23 May 2017

A Trip, a Fall, and a $115 Bill

My daughter is pretty enthu' about badminton. So in pursuit of her interest, she had joined her school badminton team. The twice a week night training span 3 hours each time. A typical session will see them doing all kinds of dexterity and stamina exercises before proceeding to skills training and practices. I think it's good for her. 

On one such occasion recently, they were jumping over shuttlecock casings serving as makeshift obstacles. I guess her dexterity was low that day. She mistimed her jump and tripped over the casing. It toppled, and rolled onto the side. She landed on it awkwardly. That was it. Accident. Injury.

Dear oh dear. Limp limp limp. 

As concerned parents, we sent her to the nearest hospital A&E. My guess was that it was nothing more than just a sprained ankle. But how to tell? Better safe than sorry.

2+ hours plodding through the hospital system of admission, triage, X-ray, seeing the doctor, getting bandaged, settling the bills and discharge, collect medicine, and LOTS (and I mean LOTS!) of waiting. Eventually done. 

Fortunately, nothing more than a common sprain. Of course, her ankle was looking like an elephant trunk by then. But, not too bad. Nothing broken, nothing more serious. Relief.

The bill? Apparently $200 for the A&E services, which seemed to be inclusive everything. But there was a $85 government subsidy. So the final bill was $115.

It so happens that one of the insurance policy I had previously bought for my daughter has an add-on component that covered any injury for medical claims up to $1,000 for each accident/injury. 

My insurance agent came over to collect the original receipt and took care of all the paperwork. I hope to see the cheque soon.

Guess I should put off terminating this policy. For now.

19 May 2017

Paying $1 a Day to Reap Half a Million

My son has started his National Service (NS). As he charts his journey serving that nation, progressing from boyz-to-man, it's perhaps also timely to set him on the journey to manage his personal finances.

As a national serviceman, he is entitled to sign up for the MHA/MINDEF group insurance scheme with Aviva. It is really a steal. $500,000 term insurance coverage (inclusive disability benefits) is only ~$20 per month. Enrolling onto it was easy as he doesn't even need to do the extra work of medical check ups given his NS status. We added on another $100,000 of personal accident insurance, so there's some added cost for his coverage. Renewal seems to be annual. In fact, it seems like his spouse and children can sign on to the same plan too in the future.

I did something similar for my daughter, signing her up with AIA for $505,000 term insurance and total permanent disability, plus $150,000 critical illness. Works out to under $480 a year for a 30-year term. That will cover her till age 47. Don't ask me why the odd $5,000, but it was quoted as such. It was pretty hustle free too.

I made it clear to both of them that this term insurance will not benefit them directly. After all, the only returns to be collected is upon morbidity! Rather, it is to protect their 'dependents'. In the near term, that will be us, the parents. In the longer term, their own families when they are married. And if nothing is ever collected, it's a good thing!

The whole point of term insurance is to replace the lost income when one dies too early, and family members are dependent on you. So it suffices to cover till one reaches financial independence. Obviously, as one builds up his/her own investment portfolios, the amount of term insurance coverage needed decreases over time. So it probably makes sense to have multiple term insurance policies, each ending at different ages. Effectively, "reducing the coverage over time".

I figure that they may want to add on another $300,000 or more when they are older, and to have term coverage that will span them till their estimated retirement age. I don't know when that will be for them, perhaps 55, 62, 65? Who knows. I shall leave that to them to figure out when they are older. The term insurance is therefore to cover the gap till it can be met or surpassed by an investment portfolio to provide the desired income for the dependents.

But for now, they can be assured that they are duly covered for $0.5m each.

Next, time to terminate their existing whole life and investment-linked policies, and free up the cash to put to better use!

27 January 2017

$Thousands Moved in a Minute

There is so much pent up demand to invest cash, even when the opportunities are basically short-term junk bonds.  Each time Moolahsense launches a peer-to-peer loan campaign at 2.30 pm on a "First Come, First Served" basis, the loans are fully subscribed within a minute.

My goodness, it has become a case of fastest finger wins!  A short pop by the toilet and I missed that window. What the shit, literally.  Want to lend money also difficult. Why do they launch these campaigns at 2.30 pm anyway?

What surprises me is that most recent campaigns have been in this format while offering a high of 18% interest. "Huat ah!"

I wonder why the companies do not seek the "auction" format where the interest is likely to be lowered due to competitive offers by lenders? Is this a sign of the extent of desperation for quick cash to tide over their business needs? These companies are probably in serious cashflow deficit situations.  Cash is king.

Of 21 loans I have participated in thus far, two have experienced late payments. Potentially, they could default. The business climate is difficult.

Most lenders put up between $1,000 to $3,000 per loan. The most extreme I have come across was $10,000.  So I guess most are taking the approach of spreading across many loans of small amounts. They are really junk bonds, so some defaults are to be expected.

As a lender, notwithstanding the defaults, it has remained profitable so far. Let's see how this keeps up.

Happy Rooster New Year! *squawk*

18 November 2016

Health365 and Counting

So I've been trying to clock 5,000 to 10,000 steps per day to walk off the calories. The logic being that 5,000 steps is approximately 250 calories expended. Doing that 30 days a month equates to 7,500 calories, which is about 1 kg of weight. [More on this: Investing and dieting - wealth and health]

It's not too difficult to reach 5,000 steps a day really. Walk to the MRT on the way to work. Walk out for lunch and back (I know, weather might suck). And again from MRT to home at the end of the day. A little each way and it all adds up.

But reaching 10,000 is an altogether different challenge. It means deliberately walking from the office to the MRT station without taking the feeder bus. In terms of time, it takes only marginally a few minutes longer. So it's not really a hustle. But it is a hustle doing so in working attire with a load in my bag, especially the laptop. Back-breaking killer.

I guess it helps to fiddle with the phone, catching a few pokemons and swiping at pokestops along the way. A mild distraction.

Wouldn't it be great if one could make some money doing this as well? Actually, there is. Not much, just a little.

The Health Promotion Board (HPB) started another season of the National Step Challenge not too long ago. All I needed to do was to download the Health365 app from the AppStore, and sign up for the challenge. With the S-Health app on my phone that does the step counting, I only needed to run the Health365 on some days to sync the step count.

[There's an alternative option of getting a free step counting device (Fitbit-like or a watch type) from HPB.]

The steps are accumulated. So every step counts. There are several levels of rewards as certain step counts are reached. A few click on the Health365 app on the Rewards page and an NTUC voucher gets mailed to me a few weeks later.

Free money for doing nothing more than keeping up my health. Isn't it great? Stay healthy yah.



03 November 2016

REIT on!

Owning a property can be a real pain, especially when you are still servicing a loan. Presuming it's rented out, then comes the pain of maintaining the property and dealing with the rent collection and such. There's also the income reporting and tax deductibles. Seems like quite a bit of work.

But there's an easier alternative of course. Outsource it! Let someone else manage it, and you are effectively engaging them to do it for you. Of course they take a cut, but you still get rental returns. With just one property, there's however no economy of scale. So the overheads involved can be high.

And then we have REITs. Effectively the same thing after all, but with the property manager handling multiple properties, collecting rents, while maintaining the properties. It's diversification.

I'm quite for REITs, particularly as they can serve to generate an income stream. It's not without risks though. There will be times when they raise funds from shareholders to fund some acquisitions. Each time they do so, they could very well be collecting whatever income they paid out!

And then, we now have the Phillip APAC Dividend Leaders REIT ETF. So we can own a slice of multiple REITs even! But I have some doubts if it's worth the while right now.

  • With an estimated yield of 5% dividends, its 0.5% management fee would drive it down to ~4.5% yield. I would expect to get 5-7% yield on typical REITs. So getting below 5% seems like a letdown.
  • Significant chunks of the REITs are non-Singapore based. While that offers country diversification, it comes with a foreign exchange risk.
  • And finally, it is a dividend-weighted ETF. If I understand it right, that means high-yielding REITs dominate. My sense is that a high-yielding REIT is not necessarily a good thing. Examine the local REITs and you can see that those yielding above 7% tends to be the ones whose total returns are huge negatives!

For now, I will keep to buying individual local REITs that are backed by parents with the muscle to provide a pipeline of properties to feed them. Capitaland, Ascendas, Mapletree. There are enough choices.

Reaping property incomes without owning any single property nor servicing any loans. I like.

03 October 2016

Portfolio of 8 Singapore Stocks - Oct 2016

It's been over a year since I started a Portfolio of 8 Singapore Stocks on 28 Aug 2015 for fun. How has that theoretical $100,000 portfolio fared after all the gyrations of 2016?

Stock
No. of 
Shares
28 Aug 15
3 Oct 16
Value
OCBC
1,300
$9.280
$8.650
$11,245
Keppel
1,700
$7.200
$5.300
$9,010
M1
4,200
$2.920
$2.440
$10,248
Boustead
14,600
$0.855
$0.815
$11,899
Kingsmen
15,200
$0.820
$0.650
$9,880
VICOM
2,100
$6.000
$5.720
$12,012
HourGlass
17,000
$0.735
$0.650
$11,050
GKGoh
14,900
$0.840
$0.810
$12,740

The portfolio is now $88,084 (dividends not considered) and completely red. It's been a complete wash-out. I guess if I am a fund manager, I'm pretty much out of a job by now.


At the start of the year, I had stretched my neck out with a prediction that the portfolio would be positive by the end of 2016. Looks like I have stuck my neck out a tad? It's been a fairly horrible year. 

With only two months till the end of the year, is there still hope yet?  Perhaps a bridge too far? Time to recall the 1st British Airborne Division from Arnhem. The ghosts of Operation Market-Garden beckons.

Disclaimer: I have not bought such a portfolio on those dates. I am only doing this exploration for fun. But it is true that I do have all these stocks in my holdings and did buy more of some of them during Aug-Sep 2015. And I am certainly not clairvoyant, so I can't predict the future!

Related:
Portfolio of 8 Singapore Stocks - 31 Dec 2015

27 September 2016

When Junk Bonds Default

Opening disclaimer:
I should first declare that this is not about some oil and gas company going under!

It had to happen at some point. After a few months of trying out peer-to-peer (P2P) loan on Moolahsense, I've finally experienced the first delayed payment.

The company concerned made two monthly payments promptly for a 12 month loan, but it was only able to provide a partial and late payment in the third month. Not good. It is a potential default case.

As of now, I have 15 loans, each varying between $1,000 to $5,000. So it's still well within the 5% provision I made (see When junk bonds become my moolah).

It's still too early to count the rate of default. It's only been four months into this journey. Fingers crossed.

In 2005, when I first came across this form of P2P locally (Crowd funding comes to Singapore), the number of loan offers ("campaigns") were few and far in between. I guess those were its infancy. This year, the pace seems to have picked up quite a bit. Sometimes, there seems to be one every other day. Then it goes quiet for a period. Quite patchy. It's not yet a steady stream.

But once the portfolio has a number of loans made, it's kind of shiok to see notifications of payments almost every other day. It's probably mere coincidence that the loan payments fall on different days.

23 September 2016

An Uber Shiok Ride

I am a late starter I guess. I've been patiently waiting for taxis on evenings after work, to catch the ride home. But it was only last week that I got round to trying out Uber. More specifically, UberPool, which is potentially a shared ride.

The experience was seamless!

After keying in my pick up location and destination, I got a response instantaneously. The Uber cab was only 2 minutes away. Must be my lucky day. And on the app, I could see his vehicle number, car model, where he was at that moment, and the route he was taking. I could even make out that he was making a U-turn! Talk about real-time tracking and total situation awareness.

But as I was waiting along the roadside without an obvious landmark at the pick-up point, I was worried he might miss me. Likewise, I might not notice him in time since there would be no taxi markings. But no worries, the cab came with his headlights blinking away. That was his way of signalling to his passenger. How thoughtful.

Although I had booked it as a UberPool ride, there were no pick-ups along the way. So I was alone for the entire journey.

On reaching my destination, I only needed to get off. No time wasted fiddling around with my wallet and change. As my account was already linked to my credit card, the payment was automatic. Seamless.

Soon after, I received an e-mail detailing the ride, the path taken, and the final bill with discounts accounted for. The journey I took normally cost more than $25. The trip, even at a surge rate of 1.2x, cost only $23.90. And since it was my first ride, there was a discount of $10. So the final bill came to only $13.90. With the rate defined up front, there was no worries of variation depending on where he went, or conditions due to traffic.

Thoroughly seamless. And cheaper to boot! Uber-wonderful.

The driver was a nice chap to chat with. He was a retiree and was driving only to past his time. He typically drove 3 hours in the morning and another 3 hours in the afternoon. That was enough to make a few hundred dollars a day to supplement his income. As an Uber driver, he also enjoyed fuel discounts of 30%. Sounded like a damn good deal to me.

I gave the driver a 5-star rating on the app.

And in case you're as much a noob as I am, here's a discount code for your first ride: "8J72RG53UE". According to the Uber advert, you should get a $10 discount on your first ride, and I will likewise benefit with a $10 discount too.

Have a pleasant ride and a wonderful weekend!


21 September 2016

How Much Cash is Needed for a Hospitalisation?

So my aged mother had a fall. She is statistically above average in age. It's a blessing that she has been largely well all these years. But it had to happen, sooner or later. Any fall at this advanced age is likely to have consequences.

She has decided to forego an operation given her age. And she'd rather live with the pain and a slow recovery (if ever), rather than subject herself to the risk of an operation.

It's been a fortnight of hospital stay, followed by weeks in the rehabilitation ward at the adjoining community hospital. Hospitals can be quite seamless with this modern clustering design.

Class C ward can be a very noisy affair at the primary care hospital. Lots of fellow patients groaning throughout the day and night, the occasional smell of overflowed urine, the psychological fear when there is an unfortunate death, etc. Many negatives.

But the rehab ward was a different matter altogether - significantly quieter, a lot more airy, spacious and fascinating layout of eating and resting spaces that try to prepare the patient towards conditions that are closer to the home feel. The nursing care has been quite an eye opener and pleasant surprise. Such cheery looking staff! They are wonderful people.

What's the financial damage? Well, for a Class C ward, the total bill after Medishield was a few thousand dollars which was taken care of by Medisave. So that's been zero cash outlay so far. It's so important that we have these safety buffers.

08 August 2016

Pokemon-Go and what it means to daily life

Over the past weekend, the level of human activity in Singapore has surely increased significantly. There are visibly more human beings walking around, albeit a bit strangely? Never have I seen any product that could create that kind of impact on human behaviour overnight. Welcome to the Age of Pokemon.

Anyway, as I trolled around neighbourhoods, staring at my mobile phone and the battery draining Pokemon app, I had a few moments of insights ...

How is Pokemon-Go good?

- Long waits at Polyclinic may become more bearable. There're two PokeStops outside a Polyclinic I came across. May well be a bad thing too. People don't want to leave when their visit is actually done!?

- Parks are in fashion. It has encouraged more people to step out and about. There're numerous PokeStops around the park trails. Health Promotion Board and N.Parks should be happy.

- Quiet National Park trails become popular. I noticed a string of 10 or so PokeStops along that otherwise quiet trail off Casuarina (nearby the Prata shop). Don't fall off the trail!
[p/s: Don't bother with Coney Island though - nothing there except sand-flies apparently! Sheesh.]


- The Zoo is now worth more than the animals. Comes with virtual ones too. Kids are going to get thoroughly confused with the proper names and species of animals. Rats and birds will never be the same again.

- It's going to create an increased demand for portable battery chargers. Challenger will be most happy.

- You will feel like a celebrity, because people seem to be pointing their camera phones at you. Actually, they're just chasing Pokemons. Don't feel that your privacy is being invaded. You're not that handsome/pretty after all.

Time to start selling Pokemon toys and anything Pokemon? Sounds like a retail business.

Meantime, I've clocked more steps a day on average ever since. It's quite life changing. For now.

Oi, is that a rat in your ramen?