Friday, December 31, 2010

Mini-Retirements and New Year Resolutions

After reading the 4 hour work week (well, perhaps I should say skimming through), I came across the idea of mini-retirements. Of course, it is not always possible to implement every single thing that is written in the book but I tried to take a mini-retreat during the holiday season, not really being bothered about the money that I would have to spend.

My idea of retirement has changed over the years. I previously shared some of my thoughts on retirement. And I must say that it is quite aligned to what Tim Ferris says in his 4 hour work week book. Basically, retirement is an insurance policy or last resort if I am spending my life doing work that I do not like. Ideally, I should be enjoying my work so much that I do not want to retire. And if that does not happen, then of course, retirement is the only option left to get out of the hole that I might be in.

2011 is really just around the corner and I took a mini-retirement/retreat at a really reasonably nice hotel. Sipping margaritas and listening to lounge music, taking strolls by the beach, dipping in the emerald blue infinity pool and just lazing around with magazine in hand. These were some of the things that I did and I feel rejuvenated to get back to work when the new year starts.

Usually, I spend the year reflecting about what I have done in the past one year and set some resolutions that I would like to achieve for the new year. But I realised that I should just throw away the idea of making resolutions this year. I am bad at keeping them anyway and just feel that I am at a certain place in my life where I am pretty contented with where I am at right now. So I don't really need to make any resolutions at the moment - or at least for the year 2011.

2010 has been a good year for me. At the blogging end, I managed to make inroads into areas I never thought possible. Financially, everything is going well and I would like to think that I am quite financially secure at the moment.

I registered a new domain (sgstockscreener.com) and it has been getting good hits too. So that has been another area which I have been proud of. Just registering the domain and getting the site up was a feat by itself considering how prone I am to procrastination. There are definitely other areas that I would like to explore to bring my blogging to the next level. But that will have to wait till the new year and we will see how things go.

I wish all my readers a happy 2011.



Sunday, December 26, 2010

Stock Picks for 2011

At the end of 2009 and beginning of 2010, I posted some of the stock picks by analysts/brokerage houses for the year 2010.

To check out the various stock picks by these analysts for the year 2010, you can look at the following links:
1. DBS Vickers Small/Mid Cap Strategy
2. Stock Picks by Terence Wong (co-head of research at DMG)
3. Stock Picks by Janice Chua (head of research at DBS Vickers)
4. Stock Picks by Carmen Lee (head of research at OCBC)

Were there any stock picks that you followed and made a profit from?

For the year 2011, some of the analysts have also begun to publish their stock picks:

What are your stock picks for 2011?

Friday, December 24, 2010

First REIT again?

I have been monitoring First REIT for sometime after exiting it for a tidy profit a while back. First REITs had been consistently giving out good dividends. Its yield was relatively high compared to the other REITs and it also had a very low gearing of 15%. During the recession, the price dipped quite a bit but slowly recovered and I decided to lock in some profits and sold my entire stake in it.

The reasons for exiting it are mainly twofold. While it is a healthcare REIT, it does not really have a parent company to back it up. That is unless u consider Lippo to be its parent. The other thing that weighs heavily on my mind is that majority of its assets are based in Indonesia. There are thus country risks involved. And that is perhaps the reason why it is trading at a seemingly more attractive valuation than the other REITs counters. Personally, I did not want to hold something that was overly exposed and narrowly focused. And that was why I decided to exit it. A stock is cheap for certain reasons and the same applies to First REIT. It reminds me a bit of various s-chip shares I had held over the years because it was cheap when compared to its peers. Remember Unifood and Pfood?

The decision I took then was to start investing in blue chip companies and avoid stocks that were of a higher risk. And that will remain my strategy at least for the time being. I hope to liquidate my small cap stocks slowly and transfer them to bigger and better blue chips. Of course, we are in the midst of an expansion right now so I will perhaps wait a little longer before I start refocusing my efforts.

Though I was tempted to enter into First REiT recently, I shall resist it for the moment.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Iced Caffe Latte at Gusttimo Ion Orchard Rocks!

Was walking around ION Orchard today when I passed by Gusttimo and decided to try one of their coffees to get my caffeine fix which I had missed the entire day.As I had just eaten dinner and still wanted to walk around a bit, I decided to buy an iced cafe latte which is not what I would normally buy for my caffeine fix.

Well, the price is 7 bucks for a very normal looking cup of iced caffe latte but I must say that it tasted superb. Coffee sometimes tend to be too sweet or bitter but the cup that I drank was perfect. Perhaps I managed to add just the right amount of syrup to my drink. I was actually quite worried at the start as there wasn't a single soul in the cafe. But that was probably because I had an early dinner and it was probably dinner time for most people when I bought the coffee.

Continued my festive spending by spending over 40 bucks on a book from Prologue. Was pretty fascinated by the wide variety of books there. Almost comparable to Borders and Kinokuniya. I could have spent the entire night there and would have bought a truckload of books if I wasn't reminded by the fact that I still had a huge number of books waiting to be read at home. Anyway, the book that I bought was by a previous permanent secretary, Ngiam Tong Dow, and the book is titled "Dynamics of the Singapore Success Story". I must say that I have always had a certain fascination with how policies are made in Singapore and the various issues involved for a single policy. This book should keep me busy all the way till the New Year.

Have been splurging quite a bit recently with some mini-retreats planned towards the end of the year. Christmas is really just round the corner and I am sure I will be lamenting how soon it is over. Saw a decoration today that read "Christmas is Love". Indeed, Christmas is all about love if one understands the true meaning of why we celebrate Christmas and give gifts to one another.


Wishing all readers a most Blessed Christmas in advance. Take time to smell the roses and spend time with those you love.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Make a call and save $150

I received my credit card bills last week. Apart from the usual horror of discovering that I have been swiping my Amex and Visa far too frequently, I realised that they had also charged me $150 for the annual fee.

Picking up my courage, I called the hotline expecting to have to make another of those threats to cancel my credit card to one of those innocent call operators. I was almost reciting the exact words to say to the operator.

To my surprise, I realized that it was now automated and just by punching in a few details, I got immediate confirmation that my annual fee for my credit card could be waived. All this without speaking to a human being. The banks must have been getting lots of phone calls and have thus implemented an automated service!

I really wonder whether there are people who actually pay annual fees for their credit cards nowadays. Almost everyone I know of does not pay their annual fees anymore. If that is the case, why don't the credit card companies just waive the fees once and for all?

Monday, December 20, 2010

Some reasons not to buy a car

There are many good reasons to buy a car. Convenience is definitely one of them. Some might however view a car as a status symbol or fashion accessory. These are the people who are willing to splurge on a more expensive car. When one is thinking of buying car, the reasons that one can come up with are plentiful.

There are however also many reasons not to buy car. And I wished that someone had told me this before I bought my car.

A car is expensive to upkeep. For a fresh graduate working in Singapore, buying a car can easily cost you up to 1000 dollars per month. Do not be fooled by the monthly installments alone. You still have to take into account petrol, insurance, parking, repairs. And all these add up to easily 1k per month. Think about what you can do with 1k extra cash every month! Even if you do not save it, you can use it to go for a short holiday trip. That is a serious tradeoff you would like to consider.

A car is like a drug. Once u own a car, you will most probably be addicted to it and will keep on driving for the rest of your life. Driving is a habit that is hard to kick. And it is a very expensive habit to maintain.

People are not impressed by the car you drive. Stop thinking that people are going to be impressed by the car that you drive. Seriously, most people are not even envious and do not even take note if you change a new car. Spending so much money to impress people is also not worth it. You could use that money to treat them to expensive meals every month if you really want to impress them. That includes impressing potential girlfriends.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Think Different - Living Life Differently

It worries me that I am getting less innovative as each day passes. And that somehow, my creative juices will one day stop flowing and I will become just like everyone else - an employed person who works from 9 to 6 and just goes through the motions of life.

No way! That wasn't what I signed up for. I have big dreams for my life when I was little. And big goals too. And I shall not let anyone dampen my spirts or kill my dreams. Yet, there are moments in life when I feel discourage and feel like just moving on with the flow of life. You know, stable job, have kids, watch them grow up, get promoted, etc, etc. Basically, it means walking the path which millions have walked before me. And why not, I have a comfortable path or life laid up ahead of me. All I have to do is play by the rules and I am more or less guaranteed a cushy job that pays relatively well enough.

So why risk it all?

Because I believe that each individual's greatest fear is that he/she is immeasurably more powerful than we dare imagine. And we are afraid that people we know will look at us with doubting eyes and wonder: "Is this the XYZ that I really know?" We are bounded and held back by the chains that imprison our minds. We refuse to move ahead because others expect us to stay where we are in life.

After all, "Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure."

How does this link to innovation?

Well...innovation is all about creativity and doing things differently. That includes living life differently. And I believe that Singaporeans are generally an innovative bunch. We have managed to solve many problems even when faced against great odds.

But can we really think differently to create a global company that is as distinctive as Apple or Microsoft or Google or Facebook? Why does the United States churn out such billion dollar companies with seemingly brilliant ideas at such pace and with such ease?

Why is our Singapore economy so still reliant on exports for survival? Why are we reliant on MNCs to set up their bases here? Where are the thinkers of this generation? Where are our Bill Gates and Steve Jobs?

Is the reason we fail to innovate caused by the fact that we live too similar lives to all those around us? In fact, I am almost one step closer to making the sweeping statement that "having a university degree is almost a sure way to kill innovation." (But of course, I know that is not true and many graduates are truly innovative people but perhaps not in the billion dollar kind of way. That's why I said I am still one step away. ) But getting a degree makes one afraid to take on the path least travelled. Afterall, why risk a good job and pay when it is all laid out in front of you. Why be different?

Think left not right & Change the World at the same time.

Think out of the box. That is what they taught us in school. But why did we even assume that there is a box in the first place? The statement " Think out of the box" highlights the fact that there is a box and somehow we need to think out of it. That goes against our logical mindset. We are too used to giving the earth is at the centre of the universe kind of answers that we simply dismiss the possibility of our CRAZY ideas. You don't want to look crazy in class..and definitely not in front of your boss. Our "outside the box ideas" are actually still very much within a larger invisible box. In fact, the sure way to kill creativity is to ask someone to "think outside the box" or "think creatively". You see, the crazy answers are often so CRAZY and out of this world that noone will even root or vote for that idea. Not even your boss. Cos he/she doesn't want to look stupid infront of their bosses. (okay, I admit, some ideas are really too crazy and probably lie close to the realms of pure stupidity)

And so the phenomenon is that crazy people will hang around with crazy people and make billions of dollars while changing the world at the same time. Their ideas tend to be so revolutionary that they end up changing not only their immediate surroundings but the entire world. What problems are there in the world? What crazy solutions are out there?


How Am I Different from 5 Million People in Singapore?

Yes, Singapore is getting crowded. So what makes you different from all the rest of the people on this tiny island? Of course, we all are uniquely different in terms of our experiences, skills, education, personality, etc.

The question then is not about being different but differentiating oneself from the rest of the population. One thing is for sure: If you are doing the same stuff as everyone else (study hard, get a job, work, go home, sleep) , you can't expect a different outcome.

The craziest thing in this world is to do things in a similar manner and expect a completely different outcome. How is that for lunacy? (Sadly, many of us still fall into that trap)





Friday, December 17, 2010

Singapore education experience

It has been sometime since I left the Singapore education system. My experience? Well, it is really a mixed bag of feelings. I treasure some of the best memories from my schooling days and yet also experienced some of my worst nightmares from it. But to sum it all up in one posting perhaps does not do justice to 16 years spent under the Singapore education system. However, I will try.

I shall not count my kindergarten days as part of the sixteen years. After all, this phase of my schooling was not really compulsory. But as both parents were working, and also because it is the norm for kids to attend some kind of class before formal education truly begins, I was enrolled into kindergarten. To think of it, I do not remember much of my kindergarten except the place and the person who I attended it with. It was located some distance away from my house but near enough to my mum's workplace so that she could pick me up after work. A babysitter would pick me up after lessons and I would eat lunch at the place followed by a really boring wait for my mum to end work and pick me up.it was that boring I remember. There were no toys there and I literally whittled my afternoons away just sitting at the living room all by myself.

That perhaps explains a lot about my personality now that I think of it. I like my own free time and quiet space. Now I know where this habit came from!

Seriously, I do not remember much about kindergarten or what I did or learnt. I guessed I must have learnt something useful but then again I am not sure. All I remember were the recesses,the sports days, birthday celebrations, having to sit cross-legged on the cement floor.. There were no air-conditioned classrooms then so u can imagine how uncomfortable it got.

Fast forward to primary school.

I seriously was blur during my primary school days. For the first year, I literally did not know things like homework were meant to be completed and that the spelling lists was meant to be revised. I failed my spelling tests horribly and then only realized that the list of words the teacher had given out days before were the words she was reading out loud in front of class! I still remember the first spelling test when the teacher just walked into class, announced that it was time for spelling and started reciting the words out. Before I knew what was happening, she had already read out two words. By the time I got out my exercise book, she had read through almost half the list! Not that I could spell the words since I did not even know what a spelling test was and the need to do revision. It was only after like two or three spelling tests that I plucked up the courage to ask a classmate what the heck was going on and how on earth he knew how to spell . He then looked at me quizically, took out the spelling list and showed it to me. That was when I finally understood what the whole thing was about. For two to three weeks, I had been wondering what the teacher was babbling about and how she even expected us to spell the words when had i never heard them in my life.

Primary school got more fun when I started making friends and getting a hang of schoolwork. I hated doing homework though and remembered the times I used to leave it to the last minute before completing them. Sometimes, I was even doing my homework in the bus! But primary school was fun for all its innocence, the silly games, the ghost stories we made up, the canteen food and of course, the bus ride home. The exams were killers but I got streamed to EM2, just barely making the grade for EM1 by 2 marks. I was in the second best class and studied really hard for my PSLE. I never had much ambition and thought that my highest score could get was 230. We did not do mock tests then so there was no way of knowing except through the school's internal exams before PSLE. I also did not have any tuition so I was not expecting much. My parents also placed little pressure on me and just asked me to do my best. And then, there were also the many nights spent arguing with my parents that algebra was not allowed and could only draw boxes to work out the answer.(my parents still taught me algebra and told me to use it to double check my answers. ) till today, I am still not sure how to use the stupid boxes to solve a problem! To cut a long story short, I got 262 for my PSLE, straight 6 points for my O levels, fumbled my way through junior college and graduated with good enough results to be hired and paid reasonably well.

And till today, I am not sure what knowledge I have gained during my schooling years that I have used in my career. My wife told me that all the schooling has taught me to think. But I really wonder whether it has. One thing is certain though. Employers do look at your results and the better your results are, the more doors will open. But guess what? All the successful people I know in my cohort tend not to do too well academically but still managed to excel in their respective fields.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Bonuses and Dividends - Dec 2010

End of the year. Have received nice bonuses and also some dividends from certain stocks that I hold. What should I do with the money? I haven't really decided yet but it will most likely be saved, spent and also given away. But majority should be put into savings based on my current estimates.

It looks like I will end the year on a high too. The stock market is recovering, and everything has been going well. Perhaps it is time to pamper myself and the family.

Or perhaps it is time to buy some stocks. Do check out OCBC's Market Strategy for 2011 as well as Phillip Capital

I wonder what stocks people are looking at for 2011. Time to do my compilation once again.

Work has been busy and I can't wait for the Christmas break to come!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Spent US$50 Registering A Domain Name

So Christmas is coming. And over the weekend, I spent US$50 to register a domain name for one of my sites which I wanted to shift from the current blogspot to a .com domain. The $50 was paid off from the ad revenue I received from 2 sites. The money was still stuck in paypal so I decided to just use it to register a domain name for the fun of it. Or should I just say: to gain some experience?

Not too sure whether it is worth the investment but guess I can see whether it works out in the end and then decide a year later whether I still want to keep that domain name.

Anyway, it was really troublesome setting up the account and stuff. I was using GoDaddy but was fumbling through it and wasn't really sure how to get the Wordpress up too. I made a fatal mistake in that I did not configure Wordpress on the root directory and ended up having to delete it and reinstall it again. That was like the killer move which wasted a few hours of my precious time.

Hopefully all this will be settled and I can unveil my new site soon. (Or if the way things are going, it might be weeks or even years =)

Oh well, guess that is all part and parcel of life. Sometimes, things just move slower than we expect them to take place.

Weekend Crowds

I am not really sure that I enjoy weekends anymore. I mean, I don't really enjoy going to malls on weekends as they are just so crowded. And crowds tend to make my blood pressure go up. I just need my own personal space. And sometimes, it is difficult to find that space during weekends as every single place I can think of is often so crowded. So staying at home sometimes works best for me.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Reflections for Today

Email is not work. Many people spend alot of time emailing thinking that it is work. But it really isn't. Your work should not be quantified by the number of emails that you manage to churn out each day. It is highly unproductive to be sending out emails. For every email that you send out, you probably get 5 in return.

Alot of work is actually not work. Stop acting busy. Just being busy the whole day does not mean that you are doing real work. You can be very busy but not be getting any real work done.

Most work can get done when we talk. If we talk, we can actually get much more work done rather than emailing.

You are probably uglier and stupider than you think you really are. Most people think that they are above average in intelligence and looks. That surely cannot be the case.

If you are employed, you are most probably being paid for your time. We all are paid differently for our time. The high income earner works probably the same amount as a normal person. But his relative income is much higher. Does your boss pour in more hours than you? Unlikely. He probably works the same number of hours as you. Why is he paid more? Food for thought....

Do you really want to climb the corporate ladder and have less time for your family?

Monday, December 6, 2010

Breakfast at $13 and Ramen at $38

Weekend is almost gone. It is now 12.49am and I don't know why I can't sleep. Perhaps it was the ice lemon tea that I drank just now. Or perhaps it is the thought that this is going to be another long week at work.

Breakfast today cost me a grand total of $13. Nothing special really. But I love breakfasts and just watching the crowds go by. It really doesn't matter what I eat for breakfast but I must say that the ambience is important to me. At least during the weekends.

Lunch was ramen and it cost roughly $38 for 2 bowls of ramen. It was so-so.

Well, dinner was relatively cheap as we ate at S11. Nothing special, just some fish and chips.

So grand total I spent on food today was ...way past $50. Is that expensive? Can I save more money?

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Making Saving Fun

So fun theory believes that something that is fun is able to change people's behaviour for the better. And I guess they might be right. So maybe the same idea applies. If we can make savings fun for people, perhaps it will encourage more people to save up for their retirement. Time to think out of the box.

Here are some videos from fun theory:






Friday, December 3, 2010

Alternative Investments - Own the Sun

Apparently from a news report, somebody now owns the sun. This is really innovative as people exploit loopholes in the law to register themselves as the lawful owners for planets, the moon and now even the sun. She apparently wants to charge people for using the sun. How ridiculous can this be? Since she is the rightful owner, can I sue her if it gets too hot? The news report is below:

MADRID - AFTER billions of years the Sun finally has an owner - a woman from Spain's soggy region of Galicia said on Friday she had registered the star at a local notary public as being her property.

Ms Angeles Duran, 49, told the online edition of daily El Mundo she took the step in September after reading about an American man who had registered himself as the owner of the moon and most planets in our Solar System.

There is an international agreement which states that no country may claim ownership of a planet or star, but it says nothing about individuals, she added.
'There was no snag, I backed my claim legally, I am not stupid, I know the law. I did it but anyone else could have done it, it simply occurred to me first.'

The document issued by the notary public declares Ms Duran to be the 'owner of the Sun, a star of spectral type G2, located in the centre of the solar system, located at an average distance from Earth of about 149,600,000km'.

Ms Duran, who lives in the town of Salvaterra do Mino, said she now wants to slap a fee on everyone who uses the sun and give half of the proceeds to the Spanish government and 20 per cent to the nation's pension fund. She would dedicate another 10 per cent to research, another 10 per cent to ending world hunger - and would keep the remaining 10 per cent herself. -- AFP

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Profitable Plots - Another Land Investment Firm Gone Wrong?

I wrote sometime back warning readers about land banking.

I was just generally uncomfortable with some of the ideas that were being surfaced in the market and after talking to a few friends who had invested in land banking products, realised that the deals might not be as good as they are marketed to be. Of course, I could be wrong and there might be some good land banking deals out there. But for me, I will stay clear of this kind of investment.

Of course, I was not surprised to read in the papers about another troubled investment firm - Profitable Plots which is currently under probe by the Commercial Affairs Department (CAD). I remember their glitzy advertisements during EPL half time match breaks and also saw some of their booths at Great World City before. So I am not surprised that some investors have lost their money. Who can resist such sales tactics?

It seems that 106 investors have lost a combined $9.5 million. Profitable Plots has some 1,000 clients here so I am not certain why only 106 people went to the CAD. Shouldn't all the clients be clamoring for the $60,000 that is left in Profitable Plots coffers? If that is so, each one of them will only be entitled to less than $60. And I hope that they don't need to pay any legal fees for that!

My guess is that some of these clients probably do not even know that Profitable Plots is in trouble. They are probably not monitoring their investments and the news. After all, I also did not know that Profitable Plots was in trouble. I just found out like today when reading the newspapers.

I have said it once, and I will say it again: Beware of any deal that sounds too good to be true.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Median Monthly Income Goes Up

A survey by the Ministry of Manpower finds that the median monthly income of full time resident workers have risen by 4.2% to $2,710 this year. This is compared to $2,600 for the previous year.

The data for median gross monthly income for the full-time employed (less full-time national servicemen) are as follows:

2006: $2,170
2007: $2,330
2008: $2,590
2009: $2,600
2010: $2,710

CIMB-GK regional economist Song Seng Wun noted that real wage growth was "just barely keeping pace with inflation".


Monday, November 29, 2010

Top 5 Internet Sites I Visit

I thought that after sharing what investment books we read, it might also be interesting to know what are the top 5 internet sites one frequents.

Here are my top 5 sites which I visit (not in any order of preference):

1. Facebook

Needless to say, facebook is one of the top sites I use. I don't really play the games but I just use it to keep updated on what people around me have been up to. Sometimes, when I don't really know what to surf on the net, I just go on facebook as people tend to put interesting links there.

2. STOMP

Yes, Singapore's very own STOMP. It is just tabloidy kind of stuff and I read it more for entertainment purposes.

3. DBS Internet Banking

To carry out my banking.

4. ESPN Soccernet

To catch up with my soccer news.

5. Youtube

I have loaded my favorite music videos on it. So I just go there for my daily dose of music.

So here are my top 5 sites, what's yours?

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Everyone has a Story to Tell

Stories are powerful. And the beauty of it is that each of us has a different story to tell. Even the same events witnessed by different people are told differently.

What stories do I have to tell?

Many. But are they interesting enough? And what should I tell since there are so many?

It is kindergarten. I am catching a ride from my neighbour's Mum. We attend the same kindergarten and it is quite often that I catch a ride from them. On this day, I get into the car first. Thinking that he would go in from the other side, I proceed to close the door.

Unfortunately, he doesn't go in from the other side. He uses his hand to stop the door but the door slams on his fingers. He screams in pain and starts crying out. His mum inspects his fingers and says it is alright. But that doesn't stop him from being angry with me. And I am too afraid to say sorry. He ignores me for the rest of the day.

Why do I even remember an event like this?

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Investment Books to Recommend

Every now and then, I get queries from readers on what books do I recommend that they read.

It is really hard to recommend books to read. After all, there are tons of investment books out there and they all cover a wide range of topics. Some teach you how to invest in stocks, some commodities, some real estate, some forex, etc, etc.

Basically, whoever has made money in a certain trade is sure to start writing a book and recommending to everyone to follow in his footsteps. And that is why Warren Buffet writes about stocks and Jim Rogers writes about commodities. I am sure some other real estate tycoon has made his money from real estate and will write about investing in real estate.

Are these good books? Some are, some are not. You have to discern for yourself whether the rules apply and whether you need to contextualise it to suit our environment.

Nonetheless, here are some of the books that I have read:

1. Capital Ideas
2. Random Walk Down Wall Street
3. Millionaire Next Door
4. Rich Dad Poor Dad
5. Retire Young, Retire Rich
6. Hot Commodities

Of course the books written by Warren Buffet and other investment greats are also worth reading.

But reading is one thing...............applying it in real life is a whole different playing field.


Sunday, November 21, 2010

Great Weekend - $200 in Dividends

One of the real estate investment trusts (REITs) just gave out dividends 2 days back. Received a nice lovely sum of $200. Not a lot but enough for me to buy a few items for myself that I like.

I have also received over USD$250 from selling some adspace on my blogs. This is still stuck in my paypal account as I have no idea how to transfer it out to my bank account yet.

The weekend has been great thus far. Lots of lazing around and trying to figure out what I want to get out of my life. Been thinking about this a little more the past few weeks.

Today is a hot day so we are staying indoors most probably. The family is taking its afternoon nap but I do hope to be able to go out and get some fresh air, clear my head, and get myself all geared up for the new week ahead.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Regrets of the Dying

I read this wonderful post of my Google Reader and decided it was worth sharing with all. Start living the life that you want to and stop having any regrets! Do let me know what you think and share with all on which regret you want to rid yourself of by commenting on this post below.

For me, it is the first. I wish I'd have the courage to live a life true to myself. I hope that I do not die with such a regret in my heart - that I feared to pursue my dreams because of other's expectations

=============

Bronnie Ware works in pallitative care -- with patients near the end of their life. In this post, she writes powerfully about the the top regrets that have surfaced again and again from her patients on their death beds. I've pasted the list of five below.

1. I wish I'd had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.

This was the most common regret of all. When people realise that their life is almost over and look back clearly on it, it is easy to see how many dreams have gone unfulfilled. Most people had not honoured even a half of their dreams and had to die knowing that it was due to choices they had made, or not made.

It is very important to try and honour at least some of your dreams along the way. From the moment that you lose your health, it is too late. Health brings a freedom very few realise, until they no longer have it.


2. I wish I didn't work so hard.

This came from every male patient that I nursed. They missed their children's youth and their partner's companionship. Women also spoke of this regret. But as most were from an older generation, many of the female patients had not been breadwinners. All of the men I nursed deeply regretted spending so much of their lives on the treadmill of a work existence.

By simplifying your lifestyle and making conscious choices along the way, it is possible to not need the income that you think you do. And by creating more space in your life, you become happier and more open to new opportunities, ones more suited to your new lifestyle.


3. I wish I'd had the courage to express my feelings.

Many people suppressed their feelings in order to keep peace with others. As a result, they settled for a mediocre existence and never became who they were truly capable of becoming. Many developed illnesses relating to the bitterness and resentment they carried as a result.

We cannot control the reactions of others. However, although people may initially react when you change the way you are by speaking honestly, in the end it raises the relationship to a whole new and healthier level. Either that or it releases the unhealthy relationship from your life. Either way, you win.


4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.

Often they would not truly realise the full benefits of old friends until their dying weeks and it was not always possible to track them down. Many had become so caught up in their own lives that they had let golden friendships slip by over the years. There were many deep regrets about not giving friendships the time and effort that they deserved. Everyone misses their friends when they are dying.

It is common for anyone in a busy lifestyle to let friendships slip. But when you are faced with your approaching death, the physical details of life fall away. People do want to get their financial affairs in order if possible. But it is not money or status that holds the true importance for them. They want to get things in order more for the benefit of those they love. Usually though, they are too ill and weary to ever manage this task. It is all comes down to love and relationships in the end. That is all that remains in the final weeks, love and relationships.

5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.

This is a surprisingly common one. Many did not realise until the end that happiness is a choice. They had stayed stuck in old patterns and habits. The so-called 'comfort' of familiarity overflowed into their emotions, as well as their physical lives. Fear of change had them pretending to others, and to their selves, that they were content. When deep within, they longed to laugh properly and have silliness in their life again.

When you are on your deathbed, what others think of you is a long way from your mind. How wonderful to be able to let go and smile again, long before you are dying.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Diversifying Streams of Income - Passivity the Key

I have been trying to diversify the various streams of income that I currently get.

I have my earned income from my 9 to 5 job. This is the most hard earned income as I literally have to work hard to earn it. Any day I stop going to work means that I stop earning money literally. In this time and age with the retirement age set at 62, I need to find some kind of work that will allow me to work beyond the official retirement age.

I have dividends from my stocks and real estate investment trusts (REITs). Sold off my Canadian Royalty Trusts (Canroys) some time back so I no longer am able to get those monthly cheques which were wonderful to get.

Online ad revenue has also been kind to me as I have managed to sell certain spaces on my blogs for cool sums of money. It is sometimes quite amazing how I have managed to diversify the various streams of income. From relying solely on Adsense to other alternative sources.

I have been toying the idea of starting a business but still do not have a concrete idea what to sell. It needs to be something really easy to set up and which requires minimum effort on my part. It doesn't have to bring in much, maybe just few dollars a month.

What I realised is this: Once I open up another stream of income, I become surer of myself and somehow will be able to slowly turn on the taps and increase that stream till it turns out to be a sizeable stream.

I will keep all updated once I have managed to seek out that additional source of passive income.

Stay tune!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Act of Giving

A few days ago, I ran a $10 donation contest to ask readers to suggest charities that I could give to and I would reward them by donating $10 to the charity that they mention.

Lately, I have been thinking about philantrophy and how I could incorporate it into my life or maybe even incorporate it into part of my family's legacy. This was after reading the news about the Khoo's family donation to NUHS.

The act of giving is something mysterious and lovely at the same time. Personally, I have found that giving away my money to charities makes me feel that all my work is not in vain. At least I am helping someone who is needy.

Meaning of Philanthropy

"We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give." - Winston Churchill, British prime minister (1874-1965)

The word "philanthropy" is derived from the Greek word philos (love) and anthropos (mankind). Loosely translated, it means "love for mankind". The act of philanthropy can thus be generally defined as the giving of one's money, time, information, goods and services, voice or influence to the general improvement of the well-being of humanity.

If you have given away things before, you ought to understand that there is a certain joy that can be derived from giving.

How much to Give?

How much one should give is dependent on many factors. Giving money away can sometimes be as complicated as making money! Here are some general guidelines when it comes to giving:

1. Know your income level and how long you wish to continue giving. No point giving away everything till you go broke. You should find a level that is comfortable enough. You can't match the millions that the rich are giving away, but surely a few dollars can be spared? While some people might choose to make monthly contributions to their charity of choice, others prefer to make only one-off donations. This all boils down to preference and comfort level.

2. Identify areas you are passionate in. Giving is much easier if you are giving to an area you are passionate in. If you like children, donating to a children's charity makes sense. The key idea is to donate to causes which you believe in and are passionate about.

3. Read up, Track progress, Be clear about expectations. There are just so many charities out there. Just the other day, I learnt about this new charity called the Rainbow Club. I have never heard of it before had I not started the blog post asking readers for suggestions. This goes to show that there are so many organisations out there and it might be worthwhile to read up more, track each of these organisation to see what they are doing differently from the rest and also tailor your expectations on how your money will be put to good use.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

$10 Donation Contest - Pick Your Favorite Charity

Many months back, I had a free $50 giveaway contest where I gave away $50 to the 50th person who commented on a post. You can find the free $50 contest here.

I decided to start a donation contest today.

The thing is that you won't be winning a single dollar. Rather, it will be the charity of your choice that wins the money.

Just drop a short comment on this post and let me know which charity is worth giving and why you personally think so. I will pick the best comment and donate the $10 to that charity. Of course, I will not be able to proof that I did so but you can just trust me =)

Or you can ask MusicWhiz who won the $50 contest to testify that I really gave him $50 the last time I held such a contest.

So simple rules. Just comment on this post the charity of your choice and why you think that charity deserves the money. Who knows, I might even consider giving to that charity on a more regular basis. And some of the readers of this blog might do so too =)

Let's start the ball rolling!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Simplifying My Life - Email Detoxification

I am trying to simplify my life. I find that I have way too many emails to read and that is perhaps worsened by the fact that lots of spam mail have been coming in as I have subscribed to various forums before.

Just the other day, I went through all my spam mail and basically unsubscribed myself from all future mailing lists. Now, my email inbox registers at least 10 less emails per day. That is a great deal to me as I only check my non-work related email account like once in a week. So that basically means a grand total of 70 emails less to scroll thru each time I log on during the weekends.

All this is just part of my effort to try to simplify my life and to get the unimportant things out of the way leaving me with quality time to pursue the goals that I want.


Saturday, November 13, 2010

Does Donate Button Work?

Does putting a DONATE button on the blog help? I cannot help but notice that many people have placed donate buttons on their blog to ask readers to support them in their blogging efforts. In fact, some bloggers say that they have actually managed to get donations from certain generous readers.

I thought it would be pretty cool to try it out so I have just placed a donate button on the top right of this blog.

Hopefully some generous soul will donate to me some money to buy me a cup of coffee?

Wonder whether anyone else out there has tried putting a donate button before and whether anyone did donate any money?

Perhaps I will wait for one month and report my findings. Stay tuned!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Retirement Planning

Are you planning to retire? Is the fear of retirement bothering you night and day? Are you sure about your retirement planning and whether you have enough savings?

Well, these are some of the most common questions that one might ask oneself several times while planning for retirement. Retirement can be said to be the phase of life where a person leaves or losses his employment or professional identity forever. In fact, I have even read newspaper articles that suggest retirement as a concept is actually fairly new in our human history. Afterall, people in the past used to work as long as they were able to. There was no such thing as a retirement age!

I shudder at the thought of retirement. Afterall, I find it hard to imagine sitting at home having nothing to do. Yet I can't help notice the trend that these days, older people are increasingly moving towards semi retirement by reducing daily or weekly work hours before they actually go into full retirement. I have seen many real life examples. Others have even gone a step further and taken a more radical approach - by suggesting that one can go on mini-retirements throughout one's life. (Read the 4 Hour Work Week and you will know what I am talking about)

In today's world with its ever increasing cost of living, it is hard to imagine somebody retiring and totally stopping work and not drawing an income. How certain can one be that he will not outlive his or her savings? Based on the average life expectancy of Singaporeans, I think the average male or female will live to age 80. But that is being average and if one happens to be above average, you could possibly be living till 90 or even 100! What if you had only enough savings for 10 years or 20 years and retired at the age of 60. You will be too old to find employment then!

There are in fact some employment opportunities out there that allows for flexi work arrangements for the elderly. Singapore is also introducing a Re-employment Act to make employers offer older employees some kind of employment even after the official retirement age. In the future, it is not hard to imagine that elderly folks can work from home as they have easy access to the computer and internet.

For me, I believe I will try to work for as long as I can. I have changed my thinking about retirement a few times in my life. In the past, I wanted to retire as early as possible. Now, I see retirement as something that I want to avoid. If I can find something that I love to do, I don't mind doing it for the rest of my life!

It is useful to note this: Your retirement age is not fixed by law; in fact it’s fixed by your potential and willingness to work. In short, a retirement that makes your retired life fun loving and worthwhile is the best retirement plan that one can have. In fact, I would not call it retirement at all but rather active ageing.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Getting Married - Steps to Take

I realised that a frequent question I get from people is how much savings one needs to get married. I am not that old but I guess being married- being a person that has walked down that path, makes me a qualified individual.

Or perhaps people know that I am a person who likes to plan ahead and seems to have everything under control. And that is why they ask me for advice.

Recently, when browsing through the IMSavvy site, I realised that it was one of the discussion topics too. So I guess I will chip in to the many opinions out there. But perhaps a better way is to tell you my story.

* * * * * * * * * * * *
I decided to get married when I found the right person. Of course, it is a commitment that one takes as you never ever know whether there might be someone out there in the world who might be prettier, or better suited for you. But one does not have time to meet all members of the opposite sex in the world so you take the leap of faith.

Having known my girlfriend then for sometime, I decided that enough was enough and I was ready to settle down. It was getting tiring to just date without anything to hold us or bind us together.

So I sat my girlfriend down and asked her how much we needed to get married. (Yes, I know it is not romantic at all). But for most guys, I guess this is the preparatory stage before the actual proposal. You just want to make sure that the both of you have sufficient resources to hold a wedding. buy a house, buy some furniture and if possible, go for a nice honeymoon.

Of course, on 2nd thoughts, I should have just bought a ring and proposed straight up, then do the planning later on. But like I told you before, I am really a planner kind of person. And it simply did not make sense to hide my plans from my girlfriend. (okay, i admit that I am not romantic)

Well, the conversation went well and she actually got excited. I think she was just happy that I was actually thinking of settling down. We did our math on a rough sheet of paper which I grabbed and listed down item by item the things that we had to pay for. In fact, she kept that sheet of paper and we still have that piece of paper as a sort of memory.

In short, we added up every single item we could think of that we needed and tallied the total bill. We then forecasted how long it would take us to save that amount of money.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

Now came the savings part.

As we were both working and literally quite fresh out of university, we basically were able to save quite a bit each month as long as we did not splurge on unnecessary stuff.

So it was actually quite workable. And we realised that we needed less than 1 year to save up for marriage. In this manner, we sort of revealed our finances to one another.

Good thing: we both did not have any debt.

Bad thing: we would be in debt the moment we got married as we wanted to buy our own place.

But that did not deter us and basically, we continued to save up fervently. Of course, I eventually did propose, buying the ring with a hidden stash of cash that I did not reveal to her at the start =)

Were there fights? Well...not really. We really stuck to the budget as the wedding day draw nearer. We tried to keep to the budget for most of the items and I am glad that such detailed budgeting helped solve a lot of the problems I believe couples face. As the budget was worked out by the both of us, we gauge all prices quoted to us based on what we have budgeted for. Anything too expensive...sorry...we looked for a lower quote. If there was anything that happened to be cheaper..then good..we saved some money.

The few months before the actual wedding was really a mad frenzy. Each weekend was spent trying to buy some item or furniture for our new home. The credit card bills came in fast and furious and it was not uncommon to be signing off thousands of dollars in a single shopping spree. But like I said, we stuck strictly to what we budgeted for.

I still remember that there were times I had to call up the credit card company to ask them to temporarily increase my credit limit so that I could pay for the big items. In fact, I have never ever spent money like that in my entire life before. Thinking back on it, I guess it is a phase that everyone has to go thru especially if you are getting your own place to live in. Furniture after all can be very expensive.

In fact, the renovations were the most expensive item that we budgeted for. But we decided that it was worthwhile to spend that money as we will want our home to be a nice and comfy place to live in.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

We counted down the months. As each month drew closer, our bank accounts got more and more depleted. It can really be quite stressful at times to realise that you are spending almost all your savings just to set up a home with somebody else. It was during this period that I really could see the sacrifices that my parents have made.

(I actually went further and started planning for life together and calculating our recurrent expenditure when we would move out of our parent's place and live in our own flat. It was then that I realised the amount my parents have been paying in terms for water, electricity, cable, etc over the twenty years of my existence. The amount they have spent on me must be lots!!!). Love you Mum and Dad!

* * * * * * * * * * * *
D-day arrived. It happened quickly and before I knew it, we were off to our honeymoon. When we returned home, we looked at the damage that the wedding had done to our finances, shrugged it off and decided that it was worthwhile. We did not spend a lot but it was still quite a substantial bit.

Nevertheless, because we did not spend our entire savings, we were able to start off our married life with a sure footing. (For example, even after our wedding and paying for all the bills, we still had 6 months of expenditure as an emergency fund set aside with room to spare)

Getting married is an expensive affair. It can be cheap if you want it to. But the best thing one can do is to sit down with your partner and work out the sums. Create a detailed budget and see whether some things are good to have and really necessary. The most important thing is open communication.

I hope this post has been useful for those who are planning to get married.

The writer has been married only once in his life. He does not plan to get married again. He thinks that weddings can actually be a lot cheaper if couples are willing to take the unconventional path of not having a huge celebration that Asians are so fond of doing. Perhaps a bbq or buffet will suffice in the future?

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

5 Secrets For Sustainable Spending

Spending sustainably comes down to living within one's means. Living beyond this may mean a lower standard of living in the future, as debts need to be serviced. Some sacrifices initially may actually mean a higher level of spending can be sustained in the future. This is much more preferable to being at risk of debt collection

Make a Budget

Old habits die hard, so it's worth fostering good habits early on. This starts with making a budget. One should set aside sufficient funds to handle standard expenses, like rent or mortgage repayments, credit card payments, car repayments, car running costs, council rates, electricity, water, other utilities and the like. Additional funds should be allocated for unexpected expenses like car repairs.

Hopefully there are still some funds left over. The remainder should be split between current discretionary spending and future savings for a rainy day. One needs to enjoy life and spending for enjoyment is part of this, but it needs to be kept in check. As long as one can consistently allocate even a small amount of funds to be saved, then one is on the right track.

Investments

Allocating savings into an investment fund is a good way to save for the future. Long term stock market returns of around 10% per annum are well above average deposit rates, and well above the inflation rate. Consistently adding savings to such a fund is a positive way to build up a nest egg. What has this got to do with spending you may ask? As your investments start to perform, the investor bears fruit in the form of managed fund distributions or dividends, and capital growth.

Spending From Surplus

These dividends, distributions, or profits taken on an investment can be allocated to spending. The difference to standard spending is that one is spending from a surplus. The investment can be left to continue to grow and provide further distributions in the same way that a tree continues to bear fruit. Re-investing distributions should mean even greater distributions (and hence even greater spending capacity) in the future. Continuing to regularly allocate savings to such investments will also enhance this capacity.

Save First, Spend Later

The strategy above admittedly does require a little sacrifice at the outset. One needs to curtail immediate spending for the benefit of future spending. The alternative of going into debt is a poor option. If consumer spending is financed by debt, then this debt acts as a restricter on future spending.

Credit can indeed boost spending, but this does have a limit. The more one spends on credit, the more future income one is then forced to apportion to paying off debt. Importantly, getting into the habit of spending more than one earns can make breaking this habit very difficult.

Purchase Outright

For all but the most expensive items (like a property!), one should really be able to save up funds to purchase them. It may be tempting to go out and buy the latest Plasma TV on credit, but waiting and saving will mean no interest payments, and the TV will also probably be cheaper by that time!

No one wants to have to negotiate debt repayments with debt recovery companies. Keep control of your finances by following the above steps to sustainable spending. Stick to a budget, and allocate some funds to savings and investments, so that future spending is worry free and enjoyable.

[This is a guest post]

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Saving for Child's Education

After many months of saving, I am glad to say that the amount in my child's POSBKids Savings Account has reached a nice tidy sum of $3,600. I have basically been putting all the red packet money that he has been receiving into his bank account. (For those who live overseas, the Chinese have a custom of giving these red packets which are filled with money for occasions like Chinese New Year, birthdays, etc).

So all these money has come in handy. Unfortunately, if I do a straight line projection, it shows that I will still be severely short of the $50,000 that I hope to accumulate by the time my child hits the age of 18/20.


Sagrada Familia at Barcelona




I read the news recently about the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona being restored and how the first mass is going to be conducted there. I remember travelling to Barcelona sometime back and took some pictures of the Sagrada Familia. It is really an impressive looking building. Too bad the pictures I took had all these hovering cranes around the building as they were still working at restoring it.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Deepavali

Happy Deepavali to all my readers.

It is a rainy day and it helps that it is a public holiday so we can all sleep in. Wanted to go to a park or a beach but since it was raining, we decided to stay home.

I bought breakfast back for the family. Nice yummy food. Comfort food in fact. Nice hot coffee from the coffee shop, wanton mee, carrot cake and chui kui. Yummy!

Going to tuck in now, and catch up on my soccer news which I have missed for the past one week.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Standing Out from the Crowd

Everyday I board the MRT, I cannot help but notice how packed it is. But more importantly, I can't help but notice how small I am in this world.

The MRT is filled with people dressed in their office wear, all geared up to go to work. Some of them look confident. Others look tired.

When I look out of the MRT, there are blocks and blocks of HDB flats. Each block probably containing close around 1000 residents. And I am but an insignificant person living in one of those flats.

It makes me wonder how different I am from each of these individuals. How do I make myself stand out from the crowd? Am I a better person compared to the person standing next to me? How do I differentiate myself from all the other people around me? In short, what are the skills and experience I need to acquire to ensure that I stand out from the rest of the crowd?

Of course, there are the days when I just can't be bothered and resign myself to fate that there are probably zillions of people who are much better than me in every aspect. And perhaps, I should just be contented to live my quiet and peaceful life... Not to seek fame and fortune but to live a quiet and happy life with my family.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Best Breakfast Places in Singapore

I enjoy having a sumptuous breakfast on Saturdays and Sundays. It is the only time that I can relax and take my time to eat my breakfast. Every weekend, I search for the best breakfast places in Singapore to eat.

I am not looking for good food per se because the whole of Singapore is filled with good and yummy food. What I am looking for is a place with reasonable food, reasonable service and most importantly - a nice ambience.

Usually, this are cafes where there is the thick aroma of coffee that welcomes you the moment you open the door. In Singapore's sweltering heat, it helps to have some air-conditioning though I am generally alright if the place is outdoors but with some shade. There are usually newspapers or magazines for you to browse and the place shouldn't be over crowded.

I know of a few nice places. This includes Toast at Takashimaya, Olio Dome and of course Casa Verde @ Botanic Gardens. If I am just looking for a quick and satisfying meal, I will usually head out to Toastbox. The problem with Toastbox is it is usually jam packed on weekends and the ambience isn't great. At Toastbox, I will usually just have Nasi Lemak and a cup of coffee.

Where can the best breakfast places in Singapore be found? Anyone care to share their selection?

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Over-Indebtedness Puts You At Risk of Becoming Obese

by Matthew Stathis

The worldwide economic crisis has caused an enormous number of citizens in high-income countries to become over-indebted, even though they may have severely reduced their standard of living. The rise in personal debt has corresponded with a parallel rise in stress levels, resulting in widespread lack of sleep. Now it appears that over-indebted people have one more worry to add to their list: they are at risk of becoming obese.
A study was conducted in Germany a few months ago that showed a relationship between over-indebtedness and obesity. Dr. Eva Munster and her research team at the University of Mainz have concluded that extreme debt obligations result in more than twice the likelihood that a person will be obese or overweight as compared to a financially stable person
The study defines over-indebtedness as the inability to make timely payments on one’s debts due to the imbalance between income and the cost of living. Low socio-economic status has long been considered a contributing factor to the worldwide epidemic of obesity. However, a direct relationship between indebtedness and obesity had not been considered prior to Dr. Munster’s study.

Are Over-Indebted People More Likely to Become Obese?

The goal of the study was to measure the general health of individuals who are over-indebted. Two German population-based surveys provided the data. The first was a telephone survey, which included 8318 respondents from the general population. The second was a questionnaire distributed to the clients of debt counseling centers, to which 949 over-indebted people responded. Both surveys obtained information on socio-economic status including age, sex, education and income. Information was also collected regarding body mass index (BMI, a measure of obesity that is based on one’s height and weight), smoking behavior and depression levels.
Males and females were found to be equally over-indebted. Many of the traits that are common to people of low socio-economic status were present: lower education levels, lower income levels, greater depression levels and greater quotidian tobacco consumption than would be found in the general population. However, the over-indebted subjects were younger than people of low socio-economic status usually are. Also, they were more likely to be overweight or obese.

Obesity A Corollary To Poverty

Previous studies have shown an association between low financial status and being overweight. However, this is the first study to show that financial belt-tightening, in the form of serious indebtedness, could result in a literal belt loosening. One reason is the diminished access to healthy food, researchers speculate. There is an inverse relationship between a food’s caloric content and its cost. High calorie (energy dense) food, such as fatty snacks and sweets, generally costs less. On the other hand, low calorie (low energy) food, such as broccoli or carrots, tends to cost more.
Impoverished people tend to eat low-cost food that has a high-energy content while they simultaneously reduce their energy expenditure – participation in leisure and social activities tends to be curtailed when on a budget. Another factor that contributes to higher BMI may be psychological distress. A person who is in a depressed emotional state may increase food intake to achieve a sense of well-being. Therefore, over-indebted individuals may self-medicate with food to improve mood.
In Germany, approximately 7.6% of households are over-indebted and 33% of residents are obese. Germans have the reputation of being the fattest people in Europe and the government has launched an anti-obesity campaign to address the issue. If it is determined to be so and if the German government is successful in its campaign to end obesity, the people might experience an improvement in their financial condition.
It is not clear from Dr. Munster’s study, however, what the causal direction of the observed relationship between a man’s waistline and his financial stability is. It is not clear if being indebted is a risk factor for becoming obese or the other way around. It has been suggested, for example, that obese individuals face greater difficulty finding a job that will pay the bills, simply because they face psychological (negative body image) and social (prejudice, stigmatization, etc) barriers that are uncommon to normal-weight people.

Extrapolating The Data

The medical community is considering whether the results obtained in the German study can be applied to other countries. In the United States, where the number of people who are over-indebted is on the rise, the study’s results are cause for concern.
Currently, obesity in the United States affects one in four people. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) describes America as obesogenic, which means that society has created the conditions that promote obesity. This is due in large part to the congressional farm bill, which subsidizes the production of fattening food like corn and other grains, keeping unhealthy foods inexpensive. There is also a suburban culture that mandates long commutes by car and discourages walking. Furthermore, many jobs in the modern, technological workplace are sedentary.
Could over-indebtedness be another obesogenic factor in American society? According to a recent report, more Americans filed for bankruptcy during March of 2010 than any time since the overhaul of the federal bankruptcy laws in 2005.

Implications of the Obesity-Debt Link

The German study shows that over-indebted people are more prone to obesity. If this is true, with over-indebtedness on the rise in high-income nations, a corresponding rise in obesity should be anticipated. Since obesity is associated with serious health problems such as heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and certain forms of cancer, a healthcare crisis should also be anticipated. As developed countries struggle to mitigate the parallel epidemics of obesity and over-indebtedness, access to healthy food by people of low socio-economic status must be considered a top priority.

Matthew Stathis, PhD, is a young entrepreneur who recently left his career as a research scientist at Washington University in order to learn and apply simple business and investment principles. Alarmed by rising rates of obesity in the United States, he maintains a blog where he shares and explains scientific information that can address this issue. Matthew has identified 3 clinically researched diets in the US, including Weight Watchers which you can read about here. Other diet programs that Matthew recommends and features in his site are Medifast, Bistro MD, Diet to Go, and eDiets

Weekends are Expensive

Weekends are a source of joy for me as it is the time that I get to spend quality time with the family. I try my best not to work on weekends but there are certain times when I do need to get work done so the weekends that I can enjoy without having to worry about work are truly precious to me.

During this kind of weekends, I will usually splurge a little. We will have nice little breakfasts and brunches at nicer places rather than hawker centres. We will eat a little more, and likewise, spend a little more too with some shopping for home stuff or books or whatever retail therapy that suits us.

I have sort of figured that each weekend, I can easily spend close to $200. This includes meals which usually add up to over $150 over both Saturdays and Sundays. The other $50 will usually be used to buy miscellaneous items like books, clothes, etc, etc. This is usually retail therapy as the more I walk around the shopping malls like ION or stuff, there are just so MANY things that I want to get.

It means that weekends tend to be much more expensive for me compared to a normal weekday. But I guess it is worthwhile. Afterall, such weekends are precious to me and I am willing to spend just a little bit more of money for the ambience and the mood to make sure that the weekend is well-spent.

Wedding Dinner Pay How Much?

I found very useful information while surfing the net.

This site basically allows one to search for their wedding banquet according to various costs, etc.

Also a very useful site when you need to know how much money to put in your red packet.

The prices listed are without service charge and GST so you have to add that in yourself.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Paying Housing Installments With CPF

I visited one of the branches of HDB's office today to start paying a greater percentage of my housing installments using my CPF monies instead of using cash.

I have been paying close to $500 cash with the rest of the housing installments paid by my CPF. However, I decided to use more of my CPF monies to pay for my housing installment so that the amount of cash that I will pay is really nominal now (less than $100). This should free up some cash and provide a little more flexibility for me.

I was surprised at how efficient and how fast the service was. I spent less than 15 minutes there to settle everything even though it was a Saturday morning where one would expect things to be working a little slower.

So now I am paying $1000 per month from my CPF monies for my HDB flat. I don't think I will have much CPF money for the next few years.

For those of you who are unacquainted with Singapore and acronyms like HDB and CPF here is a brief explanation:

1. HDB - Housing Development Board. One of the first few statutory boards established by the Government under the Ministry of National Development to take care of the housing needs of Singaporeans. The high rise apartments or flats that are built by HDB are called HDB flats. Most Singaporeans (around 80%) live in these HDB flats which vary in shapes and sizes, and are distributed across various town centres in Singapore.

2. CPF - Central Provident Fund. Another stat board formed. CPF is a social security savings plan for Singaporean's retirement. Over the years, it has been expanded to allow Singaporeans to purchase their HDB flats and pay for medical bills too. When people refer to CPF in Singapore, they commonly refer to their CPF monies which are kept in this account.


Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Rooney, Manchester United and Job Loyalty

So Wayne Rooney has been having a poor form lately in football. This was after his dismal World Cup performance earlier in the year. Then some news came out that he had an affair while his wife was pregnant. To make things worse, his form on the pitch did not improve and he was left on the bench for many games. For some of the games, he was not even considered for the bench.

Now, the latest news is that Alex Ferguson and Wayne Rooney are going their separate ways. After some weeks of denying that Rooney wants to leave, newspapers today reported that Wayne Rooney had asked to leave Manchester United. That's after he had spent almost 6 years at United since moving over from Everton. Job loyalty? Just throw it out of the window. Here comes the mercenary. Well, at least that's how the newspapers were reporting it.

Come on.

Who amongst us dares to say that we have sticked with one company for 6 years? Most people don't even practice job loyalty nowadays yet when soccer players want to change clubs, we suddenly call them mercenaries and blast them for being selfish, money-faced and what nots.

This is incredible considering that many people today do not even stick with a company for 6 years! Most people I know have only been with their company for less than 4 years. In fact, it seems common for people to change companies ever so frequently nowadays. Job loyalty? It seems that people nowadays are no longer loyal to only a certain company. After all, no company today dares to promise its employees lifelong employment. What they can guarantee is lifelong employability and not lifelong employment.

Considering that soccer players have only such a short career span, it definitely makes sense for them to eke out the best opportunities for themselves before they hit the "official" retirement age of 35. To be left on the bench for a season is almost akin to loosing your work experience for like 10% of your working life.

Job loyalty certainly does not exist in work outside football so why do we expect this kind of standards from footballers. Give Rooney a break.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Childhood Memories and Nostalgia

A few months back, I was standing at my previous home compound where my parents still live. I was wandering downstairs with the family when I suddenly remembered that many years ago, I used to roam the playground and the fields nearby with my neighbors. These were my childhood playmates whom I used to meet up with almost every other day to play simple games like catching, hide-and-seek, etc. Over the years, we all lost contact with one another. Today, I can still recall their nicknames and which floors they stayed at as we frequented each other's house quite often.

I stood at the block and looked up. A sense of nostalgia hit me. I wondered what these childhood friends were doing now. I have lost contact with every single one of them. The last time that I saw one of them was more than 10 years ago in late secondary school on the bus. Even during that time, we had already drawn apart as we only stayed in touch till around early secondary school.

Standing there, I felt like going up to each of the house to knock and ask whether so and so was still staying there. After all, I missed those carefree days when we roamed around and I really wondered how they were getting on with their lives. The last I heard, some of them went overseas to study, some went to work, and some... I don't know. I tried looking up to see those houses and whether there were any lights in them. Have they moved out? I don't know. What do they look like today? I also do not know. After all, we were all in primary school during those days.

But I am certain that they had lovely memories about our childhood. And I do hope that we will be able to meet up one day. Unfortunately, there is almost no way to trace where they are now. Even with facebook, I don't even know their surnames or last names to be able to track them down. After all, in the past, we only used our names and were not too concerned about each other's surnames.

Childhood memories. Sweet childhood memories.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Peter Lim - Almost Liverpool Owner.

So the news is out. Peter Lim withdrew his offer for Liverpool after its owners did not revert back on his better offer than New England Sports Ventures (NESV). And NESV are now the proud new owners of Liverpool which just lost 2-0 to Everton. Liverpool now stands at the 2nd last in the English Premier League and are in the relegation zone. Of course, it is still way to early in the season to tell.

I guess it is really a pity that our very own Singaporean billionaire did not get the chance to be the owner of Liverpool FC. Imagine the limelight it will throw on Singapore. A Singapore owner for one of the top football clubs in Europe and England! What a pity. I guess most people underestimate how such things can actually bring so much other untold benefits to Singapore.

For one, readership of this blog went skyhigh during the news of Peter Lim making an offer to buy Liverpool. My readership for this blog hit record highs for a few days consecutively. Too bad the news has died down almost as fast as it started. And I am sure many Singaporean Liverpool fans are sorely disappointed.

I guess we can only think about all the "what ifs" now.

Perhaps Manchester United next ? =)

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Credit Card Bills

It is amazing how fast a month flies past.

I racked up a hefty amount of credit card bills during the past month paying for a lot of big ticket items. Stuff like road tax and car insurance were all due together and so my credit card bills balloned to way past the $3000 dollar mark.

Looks like this month will be a leaner month for me. Time to tighten the belt and start saving for the year end holiday.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Remisier King Peter Lim Offers $750m for Liverpool

Peter Lim had increased his bid for Liverpool to fend off US rivals. Besides offering to clear the debts of Liverpool, he is also willing to give an immediate cash injection of 40 million pounds for the football club to buy new players. His bid is also attractive as it does not require an financing.

This comes amidst a bitter court battle over the sale of Liverpool. The other two bidders are New England Sports Ventures (NESV) and Mill Financial (a US hedge fund).

Mr Lim is the son of a fishmonger and is revered in Singapore financial circles for being an extremely savvy investors. Known as the "remisier king", he amassed a large fortune and had a winning touch in various companies - the biggest being that in Wilmar International which grew from $10 million initial investment to close to $2 billion today.

He however has business relationship with Manchester United and has the sole rights to own, operate and develop a chain of the famous club's restaurants across Asia. Whether he will give up the venture remains unknown.

The fate of offer will however depend on the court battle that is currently being waged between Liverpool's owners and chairman. The Liverpool owners want to stop the sale as they claim the price is too low. If the court rules in favor of the current Liverpool American owners, the club is likely to go into administration and will lose even more points in the Premier League.

Being a savvy investor, Peter Lim certainly must know what he is doing and while English media and fans are wary of the bid, Singaporeans here are cheering that our very own local hero could potentially own one of the biggest sporting clubs in English football history. Others have however questioned whether that money could be invested in the ailing local soccer scene which would benefit in a big way from that amount.

As Andy Ho, president of the local Liverpool supporters' club says: " This will put Singapore on the world football map."

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Peter Lim Makes Offer for Liverpool

Former remisier king has made an offer to buy over Liverpool.

Well done! Our very own Singaporean billionaire who can afford to buy over a well-known English football club. I wrote about Peter Lim some time back under this post.

So how will this impact me?

Well, just yesterday, I saw my blog views on this blog jump to over 2000 page views in a single day just on that post alone.

I guess the hype about this new potential owner of Liverpool has got many people Googling his name and landing up on my blog.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

AIA Agent's Insurance Scam

Another scam has hit the market. This time in the insurance industry again. It is like...AGAIN??


It is not surprising that in my first post in IMSavvy, I decided to write about whether one can trust your financial planner. I wrote that post because I cracked my head hard to think of a posting that would truly be timeless in a certain way. And I have been proven right in a certain sense. There are definitely conflicts of interests in the financial advisory business where the salary model is that of a sales business (i.e. commission based). A lot of unethical people lurk in the insurance business where the entry into business is easy and the rewards are high.

No matter how hard you try to argue that there is no conflict of interest, this conflict of interest will exist.

But I guess in the AIA agent's case, this has been brought to a whole new level. Selling non-existent insurance products! Who is to blame? Surely not AIA. Which insurance company can actually stop its agent from selling non-existent products? This is just an outright scam and the agent involve just lacks the ethics. It could literally happen anywhere and it is just unfortunate that this happened in the insurance industry AGAIN.

So what can the consumer do?

Simple. Just make sure that whatever contract you sign is really legal and is from the insurance company. Letter heads can be faked and so can many other things if the agent is out to cheat your money.

Another way is to not pass hard cash and when in doubt, call the customer service for info (yes, please get the customer service number from the website and not from your "trusted" agent)

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Finexis and AXA FutureProtector

Many of you should recall the saga between AXA and Finexis over the sale of the FutureProtector term insurance which was literally given away free by Finexis. AXA ended up demanding to claw back money from Finexis due to the high lapse rate of the product.

Just the other day, I received a letter dated 1st Oct 2010 from Finexis. Its contents are as follows:

================
Attention: Mr/Ms./Mdm XXXX

FUTUREPROTECTOR PLAN

Dear Mr/Ms./Mdm XXXX,

Thank you for being a client of Finexis Advisory Pte Ltd.

As you would know, insurance provides peace of mind for you and your family, and an appropriate amount of term insurance coverage is the foundation of proper financial planning. These term insurance rates tend to increase with age and your decision in getting such coverage early is extremely prudent. The AXA Futureprotector is such a term plan, which offers you the following benefits:

  • Financial protection against death and terminal illness
  • Guaranteed renewability
  • Guaranteed premiums for the coverage term
We noted that you have purchased the AXA Futureprotector last year during our promotion. However, you may have overlooked the renewal and thus, your Futureprotector is no longer inforce.

To allow you to renew your Futureprotector plan, which has lapsed on 17 April 2010, we have arranged for designated personnel(s), to contact you soon to follow up on our letter and to complete the Health Declaration form. The reinstatement will be at AXA's absolute discretion and this letter is valid till 15 January 2011.

Yours sincerely,

Signed off by Warren Lim

=====================

I think Mr Warren Lim is mistaken in a few ways by sending me this letter:

Firstly, I did not purchase AXA Futureprotector. It was given to me free-of-charge as part of their promotion. I was told to just pay for it first with a full reimbursement to come later.

Secondly, I did not overlook the renewal. I was reminded by the agent to cancel it and he even sent me a Giro cancellation form which I did not use at the end of the day as I simply called up the bank.

Thirdly, once you get something for free, it is very seldom that you will want to pay for it. Why pay for something when you had it for free the last time?


Friday, October 8, 2010

To Cultivate Generosity and Love Simplicity

I read a book by John Stott about some Christian perspectives about wealth and I had some reflections about the matter which I thought might be useful to share.

How to be content in life is really not about chasing riches or wealth.

Being content in life is really about learning how to live simply or to love simplicity. Truth be told, many of the pleasures in life can actually be enjoyed without paying a single cent. Sometimes, the night sky with all the stars is enough to take my breath away compared to watching a zillion movies. Living simply also means being happy with the simple things in life like the MRT ride to work, the cup of coffee, a quiet rest at night, a nice bath, etc.

Loving simplicity is however not enough. One ought not to hoard wealth to the extent that he puts his trust in them. After all, you never know whether you will wake up with it or whether you might even wake up the next day. Another part about managing wealth is really about learning how to give your money away according to your means. The money that you have can be given to good causes rather than just to satisfy your own desires. After all, what can one do with so much money if you don't even know whether you will live past a certain age.

So cultivate generosity and love simplicity. Be content with the food and clothing you have. Give generously to the poor.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Big Money Talk on MRT

I was on the MRT going back home when I overheard this conversation between a middle-aged man and a guy in his late twenties. The young chap was probably a property agent and talking to this middle-aged man who was also probably a property agent himself. They were talking about flipping properties and the young chap was eager to learn from the middle-age man.

Young man: So you buy and sold a lot of properties?

Old Man: Yes. A lot. In the past, just buy and then sell, and you make lots of money.

Young man: How much money do you make per sale?

Old Man: Good money.

Young man: So 30K?

Old Man: No lah! 30K is peanuts. I am talking about 6 digit here man... 30, 40K is peanuts!

Young man: Wow. *suitably impressed

Old Man: In 2007, any property on the market, you just buy and sell. Surely make money.

Young man: Wow. So you must have made a lot of money.

Old Man: Enough to survive lah. Nowadays it's just consolidating.

Young man: So how much do you make from all your transactions? Got 200K?

Old Man: No lah! Please! 100-200K is peanuts I tell you. Chey..200K is nothing man, I tell you.

Young Man: Wow....

Even when I heard this conversation, I was like "Wow". 200K is peanuts??

Some people do not even earn $200K after working for ten years and here was a man talking quite loudly in the MRT about $200K being peanuts and how he has made a lot from flipping properties.

Food for thought!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Living Within Your Means

Most people have heard about "living within your means" but how many people actually practise it?

I have just discovered that it is very hard to live within one's means. As one climbs up the career ladder, or as one ages, one feels obliges to spend more on certain stuff. This can range from food, clothing to holidays even.

It is difficult to live within your means when everyone else is spending like there is no tomorrow. It is difficult to live within your means when friends and colleagues are always nearby and offer a good comparison of the things that you have versus what you do not have.

In fact, I am almost certain that it is not your absolute income that makes you happy. Rather, it is your relative income that makes one satisfied.

The simple lesson: Stop comparing and live the life that you really want to. Comparing gets you no where and only makes you desire for the things that you do not have. The reason why we fail to live within our means is because we keep comparing and our expectations go up. We expect to be able to own certain luxury goods that we could easily do without.

I have failed in this area too many times. This entry is just a reminder to myself and to readers to Live Within Your Means.

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