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Friday, 25 September 2020

88 Trillion World Economy (2019)


It feels good that our little red dot has a place on the chart. 

Imagine how would you feel if our country is lumped together with "rest of the world"?

Very interesting Singapore and Hong Kong are same same. We play similar roles. One is gateway to South East Asia, while the other is gateway to Greater China.

Look! We are "sama, sama" with Malaysia too!  

Glad most of our Asean neighbours have their spots too. Indonesia power! 

Population size matters huh?



Monday, 21 September 2020

Best Advice On Stock Investing


Only buy stocks that go up in price.

Those that don't go up in price, don't buy.

Thursday, 17 September 2020

The Thing About Extended Warranties


A few years back, when I switched to retailing of home electronics and appliances after moving on from my weekend Howard Storage World sales gig (company went bankrupt), the retailer I was posted to by my brand organised a meeting for all promoters not under their payroll.

For those not familiar with the retailing of home electronics/appliances scene, the majority of the sales staff are not on the payroll of the retailer, even though we wear the same uniform. Wink.

That's why you walked into the store interested in brand X, but walked out with brand Y... You've been "washed". LOL!

This retailer has a partnership with a insurance company to bundle and sell extended warranties. So they want us to promote these extended warranties to our customers.

Of course non of the promoters were interested. We were more interested in promoting our own brands - the carrot is sales commissions and incentives like bonuses if we hit our sales targets; the stick is no sales survive on basic very the sad one...

A few months passed and the extended warranty scheme was a dismal failure... 

So the retailer used the stick and threatened us. If we don't sell X number of extended warranties per week, they will kick those non-performing promoters out.

Never make threats you can't follow through... 

Most of us ignored their bluff. (Except those weak or newbie promoters who got worried)

Remember I said most of the sales promoters are not on their payroll?

The retailers depend on us "free" resources. So the threat is like cutting off your nose to spite your face.

Furthermore, most of the brands belong to international worldwide MNCs. You think they care about a local local or regional retailer? Really?

So after a few awkward months of empty threats, the retailer finally capitulated. 

Now switch to carrot approach.

Going forward, every extended warranty a promoter sells, we'll get a sales commission. 

Now the extended warranty scheme finally took off!

Not too bad. Its not really any extra work. After closing a sale, we just ask customers whether they want to add an extended warranty to their purchase.

The extra commissions for those who can "push" these extended warranties can amount to a few extra hundreds a month. 

See how extended warranties become "good" for customers once promoters get incentivised?

Of course this story is not really about extended warranties. 

Its about human psychology and motivations.

And you probably never thought about it. (Unless you're landowner or shepherd.) 

Its pervasive. 

From politics, to business, to religion. 

Yes, even religion. 

The cell leader for that Taiwanese Buddhist monastery (very big in Taiwan) was very frank with me when she confided with me one of reasons they offered "free" meditation sessions was to not only create more awareness and publicity for the monastery (relatively unknown in Singapore), but its also to raise funds for further expansion in Singapore. (Got market share KPI?)

I'll leave it to you to figure out how to raise funds when its "free" meditation sessions?

If you confused, you're probably the target for all those "free" course previews, "free" spa treatments, "free" drinks, "free" food promotions!




Friday, 11 September 2020

The Truth About COE and BTO

Have you ever wondered why our COE (Certificate of Entitlement) for vehicles is based on auction (code for who got money gets) while our HDB BTO (Build-To-Order) is based on balloting (code for lucky draw)?

What would happen if they were switched?

What's the "true" market price for our HDB BTOs? 

Its the price for resale after the 5 years minimum occupation rule is up isn't it?

You know it; I know it. 

Its a substantial subsidy from big daddy. Period.

Yet there are those every once in a while will pretend, pretend complain HDB makes "obscene" profits and there's no subsidy at all... 

OK lor, let's change the HDB BTO balloting to the COE price auction model.


Two groups of HDB buyers would be most happy!

1) That's those who got no luck.

Try and try, can never get a ballot number for their preferred location in mature estates.

Give up, choose those "ulu" brand new HDB estates. OK. got ballot but the number they got is way at the end of the queue. Which means you get to choose what others have "discarded"...

For those who are very picky (property is location, location, location, no?), no choice have to "capitulate" and buy resale. 

Pay a lot more than your neighbours who got theirs direct from HDB, but hey, anything money can solve, its no longer a problem. Wink.

2) Then there's those sour grape "carrots" who aren't mobile, they'll be glad if HDB BTO has switched to the COE price auction model, there goes the 2 bites of the cherry windfall!

And here they are, worried sick what will happen to their HDB flats after 99 years....  

They are like the proverbial dog who sits on a nail and whines and whines, when the problem is easily solved by moving their butts. 

But no.

If I can't make money (by moving), then everyone should not too!



Now consider for a moment what will happen if we implement the HDB balloting system for our COEs?

First, we'll get the ridiculous situation where a billionaire will not get a brand new car if he's that unlucky? Never mind the COE now is "free" under the balloting scheme...

And people being people, once they spot a "lobang" (opportunity), everyone will start flipping cars!

You never wondered why 2nd hand used HDB flats would cost more than brand new virgin HDB flats? 

So what's so surprising about 2nd hand cars costing more than brand new cars fresh from the showroom if we go the balloting route?

Still don't believe balloting is a lucky draw subsidy?

If everyone and anyone can afford a car, what will happen?

No need to look far.

Just look at the major cities in Asia. 

We'll just switch from complaining cars in Singapore so bloody expensive to whining about why big daddy not doing anything to the maddening traffic jams we face everyday!!!??? 

Hello? They sleeping or what!? Earn so much some more!

Its heartening big daddy has many schemes to help the disadvantaged and those with few means to own their own HDB flats, never mind if its just a 2 room HDB flat. We need to start somewhere first.

That's perhaps why when interviewed by the media on the HK protest situation, big daddy pointed out its a housing problem. Wink.

And when we had the constant breakdowns in MRT and overcrowding in the buses and MRT, there's the 40/60 swing to the opposition, remember?

People can accept car ownership is not for anyone and everyone, provided we get the "promised" Swiss standard of living level of public transportation. 

But to be reminded you are "cattle-class" whenever you go to work... 





Tuesday, 18 August 2020

4 days workweek hawkers


I'm seeing more and more hawkers in Queenstown opening for 4 days a week.

That's a good sign. 

Which is also part of the Singapore story.

Mind you. These hawkers are in their late 60s, 70s, and even 80s! They have worked 30 to 40 years to be where they are today.

No, they are not "lazy". 

They've earned the right to take it "easy" a bit, for they have "enough".

Their grown up children are probably poly or uni graduates. The "bo tak chek" ones with "ang gong" on their bodies would have a hawker stall of their own. Like that ABC fishball noodle and Tanglin Halt wanton noddle stalls, both had their sons having their own hawker stalls at Alexandra Village.

Its another one of those "real people, real stories" examples where you don't have to feel "pressured" to invest or else...

Especially if investing is not your thing...

Be it trading or investing, its not any different from selling chicken rice or nasi lemak. 

Its a craft.

Never mind the nouns; focus on the adjectives.

If we are good at what we do, then we can survive 30 to 40 years doing what we do,

Ever wonder why those hawkers in their 70s or 80s are still working - albeit on a 4 days workweek - instead of taking it "easy" at home?

Well, you'll know the answer when you try it yourself. 

I found it out myself after 18 months of "doing nothing" after my return from Athens.

When everyday is Sunday, Sunday soon loses its meaning.


Friday, 24 July 2020

Chance meeting with the fisherman!

Guess who I met on the bus yesterday afternoon?

I was riding in bus 122, going to Tiong Bahru market at around 1.30 pm to buy braised duck for mom, when I saw CW getting up the bus!?

Of course I waved at him to say hello!

The funny thing, looking at the both of us - bermuda shorts, slippers, and worn-out T-shirts - we don't look anything like men of leisure at all...


But then again, the fact we can walk here, walk there on a weekday afternoon, and not stuck at our trading screens, it speaks volumes on our trading/investing styles....


Thursday, 9 July 2020

Others Can; We Can't - Not So Bad After All!

I was fooling around as usual at CW's blog, then something interesting popped-out from the bantering...

What if there's a "lobang" that others can access, but we can't?

You'll be upset right?

So unfair!

It was about this voluntary cash refunds for CPF savings used for property purchases. 

There's some still grey areas that I'm not crystal - and I thought my england quite powderful!

Anyways, I won't talk too much about it.

I'm not a fan of voluntarily shoving money back into CPF; but tell me how we can get money out from CPF I'll be all ears!


Yup, I don't feel like giving you ideas for something that I wouldn't do myself.

What I can do is share something similar. 

With interest rates probably going down again, I believe property owners with outstanding housing loans are very much looking into refinancing their loans once again? 

1/2 percent saved here, 1 percent saved there. 

Can save a few thousands every year!

I can't join in the fun.


From the very day I bought my HDB 3 room resale flat, my outstanding housing loan was below $100K.

Banks not interested to do refinancing if the outstanding loan is below $100K.... No meat.

Should you be upset if you were in my shoes?

For those who don't get it, I shall be a bit clearer.

You mean those who got a $300K outstanding housing loan after buying a HDB 3 room resale flat be happier?


Yes, I do "lose out" by not being eligible to save on the small interest rate differentials through refinancing...

But the thought of "saving" $200K is perhaps compensation enough?

How's that for not sweating the small stuffs?

Like paying for life and medical insurance policies, we win when we lose; and we lose when we win?

Moral of story?

Don't get too upset when others can; we can't!

Monday, 6 July 2020

This 99 years thingy...

I long time no tell stories already.

Funny right? And to think during my first year of blogging, I was telling stories left, right, and centre!

Kung fu don't use will depreciate one. So here goes!

Once upon a time in a little red dot island, a family - father, mother, and 2 lovely children boy and girl - went for an extended vacation for 99 days.

So they found a service apartment (or chalet if you prefer) online that charges $120 per day. But if they pay in full upfront, they can get a 15% discount. So they took it. 

Got discount don't take stupid or what?

The service apartment got 3 bedrooms. 

It didn't take long before the money-minded enterprising father figured out that if he can force persuade ah boy and ah girl to share the same room, he could rent out the spare room!

That he did. And to his joy and happiness, he could rent out that spare room for $50!

He almost wanted to bribe his two children to sleep in the living room to make another $50 before his wife chided him,

"Are we here to vacation or to make money!?"

Sheepishly he dashed that idea... If the price of earning that extra $50 meant children not happy and wife angry, then its too expensive!

Fast forward 30 days later, the whole family got bored with the city they were vacationing in. Let's fly and explore another city!

But problem. 

They've already paid upfront for the full 99 days of rent. Leave like that very wasted...  

No worries! 

Ever enterprising Dad talked to a few travel agents and found lots of people were most willing to take over the rest of the 69 days from them at 50% premium for what Dad has paid for 99 days!!!

How can it be? Can't people count?

Oh! It just so happens the city our protagonist family were vacationing in just happens to be hosting the - Olympics/F1 formula race/film festival/huge business convention - its just a story, take your pick!

Hotels fully booked with visitors from all over the world. Any room available people will grab!

Never plan, never do analysis. 

Being at the right place, at the right time, has triumphed everything!

Ecstatic. Off our vacationing family went to another city with huge smiles on their faces! 

How to describe that feeling of knowing the past 30 days' accommodation were "free", and the rest of your 69 days' renting costs are now subsidised by the 50% profit you've just made?

Long story short. The family came back to their little red dot island and shared their wonderful vacation time and bonus good fortune with relatives and friends.

Some who listened tried it out themselves and came back with affirmations of their own,

"It true! Can vacation and make money on the side one! No bluff!"

And so this "lobang" (hot tip) became known to anyone and everyone.

Now story moved to this Charlie Brown and his family. 

Hmm... If others can do it, why can't I?

So same, same Charlie Brown copy/paste exactly what others did.

I think you know what's coming. Wink.

Bang! The city he and his family vacationing in got hit with - hurricane/tsunami/earth quake/volcano eruption - chose whichever one you fancy. 

A bit too drama you think?

OK, story over.

I shall leave you with 1 question and 1 moral of the story.

1.  The dad in our first protagonist family story - was it luck or was it skill?

2.  The moral of the story is make sure your name not Charlie Brown!


Thursday, 2 July 2020

Free-To-Play & Virginity

I must share a recent funny episode about this mobile gaming community in Reddit.

A gamer proudly screenshot his rank in PVP (player-versus-player) arena but titled his post as F2P (free-to-play).

Basically he was trying to be passive aggressive against those P2W (pay-to-win) players, implying as F2P, he too can achieve such a high ranking...

Making his "achievement", all the more impressive for all to see.

The trouble with internet is there's a paper trail.

Other Redditors were quick to dig up his old posts to show he indeed has bought gaming packs from the game developer during his early gaming days; and his previous posts boasting his collection of hard to get heroes were coming back to haunt him... 


Many were calling him a liar. A fake.

Then there are others who are quick to defend this gamer. 

Look! He only bought those gaming packs during his first few beginning months. Sure, they helped, but he has not bought anything since for the past 8 months. 

For all intended purposes, its perfectly fine to consider him "F2P" now. 

Don't be a pedantic and argue over semantics!

I couldn't stop myself laughing.

It made as much sense as your new girlfriend telling you she's a virgin for the past 8 months. 

Try it!

Next time people ask you whether you're a virgin, tell them you are one for the past 3 days.

See if they catch on to the joke... 


Jokes aside, you can see this kind of mental gymnastics in our financial community.

Let's take property.

The BTO flat prices offered by big daddy are very interesting. The top 2 floors are being offered at the same prices. 

If you had bought the 2nd highest floor, do you think you can advertise or pass off your flat as the "highest" top floor in your block? 

Do you really think you can get the same selling price as the ones on the top floor when its time for you to sell?  

Yet you are willing to pay the same price as the top floor when you can get the 3rd and 4th highest floors at lower prices...

How about perpetual bonds?

Now think about it. A "bond" with no maturity date...

Can it still be considered a bond?

Or maybe its more akin to equity in practice?

Don't look at me!

That's like lending money to a "friend" who promises to return it back whenever he feels like it. 

I should get more generous friends like you!

Then there's the home-made definitions when it comes to networth or calculating investment returns.

I forgot or didn't include this or that...

This I count, that I didn't....

Look! I only smoked; I didn't inhale...


Those of you who knows something about accounting will understand that's why we have Accounting Standards.

If we let companies decide what to include and what not to include, and come up with their own interpretations, then no need to pay taxes anymore!

Have fun! 

See if you can catch yourself trying to justify to yourself or others whenever you try to do something that makes no sense whatsoever.

But hey! What's life without a few little lies to ourselves?


Friday, 26 June 2020

Buy New, Repair, Or Throw?

What an interesting turn of back-to-back events!

First, my digital watch which I seldom wear - the one with thermometer, altimeter, compass built-in - has the liquid crystal leaked so that the display is now a black smear...

I went to the internet and saw we don't repair watches anymore; they simply change the whole module. 

The damage would be $100 to replace.

Let me see... I bought this watch for $250 more than 10 years ago, thinking how cool it is the wear it for my long walks. 

But then, when was the last time I used it to tell the temperature, direction, and elevation during my city walker treks?


Guess what I did?

I threw the watch away. 

No replacement with new as I have another 3 watches anyway.

Then my instant water heater died on me last Friday. 

Come on! 

I'll be moving to my en-bloc new flat end of this year. Die on me now?

I have no problem showering in the cold, but mom needs her hot water showers.

Had an argument with mom who insisted on repairing, while I wanted to buy new.

Mom's generation had the repair mindset, thinking repair is cheaper than buy new.

I had to prove to her no one repairs instant water heaters; its always replacement. 

What the repairman will do is to say come repair, then say cannot repair and suggest a replacement unit - that's how they snake oil uninformed housewives who are now captive customers... 

Hello, I work in this home appliances industry remember?

Found a cheapo China brand online for $70, install $50 - so $120 for 6 months of use max. I just treat it that I've "rented" this instant water heater for 6 months.

Guess what?

Dad called me in the morning just now. 

Yup, his fridge went to sell salted duck eggs...

Son, do you know anyone who can change the Freon refrigerant? 

Dad, can I buy you a new fridge this weekend at my workplace? One that's more energy efficient? 3 ticks?

Your that ancient antique fridge for more than 20 years is bloodsucking your energy bill every month... 

I pay lah! (That's how you win the argument)

You know what?

I realised the above 3 scenarios can be applied to our stock investing journeys. 

The problem with investing is we often let emotions get in the way of logic. 

No wonder more institutions have moved towards systematic and algorithmic trading strategies...

Can you relate them to your existing stock positions?

Tuesday, 23 June 2020

Strange Weather; Strange Markets?

Is it just me or the weather these few days a bit strange?

It feels like year end December rainy season right? And I thought June is supposed to be one of those hotter months...

Not that I am complaining. 

I'll chose the cool weather over hot and humid any day! That's until I ran out of underwear to wear...


No dryer lah. I old school. My laundry all sun-dried. Love the smell of sunshine on my clothes.

Quite interesting reading the US financial news recently.

It seems retail is beating the professionals 1st half of 2020. Especially the millennials with their Robinhood accounts!?

What you expect?

Talk about the strength of youth!

Their advantage is they don't know what cannot be done. Wink.

The fastest bear market from January to March has given rise to one of the strongest US bull market since the lows in March! 

Hey! Buy The Freaking Dip is still alive and well!? 

Even more impressive is all this despite the Wuhan virus (I'm a cat person), the lockdowns, the massive layoffs, and the economic pains in the real US economy....

Of course its never about I can do it, so can you...

Last week, a reader SMS me a story about a young 20 year old US trader who killed himself after amassing a $700.000 loss trading options...

But it will quickly be forgotten. 

Market participants know for every tragic story like the above, there will be an "inspirational" story on the other spectrum about that trader in his early 20s that grew his Robinhood account from less than $10,000 to over $2 millions in slightly more than 2 years! (Yup, in percentage terms beat Warren Buffett hands down; trading power or what?)

Make a guess which story will snake oils peddle to wannabes fearing they will miss out?


I wonder whether our local millennials over here are also beating the professionals recently since March?

Or are they like the old fogeys, waiting to breakeven one day....

Saturday, 20 June 2020

I'm so happy! Back to work today!

Yeah, I'm still alive and kicking. 

Nope, did not go sell salted duck eggs yet.

Took an extended 2 months spring break from blogging. 

In case you were wondering, I was heavily involved and distracted with mobile gaming. I think this market got potential to beat console and PC gaming one day...  Or maybe it has already? 

Was pleasantly surprised on the quality of games you can play on a mobile phone nowadays! IT dinosaur me...

Got a call from my company to report to work Wednesday. Only difference now is I can't jump from store to store like before. Must stay put in one store. 

I believe one fast food operator got into trouble when they rotated staff to different outlets; and the price they paid was ALL outlets have to close when their staff got infected. Ouch!  

Containment. Ringfencing. 

In investing/trading, we call it Position Sizing.

I tell you. 

I was lucky to be paid while sitting at home during the weekends for these two and half months. But when everyday is Sunday, Sunday soon losses it meaning...

I noticed there's a psychological impact/toll on me too.

No fun in roaming around Singapore when I can't eat out. Takeaway bring home already cold and not so nice to eat.

And without my 2 days of "rest" during the weekends by working, I've noticed I'm getting a lot less patient with mom during these 2 months.    

Let's hope things will slowly get back to normal.

Be safe. Stay healthy.

Tuesday, 21 April 2020

I surely didn't expect this - negative oil prices!?

I was in the last geographic batch when it came to the Open Electricity Market. 

Finally made the switch March 2019 to enjoy the discount in my monthly electricity bills.

Occupational hazard meant I chose the variable plan. I've a bearish bias on energy prices going forward.

But I never expected negative oil prices!!!

When Brent was threatening USD100 per barrel several years back, I was involved in a project to test shipping one container from Guangzhou and another container from Shanghai to Dortmund, Germany via the Trans-Siberian Railway!?

I mean if shipping rates were going through the roof, we had to find an alternative cheaper land solution - short of moving production back to Europe...

If I were still with my old employer, I wonder what projects I'll be working on to take advantage of the unprecedented crash in energy prices! 

Tuesday, 7 April 2020

Correct Belief vs Correct Practice

I'll steal with pride from CW and do a blast from the past.

When I first wrote it in 2013, you could hear a pin drop... LOL!

Now, maybe some can appreciate it better, having gone through both bull and bear phases in their financial journeys.

Here's the post:

Orthodoxy versus Orthopraxy

When we started out, without any track record to our name, we have to rely on some theories as our foundation. And more frequently than not, these theories or "correct beliefts" were implanted into us from outside in.

It could be a book we read , a class we paid for, an advice from someone we trusted, or even an anonymois source we swallowed hook, line, and sinker nevetherless!? Hey! Its "free" what!?


How did all those "correct beliefs" done recently?

Some are not shaken. Their "faith" strong as ever. Unrealised losses are not "real"...

Some are having their cognitive dissonance moment. 

Some are not letting this crisis go to waste. They are thinking for themselves and making adjustments to their "correct beliefs". 

No need to consult others as they have their own track records to do their own "trust but verify" due diligence. 

Some "beliefs" they had held dear for so many years may have to be thrown out...

Its the transition to grey. 

Where "labels" matter less. Just like you don't care whether the cat is black or white, can catch mice that's what important!

"Correct practice" can also be more apealing to those who thrive on feedback from reality. 

When we do something, there will always be "crash got sound" feedback. 

When all one does is "believe" but never do anything abougt it, how to verify whether its true or not? Wink.



Saturday, 4 April 2020

Indexing versus Individual Stocks

I think I shall give him a new nickname. I'll call him the Ant Man!

Why reinvent the wheel when I can steal with pride?

Look at the chart below:

Covid-19 Bear Market 2020 - Round 2 Coming??? 

CW's chart is great to gauge our risk/reward profile.

STI index fund or ETF

The advantage of buying a Singapore STI index fund or ETF is it can't go to zero - unless the whole Singapore island disappear under the sea?

But to get a 2 bagger, we'll have to buy around STI 1,500 and wait for mean reversion back to 3,000.

To triple our money, its a scary buy at STI 1,000 - yes, not that far from 1997 Asian Financial Crisis level!!!

I hope you didn't have any illusions of scoring a 10 bagger using an index fund or ETF!

OK, its possible. Buy in your 20s at STI 1,000, and hope STI will hit 10,000 in your 60s?

But in your 20s, how much can you invest? 

Its those in their late 40s or early 50s that have real money to bet, but you'll have to pray for long life like Dr Mahatir...

Then again, you can always gift your STI index fund or ETF to your children, if you believe in buy only - never sell. Ever!

Individual stocks

If you are great at stock pickings, you don't need to wait for STI 1,500 or 1,000. At any level also can! Penny stocks anyone?

You can ask around, there are some astute ones who bought individual stocks in 2009 are sitting on 5 or 10 baggers during 2018. That's provided they sold. Wink.

That's a lot better than buying the STI index at around 1,500 and "merely" getting a 2 bagger ++...

But then again, if you are not so good, individual stocks can go to zero. Trust me, I know...

There's no free lunch. 

You win big; you lose big.

Choose your poison

So there you go. 

Like in a casino, walk to your preferred gaming table, Place your bets!

Just don't be like that young 20 something fresh from school with FIRE dream to retire at age 35, have made wonderful SMART goals, and detailed planning for each and every milestones, only to have chosen the poison of STI indexing... Eh?

I've said this too many time in the steering group when reviewing the goals and action plans of our young shepherds,

"Are you aware your ladder is leaning against the wrong wall?"


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