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