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?

No. of 
28 Aug 15
3 Oct 16

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!

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?

04 August 2016

When Junk Bonds Become My Moolah

Equity hasn't been kind in recent years. While a historical performance of 10-12% (with dividend reinvested) may have been the norm of past, it's been far, far lower of late. But income investing has remained decent with 3-4% dividend payouts while REITs have been giving me 5-6%.

With a combined family portfolio that has crossed seven digits, I felt that I can afford to ante up my risk palette. So I've started placing a small percentage of investment funds into a P2P platform, specifically, Moolahsense.

Spreading my investments into numerous blocks of a few thousand dollars each and across multiple loans, it's effectively creating a DIY junk bond fund isn't it? The nominal loan interests have averaged 17-18% across the portfolio so far. With many of the payments being made on monthly basis, after a while, it seems like there is an incoming payment every other day. Is that shiok or what?

But the shiokness can be deceiving. Logically, I would expect some percentage of defaults. I mean seriously, why would any company take up loans of 17-18% if they could borrow from banks at lower rates? It's almost as bad as owing credit card debts. Clearly, the banks see them as so risky that they are not even prepared to offer them a cent. So, everyone of them is a potential default case.

Like banks that make provisions for non-performing loans, I'm making a provision for 5% defaults. In simplistic sense, if a $100,000 portfolio is making 17%, that's an interest of $17,000. With a 5% default on principal, that's a loss of $5,000. But, the overall outcome would still be 12% gain in net income. Not bad.

But, if the defaults climb above 17%, I'll be in the red.

I'll see how this turns out after a year or two.

Supposing a portfolio of $1.3 million with a spread as follows:
- $1,000,000 of stocks @ 3.5% dividends = $35,000
- $200,000 of REITs @ 6% = $12,000
- $100,000 of P2P loans @ 12% = $12,000
That would generate a passive annual income of $59,000, or almost $5,000 a month.

01 August 2016

4 Apps and a Whole Load of Freebies

Digital wallets and e-transactions have taken some time to materialise. But surely and certainly they have. There now seems to be a myriad of options. I finally succumbed to this form of electronics transaction.

In truth, I didn't have much of a motivation to do so. Most, if not all, credit cards already have this pay wave option, and most transactions below $100 don't even need to be signed anymore.

I finally got round to installing Android Pay, but only because POSB/DBS has some offers to link their credit cards to Android Pay with the first five transactions offering 25% rebates till 30 Sep 2016. So why not?  Anyway, the installation and linking to my credit card was quite seamless and went without a hitch.

Using it, however, was another thing altogether. Must say I'm a noob on this. Wifey told me McDonalds was offering a further $2 rebate with payments via Android Pay. More discounts! So I gave it a go at the McCafe when we went to one outlet for breakfast over the weekend.

Took a few tries before I got it to work though. Other than switching on the NFC function on my phone, and activating the app, I couldn't figure out where on the reader machine I was supposed to place my phone against. Sheesh. Pretty embarrassing. Felt like an old fogey who couldn't handle technology. The staff was not much help, so I guess I sought some consolation in that. After some trying, it eventually worked. Looks like need to place the phone over the right corner of the reader.

Have a cuppa and enjoy discounts over discounts ... at least, for the first few transactions anyway.

And in addition to that, since I was ordering McCafe coffee, might as well use the McCafe app to earn the rewards to lead to a free drink. 5 cups of McCafe coffee will get you that freebie. Speaking of which, here's a trick when ordering at McCafe - you can order the normal McDonalds menu items too. Skip the lengthy queues at the normal McDonalds queue!

And since the McDonalds was at a CapitaMall, there's also their CapitaStar loyalty points programme. Snap a picture of the bill above $20 and get points that can be redeemed for a cash voucher.

So there you have it - 4 apps and a whole load of freebies: Android Pay rebates, McDonalds discount, McCafe free coffee, CapitaStar cash voucher.

25 July 2016

Menya Musashi vs Ajisen

I can't quite figure it out. Why is Menya Musashi so much better than Ajisen? I'm referring to their ramen. Menya Musashi's offer a range of "white", "black" and "red" ramen. The "red" ramen is probably for the masochists. I go with the "black" - it has a strong onion flavour. Burp.

The more cozy look and feel of Menya Musashi outlets are a lot more interesting, giving a more Japan-like "feel". Even the service staff seems a lot more motivated. Perhaps the smaller stalls allow them to provide a more steady rate of service? Or maybe they are better paid?

Or perhaps it's just the locales. Different place, different service?

Both are part of Japan Food Holdings. I think they should just consider replacing the Ajisen's with Menya Musashi's.

Japan Food hasn't been doing well of late on the stock market. It has been going downhill all the way for months. Yet, the company is holding steady with its revenue, although profitability has fallen. Dividend remains good, although nearly equivalent to its earnings. It has remained profitable.

Food is such a competitive market and is totally sensitive to labour costs. Given Singapore's labour shortage, it is quite a challenge for such businesses. It needs to find more productive ways of delivering the service.

I wonder if those 3-4 men shops that serve out ramen with long queues flowing out of the stores which I experienced in Tokyo may be a better deal? Rental is the other killer given our property prices.

Productivity, finding the next boundary to leap over. May be easier to catch a Pokemon?

17 July 2016

4 Credit Cards with Great Cashbacks and Discounts [updated]

Here are 4 credit cards that I use regularly. The first two cards from UOB and Citibank both offer rebates that are sometimes so similar I may not be getting the best deal if I use the wrong card. The other cards offer various discounts.

So this post is a reminder to myself to use the right cards when I frequent such places! Haha.

Citibank Dividend Visa Card

Esso - up to 20.88% (min $50 fuel)
Shell - up to 20.88% (min $50 fuel)
Burger King - 5%?
Prima Deli - 5%?
Starbucks - 10%?

8% discount only for >$350 in each category of Petrol, Groceries, Dining.

[Source: https://www.citibank.com.sg/gcb/credit_cards/citi_dividend.htm]

UOB One Visa Card

Singapore Zoo, River Safari - 5%+10%
Xpressflower.com - 5%
World of Sports - 2%
Metro - 2%
Caltex - 2% + 14%
Homefix - 2%
Cathay Cinema - 2%
Bengawan Solo - 3%
Breadtalk - 3%
Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf - 10%
Hard Rock Cafe - 3%
Overseas spending - 2% (max $100 rebate)

* Above are on top of SMART$ and a separate quarterly rebate of up to 3.33% based on consistent spending each month of the quarter:

Spend $500 per month for 3 months, $50 rebate.
Spend $1,000 per month for 3 months, $100 rebate.
Spend $2,000 per month for 3 monts, $300 rebate.

[Source: http://www.uob.com.sg/personal/cards/credit/uob_one_card.html]

OCBC Robinsons Visa Card

Robinsons, Marks & Spencer - 5%
Royal Sporting House - 5%
KFC Delivery - 10% (min $35)
Tajimaya Yakiniku - 10% (min $80)
Singapore Zoo - 20%
Night Safari - 5%
Golden Village Cinema - 4 for price of 3 (Fri-Sun only)
Agoda.com - up to 8%
Swissotel Equinoz - 20% off Sunday Brunch (till 2 Oct 16)

[Source: https://www.ocbc.com/personal-banking/Cards/robinsons-visa-platinum-card.html]

POSB Everyday Mastercard

Popular - 1%
SP Services - 1%
Starhub - 1%
Sheng Siong - 5%
Watsons - 3%
Hotels.com - 8%?
Hertz - 10%?
Overseas spending - 2%
All others - 0.3%

[Source: https://www.posb.com.sg/personal/cards/credit-cards/posb-everyday-card]

The above is not comprehensive. I am only listing those that I am more likely to patronise.

For a wider comparison of credit cards, you may want to try: get.com

Ladies may find this interesting: Infographic: 2015's Best Cashback Credit Cards For Women In Singapore


11 July 2016

When the Market Over-reacts - London Bridge is Falling Down

Judging from the office bet that was going on then, I guess Brexit has been yet another Black Swan event in recent history. The bet was 8 for Brexit and 22 against. So most people from this side of the Commonwealth were very much expecting the UK to stay in the EU, notwithstanding the fact that the UK had never made the switch from their Pound to the Euro.

The day the results came out, the market took an immediate nosedive. My Singapore stocks went downhill, and was followed that same night thereafter with my US stocks as well. It was a universal wipe-out.

It was too late to do anything by the time I came home from work. It was Friday. What did I want to do? Actually, nothing. I didn't know how things would go the following week. Would it be an immediate recovery? Or would there be more panic and capitulation? No clue. Black Swans are ugly birds. So I remained indecisive and just stayed in the market and watched.

On Monday, things reversed very quickly. Whatever losses that happened on Friday were recovered by the end of Monday. I guess the irrationals had a weekend to ponder their regrets, much like a lot of Brits who finally realised what they had done.  In fact, since then, the market has been steadily climbing up further.

With the English team knocked out of the European Cup, the joke on the market was that the Brits had exited from the Euro twice in succession.

"London Bridge is falling down ..." 
"Oi, but this is Tower Bridge lah noob!"

Quite a non-event. Well, not quite. The Pound has been pounded. Time to plan on a holiday to London!?  Hurrah, ol' chap! Time for the Charge of the Light Brigade.

Yawning with the Bears of 2015
In Times of Fear, How Did You React?

07 July 2016

The Great Pacific Andes (De)Fault

When you have a stock whose name sounds like the San Andreas Fault, I guess it's only a matter of time before it follows its name sake disaster movie. So yes, Pacific Andes has gone Chapter 11 since.

Years ago, before I became discerning about value investing, I was pretty bought in to any "reasonable" story as a reason to buy a stock.

So what the devil was the story then?

Well, it was about the growing population of China and Asia in general. And with a growing population, demand for food will increase. Fishery provide the nutrients for the diet of a growing world. Blah, blah, blah.

So if you're holding on to any of its shares now, good luck. A million shares at $0 per unit is still $0.  Fortunately for me, all I have is 125 shares. I can live with it. How did I end up with 125 shares? It's another sob story.

I was lucky to have bought a few thousand shares in 2009 at $0.20 and sold them off at $0.34 less than a year later. It was speculative luck. I got out while the going was good. But I forgot about a scrip dividend taking place then! Oh well. Overall, it was still a profitable trade.

[When an associated company (Oceanus) had its whole abalone stock die on them, it was kind of a warning indicator to me. Super RED FLAG!!]

Lesson learnt:
Forget all the fanciful stories. Ultimately, it's about a well run business, in a market where its products sells and can clearly generate recurring income with very little capital investment. One with positive free cash flow, good ROE, ROA, and gives out a sustainable dividend, year after year, in good times and in bad times.

Considerations in Stock Picking

04 July 2016

The Taste of Hong Kong - Tai Cheong Bakery

I remember when wifey and me were last in Hong Kong on a free-and-easy, we went trudging up an upwards sloping street, searching for this supposedly famous bakery. Good food, have to work for it.

We couldn't find it at first as the unit didn't seem to exist. Walking up slope after a heavy dinner is tiring business. I was starting to feel disappointed, and wifey was getting upset that I made her walk up a quiet street to the middle of nowhere. That's until we realised it on the other side of the road! It was night time and my eyesights are bad at night. That's my excuse anyway.

It looks like we don't have to do that anymore. Tai Cheong Bakery has opened in Singapore. Here's the small little store front on the basement of Takashimaya at Ngee Ann City.

It's alongside several bakeries near to the fountain area. Business is presently thriving, with an extended queue that continues out to the walkway. I'm guess it's a passing fad? Service can be kind of slow as they slowly bake fresh trays of egg tarts. Doesn't help that customers are ordering dozens at a go!

Can't quite figure out if it is indeed as good as its Hong Kong originals. But it definitely is tasty enough.


30 June 2016

How Much Thy Lunch?

There are some things we sometimes take for granted in our work routine. Lunch, is certainly a necessity in a typical work day.  But how much does your lunch at work cost?

Having worked in an away-from-CBD area for years, I've gotten so used to hawker centre food that is usually in the below $5 price range, kopi included.

Recently, I've shifted to a new workplace in the city and found myself experiencing instant lifestyle inflation. It's really hard to find a decent lunch at below $5 in town. It's not unusual for a lunch to be in the region of $20 even. WTF.

It's either the meal is expensive, or else it's "cheap" with a bad taste! I experienced the misfortune of being served a plate of rice which came with one tiny piece of meat and not much else. Really. I counted. It wasn't difficult. Their average customer must have the appetite of a rat. Had to hunt for an additional Ya Kun toast after that. I'm no rat.

Assuming an incremental cost of $5 per meal, that's easily an additional expense of $100 per month, or $1,200 a year.

There's of course the alternative of bringing your own lunch. But I very much prefer to walk around for lunch to get a bit of my step count going and get a bit of Vitamin D. It's a vice. And I'm no Dracula either.

Is that a nice slab of red meat?

14 June 2016

Creative Eateries Membership Card

Here's another one of those restaurant membership card that seems to be 'giving' away money/credit.

I was having lunch at Tajimaya at VivoCity and was introduced to their membership card.  Sign on for a fee of $24, fill up some details at the online registration, and voila! You get $40 of credit on the card which can you use immediately to pay for that meal.

Member benefits include 5% rebate on meals and $20 voucher during birthday month.

I'm definitely a meatosaurus. The meat is great. So this works well for me. Perhaps bad for health given the obscene calories count and smoke inhalation? It's one of those meals where I binge at lunch and give dinner a miss. Maybe a light vegetables and fruit salad for dinner? The smoke isn't too bad at this restaurant. The ventilation design sure beats a lot of those at Korean BBQ joints.

For a steamboat version, go next door to Shabuya.

If you're a vegesaurus, definitely give this a miss.

The Creative Eateries membership card can be used at a number of other Thai, Chinese, Japanese and Western restaurants as well. Seems like they are franchises of the same chain. More info at: http://creativeeateries.com.sg/.

And while you're at it, don't forget to charge to your favourite credit card for rebate, and redeem points at VivoCity for carpark credits.

06 June 2016

Beating the Benchmarks

I especially like to read Sunday Times where there are various Personal Finance articles towards the back of the stack each weekend. In recent months, they have been putting up a series on hypothetical investment portfolios for three people with very distinct profiles.

All three portfolios have consistently performed below their equivalent market benchmarks. The common reason stated was transaction costs which eroded the performance, especially for the smaller portfolios. The portfolios have not been around long. So to be fair, they need to be given more time to show results over a longer term, perhaps three years? I wonder if they will ever pan out?

At the same time, the portfolio advisors have decided to start including an Asia-Pacific ETF to diversify the portfolio from a Singapore-centric portfolio to a more diversified one. That seems to be an attempt at coming closer to the market benchmark since the ETF tracks the benchmark anyway. Or are they trying to play around with the benchmarks - e.g. holding Asia-Pac ETF will keeping to STI as market benchmark!?

My personal experience with ETFs on the SGX is that their bid-ask spread are extremely large, yet set against the backdrop of poor liquidity. There just isn't enough of an active market to get good prices? In this regard, Unit Trust turns out to be easier to buy and sell. But of course, the fund management fees are a world of difference.

16 May 2016

I Struck Toto!

Yes! Yes! Somebody won $8 million today with Toto. But no, it's not me. I wished. Sigh. All I got out of throwing $10 on this was a prize of $10. So technically, I did win something. It's break even. No progress whatsoever. Guess I should take consolation there was no loss. Pun intended.

On the market front, the poor market conditions have continued to rue/rule. No excitement there. Actually there is, it's so bad, it's time for more buying!? With PE ratio so low and dividend yield so high, how not to experience a new high?


It seems more and more companies are going offline, taken private. More signs of an unappreciated market and underrated stocks?


Meanwhile, dividends continue to come in. And I'm plowing everything back into the market to plant new padis. It'll take awhile. I am patient.


Retail bonds have been launching non-stop of late. Interestingly, these are all from overstretched companies with mountains of debt. Junk bonds? Might as well give it a go with P2P loans. Lagi junk bonds. I'm starting out with Moolahsense. But alamak, there is no funding campaign going on right now!? Have to wait.


Meanwhile, I shall continue to be entertained by Viu, the best freebie app of the year. First, it was Descendants of the Sun, and now it's Entertainer and The Flower in Prison. Absolutely zero knowledge of Korean, so the English sub-titles help, lots. I think I'm beginning to speak a bit of Korean?


Time to tell wifey, "salanghae". I gave it a go. She didn't get it. Nevermind.


28 April 2016

Will to Live, Will to Die

Retirement seems to be all about the will to live a life. Somebody shared that people who retire early without any goals of what to do thereafter tends to die young.

Which leads me to a recent discovery about death. More specifically, a Will for death. I had a few realisations on this, which led me to several "Oh shit!" moments. And I thought I had all the bases covered. How wrong.

Not having a Will could ...

... cost you an extra $3,000 to get the necessary documents processed.

... take from 1 to 3 years, instead of just 1 year, before the assets/money can be available to my beneficiaries.

... result in the wrong people getting the money in the event of unexpected dual death of husband and wife, depending on the sequence of death. It seems that in the event that both die "simultaneously" (or could not be so discriminated), the younger person is deemed to have died later!

And here's a tricky problem with that Joint banking account. If the bank gets wind of one account holder's death first, the account gets locked up and remains stuck until the Probate thing is settled! My present plan of keeping half the income needs in a Joint account could go very wrong.

And with that, I just realised that wifey and kids would be in serious trouble if I 'kaput' first. If it takes a year to three before the money is released, how would they cope with the cash flow needs during that period? Something that needs some rejigging on where we keep that contingency sum and how much.

And where would you store a Will? My natural instinct was a Safe Deposit Box. Wrong! It seems that the content of a Safe Deposit Box cannot be released until a Probate is obtained. So that's a tricky chicken-and-egg problem. Keep at home? What if burnt or damaged!?

Intestate. Probate. Executor. I've been re-educated.

Tricky. Time to do something about that Will.

Now who wants to be my Executor? Sheesh.

p/s: I was introduced to the term "testarix". Sounds kinky no?

Mortality - are we well protected?

25 April 2016

Do we need $1.5 to $2 million to retire on?

$1.5 to $2 million seems to crop up often as the typical range for a retirement investment portfolio. It seems daunting and extreme, especially to somebody who is single and below 35 years of age.

But as one progresses into the 40s and starts to have a family, the maths starts to be a lot more serious.

What is $2 million? If one works on the basis of a perpetual income, then $2 million at an extraction rate of 5% each year would work out to be $100,000 per year, or $8,000+ a month. If it is $1.5 million, that would work out to be $75,000 a year, or $6,000+ a month.

The range of $6,000-$8,000 may seem a lot to those living below this level of income today. But once we take into account that this is a family unit, and seeking a comfortable retirement (certainly not trying to live at the poverty line!), it may well be typical?

Where would the money go to? Here's a possible distribution (monthly):

- $500 for parents (two sets!)
- $250 for utilities (too many aircons, laptops, etc!)
- $350 for broadband, mobile lines, cableTV
- $500 for transport-related (car petrol, maintenance, parking, bus, taxi, MRT)
- $500 for housing-related maintenance, property tax, etc
- $1,500 for meals and entertainment
- $1,200 for groceries and households
- $600 allowances and education expenses for 2 kids
- $150 newspapers, magazines, books
- $50 donations
- $1,500 healthcare and other insurance, medical expenses
- $50 sports

That's $7,150. Add on holidays and other miscellaneous, and it starts to look like $8,000 and beyond. Reasonable or extravagant?

The profile will change as the kids grow up and moves out to morph their own family nucleus. But even as such reductions happen along with key life events, inflation will continue to creep and raise the bar.

I'm sure we don't aim to retire poor and settle to a lower standard of living. For sure, we're looking for that sunshine at the end of the rainbow, for a life of comfort and happiness.  So there, being a millionaire is not enough, unless you're single and intend to remain so. But that's too lonely. I figure we need to be a millionaire twice over.

How much does a household spend a month?

21 April 2016

How Would You Like to be Credit Card Scammed?

I received an incoming call a few days ago. It wasn't a number I recognised. As I was busy in a meeting, my usual bad habit was to simply ignore the call. It was pretty persistent however, and called again a few times. But I was really, really too busy at work (in meetings) to take the calls.

Soon after, I received a SMS. The message said that there was a suspected credit card fraud on my credit card and asked that I call back to follow-up. Shitz!

My first reaction was, is this itself a scam? How to be sure it wasn't? I did a check of the phone number and found that it seems similar to other numbers related to the bank concerned. But that wasn't conclusive.

I was feeling desperate. I called the number. When it got through to an operator, I was asked to provide a few particulars for verification. Seems pretty usual. But I was really uncomfortable. Was he scamming my personal details? He subsequently asked if I had made a number of transactions overseas since that morning? Hell no! Where would I have found the time to do so as it was a working day?

Somebody had gone on a shopping spree with my credit card number at some US factory outlet, rapidly buying from numerous stores within an hour.

[And I certainly have enough faith in my wife that she wasn't do so behind my back!]

He made references to a few other overseas transactions aside from those. These, I recognised as payments I had made in a recent trip overseas. These were valid ones. Starting to regain some confidence this was a legitimate call centre of the credit card company. The card was terminated on the spot and he promised to send me a replacement card.

Later that night, still feeling ill at ease, I called the credit card company on their hotline to verify. When I asked if the phone number I called that morning belonged to them, the operator told me it wasn't! Man, did I sweat. On further clarification, turns out, the number was indeed one of theirs. He had not heard me right the first time. *wtf* False alarm. Frightened me. He better not ask for a post-service customer feedback.

I asked to confirm that the card had been suspended. He told there wasn't any hold on the card! Shitz! Big time. On further elaboration (meaning, I had to tell the whole long story from that morning), he checked and clarified that there was no suspension on the card because he was referring to the "new" card. The old card had been suspended. *wtf*

Thinking back, it probably wasn't the smartest thing to call back on the number in the SMS. I should have called the credit card hotline instead.

The old card was terminated on the spot and I have since received my replacement credit card. Bloody waste of time. Need to reinstate various GIRO arrangements. I'm so angry that my credit card was scammed. And I think it's going to affect my cashback from the credit card. *pui* Financial loss to boot.

Many thanks to the credit card company though for having a fraud detection system that made it so much more seamless for their customers. Data analytics making a positive difference! I hope there are no further repercussions from here.

I'm still wondering where exactly my card was scammed from. Where did I go? Japan. Hotels, restaurants or malls? One of them has a dishonest employee. Sucks. Ill will and curses to the idiot. I hope he gets arrested somewhere or suffer from death-by-300-cuts (like the story from the Hong Kong serial I'm watching ...).

[feeling evil]

18 April 2016

Taxi Tales III

I found myself rushing to an appointment and decided to take a cab. To be exact, I was already late. Bad time discipline. I was at VivoCity. And damn, "long the queue was", as Yoda might say.

But just across from the taxi queue however was a row of pristine MaxiCabs, waiting for passengers. This is really a market failure. Long queue of people, but no taxis. A queue of MaxiCabs, but no customers. What a waste.

$50 flat fare is the going rate for the MaxiCab. I was desperate enough. So I hopped into one. An expensive affair!  It turned out to be one of those fascinating cab rides. So I guess I paid for the conversation too.

The driver said he wasn't a full time driver but was helping a friend out as a relief driver. Curious, I asked what he did when he wasn't. Turns out he runs a business bringing in foreigners for medical treatment. I've heard of medical tourism, but had never met somebody who was in the facilitation business before. I was piqued.

He used to teach English to foreigners students to prepare them for enrollment to local schools. Over time, he found that some of the foreign students needed help with accommodation, so he branched into arranging accommodation. From students, he then progressed into medical tourism, bringing foreigners to Singapore for medical treatments, arrange transportation, accommodation and whatever else needed. He found that the upper strata from Vietnam and Indonesia would pay for such services.

His business is patchy, so sometimes he has no customers for the entire month. He would take it easy and offer his help as a relief driver to his taxi friends. On occasion, he would call on their help to provide transportation for his medical tourism customers. Or he might even drive the cab himself.

I thought about his stories, and drew some observations:
- He found a niche where he could provide a service that was desired.
- He capitalised on the language gap.
- He used a skill from one business for another, moving up the value chain from students to medical tourism.
- He had a lot of networks! [lobang king]
- In times of need, his network was also his safety net (in more ways than one).
- He was multi-skilled - teacher, driver, concierge.

The best part was, when I asked, "You must be really busy running this business?" He said, on the contrary, he had a lot of time and could take it easy most of the time, "eng eng cheng cheng". Sounds like a life? Regardless, the business sense was acute.

A taxi driver who is far richer than I am
Condo, wife, kids and a taxi

13 April 2016

Pathways to Investment Options or How to Get Rich Without Being Scammed

Giraffe has done an awesome job collating the various investment means available in Singapore, and has even provided some step-by-step guides on how to get going for each of them.

This is really awesome. Have a read: 17 Investment Options (by GiraffeValue)

I think it's a most useful source of reference to help somebody embarking on the "doing" part. The closest I ever got round to was this weak attempt in 24 Tales in the Journey to Wealth.

On reflection, I recall that I never had much of an interest to do such things till age 39. Up till then, I had effectively outsourced the job to insurance agents. The wiser me has realised the foolhardiness (and laziness) of yesteryear's, and that a little bit of effort in DIY can reap a far greater difference for the future me.

My very first significant step started when I opened a Fundsupermart account. What a journey since. Have a go by taking the first step forward.

Expectations of returns on investment
On Investments
On Financial Planning

08 March 2016

Mortality - Are We Well Protected?

Oh dear, oh dear. It's been one death after another ever since the start of Chinese New Year. It was a spate of half a dozen who passed on in recent weeks. In all cases, they were aged parents of friends and colleagues.

Most recently, I found out that a friend had suffered a tragic medical incident. He's in very bad shape and I fear he may not make it. As a single income family with two teenagers, it is a situation that will be of grave concern and worry.

I can totally empathise with the implications as my family is likewise dependent on me as the single bread winner, with a pair of teenagers going through the paces of education. The exact situation as my friend. It led me to ask myself, how will my family tide through should anything happen to me? *touch wood* [major wood]

A quick review suggest that with my holdings in shares and unit trusts, Supplementary Retirement Scheme investments, CPF, cash in bank accounts, and insurance upon death, it would amount to $1.7m. Would that be enough?

Assuming a 4% dividend payout with $1.7m invested, it would be $68,000 per year. Wifey has her own portfolio that is generating $6,000 worth of dividends per year. So in total, that's $74,000 of passive income per month.

The car is fully paid up, although it will eventually reach its 10-year mark within a few years. The house is almost fully paid up, with less than $50,000 principal outstanding. No other debts, beyond the monthly credit card bills. I think, $6,000 a month should be enough. Worst case, wifey may have to pick up some work to supplement.

ONE major problem though: Will wifey know how to invest that $1.7m to generate a steady and safe 4% dividend return? Got to work on that. Perhaps the simplest solution is to teach her how to buy STI ETF?

Meantime, whatever faith and beliefs you might subscribe to, wish my friend and his family well. They need all the help, physically and spiritually.

Wishing all, and especially my family and me safe, healthy and happiness in the year and years ahead. Cherish what we have.

Mortality, am once again reminded.

02 March 2016

When an Exit Becomes an Investment Opportunity

Zagro has been delisted. Yet again, I've lost another decent dividend paying stock in my portfolio.

I had acquired 16,000 shares in Feb 2012. This was followed by a rights issue in Aug 2012 where I accumulated another 5,000 shares. Each year thereafter, it has issued dividends annually.

I guess I'm lucky that there was still profit to be made from the exit offer. In all,
the annualised internal rate of return was 11.5%. So overall, a tidy profit.

Time to move on. Nice to have a small bundle of spare cash in this rich market of opportunities. Am I a perennial bull or what?

Pick, pick, pick.

11 February 2016

10 Traits of Top Stocks

Came across an old issue of "Money" magazine (I think it's a Aussie edition) with an article titled "10 Traits of Top Stocks". The 10 traits connect well with my thoughts on what constitutes factors for a good stock to invest in, when it is at the right price.

[Note: 10 traits are from the article, but comments are mine.]

1. Rising earnings. It's been making more and more money. Provided it's real and not fraudulent accounting!

2. Profits cover dividend payout. It's not paying out dividends from borrowings/debts, so the dividend is sustainable.

3. Capital raising aren't needed. Doesn't collect money from shareholder - i.e. the reverse of dividends! REITs tend not to do well in this regard when times are bad though.

4. Debt is minimal. I take that to be debt-to-equity at less than 40% (<0.4) - i.e. not overly leveraged.

5. Plenty of cash for interest bill. Has the cash flow to pay the interests on their debts - i.e. wouldn't default.

6. Profits are rising. Suggests an ability to price a premium in its product and services. Either that or it is increasingly more efficient.

7. Profitability strong and rising. Makes good use of its equity.

8. Cash flow exceeds profits. Cash is king! Best is a business that doesn't require a lot of capital expenditure.

9. Value has been rising. Has a business that has been of value.

10. Value will keep rising. Has a business that will continue to provide value. The boring stuff that provides bread and butter products and services that everybody require all the time are my favorite.

[Reference: "10 Traits of Top Stocks", Money magazine, by Vanessa Gilbert.]

09 February 2016

To Toto, or to Toto not?

So I speculated over Chinese New Year (see What is it with Chinese New Year?), throwing good money over the wall, hoping to strike a million or two. Of course, I came away empty handed, again. Even with a couple of System-7 bets, I came away with only 3 pairs of hits. Not even the lowest of lowest prize. "Phooi". As an old friend would have said, "Ka na sai!"

Oops, not supposed to say such things on Chinese New Year eh? If it's any consolation, nobody came away a millionaire on Chinese New Year either. But that's just equal misery. Not helpful.

The prize money has snowballed into a $7 million affair for the next draw on Thursday. Looks like another series of long snaking queues at Toto shops over the next few days. Shall I? Bad for productivity.

Just out of curiosity, where do all the profits from Singapore Pools go to anyway? I don't have certainty but it looks like it ends up with the Tote Board. As do all those casino levies and Turf Club and such. Tote Board then donates to numerous social beneficiaries, such as the arts, sports, education, health and communities. Sounds like a good thing, worthy causes. Guess we're contributing to social good.

Oh, my earlier bet was $35. Guess I could have had a good high tea instead?

What is it with Chinese New Year?

08 February 2016

What is it with Chinese New Year?

What is it about Chinese New Year that I will most certainly lose my inhibitions and gladly pass my hard earned money through a window to a stranger in return for a piece of paper with a couple of numbers on it?

We know when such things happen, it's called a fool's transaction. Indeed it is. It's a disease. It's called Toto. But I can't help it. I have to do it. Hard to say no to the potential of a few million $$$.

Years ago in an office far far away, my boss told me, "If you guys are buying, count me in. I don't want to come back to an office to find that everybody's won the first prize and I'm the only person left working when that happens!"

Toto has evolved over the years. I have a funny feeling I might have thrown away a winning ticket or two in recent years. Seems like 3 numbers is all that's required to win a prize ($10). I used to think we needed 4. I'm out of touch.

The Rules to Toto are available online. It's not long. But it's complicated enough. They even facilitate by having Group Toto. How about that? Clean out the whole office. Naw. The more people that pool together, the less per share. They'll continue working. But maybe they'll be taking more leave for that dream holiday?

The latest draw on Lunar New Year (today!) is estimated at $4 million. And the upcoming annual Hong Bao Draw is Worth $12 million. Attractive right? Rare it is for a single winner. Chances are, there will be several millionaires.

I wonder what happened to all those overnight millionaires? Did they live a meaningful life of contentment and fulfillment? Or did the sudden rich became quickly poor?

Anyways, I couldn't help but dream of what to do if I hit a million or two. Would I 'retire' from work? A million, maybe. Two millions, most certainly. What does $2 million get me? About $100,000 of perpetual income per annum by my estimate.

And how do I achieve that? Perhaps:
- $750,000 in bonds or perpetual bonds (from Bondsupermart.com) @ 4-6%
- $1,000,000 in shares @ 3-4% dividends and 4-6% growth potential
- $200,000 as cash reserves for 2 years' income
- $50,000 to pay off outstanding liabilities

How about you?

p/s: Toto tickets ain't free! There's an opportunity cost involved.

10 daily purchases that hurt your budget

04 February 2016

Boredom Amidst a Dreary Market

Boredom, that perhaps describe how I feel. For some, it must be heart-wrenching, watching the drop day after day? But I go with "Boredom".

Drop, drop, drop. For me, it has been a "Buy!" opportunity. It didn't take very long for me to empty all my cash hoard to buy more shares as they dropped more with each passing day.

I soon used up the cash holdings in the trading account.

Then I emptied the reserves sitting in a money market fund. That was soon used up.

Then I received some bonus due to pay adjustments. Lucky me. That was invested. Gone.

Then I received a year-end bonus. That was invested. Gone.

Then I reduced my excess cash in my savings accounts and placed them into the trading account. [Excess being that beyond Emergency Fund holdings. I'm not going to mess with that!] That was invested. Gone.

Then I cashed out one of my insurance policy. It was planned for, so it wasn't an impulsive action. That is being invested. Will soon be gone.

How long more is this "Bear" going to last? I'm going to run out of cash hoard soon. *wail*

Bore. Meanwhile, let's celebrate Chinese New Year! Happy New Year!

03 February 2016

The Gahmen Gives Away Money

Kids grow up real fast. It seemed like it wasn't so long ago that I witnessed the little one being pulled out from wifey, all bloody and blueish looking. I didn't faint. Guess I'm a steady father?

And now she's already 16 and done with the GCE 'O' levels. Sheesh. Time flies.

Unfortunately for wifey and me, my daughter was born long before the introduction of the Child Development Account (CDA) where the government matches contributions, up to a certain limit. Missed the boat. The newborns are so lucky.

Over time, there's also the Edusave Account. These provide various top-ups and subsidies that really help offset the cost of bringing up the kids, up through secondary (and Junior College) education.

Recently, I came to realise there's something else called Post Secondary Education Acount (PSEA). Actually, I've been receiving letters from MOE on these accounts for my kids for some time, but I had not bothered to read and thought they were the usual EduSave updates. Dah. *roll eyes*

Apparently, the CDA account gets rolled over into the PSEA, and if the top-up limit to CDA had not been met yet, parents can continue to top-up into the PSEA and receive the matching contributions by the Government.

The PSEA can be used to pay for education in local tertiary institutions (e.g. Polytechnics and Universities).

I checked with the MOE helpdesk. No luck. My kids are not entitled to CDA. So I couldn't make any voluntary contributions to increase the PSEA funds.

By the way, these accounts earn the prevailing CPF-OA interest rate.

Interest free student loan for tertiary education
Building kids education funds with Unit Trust
Endowment plans for child education
Kids education revisited

18 January 2016

The Gahmen is Always Wrong?

Once in a while the Gahmen pushes out a post on retirement planning and some basic guidelines, to encourage citizens to work out a viable financial future. Unfortunately, once posted on Facebook, all they're going to get is a lot of brickbats. Lots of random eggs go flying. The comments kind of irritates me quite a bit.

"Give me back my CPF and I would be fine"

How? Because the individual can do a better job of investing it? Sure, then use your CPF-OA to do so and prove it. Beat the 4-6% annualised over a time span. The ones who succeed probably don't need to depend on their CPF.

"Set a minimum wage"

Well, one company in the US did this. Ends up those who got squeezed in between became highly de-motivated as they found themselves being paid the same as those who used to be a lot less. Overall, it would mean an increase in cost to the business owner. Potentially, they could go out of business? Then no more job? But some could argue that it's a "scare tactic". I say it is very real. The less productive companies will die very quickly. And then there goes that job.

"Set my pay in pace with inflation"

Sure. But why say this to the Gahmen? Unless you're a public servant, they ain't the one paying your salary. If your boss ain't paying you right, time to leave. Else, it's really your fault. Either you suck (at what you do), or you suck (for hanging around).
"Gahmen should top up my pay"

Sure. They already do so through transfers to those who are typically poor or aged or in need of help. But perhaps it doesn't benefit everyone, so it's not felt across the board. Somebody has to pay for all these by the way. The Gahmen doesn't generate revenue from nowhere. Guess who's going to pay?

"Just give me my CPF when I reach 55"

Anything above the Basic Retirement Sum in CPF-SA and the minimum CPF-MA amounts can be drawn out then. So if one doesn't even have the minimum to provide that margin of safety, I'm not sure what's there to talk about. It's not about feeling rich and living like no tomorrow then. It's about the risk of living too long. Could be a happy problem, or a very unhappy one if health and happiness don't work out well. Don't know, haven't reached that point yet.

"I'm 85, it's too late"

My sympathy to the pioneer generation. That generation often have many kids. More kids is a diversification. But sometimes things don't work out well over time - parent's fault, children's fault, etc. If they never got married and have kids, that would be a zero. In addition, their education level was typically lower then. So job opportunities and the pay to go with it would have been a challenge. Help them.


The one that irks me the most was a remark that the cost of living has been going up (it's called "inflation" I think), especially beer. Oh please, stop wasting money and your health quaffing large intakes of beer. Drink green tea lah. It's called living within your means. WTF.

If you're living day-to-day, you will live poor, everyday. Fail to plan, or plan to fail? Having no game plan is just gaming away. Try Toto, might do better, if so.

11 January 2016

More Tales from Taiwan Trip II

Tale One

In a recent trip to Taiwan, wifey had an interesting encounter at breakfast. Actually, the exact word she used was, "Disgusting!"

There was a big China tour group at the breakfast place in the hotel as the breakfast came with the room package. One gentleman from this group, presumably a Chinese national therefore, walked over to the toilet at the restaurant. Guess he was searching for a door to the gents. But he couldn't figure it out, even though there was a symbol on the door. To be fair, the door wasn't particularly obvious as there was no door knob. You had to give it a push to enter. At that point, the gentleman must have decided that he could revert to his hometown custom, doing what apparently they do in certain parts of China. He proceeded to unzip his fly and prepared to pee against the wall! Good grief. Wifey happened to see this happening and shouted at him, showing him where the door was. Maybe she should have just walked away and let it happen?

I'm not one who is particularly keen in taking breakfast at hotels when overseas on holidays. It gets a bit too overwhelming as I would then tend to overeat. In addition, that's one less meal that I can go round experiencing the local fare for more variety. I guess with parties like this, it's another reason to avoid breakfast!? Yikes.

Tale Two

At another location near Yehliu, famous for its rock formations, I went to find a toilet to relieve myself. The doorway had a sign that basically said that it was a toilet and there were guys standing all along the urinal peeing. So it seemed to be the right spot. Lo behold, with my zip down and fluid release in progress, I then noticed a line of ladies walking by me heading to the cubicles! Oh geez, was I in the wrong toilet? Apparently not. The cubicles were unisex. Apparently, such a toilet design was not uncommon in Taiwan. Very liberal.

Tale Three

With such contrasting tales of toilet behaviour and practices, I was pretty resigned to a certain standard of toilets in Taiwan. Surprisingly, at another hotel, I discovered to my delight that it had those designs I normally see only in Japan. You know, the kind where you can press to auto-spray water to clean your posterior, and could even keep the toilet seat warm. Mmmm...

Concluding Remarks

It's a strange country with contrasts. Making a link to investment, I draw a corny lesson learnt as thus:

When you're in an unfamiliar space, it's better to scout around and find out more. We may not understand the practices and make the wrong assumptions. Ask if need be, before investing into something we don't understand. The mistake could be more than just an embarrassment. Besides, not all companies in the same industry are necessarily the same in terms of quality. Deeper examination is needed.


08 January 2016

The Market is a Bloody Mess!

So the headlines are now all gloom and doom.

What is Yuan may not be round

China devalues its Yuan and the rest of the world suffers a cold. As if Winter isn't cold enough for them. They need to export their cold to the rest of the world too.

Does it mean the Sing dollar will strengthen against the regional dollars? If so, then it's a good time to exploit the stronger exchange rate to go on holidays. I know, I know. Holidays are expenses. But what's life if we can't spend on gaining positive experiences discovering the wider world beyond our 700 sq km? Within limits of course.

At the same time, it's going to be bad for most local business as Singapore companies are often dependent on exports (Qian Hu). So that end of it doesn't look bright. I'd hate to be an exporter right now. Worse if you're an employee in a shaky company. Thy job is at stake too. Troubling.

What is zero can only go up

US Fed interest rate hike has taken the first step uphill and I'm sure the rest of the world will gradually follow suit. With interest rates going up, that means new bonds issues will be pegged at higher interest rates too? Sounds exciting for new bonds issue, especially since new rules are expected to be introduced soon to ease the issue of "seasoned" retail bonds in Singapore. I look forward to subscribing to new retail bonds.

The banks (OCBC, UOB, DBS) are suffering from heart attacks and are at incredulously low Price-Earning (PE) ratios. Is that a Big Singapore Sale going on here? Or are there more heart attacks to come? I think they are worth a close look. Very close. I'm suffering from irregular heartbeats from excitement.

What is going down must hit a bottom somewhere

The oil and gas, and consequently the marine industry (Keppel, SembCorp) have yet to pan out. The price of oil is now at a historical low. But the Saudi strategy of creating a glut to kill off its competition seems to be a long drawn process. It's bleeding oil until a turning point can be reached. The Saudis are patient people. Guess they have a lot of oil to spill.

How come the air tickets are still so expensive, and likewise the price of petrol at the petrol kiosks!? There's a de-sync somewhere. Somebody is making the money. And it ain't the consumer who are benefiting from the low price of oil (ExxonMobil, Chevron).

What is shiny may yet shine brighter

Amidst all these, we have a friend who has significantly faded in recent years - Gold. Is it now glittering brighter yet again? I'm not betting on it, but will keep watch. I might yet be blinded. Eventually.

Overall, as the Brits might say, "It's a bloody mess!"

06 January 2016

Portfolio of 8 Singapore Stocks - 31 Dec 2015

On 28 Aug 2015, I started exploring a portfolio of 8 Singapore stocks with a value of ~$100,000 (Portfolio of 8 Singapore Stocks). Although the actual value would have been $99,126, I am assuming for simplicity it would be $100,000 after accounting for transaction costs.

How has it fared? It's been four months and here's how it looked like on 31 Dec 2015:

No. of 
28 Aug 2015
31 Dec 2015

The portfolio is now $94,362 (dividends not considered) and overall deeply in the red after 4 months. Obviously not making any money. The split is now 2-6 in favour of the losers. HourGlass continues to hold the fort positively alongside VICOM. But everyone else is underwater.

Market sentiments continue to be bleak, so I don't think it's going to see daylight anytime soon. But perhaps it is a good time for more fishing when pessimism is most severe?

It is the new year. So I'll stretch my neck out with a prediction: that the portfolio will be positive by the end of 2016.

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!

8 SGX Companies to Keep Watch On

03 January 2016

An After Note on Ip Man 3

After watching Ip Man 3 (The IT folks prefer to call it "I-P-Man"), I can understand why it overtook Star Wars VII at the local cinemas.

The plot is simple. The characters are largely familiar to build upon. The new villians are introduced gradually. The action sequences are great.

But I can't understand the attempt at mandarin by our boxer man though. He's as bad as Sylvester Stallone at english, let alone mandarin. Interesting distraction nonetheless.

And who can say anything against that great punchline: that in the end, the only thing important are the people close to you? Awww, definitely a handkerchief moment.

And we have that rickshaw man who is good, then evil, then schizo but somewhat righteous. There is hope yet with humanity.

And for the cameo lead-in to the next story, we have Bruce Lee being inserted into the story line.

In another universe, Ip Man would have been a Jedi. He could feel the Force. The Force is strong in this one.

For investors, here's the weak attempt at making a connection: Stay the true path of values [investing and saving more than you spend as the one true path to financial independence]. But in the end, the most important thing is still the people who are close to you.

Corny. I know.

p/s: Boxer man is Mike Tyson. I prefer Tyson Chicken. Apologies to the Boxing fraternity and fan clubs.

An After Note on Star Wars Awakens

02 January 2016

An After Note on Star Wars Awakens

This is a spoiler if you have not watched Star Wars VII. You've been warned!

So I bought the Subway keychains. Done.

Bought a Star Wars discounted toy at Changi Airport on the way out of the country for holidays. Done.

Watched Star Wars. Done.

Now I understand why Ip Man has outstripped Star Wars VII locally. It's really hard for newcomers to understand the characters and the plot. There're just too many things going on. It's a space opera that requires understanding from previous episodes.

For somebody like me who has been reading some of the Star Wars storybooks, it is REALLY confusing as it seems like they have changed the characters. Anakin Skywalker Junior is "Ben"? And where are the twins: Jaden and Jacen Skywalker?

On the other hand, it came across as deja vu for me - I've seen it all before, with some juxtaposition!?


1. Rey is a scavenger who happens to be a hotshot pilot for the Millenium Falcon.

That's Han Solo, although he was a smug looking smuggler.

2. The evil guy (can't even remember his name in the show) meets his father.

It's another "I'm your father" moment. We saw that before when Luke meets Darth Vader in Episode V. Except that this time, the bad guy slices his father! Ingrate.

3. The good guys has to destroy the killer planet by taking out a single point of vulnerability.

That's what they did to the Death Star, twice (Episodes IV and VI). Although this time, it was more complex.

4. They come out with barely a few fighters surviving.

That's what happened at the end of Episode IV too.
[How would any force survive such high rates of attrition!?]

5. Rey flying off to search for Master Luke Skywalker to start her apprenticeship.

Luke Skywalker did that too when he went to search out Master Yoda likewise.

6. Master Skywalker has gone into retreat after a disastrous wipe out of the new Jedi Temple he established, because a key disciple turned rogue.

Yoda did the same thing after the wipe out of the Jedi Council in Episode III, following the betrayal of Anakin Skywalker (Darth Vader).

Originality sucks in this episode. Conversations wasn't witty enough. Harrison Ford was a saving grace. I like the new Rey character though. That's because she's nice to look at, somehow. Why does Finn give me an impression of a very gay emotional guy? Must be the acting. Action and special effects were good though.

Pick your poison.

Stock Take for 2015 on To-Do's - The Force Awakens!