Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Review of March 2010

Dear Valued Reader,

Every magazine that you read probably has some notes from the editor. This blog does not have an editor so I thought that I should at least address the reader once a month to give a round up of the happenings for that month.

March 2010 has proven to be another exciting month. At home, we were bombarded with news of how the prices of everything is literally going up. These include HDB prices, COE and also electricity tariffs. This is certainly not good news for most of us.

Here at this blog, I mentioned quite a bit on the increasing costs of housing, COE prices and electricity tariffs and included some simple tips to manage this when it comes to personal finance. Hopefully the tips suffice. You can review the related postings here:

1. Average Singaporean's Largest Expense = HDB
2. COE prices skyrockets
3. Time to Buy a Car?

On the side, I have been overwhelmed by the response that I am getting at this blog/site. The latest number of unique readers registered on this site was 2,000 per month. I still remember the days when less than 10 people visited this site per month.

It is wonderful to see the readership go up and there are lots of interesting conversations that I am having with the online community. Everyday, I wake up and realise that there are probably 100 people waiting for my site to be updated. This makes me look for interesting material to share with them. And this is the reason why I blog today.

Every blogger goes through various milestones where they realise that their blogs are no longer personal blogs but blogs that are read by the public at large. This has happened to me too. CPF has approached me to blog at their IM$avvy site (Invitation to Blog at CPF IM$avvy). I still need to wait and see how all this pans out but it has gotten me to think a lot more about this blog and whether I am prepared to take it to the next level. The desire to remain anonymous has also been bugging at me. Is it time that I put a face to this blog?

What has started out as a blog to just chronicle my journey has now turned into me sharing my journey with friends and strangers. Somehow, it seems like I was running some race all alone and all of a sudden, I am surrounded by people who have also been embarking on a similar journey to mine.

On the personal side, I have been giving tuition and using my spare time to reflect on certain things. Sometimes, we think we make wrong decisions in life only to realise that these decisions were not wrong but just part of the process of growing up. Our unique experiences shape us into who we are. I just pray that I become a better person through all my experiences.

If there was one thing I could change, it would be to change the name of this blog. Perhaps I would have named it "My Journey" instead of "SgFinancialFreedom". But like I said above, the seemingly wrong decisions in life might not be wrong if we look at it from hindsight.

Thanks for all the wonderful encouragement and support. Let's have a good April 2010!

Warmest Regards,
FF
The Resident Blogger

Higher Electricity Bills

A rise in oil prices will push up electricty tariffs again for the 4th consecutive quarter.

The new rate for the April to June period is reported to be at 23.56 cents which is 3 per cent higher than the current rate.

The Straits Times reported that it will translate into an increase of $2.47 for a family in a four-room HDB flat. Hopefully that will be all that I am paying in extra for the month of April.

The increase in prices is largely due to the price of fuel oil which has gone up over the last 3 months.

You might want to re-read my Save Electricity Save Money post to avoid a shock when you receive your electricity bills for April.

An Average Singaporean's Largest Expense = HDB

In Singapore, people spend the most amount of money on their houses and their cars. With the increasing prices of HDB flats and COEs for cars recently, I think quite a few Singaporeans are concerned that these big ticket items will only go higher and higher.

Our Largest Expense $$$$ = Housing ($200K to $500K)

I remember that there was an article published on Today newspaper over the weekend stated that HDB's policy was to provide housing for the majority of Singaporean, make it affordable and at the same time allow Singaporeans to monetise on their houses. (I can't really remember the exact details so someone will have to correct me if I am wrong).

This being said, it shows that the government is truly concerned about making housing affordable for all. The supply of HDB flats have been increased recently but at the same time, the government needs to make sure that the value of people's houses increase over time. So this supply and demand has to be managed carefully. I have written about this previously when I said that the government should not be pressured into increasing the supply of HDB flats just because people are complaning. Complaints have to be heard but if the supply of HDB flats are increased without any proper planning, the value of all HDB flats in Singapore will be diluted.

Yet in today's newspaper, we hear of one flat being applied for by 6 applicants. It perhaps shows that there is still a great demand for HDB flats. Or maybe the supply is not enough. The cup is either half empty or half full depending on how you look at it =)

But are there any alternatives for people who cannot get a HDB flat?

1. They could opt for private housing which is even more expensive or they will have to put off their buying to a later date.

2. HDB BTO flats are another option. This is quite a funny scenario as I know of people who are still waiting to occupy their BTO HDB flats. Some have waited for 2 to 3 years. The wait is long and at the mean time, they put up at their parent's place.

3. HDB resale flats. More expensive and sometimes require Cash Over Valuation.

4. Another alternative would be to rent a place. But rental isn't exactly cheap either for an entire unit.

5. Stay with parents or in-laws. I know of people who chose to stay with their parents. They do not have to worry about queuing up for a HDB flat. Of course, they will have to forfeit their privacy.

So the point at the end of the day is that we need to manage people's expectations. If your expectations are high, be prepared to pay a high price for it. At the end of the day, most of us will still have a roof over our heads even if we can't get a HDB flat.

With housing being one of the largest expenses that an average Singaporean will incur, the house that you buy has a GREAT impact on your finances and should not be taken lightly. The loan period is usually 30 years and one can expect to pay a grand total of $200 to $500K depending on where they chose to stay. Of course, there are groups of people who purchase houses that cost way above $500K.

When people are desperate to get a HDB flat, they might sometimes make a hasty decision of buying a flat that is way above what they can afford. A rule of thumb used is that your monthly loans (all loans) should not exceed 35% of your monthly income. Please take note that some women also tend to stop working when a baby arrives. It might be wise to consider buying a house where the monthly installments can be managed based on a single person's income.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

$1 Fish and Chips

Yes, you heard me right! There is a special promotion of $1 fish and chips at Fish and Co.

All you have to do is go to the Fish and Co Earth Hour promotion and spread the message and they will give you a $1 coupon which entitles you to a $1 fish and chips (terms and conditions applies).

You can only use one coupon per table though.

I used the voucher today and managed to grab a nice pan of fish and chips at $1.00. Never mind that the total bill added up to over $20 in the end, the feeling of getting a discount or good deal always feels good.

Everybody in the restaurant were literally using the coupon, waving the printed sheet of paper in their hands. I saw big groups of people that even split themselves into smaller groups so that they could maximise the number of coupons they had. Some came in earlier and ordered separately before their friends joined them at nearby tables and they then proceeded to combine their tables. The waiters and waitresses seemed a bit overwhelmed by the various methods used though.

Anyway, I was quite surprised to realise that this ongoing promotion was actually part of the Earth Hour promotion. Perhaps the word should be "amused". I can imagine the Green Peace activists flipping in their chairs when they see the amount of paper that customers have used to print the coupons for the discount. Talk about saving the earth =)

Well, fish and chips at Fish and Co is always good and at $1 per pan, it is an offer not to be missed!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Public Transport Cheap

A few weeks back, I commented that it took me $0.91 per trip to use the bus to get to one of my destinations. This makes a two-way trip a mere $1.82.

With the rising costs of COE prices which I have highlighted previously, a lot of Singaporeans will have to consider taking public transport as an option.

Comparing the costs of public transport and car ownership

Public transport in Singapore is definitely affordable I must say. Compared to a car, if one was to spend $5 on public transport each day, the total cost per month only adds up to $150. That is assuming that the person does not take any taxi. But we can add in some discretionary taxi expenses at say $150 per month and the grand total is ONLY $300.

Compared to a car's monthly charges of $1000 and up, $300 is definitely very affordable. One can save the difference and invest in stocks or REITs to beef up their retirement funds. This is indeed a worthwhile option that people should consider.

Cheap but....

Today I took my regular two way trip which cost me $1.82. While public transport is cheap, it is not entirely "convenient" per se.

On my first trip, I had to wait 10 minutes for the bus. Due to this long waiting time, I was late for my appointment by 5 minutes as I still had to walk a certain distance to get to where I wanted to go.

On my return trip, I faced some dilemma. The bus was crowded and there was only standing space left. When I had about 5 stops left to my stop, I was sort of "forced" to move to the back as that was the only way new passengers could get in.

I did not want to block the way yet at the same time, had to lament the fact that after 5 stops, I would have to SQUEEZE my way out of the bus. So yes, the bus is cheap but it does put you in a tight spot (literally) at times.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Great World City Experience

I spent the morning at Great World City today.

I went to Toast Box for breakfast. It was then that I realised that the people in front of me were Japanese. Yet, they managed to converse in English to the auntie who was serving them in Toast Box. After eating some really great nasi lemak at Toast Box, I proceeded to walk around Great World City.

While I was passing by starbucks, I noticed another pair of Japanese. I looked into starbucks and couldn't help noticed that there were hardly any locals at all.

At Cold Storage, I couldn't help noticing that majority of the people there were expats or foreigners. Even the staff did not look like they were from Singapore.

It felt pretty weird shopping around in a place where I was literally the only local around. (Okay, I must be exaggerating a little). Perhaps there were a few other locals around.

Oh well, with 5 million people in our country, I would expect to bump into some foreigners. But to bump into an entire shopping centre that is filled with them makes me wonder whether we are a segregated society where certain groups of people can only be found at certain places.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Portfolio Update

With NOL increasing in price quite a bit over the past few months, I decided to let go of my remaining holdings of NOL at $1.93. With the liquidation, I have one less stock to monitor in my portfolio. Monitoring so many stocks at a go can sometimes be a bit challenging.

As the stock market rises further, I also intend to slowly liquidate my stocks to build up some spare cash so that I can buy when the opportunity presents itself. These include stocks like Pac Andes, Innotek and Kingboard. I seriously hope that the prices will continue to rise so that I can cash out of these stocks and place my money elsewhere.

I bought into Capitaland a few months back. Capitaland has also declared dividends recently. I expect the dividends to come in around May and that should help to boost up my income a bit.

I will continue to focus my purchases on stocks that give good dividends.

Know of a stock that gives a good dividend? Share it with me and the readers here.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

COE prices skyrocket

COE prices skyrocket

Last week, I posted a short article Time to Buy a Car? on COE prices increasing because of the government's move to restrict the supply of COE.

On 24th Mar 2010, the news reported that COE prices have skyrocketed to $28,389 for cars of up to 1,600cc and $36,089 for cars above 1,600cc.

It will definitely not be surprising if the prices continue to climb higher as that is what the authorities hope to achieve. With a limited supply of COE and a high demand for cars, bidders will have no choice but to push the prices higher.

I remember the days when COE prices were going for less than $1,000. The COE for my car was around $14K which is pretty cheap compared to today's prices.

How the ordinary Singaporean is going to afford a car is now a big question mark. With prices so high, I think most people are better off taking public transport. Couple it with the ever increasing HDB prices, the cost of living in Singapore is definitely going up.

Why People Buy Cars

I guess the better way to deal with the problem is to look at the reasons why people drive:

1. Convenience (Public transport is inconvenient)
2. Comfort (Public transport is not comfortable)
3. Status (Singaporeans value status and one is deemed to have made it if they drive a car)

Let me expound on the points further...

For convenience- Family with kids, pregnant women, old folks, rushing for time. All these play a part in people's decision to buy a car. If public transportation is not convenient enough for me, I will opt for the car.

For comfort - Buses can be old, dirty and smelly. Good thing they have removed the noisy TVMobile. During peak hours, when one is weary from work, "fighting" with the crowds just to get on and off the bus or train is a headache. The Singapore weather is also a killer. Hot and humid weather means you get sweaty just by waiting at the bus stop. When it is cool, it usually means that it is raining and one can prepare to get their feet soaked wet.

For status - In Singapore, the car is associated with STATUS. Isn't that what all the Channel 5 and Channel 8 shows have inculcated in us since we were young. The TV ads for cars are also too alluring and thus people are wired from young to desire for the biggest and nicest car.

A Better Way to Deal With Traffic Jams?

But is there a better way to deal with traffic jams and the clogging up of roads? So far, the government has implemented a slew of measures to prevent the overcrowding that is taking place on roads.

We have the COE and ERP that have been put in place to curb the amount of congestion of roads. But have these policies worked?

This is clearly a case where the government has decided that the only way to control the problem is to let the highest bidder pay for the right to use a car. After all, the reasons why people chose to drive a car cannot be easily answered even with the best public transportation system in place.

How High COE Prices Will Affect One's Personal Finance

For many potential first time car owners, they will probably have to put off the decision of buying a car. With COE prices at nearly half a year's wages for the average Singaporean, is it worthwhile to use up 0.5 years of wages to obtain the COE for a car that you can only drive for 10 years? That is a question lots of young adults will have to answer for themselves. Or perhaps they should put off the decision of buying a car only when they have started a family.

For those who cannot live without a car, be prepared to pay higher prices for the years to come. You might want to cut down on other expenses (e.g. holidays, luxury goods) and start saving up the money for the next car that you want to purchase.

Invitation to blog@IM$avvy

Dear friends,

I have been quite amazed at what this blog has achieved in such a short period of time. I have gotten countless of offers for help from readers. I have gotten lots of encouragement from strangers. And now I even got an offer to blog at CPF's IM$avvy.

I have been considering about the option and was wondering whether it would be too heavy a committment to commit to. Besides, I don't get paid. But nevertheless, I think it would be good exposure for me.

The email that was sent to me earlier this month is attached below (I have omitted certain sensitive information):
_______________________________________

Hi FF,

We will like to invite you onboard as IM$avvy Blog Corner Financial blogger.

IM$avvy is an initiative by CPF Board to provide an interesting and interactive portal for working and young adults to get information on financial matters such as financial planning, retirement, property and investment. One of our main goals is to increase awareness of our younger generation on the importance of financial planning so that they can start planning early and enjoy a secure retirement. In addition to having a blog on our website, we also host a forum, an info hub, webcasts and many more. To better connect with our target audience, we have established our presense on social networking platforms like Facebook, Twitter and FriendFeed! You can visit our website: www.imsavvy.sg to find out more.

Currently, we have 8 resident bloggers and we are looking for more talented writers and subject matter experts like yourself to join us. We will prefer bloggers contributing new posts at regular intervals e.g. once or twice a week and committing to do so for a period of one year. Alternatively, do let us know what is a comfortable arrangement for you. We can also look into publishing your current and past blog entries on IM$avvy Blog Corner instead of limiting to only submitting new posts. You can refer to the file attached in this email for more general information for IM$avvy bloggers.

On the average, each post has about 2,500 page views. IM$avvy Blog Corner will be a good channel to raise the profile of your blog. At the same time, you can take this opportunity to interact with our members. Participation of our bloggers are on a voluntary basis and there is no fee paid to them.

Do let me know your interest and we can discuss this further. Feel free to contact me at tel: XXXXXXXX for any enquiry.

Look forward to hearing favourable news from you.


Best Regards,
XXXXX

____________________________

Filing of Income Tax

The dreaded time of the year is upon all those who earn greater than $22,000 again. The time has come for the annual income tax filing.

This year, it will be a bit more tricky for me to file my returns. My previous employer was auto included in IRAS so I did not have to file any returns except when claiming for reliefs.

This year, I am on a self-employed status. Thus, I need to fill in my income that I have obtained from various trading activity, tuition (which I just started), etc. This gives me a big headache and I hope to settle the filing of my income tax soon.

Is filing income tax a big headache for you? What kind of problems do you face?

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

$402.75 in Dividends and Passive Income for Mar 2010

This is the total dividends and passive income that I received for the month of March 2010.

I wrote sometime earlier in the month that I have gotten my 3rd cheque from Google's Adsense program. Kindly refer to that posting there about my earnings from adsense. I will get my next payout in April or May.

Dividends
1. Pac Andes = $222.00

"Passive" Income
1. Adsense = $180.75

Total in Dividends and Passive Income = $402.75

On the job front, I will most probably secure a job by next month. (Fingers are all crossed!)

I have also started giving tuition which should roughly add another $1000 to my earnings each month.

Monday, March 22, 2010

The Untouchables

In Thomas Friedman's "The World is Flat" book, he talks about the untouchables, the creation or finding of the new middle class, whose jobs would not be taken away by the every hungry Chinese and Indians.

The author simply puts it as this:

Globalisation 1.0 : Countries had to think globally to thrive or at least survive.
Globalisation 2.0: Companies had to think globally to thrive or at least survive.
Globalisation 3.0: Individuals have to think globally to thrive or at least survive.

The old saying that our parents used to have was this:
" Boy, finish your dinner. People in China and India are starving."

In Globalisation 3.0, we as parents should be saying this to our children:
"Boys and girls, finish your homework. People in China and India are starving for your jobs."

The problem is that doing your homework alone is not going to help you thrive in the new flat world. One must be doing the right kind of homework. The key to figuring out how to thrive in this flat world would be for an individual to make themselves "untouchable". These are the people whose jobs cannot be OUTSOURCED, DIGITISED or AUTOMATED.

Welcome to the flat world!

Can you current job be outsourced, digitised or automated? Are you an untouchable?

Noisy Motorbikes Should be Banned in Singapore

It is 1230am in the morning. A noisy motorbike just drove by my place and woke my poor child up.

This is not the first time it has happened. It seems that the government or authorities are pretty lax nowadays when it comes to bikes and cars that are modified to have extraordinarily loud engine noises.

This people have totally no sense of consideration when they go racing down the roads at the wee hours in the morning, waking everyone in their path.

I simply do not understand why others should suffer from interrupted sleep because of these mindless fools.

I do hope that someone in LTA or the traffic police is reading this and take serious action against errant offenders.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Jobless in March

Jobless jobless jobless....

These are the 3 words that haunt me day in and day out. Everyday, I open my eyes and find that I am still jobless in every single sense of the word.

I wake up and try to figure out what to do till evening time which is when all my tuition assignments kick in.

So I usually try to have an enjoyable breakfast by visiting a coffeeshop or hawker centre. Eat my favorite food and drink my usual cup of coffee.

Go back home and surf the net and figure out what to eat for lunch.

Eat lunch and then start preparing for tuition.

After tuition, I think about what went well during the tuition session and what did not go so well and how I can improve the next session.

When I reach back home, I am usually quite tired out (from doing nothing). Nights are usually spent reading, watching TV or just surfing the net.

Come on job interviews, where are you???

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

What is Your Per Hour Rate?

I used to be obsessed in the past with calculating my per hour wages. This was simply calculated by taking one's gross salary divided by no. of hours worked in a month.

Per hour wage = Gross salary / No. of hours worked in a month.

Of course, the person who had the highest per hour wage had the biggest boasting rights. Afterall, he or she is "valued" more highly by society based on an hour's work compared to the normal worker.

In the past, I used to work close to 9 hours per day. That worked out to 45 hours per week and 180 hours per month. Based on my pay, that worked out to roughly $27 per hour. The only way to increase my hourly pay was to work less. That meant going to work later or leaving office earlier. Of course that did not go down well with my work ethics and I refused to do that. But when confronted with the cold hard facts, I realised that there was no other way to increase my pay per hour unless I got a pay raise or promotion. I was limited by the fixed pay concept.

Right now, I realised that one can actually earn a much higher hourly wage if you are doing your own business. Not all hours are created equal. Some people can earn an hourly wage of $50 to $80 dollars per hour. Others can even charge as high as $300 per hour!

I looked through the classifieds the other day and realised that some workmen or carpenters were charging easily $50 for changing faulty cabinets and stuff. That means that in one day, all they have to do is to fix 4 cabinets and they could easily earn $4000 per month! And if you have seen them change cabinet doors before, you know that it is a pretty simple task that could be completed in less than an hour.

What is your hourly wage? Are you limited by a fixed pay and thus unable to increase your pay?

Aceing the Job Interview

If only job interviews were as easy as the cartoon that I have pasted below....

How does one ace a job interview? Are there any tricks or tips that are worth noting?

I noticed that favorite questions by interviewers are always this:

1. Why did you leave your last job or Why do you want to leave your current job?
2. Why do you want this job or this position in our company?

I really wonder what is the use of such questions. What kind of answers do they want to hear?


Tuesday, March 16, 2010

FAQ about SgFinancialFreedom

Here are some frequently asked questions about sgfinancialfreedom:

Q: How do you compute your networth?
A: I compute my networth by adding my family's assets subtracted by liabilities. Assets include items like house, car, bank deposits, stocks, insurance moneys while liabilities include things like housing loan, car loan and other outstanding debts.

Q: Are you financially free?
A: No.

Q: How old are you?
A: 28 years old

Q: Did you serve National Service in Singapore?
A: Yes, I did.

Q: How much do you earn from adsense/blogging?
A: I earn an average of $30 to $60 per month

Q: How do I contact you?
A: The best method to contact me is to leave a comment on my most recent posts. You can also email me at sgfinancialfreedom@gmail.com

Q: How much passive income do you earn per month?
A: Not enough....around $400 per month.

Q: What do you work as?
A: I don't know.

Q: What do you mean you don't know?
A: I am doing so many things now that I don't really know what I am working as. Many sources of income but each source of income is very small.

Q: Why do people read this blog?
A: Beats me... But 1,500 UNIQUE readers visit this site every month. I do not know what they find interesting about this site. I wish they would tell me at times.

Q: Why did you start blogging?
A: I started to blog so as to keep an online journal of my journey. It gives me an avenue to rant my feelings, thoughts and stuff. Besides, I earn a little pocket money from it too.

Q: I have a blog named XXXX too. Want to exchange links?
A: You can place a link to my blog. My link exchange policy is to link only to blogs that are 6 months and older. Too many new blogs have come to this site asking for a link exchange. It causes me a lot of maintenance problems to find out which sites are still being updated. 6 months is a good time frame for me to judge whether you are a serious blogger or website owner. Please don't get me wrong. I am very willing to exchange links. Just prove to me that you can keep a site updated for more than 6 months first then contact me again. If you have a blog that is less than 6 months but seriously wish to have a link to your site, you can do the following:

1. Offer to write a guest post on this site with a link to your site.
2. Write a really good post and let me know. If it is good, I might link to you in one of my postings.



Monthly Expenditure and Cost of Living

As I was walking to the nearby coffeeshop to get my breakfast today, I could not help but wonder how much my expenditure has increased over the years.

As a primary school student, I was only given like $5 to $10 pocket money per week.

In secondary school, that was increased to $50 per week.

In junior college, the amount rocketed to around $80 per week.

I was so-called "financially independent" from my parents after JC and paid for my way through university. My expenditure per week then amounted to around $150 to $200 per week.

Today, without doing anything...my expenditure is easily $700-800 per week because of all my loans, bills and stuff.

So I was thinking to myself....AMAZING!! My expenditure has increased by so much over the years.

THEN I CAME TO THIS SUDDEN REALISATION....

Actually, my expenditure has not increased dramatically.

What happened was that my parents were footing the bills for me in primary school. The things that I used and enjoyed, like a roof over my head and food on the table were actually costs that were borne by my parents. I was only thinking of the money that I spent in terms of pocket money but failed to realise that my parents were actually paying a much higher cost for all my other miscellaneous expenses.

The only conclusion I have come to is this : The cost of living in Singapore is really high.

One generation pays for the next generation and the next generation pays the bills for the next-next generation. When it comes to the time for them to retire, parents who do not have enough retirement money (because they have spent it all on their children) will look to their children for support. By then, their children themselves will already have children of their own and will have no choice but to shoulder the burden of feeding three generations (their parents, themselves and their children).

How to retire in Singapore?

Monday, March 15, 2010

The World is Flat

I have been reading The World is Flat by Thomas L. Friedman the past few months. It seems like I just cannot complete reading it. Too many distractions in life and too may things that crop up whenever I pick up the book to read.

There are 635 pages and I am only at page 207 now. Because of my start-stop start-stop reading habit, I often forget what I have read before that and have to go back to reading the previous portion again.

Anyway, Thomas Friedman suggests that the world is flat and the flattening of the world is enabled by certain flatteners. These flattening forces worked together to create an almost flat world where people are interconnected together.

Lately, I experienced this flattening of the world personally. Here is my story:

I was trying to set up a wireless network at my place. After fiddling with it for sometime, I had no choice but to call the help line from the router company. I was directed to a call center that I believe is located in the Philippines!

After giving verbal instructions for close to half and hour, the operator decided that the problem was not being solved and directed to me to hand over control of my computer to him for him to fix it. Wow! So there was I sitting in my living room while I watched the mouse cursor moving all around the screen as the operator from Philippines gave an account of what he was doing to fix it.

The problem was fixed in the end and I can only say that I am amazed at how flat our world is today. Years ago, the solution would have been for a technician to come down to my place personally to settle the problem. Today, everything can be done online. Even the person fixing the computer can connect to your computer online. Simply AMAZING!

I can only concur with Thomas Friedman. The World today is indeed flat. Very FLAT indeed.

My View on the Jack Neo Scandal

I give my view on the Jack Neo scandal firstly as a Christian, secondly as a man, thirdly as a married person and lastly as a father.


Firstly, I must say that as a Christian, I do not condone adultery. Adultery is wrong. However, I do not know the reason why a person's religion should be brought into light when he has committed an offence. Is a Christian supposed to be more holy than a normal person? I doubt so. As a Christian, I believe that I am the worst sinner on earth. That is the reason why I am a Christian. I need a savior because I cannot become good by my own will or works. After becoming a Christian, there should be a change in the person's life. Yet, the bible tells we will still struggle with our flesh. And at the end of every defeat, every succumbing to sin, I become more aware of my need for a savior.


Secondly, as a man, I must say that we are open to all sorts of temptation. Think about Tiger woods, John Terry, etc, etc. Every man can fall into the danger of adultery especially when he has risen in terms of stature, power and wealth. It is easy to stand at the sidelines and say we will never do the thing that Jack Neo has done. It is quite another to actually go through it and say NO. As a man, I can understand the temptations tthat exists. Every day is a battle and I would rather not cast stones at those who have fallen. Instead, I can relate to why they have fallen. We men, are only human. Is Jack Neo a worse human being than me? Definitely not.


Thirdly, as a married person, I would like to think that marriage vows are important. We swear to be faithful to our partners and I intend to honor those vows. Yet, we all know that marriage does not automatically transform a man (whatever his religion may be) into a person who cannot face temptation.


Lastly, as a father, I would say that Jack Neo was wrong in the sense that his actions have caused much grief to his children. Again....I think that a father at the end of the day is still a human being. Is a man less likely to do wrong because he is a father? I don't think so.


The truth of the matter is this: As humans, we all make mistakes. Some mistakes are big, some are small. Some go unnoticed, some become published for the whole world to see. The most important thing after making a mistake is to realise our mistake and confess it. That is what Jack Neo has done and I admire his courage. If it were me, I would have flown away to hide in some foreign country instead of having a press conference.


The way the media has lashed out at Jack Neo makes me feel sad for him and his family. A mistake is a mistake.


Jesus when confronted by some religous leaders who had brought an adulteress to him to be judged said this:


"If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her."

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Time to Buy a Car?

With the recent announcement last Thursday that the number of COE available in Singapore will drop sharply, is it time to buy a car?

Afterall, if a person has $50,000 in spare cash now, he could easily afford a Jap car. After the rise in COE prices, he might not be able to afford the same car one or two years down the road.

The Straits Times reported that Singaporeans are most probably still not in a hurry to buy cars before the rise in COE prices as most will probably adopt a wait-and-see attitude.

The rush to buy cars will take place once people see that COE prices keep increasing. That is when the panic will set in.

Are you planning to buy a car in the near future? It might be wise to actually bring forward your decision now before COE prices rise.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Cheapest Petrol in Singapore


I read a news article that says petrol prices have been increased again.

Well, that sounds like bad news to all drivers.

But the truth is ....there is a petrol station which has not increased its price of petrol yet!!

Cheapest Petrol in Singapore

Based on the information given, it seems like Singapore Petroleum Company is offering the cheapest petrol in Singapore right now. The rest of the petrol stations have already increased their pump prices by 4 cents recently.

Know of any cheap petrol around in Singapore?

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Free Movie - The Great Train Robbery

The weekend is almost here and many people are perhaps looking through the cinema guides to find out what to watch.

Well, since it is still early... I am posting a short 10 minute movie here for your viewing pleasure. This movie will definitely make you more appreciative of the kind of movies we have today.

Titled : " The Great Train Robbery", it was filmed in 1903 and is full of funny scenes that look really fake and stuff. But when it was first screened, the audience was actually so afraid as they thought it was real! I find that almost hard to believe. But maybe it's because they were watching a narrative like movie for the first time in their lives.

Enjoy!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Things I Want to Buy

Here are a few of my wishlist items that I hope to get for Christmas this year:

These include:

1. Handphone
2. Wallet
3. Wii
4. Guitar
5. BMW 3 or 5 series

Any sponsors, please kindly leave a comment okay? =)

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Bus Trip Cost Only 91cents

I have been travelling on buses quite frequently recently and realised that bus fares are actually quite reasonable.

A single trip costs me only $0.91 . So a two way trip adds up to about $1.80. That is pretty affordable for my trips when I give tuition.

While travelling by car would be much faster, I get to save on the carparking. This adds up over the long haul.

It makes me wonder whether I should just sell my car away. Afterall, maintaining a car in Singapore is a costly thing to do. I reckon that it costs me about $1100 per month based on all the charges. Yikes!!!!

If you can resist the urge, you should not buy a car especially if you are single.

Think of all the things you can do with $1100 per month in EXTRA cash. You could literally eat at restaurants every single day.

Sheng Shiong is Not the Cheapest


Sheng Shiong Supermarket has always been associated with being cheap, or should I say it correctly: "Providing goods to customers at a cheap price."

I did not start out as a fan of Sheng Shiong as the first store that I visited happened to be located at Jurong Superbowl. During my visit then, I found it to be disorganised, messy and more like a wet market. The impression that was left on me was that there was a reason why Sheng Shiong managed to sell its food so cheap.

Then over the years, I realised a slow transformation that took place. Sheng Shiong seemed to be able to upmarket itself and provided a very clean shopping environment for customers while still providing very good value for money. They also started a fresh seafood section with live lobsters, crabs, prawns and even abalones!

Over the years, I begin to associate Sheng Shiong with being the cheapest supermarket around.

Today, I was proven wrong. I visited NTUC Extra and realised that some items in NTUC were selling much cheaper than Sheng Shiong. The blueberries were selling cheaper than the blueberries in Sheng Shiong. Much cheaper!

So it goes to prove me wrong that all cheap stuff can be found at Sheng Shiong. As a consumer, you still need to know where to shop to get the cheapest goods.

But overall in terms of price for the majority of grocery goods, I will still rank the supermarkets as follows:

1. Sheng Shiong
2. Giant
3. NTUC
4. Cold Storage

The only other option is to cross the causeway into JB to do your shopping there.

Where do you do your grocery shopping? Do you shop at only one particular supermarket or do you go to various supermarkets to get your groceries?

Monday, March 8, 2010

Wearing Clothes That Are Too Expensive

I referred to Lee Wei Ling's editorial on the Sarong Dress Party Girl in the Sunday Times.

In it, she gave a detailed account of how she opted for comfort and cost when it comes to clothings. I can identify with her.

Over the past few years, I can count the number of new clothes that I have bought for myself with two hands. The clothes that I buy are often very comfortable and cheap too. In fact, they are so comfortable that I love to wear them whereever I go. Nevermind the stares that I get from strangers.

I once boasted to my wife that I must have been the one who brought the fashion of wearing bermudas and flip-flops to Orchard Road. That was my dress code literally everywhere I went.

On the other extreme, I know of people who have spent a fortune buying branded clothes and bags and stuff that could easily wipe out half their monthly salary. But how often can one wear those clothes? Some of them don't even look very comfortable.

For me, I consider myself frugal. I will only buy clothes that are above $50 if I consider their quality to be good. Otherwise, I will refrain from spending such frivolous money.

Let's take the example of shoes:

I only have one pair of dress shoes and one pair of casual shoes. The rest are all slippers. I do not even have sports shoes as I use the ones that are bought free-of-charge at the e-marts from the Singapore Armed Forces. Some people I know have so many pairs of shoes and they keep changing them every year. My shoes are worn for at least two to three years or until they break. I do not see the need to buy new shoes every year just to keep up with the fashion. As long as they are still in good condition, I will wear them.

How many pairs of shoes do you own? Do you consider yourself a fashion junkie? Or are you even more frugal than me?

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Additional $800 per Month

I have started giving tuition and that will bring in an additional $800 per month. I have realised that a lot of people are giving tuition (in fact almost everyone I know), and that is why I decided to do it too.

The job satisfaction of giving tuition thus far has been great. The parents are so appreciative of the help that I am giving.

I enjoy teaching. There is a certain joy and satisfaction I get when I see students improving.

But there are also times when I do not enjoy teaching. Somedays, it can just get so tiring. And I can feel brain dead sometimes when the session is too intensive.

Anway, I am really glad that I have an additional source of income now. The additional money will go a long way in propping up my family's finances.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Falling In Love with Our Stocks

Why on earth do we make the silly mistake of falling in love with our stocks..or investments?

A few days back, I posted about the 7 Investment Sins and some brief thoughts on the Price versus Value debate.

Over at MusicWhiz's corner, he had also written about the various investment sins too.

Today, I thought I would just write more about one of the problems that most investors (including me) suffer from:

FALLING IN LOVE WITH OUR STOCKS (and sometimes our investments too!)



(Beautiful Image Above by kwerfeldein )

Human beings tend to get emotionally attached to the things that they possess. Certain people have gone on to suggest the reasons why we fall in love and why it even feels so good to be in love.

Apparently, being in love helps to trigger some of the circuits in your brain that gives you pleasure. Dopamine which is the main chemical that is involved produces feelings of euphoria, sleeplessness, and focused attention on the thing that we fall in love with. Also, the feeling of love tends to last for two to three years. INTERESTING FACTS!

Does that explain why most of our stock holdings only last for two to three years? We research them, fall in love with them and them ditch them for something better after a time frame of usually two years!

This is my experience personally. I have been investing for close to 7 years and I can say that I hardly own any of the stocks that I first owned when I started out investing!

There is however one particular stock that remains in my portfolio today. It is Unifood holdings. Back in the good old days of early 2002, people were singing praises about this stock. I did my research and made the mistake of falling in love with it. The price dropped and I was too emotionally attached to let go of it. I had fallen in love with it. 7 years on, the stock price has dropped. I am now stuck with it.

The problem of falling in love with our stocks is that we let the emotional part of us go into overdrive and after spending some cognitive energies rationalising why we should purchase that certain stock, we simply stop our cognitive engines and rev up our emotional engines. We start to grown a certain attachment to the stocks that we have just bought into. Just the way love is blind, we stop seeing the flaws and only start to see all the good points of the business.

And yet most investors know that we should never let our emotions get the better of us. We are supposed to be cold blooded people just trying to squeeze the last penny out of every investment that we make.

And just like any marriage, we only start to see the flaws after it becomes too late. By then, the emotions are gone and we stare in disbelief at the stock sitting in our portfolio which we thought was the best in the world and should have risen up by ten-fold or twenty-fold.

Have you suffered from the same experience?

Or what strategies do you use to remove the emotional part of investing?

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

3rd Cheque from Google's Adsense

Over two years ago (in 2008), I started out on a journey to see whether it was plausible for one to earn money using adsense. I still remember the delight I had when I was able to earn $4.44 for a certain month in earnings. You can check out my posting about it here.

I remember lamenting the fact that my online earnings were low and I was not able to achieve the $1 per day target that I had set for myself. In a posting talking about Online Income from Adsense, I shared the joys and pains that I had about monetizing my blogs.

My Revelation - Earning Money Online is a Full-Time Job

I guess I moved on and realised that my blogging was not really about making money online. It was more about recording down my experiences and the thoughts that go through my head with regards to financial matters, investments or insurance. Slowly, I also added in more personal stuff which I would never share openly with strangers. The purpose was more to record it down for my own viewing pleasure in the future. Yet at the same time, I was hoping that others could learn from my experiences and not make the same mistakes that I have already made.

To me, any money that was derived from this blog was just an added benefit. Of course, there are days that I still harbor the thoughts of leaving the rat race for good and just becoming a full-time blogger. I am certain that my family and friends will desert me for good then =)

So I treated the income source from this blog as just a sort of added benefit. Of course, I still had earning goals that I hoped to achieve in due time just for the fun of it.

It is Possible to Make Money From Adsense

The only thing that I have proven thus far in my journey is this: It is possible to make money from adsense.

The problem is that the amount of effort one has to put in is totally not related to the amount that you will be earning. In fact, it is much easier to take on part-time work like tuition to earn money than to rely on adsense.

I have spent literally hours upon hours on this blog and if I translate the amount of time I have spent on it to let's say getting a part-time job that pays $30 per hour, I am much better off getting a part-time job. It is possible to make money from adsense but it is NOT EASY.

I repeat: It is NOT EASY <-- just in case some student sees this post and starts thinking that they can be the next Mr Brown or Xiaxue.

Get a job at MacDonalds, it will pay you much more than what you can earn from blogging!

My Earnings thus far.....

Jun 09 - USD$105 (forgot to record down the conversion to SGD)
Nov 09 - S$160.72
Mar 10 - S$180.75

1,500 People Visit this Site Every Month

This is actually the thing that keeps me blogging. Sometimes, I feel that my energies are being wasted in a futile activity. But at the very same time, writing has a calming effect on me. It helps me to organise my thoughts and I love to write. I am still not really a good writer as you can tell..

But just knowing that there are 1,500 readers per month makes me strive to keep this blog updated and interesting for all. I guess I have been able to make a greater impact through this blog than through my own personal life. I don't even talk to 15 different people in a month sometimes!

Yet this blog speaks to 1,500 people in a month!

Of course, I have yet to compute my readers that follow me annually. But it can sometimes be quite frightening....SO MANY PEOPLE ARE ACTUALLY READING THE STUFF THAT I PUT UP.... The last thing I want to happen is to become accidentally famous. I hate the limelight.

Should I Give Up Blogging?

I have been really weary lately. I really feel that my energies could perhaps be better focused elsewhere. I am still seeking God for a lot of questions that I do not have answers to with regards to my purpose in life and stuff.

There have been times that I have thought that I should stop blogging. Perhaps blog less frequently..or perhaps even just give up blogging forever. In this way, no one will ever find out who FF is. (FF is my online persona - it was a terrible mistake to call this blog sgfinancialfreedom cos the moniker FF just stuck with me. In fact, it was other bloggers and readers who started calling me FF. If I could change things, I would have gone by a cooler name that did not have so much focus on things like being financially free and stuff.)

Yet, here I am again..hitting the PUBLISH POST button. Perhaps I am addicted to blogging.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Networth Update for Feb 2010

Networth as of Feb 2010 is estimated around $652,000. A slight drop from Jan 2010.

The decline in networth was due to a slight drop in my entire investment portfolio as a result of the market correction.

Also worrying is my negative cash flow at the moment as the net income that the entire family is drawing in is less than our expenditures. It is likely to stay that way for sometime unless a job comes along soon.

Prudential to takeover AIA. What will happen to AIA policyholders?

I just read the news that Prudential will takeover AIA for US$35 million dollars. And I have a policy with AIA!!

Given this scenario, what will happen to AIA policyholders?

Will AIA still exist as a company or will all existing policies be taken over by Prudential?

I would like to think that AIA will soon stop existing as a company and that Prudential will just take over all existing policies in due time. This will be the most efficient way to run the business if I were the CEO.

Sometime back, Manulife bought over John Hancock and all policies were taken over by Manulife. John Hancock (JH) simply ceased to exist as an entity in a certain sense as you do not see any new JH policies or any JH agents around here in Singapore.

What do you think?

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