities. Can see, and touch, and smell!

2.  I knew the meaning of 闹中取静 - seek sanctum of quiet in a busy marketplace. My first choice site was not the top 2 most popular sites in this SERS exercise.

For eg, I want to be situated near a MRT station; not next to one. 

3.  I got do independent research. Many were getting their info at the coffee shops or at the lift landings. You know, similar to stock "investing" - like what stocks to buy, what you bought recently, got tips or not?

It's not surprising if an opinion leader says she will chose site X, most of her kakis will follow. It's fun to eavesdrop to their conversations.

When you buying your property, how many of you took a look at:

4.  What would happen had I taken the stance that the place we are living in is not an "investment". Or 99 year lease is not "ownership".

Why bother on improving our craftsmanship on something we don't care about?

It helps to have the "correct" mindset from the beginning.

5.  What luck? I like the smell of sunshine on my laundry!

There are only 4 flats on a straight horizontal row on the top floor. They are all North-South facing.

However, the laundry yards are either facing East or West.

The unit I am eyeing is the corner unit with laundry yard facing the West setting sun - that's the arrangement of my current Tanglin Halt flat. Nothing beats first hand experience!

The corner unit with laundry yard facing the East was snapped up pretty early. It's facing another nearby block so I am guessing the owner wants to avoid the West setting sun. Lucky me!

My selection was 2:30 pm and on the morning; I got a mild heart attack when I checked at the HDB website at 12:30 pm - someone booked a unit on the top floor!

Lucky me again!!! This owner chose the 2nd unit with laundry yard facing the 3rd unit on the top floor!?

Hate the sun until don't mind others looking into your yard? OK, on the top floor not so bad. But for the lower units, this arrangement creates an air well that will never see the light of day unless the sun is directly overhead. Some of you may have experienced this effect in the newer BTO flats where its noon and the kitchen is so dark you need to switch on the lights?

Hey! I'm not complaining! I'm the first person in the queue after the lunch and I quickly made my selection. Top corner North-South facing unit with laundry yard facing the West setting sun. Ho say!

I tell you. Lucky as lucky does!

This post is a follow-up to my previous post:

My vision for SERS came true!

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