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 ( 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 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".

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