Monday, May 31, 2010

Dividends from Innotek and Suntec REIT

I received another round of dividends into my bank account over the past week.

These includes:

1. Innotek = $750.00
2. Suntec REIT = $25.13

Including the dividends that I have received from Capitaland, KingBoard and China Aviation Oil previously:

3. Capitaland = $315.00
4. Kingboard = $62.02
5. China Aviation Oil = $140.00

Total dividends received for the month of May 2010 is $1292.15

I guess this can be treated as my mid-year bonus =)

Friday, May 28, 2010

Mid-Year Bonus for Civil Servants

The Singapore government announced that the mid-year bonus for civil servants just two days back. It will be the largest mid-year bonus in the past five years.

The mid-year bonus is reported to be at half a month's salary plus a one-off payment of $300.

While that might not be a lot compared to the private sector, I am sure a lot of civil servants will welcome the news especially since there was no mid-year bonus declared last year.


This is also good news to the rest of the population as it shows that the government is positive on the economic recovery even though downside risks like the soverign debt crisis still lurk at the background.



The author is currently self-employed and does not get to enjoy such benefits as mid-year bonuses and year end bonuses. It makes him recall the days when he used to enjoy such benefits.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

How Powerful is Your Blog?

Every now and then, I am amazed at the power of blogging.


I am not a natural blogger and blogging does not come naturally to me. Yet, I find it much easier to express myself through writing compared to speech. Thus, I blog.

What makes it amazing is the ability to rank high on Google searches for certain keywords. In a certain sense, one is able to get your thoughts across to many people at one go. Imagine people reading your postings on certain topics and taking action on your advice or recommendations!

Just another scenario. Imagine being able to "talk" to thousands of people each month without actually having to meet them. This is what a blog is able to do. It really amazes me on how powerful a blog can be if you use it for the correct purpose.

Many times, I have had ideas on how I could expand my blog be it in terms of layout or the content. I have brainstormed on various topics that I would like to write about but simply procrastinated. Perhaps it is time I take some action to propel this blog forward to greater heights.

How powerful is your blog? How do you intend to make it more impactful?

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Dividends from Kingboard and China Aviation Oil

I have received dividends from my holdings in Kingboard and China Aviation Oil. It is a small amount of $62.02 and $140.00 respectively.

With the $315.00 that I collected from Capitaland earlier in the month, the total amount of dividends for May 2010 is $517.02.

I have also been using the coin deposit machine by POSB to deposit all my loose change into a POSBKids Account for my child's university education fund. Thus far, I have accumulated slightly over $2500 including money from red packets received during Chinese New Year.

Considering that it is still a long way more, I think I still have time to save up more in the future. But at the current rate I am going, the education fund will probably only hit $50K plus when it needs to be utilised.

Monday, May 24, 2010

How Important is Reading?

In front of me right now are two books.

One is titled: "Teaching Kids to Read" and the other: "Supporting Struggling Readers and Writers".

Through my brief interactions with students, I have come to realised that it is important to learn how to read.

When it comes to picking up a language like English, there are various components to it. I like to break it down to 3 main components of reading, writing and speaking.

All my life, I have slowly come to accept that speaking is perhaps the most important skill that one can have. After all, great leaders and sales people are known to be very eloquent. It is indeed hard to find a successful person who does not speak well.

However, I have also come to realise the importance of reading. Without being able to read, people are not able to gain knowledge. If one cannot read, you simply cannot comprehend the information that is presented to you in textbooks or books.

On the flip side, not being able to read perhaps frees one from group think that commonly exists in society. It enables one to search for the truth through experiments and thinking. A lot of great people were known to have problems reading.

If one was not able to read the news about investment, will it make the person more immune to the fluctuations in the stock market? Will it make the person a shrewder investor compared to one who is always reading up on the latest happenings?

So how important is reading really?

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Keep Counting and Let's See Who Has More

I remember waiting at a crowded bus stop once and saw a beautiful convertible car pass slowly by. It was one of those peak hour jams where the bus stops were really crowded and the buses themselves were also packed. I could not help but notice quite a few people at the bus stop stare enviously at the person driving the convertible.

It was then that I remembered something. It is very common for people to become unhappy when they focus on the things they do not have in life.

I was reminded through a fellow blogger's posting that it helps to count your blessings. Instead of focusing on the things that you do not have in life, why not focus on the things that you have in life?

Counting my blessings

1. I have a great family.

2. I have a healthy body (thus far though I have put on quite a lot of weight lately)

3. I have spare cash.

4. I have a HDB flat. Though I only own 22.5 square metres of it (based on the amount of mortgage loan I have paid off).

5. I have a car. Another few more years to paying off the debt.

6. I have friends.

7. I am ALIVE!

Keep Counting your blessings to see how fortunate you are.

Friday, May 21, 2010

2nd Anniversary - A Good Time for Some Reflection


This day marks the 2nd anniversary of this blog. Or to be more exact, the day when the idea of blogging came to my head.

I still remember very clearly that two years ago, I was sitting at the balcony of some hotel room enjoying the breeze and just doing some journalling.

Two years have passed.

In this two years, I realised a few things. Perhaps it is the "older but wiser" syndrome.

1. Friends don't stay forever. I have lost contact with a lot of friends. This is due to either a change in workplace or due to other unforseen circumstances. I meet up a lot less with close friends compared to the past due to family committments. What I have realised is that friends come and go. When you have the opportunity to meet up every day because you work in the same office, it seems like the relationship will last forever. Once things change, you realise that you most probably will not meet up with some people again. Perhaps in facebook only?

2. Be a bit more discerning. I have learnt not to be too trusting of other people. I am now a lot more skeptical when I hear advice from people.

3. Investments go up and down. It has been a roller coaster ride in the stock market for the past two years. I am a lot more immune to the ups and downs in the stock market now.

4. Unclear of future direction. I remain very unclear about the direction that God wants me to go with regards to many things in my life. I feel a bit lost sometimes as I do not seem to be progressing in my career. For a guy, a career basically sums up his relevance to society, family and sometimes even defines him as a person. Without a clear cut career path in front of me, I have been lost, discouraged and depressed.

5. Blogging is good but..... At the blogging end, I now blog to keep readers entertained and educated. Hopefully they learn something from my mistakes and experiences. Blogging is good but it takes up a lot of my personal time.

The picture above depicts slaves taking the route from Africa to Americas during the slave trade. Sometimes, I feel like I am on this ship not knowing where I am going and what the future holds for me.

Perhaps I am at the start of my mid-life crisis...

Thursday, May 20, 2010

No Such Thing as a Happy Peak Hour Bus Ride

I took the bus during peak hour today. It was around seven pm.

The bus was already quite packed when I first got on. I was literally at the front door holding on for my dear life.

The bus captain however decided that more passengers could still get on at the next bus stop. I found myself squashed like a sardine with the rest of the passengers and had to hold on the frame of an advertisement as I could not get my hand on any hand rail or stuff.

The whole journey was unpleasant to say the least. The bus was totally packed and the bus captain still made sure that all passengers got on board at every stop.

I could not help but laugh when I got off the bus and saw the advert at the exit door reminding passengers to tap off. The "passengers"/ models in the advertisement all looked so happy.

I looked around the entire bus and saw only grumpy faces all around me.

How ironical!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Dividends from Capitaland

Just received a small amount of dividends from Capitaland.

A total of $315.00


Red hot property market

Singapore's red hot private property market is still not showing much signs of slowing down. In fact, The Interlace by Capitaland saw 144 units sold at a median price of S$1,067 psf. Capitaland has also invested heavily in China's property market. I hope to see more dividends from Capitaland in the future.

To think about it, if one does not have enough capital to invest in a rental property, a good proxy would be to invest in property counters or REITs.

Waiting for other dividends....

I am still waiting to receive dividends from other counters like Suntec REIT, Kingboard, Innotek, etc.

Will post the full amount I have collected once I receive them =)

Friday, May 14, 2010

Beware Land Banking?

On the Straits Times today, it was reported that over 200 investors have lost $6m in British land deals.

These investors had been persuaded to buy to a piece of land in rural places like Swindon and Gatwick in England for $15,000 each through Singapore company Land International (Far East). They had been promised "high returns with regular payouts for three years".

The parent company was shut down by the British government in 2008 following an insolvency probe.

Now, investors literally own the piece of land as they have been given title deeds. They now have to look for a way to dispose of their land in ways that might be costly. Investors will also not find any shelter under the law as land banking is not regulated by MAS or any other Act in Singapore like the Securities and Futures Act (SFA) and Financial Advisers Act (FAA)

"As land-banking investments involve investors acquiring direct interests in real estate rather than securities related to real estate and, as such, fall outside the scope of the SFA and FAA." - MAS spokesman

I do know of people who have invested in land-banking before and my advice or questions to them is always this:

1. Land-banking is not regulated by MAS. You will not get any protection from the law should anything bad happen.

2. If you are investing in land-banking, you are literally buying a small plot of land. Do you really want to own a piece of land in a faraway country which you have never set your eyes on? If I asked you to buy a piece of land instead of presenting it as "an investment opportunity with great returns and proven payouts", would you still be investing in it?

3. If the potential for development is so good, why do they need to sell their land to foreigners? Why aren't the locals or the English buying their own land? Why isn't the company seeking bank loans to just acquire the land for themselves and develop them to keep the profits for themselves? Don't give me the rubbish about regulations stating that blah blah blah...

Many people are often too trusting when it comes to money and investments. Always open your eyes really BIG before going into any investment that promises high returns.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Losing Sleep Over "New" Financial Crisis?

Anyone losing sleep over the "new" financial crisis that seems to be impacting the stock markets in recent weeks?

I am amazed at how I hardly feel anything nowadays when it comes to stock markets going down south.

Yes, my stock portfolio gets affected but it doesn't affect my daily life as I don't check the prices of my stocks everyday.

Perhaps it is because I have been through a few up and down markets so I am a little bit less emotional now even when my portfolio does take a hit whenever bad news come along.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

All About Income

In my previous posting, I talked about simplifying financial planning to just 4 variables : Income, Expenditure, Savings and Returns.

Today, I thought that I would just explore a little more on Income.

Earned Income and Passive Income

Many people are only familiar with earned income which is the salary they draw from their day jobs. Others supplement their income by holding part-time jobs (e.g. tuition). Since most people are familiar with earned income, I thought that it might be timely to highlight another source of income which is passive income.

Passive income is simply money that flows into your pocket without you having to work for it. This can be obtained through dividends, annuity payments (CPF Life), or royalties (e.g. from books you have written).

Discovering that one can rely on multiple streams of income instead of a single source of income can be a relief especially in times of job loss or change of jobs. By not relying solely on a single source of income, you sort of diversify your "risks".

Of course, conventional wisdom still holds that you can actually just rely solely on your salary if you are really good at your work and the marketplace values your work highly. This include highly paid atheletes, musicians, directors, etc.

So whether you should rely solely on a salary or on multiple streams of income is a choice you have to make based on your own personal situation.

Protecting Your Income

We all take our salary for granted at times.

It is important to realise that there are certain events in life that might render one jobless. This might include unfortunate events like death, disability, illnesses, accidents or just hospitalisation.

It is thus important to realise the need to hedge against these risk by protecting any loss of future income that might be earned by you. Today, insurance companies are willing to bear this risk for you. You can thus protect yourself and your family from any loss of income by buying insurance.

Protecting your income can also be through simple steps like going for personal upgrading and development courses to ensure that your remain employable.

RETIREMENT INCOME

Perhaps the most worrying trend is that Singaporeans do not plan actively for their retirement.

During retirement, most people will not be earning a salary as they stop working totally. Without an income, they either have to rely on their savings or passive income to support their lifestyle during their retirement years.

CPF Life is an example of relying on one's savings to ensure a stream of income is present for one during retirement. The reason why CPF Life was initiated was to ensure that Singaporeans have enough savings to last them through their retirement years.

If one relies solely on their earned income, it is necessary that they realise this fact which I have illustrated below. Take Mr ABC who plans to retire at age 60 and who has an expected life expectancy of 80 years.

Mr ABC's projected income flow:

Age: 25 - 35 Annual Salary: $50,000
Age : 35 -45 Annual Salary: $80,000
Age : 45 - 60 Annual Salary : $120,000
Age : 60 -80 Annual Salary : $0

For a good twenty years (age 60 to 80), Mr ABC will not be drawing an income. He will need to rely on his savings over the past 35 years of his working life (age 25 to 60) to support 20 years of retirment.

If he is fortunate enough to live till age 95, he will have to depend on 35 years of savings to support 35 years of retirement!

Adding up his total income over 35 years, he can expect to draw a neat sum of $3.1 million dollars over his entire working life. Without taking returns on investment and inflation into account, if Mr ABC saves only 10% of his income, it would leave him with $310,000 to spend over the "worst case" scenario of 35 years in retirement.

That works out to around $8,900 per year or $740 per month.

Can he survive on that amount?

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Financial Planning - Simplified to 4 Variables

Before I begin today's post, I would like to highlight that my first posting at CPF's IM$avvy site should be up by tonight. Do check it out over at the CPF $avvy Blog Corner under the month of May Archives. The title of that post is "Can You Trust Your Financial Planner?"

Financial planning can be too confusing at times. There are lots of terms that people throw around to make it seem complex.

I was thinking about it for sometime and decided that there are perhaps only 4 variables or factors that will ultimately determine whether one is financially secure.

The 4 Factors

1. Income

Income determines how much money flows INTO your pockets each month or every year. Income involves both active income (from one's salary) and passive income (from dividends, etc).

2. Expenditure

Expenditure is the amount one spends every month. It is the amount of money that flows out of your pockets to buy food, transportation costs, movie tickets, housing installments, etc.

3. Savings/Investments

Savings/Investments should be the difference between Income and Expenditure. Ideally, it should work out as:

SAVINGS = INCOME - EXPENDITURE

From the simple equation above, I guess you can see that the only way to increase your savings/investments is to either increase your income and/or decrease your expenditure.

Another thing to note is that saving money is actually quite meaningless unless you know what you are saving for. Are you saving for retirement or saving up for a holiday? In either case, you need to know that there will come a day when you are going to spend your savings. The timeframe is important so that you know whether you should keep your savings liquid or you can afford to keep them in not so liquid instruments. The end goal of savings should not be just for the hidden pleasure of seeing your bank account grow fat.

4. Savings/Investment returns

This last factor determines the rate of return your savings or investment is giving you. If you are getting a 0% rate of return, the amount of money you save will be the amount of money you have at the end of the day. On the other hand, if you have chosen to invest it and the investment gives you 10% returns annually, the amount of money that you have at the end of the day will be much more than the absolute amount you have actually saved.

Conclusion

In this posting, I have simplified financial planning into 4 simple variables that you need to take note off.

Determine what is your monthly income, expenditure, savings and the rate of return you are getting on your savings. To improve your financial situation, you just need to tweak any of these 4 variables.

I shall cover this in my next posting.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Passive Investing - Is It Really So Difficult?

I have always struggled with the thoughts of passive investing versus active management of my portfolio.

Today, I came across a quote by Oscar Wilde:

"To do nothing at all is the most difficult thing in the world, the most difficult and the most intellectual."

I am pretty sure he didn't have investing in mind when he came up with this line. Nevertheless, it does seem applicable even when it comes to the field of investing.

Forever Portfolio?

Too often, we find ourselves trying to time the market to buy at the lowest lows and selling at the highest points. We screen through the entire universe of stocks to find a few stocks that meet our criteria, only to sell them a few weeks later when their price has risen by 10 to 20%. We are left with nothing to invest in and end up lowering our criteria to buy stocks that we would not originally buy or end up just sitting on a pile of cash.

Sometimes, we get caught up with all the hysteria that seems to surround us. People are talking about how much money they made within a few trades and we start to look at our own portfolios and wonder : "Is Buffet really right?"

Passive investing (if I can so term it) is really difficult. To buy and hold for the long term without tinkering about too much can be extremely difficult especially when we are constantly bombarded by all the noise and distraction of the crowds.

Sooner or later, we start to find it impossible to resist the urge to make that phone call to the broker or to simply click the button on our online brokerage accounts that reads "Confirm order".

I know many people will not agree with passive investing. Many people out there have claimed to have the ability to time markets to perfection such that they have been able to make spectacular gains that are not possible by a buy and hold strategy. Of course, there must be some selection bias as the losers will never reveal themselves. Only the winners get boasting rights after all.

On the other hand, we should not find excuses if we are simply too lazy to monitor and tweak our portfolio such that we term it as passive investing or the Warren Buffet style. I am sure even Warren Buffet tweaks his portfolio every now and then!

Symptoms of a compulsive investor

Here are a few symptoms that shows you are toeing the line and moving towards a gambler mentality versus an investor mentality. (Deep down inside, human beings all like a little wager)

1. You scan the newspapers, online forums and chatboxes for the latest tips on which stocks to buy. You follow the opinions of experts and get in and out of the market at rapid pace.

2. You buy a stock and only start to do your research on it after you have completed the order.

3. You buy a stock and start to think whether you should contra it off within the next 3 days.

4. You buy a stock and keep checking its stock price every hour, hoping to make a quick buck.

5. You sell a stock and hope that it drops to a certain point so that you can buy it again.

6. You don't know why you bought a stock.

7. You don't know why you sold a stock.

I am sure you have all experienced the "symptoms" once in a while in your lives.

Preventing the onset of the disease

Prevention is better than cure. I would like to suggest a few methods to cure you of this ailment if you do suffer from it. Of course, I do not take responsibility if you lose any money.

1. Don't read the newspapers, forums and chatboxes for your stock purchases or sales.

2. Don't make a trade when you are angry.

3. Don't talk to others about investing.

This 3 strategies ought to keep y0u from making compulsive buys and sells. I realised that when I read less about the stock market, I tend to make fewer trades. When I am angry, I try not to make investment decisions and sometimes, the decisions I make can be rash. When I talk to others about investing, it always gets me excited and I feel like making a trade right away. All these are based on my personal experience.

I am not saying that you should not actively manage your stock portfolio. What I am against is the compulsive urge to tweak your portfolio so often that it is almost akin to gambling. But with all the media influences we get, it is very difficult to sit down and do nothing.

Doing nothing is a very difficult thing indeed.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Review of April 2010

Dear Readers,

April 2010 has been another spectacular month for the STI. The STI trended up past 3000 but failed to close above it at the end of the month.

Most people will probably be sitting on large capital gains if they have bought their shares earlier in the year or during 2009.

For myself, I have still been focusing quite a bit on dividends. For the month of May, I should be collecting dividends from Capitaland, China Aviation Oil, Innotek and Suntec Reits.

Perhaps, investors would like to take caution for the year 2011 when exit strategies come into play.

At this Blog

I shared with all that I am going to be a guest blogger at CPF's IMSavvy. I have submitted my first post already but it has not been published. (Quality control perhaps?)

Over at this site, I talked about the Best Financial Advice I have received and asked readers to share their own experiences.

I also got a bit philosophical and talked about Whose Dream Is It? and How Many Pratas Can You Eat? If you only have time to read one more posting, read the one on the pratas. The comments from readers have been great and insightful.

For just a light hearted read, I explored the correlation between good food and having a good date.

I have been a bit lazy at this blog as I have been caught up with certain new hobbies.

A better May 2010 for all of us and happy Labour Day!


Your Sincerely,
FF

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