Friday, December 30, 2011

Warren Buffet Advice - Best Hedge Against Inflation

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Bought More Silver

After writing about buying silver in Singapore, I am amazed that there are also some other people who are interested in buying silver whether it is for collection/hedging/investing purposes.  Anyway, I also received some of the silver coins that I bought.  Just bought a really small quantity as I am mainly just trying to collect the different type of silver coins.

The coins I bought are from Golden State Mint and each coin weights 1/4 troy oz.

Here is a scan of it  =)



Friday, December 23, 2011

Buy Silver in Singapore

Lately, I have been having some bizarre interest in collecting silver coins.  It just feels cool to actually own silver knowing that this used to be used as currency across history.  But as a pretty newbie to silver, I won't call my purchases as investing in silver just yet.  Nevertheless, I have been reading up quite a fair bit about silver coins to know how much a troy ounce actually weighs.  And it is interesting to find out a whole new domain of knowledge literally about investing in silver bullion coins, using it as a hedge against inflation, etc.

Well, the first thing to realise is that it is not too difficult to buy silver in Singapore.    I am not talking about investing in silver through ETFs but really owning physical silver bars and coins.  There are actually quite a few companies that sells silver bullion.  Here are the few things that I have learnt about silver coins thus far:

1.  Buy silver coins or bars that are widely recognised

  • This seems to be the advice that people are giving in various forums.  Coins widely recognised include the American Silver Eagle and the Canadian Silver Maple Leaf.  There are others like the Australian Silver Kookaburra from Perth Mint and also the Austrian Silver Vienna Philharmonic.  
2.  Silver Coins Trade Above Spot Price
  • One can check the spot price for silver easily on kitco or some other website.  However, silver coins often trade or are sold above the spot price of silver.  Even on Ebay, they trade above the spot price.
  • Silver price has been increasing slowly.

3.  Places to Buy Silver in Singapore [Grabbed this off another forum]
Many of these shops have a minimum order (e.g. 20 x 1 oz coins) or a minimum purchase of $2000.  Some of them have minimum orders of 500 oz and based on today's price of silver, will literally cost you a 20 over grand (estimated $48++ for a 1 oz silver coin). So you really have to be serious about it before making a purchase.  The first link actually allows customers to buy 1 oz silver bar as a minimum order.  But it is a Scottsdale silver bar and I am not certain that it is as widely recognised as the other silver coins.

4.  Buying off Ebay

If you prefer to buy loose pieces, you can always buy them off Ebay.  However, prices are slightly higher when you do not buy in bulk.  Many sellers also do not ship to Singapore.  


Question:
Do you invest in silver or gold?  
If  yes, where do you buy them from?
How do you store them?



Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Monthly Dividend Stock - Gamco Global Gold Natural Resources (GGN)

Just bought 200 shares of Gamco Global Gold Natural Resources (GGN) on the US stock exchange.  It is a stock that provides monthly dividends.  Yes, not many people are aware that there are stock that actually pay out monthly dividends.  The monthly dividends is around US$0.14 per month.  Anyway, it is only a small investment  and I will probably invest more if I have spare cash.

GGN was previously named Gabelli Global Gold Natural Resources before the recent name change to Gamco Global Gold Natural Resources.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Cancelled Cable TV - Woohoo!!

I cancelled my Starhub Cable TV just a few days back and I must say that I have never felt so liberated!  You see, I have not had the time to watch TV at all.  At least, TV is on my lowest priority list and I only manage to squeeze in less than 2 or 3 hours of "incidental" TV viewing per month.  I simply don't have the time for it.  And yet, I have been paying over 30 dollars per month for cable subscription.

Finally found the time to go down to Starhub and cancelled my cable plan.  I don't watch TV so I definitely do not need cable TV.  It was as simple a decision as that.  And just by that simple decision, I have saved myself around 30 dollars a month.  This decision was definitely not motivated by saving money since I have been thinking about cancelling my subscription for the longest time but was just too lazy to do so.

I am glad that I have finally done so.  I have just been procrastinating for too long. Just trying to cut out all the clutter in my life and focus on the real things that I enjoy doing.

My dear reader, what clutter can you removed from your life that you have been procrastinating for way too long?

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Dividends and Passive Income for Nov 2011

Have been too busy lately to write..  But thought I should just check in to say "hi" to readers.  It has been a busy month both at work and at play for me.

Dividends and passive income for the month of Nov 2011 was around $300.  Couldn't be bothered to do the conversion of USD to SGD but I figure it should be somewhere there.  Managed to renew some ad space on my sites so that helped to boost the income a little.

I have also been thinking a bit more seriously about the charities that I ought to be giving to.  Some days,  I just feel like I have been blessed with so much and I really have not much need for so much money.  After all, there is only so much one can eat, and spend money on.  There is just a numbing effect to spending so much money.  It doesn't give me great pleasure or happiness anymore.  Well, in the past , retail therapy was something that I subscribed to.  But nowadays, I lead a simple life and I am pretty content with simple food and a simple lifestyle.

Right now, I am just waiting for Christmas to come.  Can't believe that it is now the end of the year.  And another whole new year awaits me.

Wishing all readers an advance Blessed Christmas!


Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Retirement and Life Expectancy

When one thinks about retirement, one cannot escape from the somewhat morbid discussion about life expectancy.  If I can break it down into simple non-statistical terms, life expectancy basically means the number of years one can expect to live up till (usually calculated at a certain age).  And of course, most of us will be aware that based on statistics, most females in most countries have longer life expectancy than males.  And in most developed countries, the life expectancy for males and females probably is around or moving towards the age of 80.

When Do You Want to Die?

So when thinking about the retirement age or retirement planning in general, it is inevitable that the question about life expectancy will come up.  Meet any financial planner or insurance agent and they will most probably bring up the issue of the "age that one is expected to die" .  Well, it is a valid question as many of the assumptions that are made will be based on the assumption of when you think you are going to die (okay, that sounds so blunt but it is the truth).

The problem with putting a pinpoint estimate on when you think you are going to die based on the statistical life expectancy is that you might over or under estimate how long you might live.  Life expectancy is calculated based on a statistical average.  And we learn in school that average basically means that the average person is expected to be around there but at the same time, there can be large variances.

So these large variances means that you can either die way before the average life expectancy or you could actually live a whole lot longer than what you previously expected.  When it comes to retirement planning, I guess most people often make the assumption that the average life expectancy is the year that they will DEFINITELY DIE.  But that is wrong and it is perhaps wise to cater for a bit more extra just in case you are not the average person.  What happens if you retire at age 65 and die at age 95 or 105?  Will you have enough retirement savings to last you till then if your initial planning assumption used was that you are expected to live until only 80?  Yes, I know that might be going a bit overboard to cater in for such large variances in retirement planning but wouldn't you want to err on the safe side if your current income allows you to set aside a little more for your retirement?

Of course, if you die much earlier before the retirement age, then this is not a problem that you will have to worry about.  Sorry for being so morbid but that is the truth.

But the main idea is this:  Life expectancy is just a statistical average.  When using it as a planning assumption for retirement planning, do remember that it is just an assumption. Life might not turn out the way you assume it is going to be and you might die much earlier or live much longer compared to the average person.

Friday, November 25, 2011

The Mystery of REITs

I read with interest Mr Colin Tan's article in Today newspaper regarding REITs.  It is titled: "A decade on, REITs remain a mystery"

Indeed, after ten years since real estate investment trusts (REITs) were listed on the Singapore Stock Exchange, it seems that many people (including me) still do not really understand much about this asset class and the investment opportunity/risk involved.

I started taking note of REITs sometime back due to the potential dividends that I could receive.  It seemed like a choice investment instrument for me as I was really into income investing and was looking for ways to increase my passive income. My first investment was in First REITs. I subsequently divested it because it was too heavily focused on healthcare with its assets largely in Indonesia.  But while REITs are usually positioned as defensive play, I can agree with Mr Colin Tan that for Singapore REITs, many of them are still on the acquisition trail and are trying hard to expand their portfolios.

What does this mean for investors?  It simply means that once can expect money to be raised through rights issue. If one does not subscribe to the rights issue, your overall shareholdings as a % drop.  Whether this translates to a drop in distribution is probably a study to be taken up by somebody more experienced.  But I do agree that it seems that many of the REITs are linked to their parent companies and it might be questionable how the valuations are done (including of course the timing of the transaction).

The domestic market is also pretty small.  And I guess there are certain economies of scale required before REITs should start expanding overseas.  (Just think about the airfares that have to be paid for management to do the site visits, meetings, etc).  Of course, REITs are also tied closely to the property market and rental market and one needs to keep in mind all these factors when investing in them.  If one invests in REITs which has properties overseas, you are also exposed to other country risks that are involved.

Nevertheless, REITs still feature in my portfolio. I still intend to purchase more and diversify across the various REITs in order to diversify my risk accordingly.

Well, REITs is still a mystery to me in many ways and I am still slowly learning more about them day by day.  In a sense, they look simple.  But when one studies them further, you will come to realise that there are actually lots of complexities involved.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Financial Freedom, Being Debt Free and Quitting My Job

Today, I asked myself 3 questions:

How long more do I need to achieve financial freedom?
When will I become debt free?
How long more must I work at my job?

After so many years of working, it seems that I am no where closer to my goal and dream of financial freedom (where my passive income will surpass my monthly expenditure).  I did a quick calculation and estimate my passive income to be slightly around $2800 per year.  That is much less than what I thought I would have achieved 3-4 years ago when I first started out on this journey.  It seems that I will still be taking a long time to reach my true goal of financial freedom. Over the years, my monthly expenditure has also crept up slightly.  This can only mean one thing:  I NEED TO WORK HARDER AT MY GOAL!

Being debt free of course is one of the things that I look forward to.  It simply means having more disposable income to play around with.  Of course, if you manage to borrow cheaply, it does not make sense to pay back the loans if you can get a higher rate of return compared to the interest you are paying on your debts.  However, I don't know...perhaps it is just psychological.  But being debt free is something that I hope to achieve.  Well, at least I mean clearing my bad debts (e.g. car loan).  Good debt is still welcomed.

Well, the last question that I asked myself is really related to the first 2 questions.  When I can quit my job is probably the day I am certain that I have attained financial freedom.  It is not that I hate my work or anything.  It is just that I feel I can be doing so much more with my life and time then having only remnants of my time to give to my family and friends.  

 I want to work for the rest of my life.  But I don't want to have to work for a living (a.k.a having a job). 

Time to get down to business.  

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Bought Ascott REIT

Bought another 3 lots of Ascott REITs (@$1.065) after I realised that I have not been investing in the stock market a lot.  Thought that it will be good to add to my current portfolio considering the amount of spare cash sitting in the bank that is not earning much interest anyway.  That brings my total exposure to Ascott REITs to 15 lots.  Have been enjoying the dividends over the past few years and hopefully, the dividends that come in will not fail to disappoint me.

August was good in terms of dividends received but September has been pretty quiet.  Other than a Adsense cheque that I received, have not received much passive income.  Can definitely do better for the future.


Friday, October 21, 2011

Retirement Plans

Have been thinking what I intend to do when I get older - like at age 65.  I really cannot see myself not working and just sitting around at home doing nothing.  As Singapore ages, I guess there will be more and more elderly folks around.  When I am 65 (if I live that long), I will be surrounded by lots of old people.

Well, I don't really plan to retire.  And I hope that I can stay employed for as long as possible.  At least that will keep me active.  But the matter of fact is that it will probably be difficult to work at the same pace that I am working now.  So I will probably be doing WORK, but it might not necessarily be PAID WORK.  It could be volunteer work or something else.  I don't know.

Recently, the thought of opening a postage stamp shop just keeps creeping into my mind.  Maybe I should just pursue my hobby and try to make a living out of it.  That will be some cool retirement plan indeed.  But it is difficult as the capital involved seems to be quite huge.  And I will probably want to hoard all the stamps rather than sell them.  Something for me to think about and work towards over the next 30 years perhaps.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Singapore Millionaires - Lots More by 2016

According to Credit Suisse's Global Wealth Report, Singapore is ranked no.5 in the top 10 countries with the highest average wealth per adult in 2011. The figure amounts to USD$284,692 per adult. Australia is in 2nd place with USD$396,745. Switzerland is ranked 1st with average wealth of USD$540,010.

Based on the data, it also seems that by 2016, around 408,000 Singaporeans will be millionaires. That is quite a significant number of millionaires in tiny Singapore.

Most Singaporeans who read this are probably thinking: "How is possible that it is so easy for so many Singaporeans to be millionaires?" Well, the exact same thoughts are actually running through my head. Just doing a basic calculation of my annual pay package (inclusive of bonuses) and I figure that I need a minimum of 14-15 years just to make a million dollars. This is of course based on the assumption that my pay stagnates and does not increase at all. Another assumption made is that I also save all my salary and do not spend a single cent.

With such a simplistic calculation, it will take me till I am almost close to 50 years old to actually earn a grand total of one million dollars. And this is in Singapore dollars not US dollars.

Looks like I won't be making it in the 2016 list. Perhaps 2025?






Sunday, October 16, 2011

Weekend is Ending, Great Things to Do, and Back to Office

The weekend is ending. Another restful 2 days is over and I am off to a brand new start to the week. It is almost the end of the year and I am still amazed at how little I have accomplished over the year 2011. It has not been a great year in terms of accomplishments but it has been fantastic nonetheless. After watching Steve Jobs 2005 Speech at Stanford Commencement, I try to look myself in the mirror each day and ask myself the same question: "If this is the last day of my life, will I want to be doing what I am going to do today?".

I have been doing that the past couple of days and I realised that the answer is a vague NO. It isn't a strong NO-NO. But neither is it a resolute YES.

On another totally unrelated topic, I have been thinking of great things to do in Singapore. This is whether be it in terms of killing time, new places to eat, etc. I know there are lots of things to do in Singapore but I just find my weekends kind of dull.

So the weekend ends. And I will be back to work tomorrow. But an exciting idea has just popped into my head and I can feel the adrenaline rushing back into my blood. It was just a simple thought on what I should be doing with my life, and how I ought to really follow my passion and my dreams. And something just struck me that I know I ought to be doing but haven't really been doing much. I am so excited about this new idea and hopefully it will bear some "fruit" in due time.

Have a great week ahead!

Chris Rene X Factor Audition - Young Homie

This was Chris Rene's audition on X Factor. The title of this song is Young Homie and was written by Chris himself. Truly different from the other singers and worth watching if you like the rap, R&B, hip-hop kind of music. I love his other song from his album Sould Out that is titled "Forever".

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Things to do in Singapore - Free Entry into Asian Civilisation Museum (15 and 16 Oct 2011)

There are not many things to do in Singapore except eating, shopping and really just walking around. This weekend (15 to 16 Oct 2011), the Asian Civilisation Museum is having an open house - meaning its free entry for all. So it is a pretty good deal as the exhibition on the Terracota Warriors are on. It is a good chance to visit the museum if you have not done so.

The Asian Civilisation Museum is located just opposite Fullerton Hotel right beside Victoria Concert Hall (which is now undergoing renovation). Not too sure whether parking is currently available there but I parked my car at UOB Plaza which was basically $3.50 per entry. Took a short walk across the bridge and I was inside the museum.

The exhibits are all located at the 2nd floor and it was quite crowded. Not surprising really since it was free admission to all. I have always found ancient antiques/artefacts pretty cool so it is worth the visit if you like to see such stuff too. Of course, took a short stroll down the Singapore River too

Friday, October 14, 2011

Best Breakfast Places in Singapore (Part 2)

I wrote about the best breakfast places in Singapore some time back in Oct 2010. And I always promised myself and some readers that I would expand on the list as it was really an extremely brief post with little details.

Now that it is Oct 2011, I decided that it was time to stop procrastinating and to deliver on my promise to share some of the best breakfast places (at least in my opinion) in Singapore. Well, I am sure everyone has their little corner or own quiet space in Singapore where they truly enjoy eating their breakfasts. But here I go to share my list:

Jones the Grocer @ Dempsey ($$$)

Well, this definitely had to come up in my list. I am really a local food kind of guy so it shows how much I actually like to eat breakfast here. I don't really fancy the food much. The scrambled eggs are good. The best thing I guess is the ambience of this place. Wonderful if you are sitting inside on a hot Saturday morning with its high ceilings. Of course, it is also fun to people watch. Their coffee and mocha is oh so good.....

Ghim Moh Market Thosai ($)

There are lots to eat at Ghim Moh Market which is tuck away in Ghim Moh (of course). Plenty of choices but the Thosai there is good. If I am really hungry, I will go for the chee kui there too which isn't that bad.

Clementi Mall Crystal Jade ($$$)

Clementi Mall is new. But the dim sum served at the Crystal Jade is quite amazing. I like their chee cheong fun which has like sesame sauce and the usual sweet sauce. Really yummy!

Coronation Plaza, My Cosy Corner, Laksa ($)

A totally non-pretentious place that is tucked away in a little corner at Coronation Plaza which is like a really old shopping centre. Their laksa is rich and tasty (not too sure that is how you would describe it). I quite like they kueh pie ti and popiah too. There are limited seats though but usually we don't get any problems with finding the seats.

Holland Village Provence Cafe ($$)

Nice little cafe with fresh bread and coffee. Not much on the breakfast menu except bread, bread and more bread. So if you are not a bread person, you won't enjoy this place much. But it is nice once in a while to sit here, drink coffee and do some people watching. Also count the number of luxury cars that illegal park along the road. If you want something more local, can always go to the market there for their economic beehoon or the Ya Kun that is located near the Bee Cheng Hiang.

Toast Box @ Great World City ($)

I love my coffee. But when it comes to Toast Box, I don't mind their Iced Teh C (which is basically like iced milk tea for those of you who don't originate from Singapore). I love their nasi lemak even though I know it is nothing special. Their half boiled eggs also see larger than the ones that are served in normal coffee shops. Slurp!!

Tiong Bahru Market ($)

This market is famous by itself. After the renovations, I sort of lost track on where all the good stalls went to. But just follow the queues and you will never go wrong.

Casuarina Curry Restaurant Prata ($)

Air-conditioned coffeshop serving prata that doesn't taste too bad. Service is prompt and fast. Place is pretty clean too which is rare for a roti-prata shop. They did a total makeover a couple of years back and business is always good on the weekends.

Olio Dome @ Dempsey ($$)

Another nice place to hang out. If Jones the Grocer is too crowded, just cross the road and head over to this place. Coffee isn't too far off and their breakfast menu is also quite decent. Of course, it isn't as good as Jones the Grocer but if you want a reasonably good breakfast and there is a long queue at Jones, then this place is for you. Of course, you can hop over to PS Cafe which is much more expensive but which I thought wasn't really worth the money.

Hong Kah Market (near Hong Kah West CC) Carrot Cake ($)

Remember the Bukit Timah Market carrot cake that was cooked like in square shape pieces? Heard that this stall was opened by the son of the original owner. I have tasted the original Bukit Timah carrot cake and I dare say that this one isn't that far off. In fact, there are days when I think this one tastes even better!

Casa Verde @ Botanical Gardens ($$)

They sell a mix of western food as well as local dishes. These are usually better with the sets which comes with juice and coffee. A bit expensive though. One also must not mind the crowd unless you go early. There are many pet dogs around too so if you don't like dogs, this is not the place for you.

Okay, I have shared quite a few places already. But I still have a few secret places stored in my pocket that I will perhaps share during the next installment of Best Breakfast Places in Singapore. Hopefully, that posting will come out before Oct 2013. Do share with me your favorite breakfast places too! I would love to hear of new places to go too!


Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Chris Rene Forever Lyrics

I heard this song from Chris Rene titled Forever which I feel is absolutely wonderful and amazing. Chris Rene is a contestant in the current US X Factor TV show. This song Forever is from his album Sould Out.



Lyrics

(Synthesizer and bass plays)
I said it’s all about you and you reply with the vice-versa
In the beginning I was, like this might hurt you
Love is a strong thing, it can make you wanna die or make your heart sing
Nothing compares to the joy you bring in me (bring in me)
You could make a, a cripple man walk and a blind man see
It’s all about you and me
I was blind to see that you were in love with me
Girls flirtin’ with me but you still stuck with me
And didn’t give a f*** with me,
If I needed it, you would give your blood to me
And this means you’ll be mine till the end of time
We gonna ride, gonna shine, in this life of mine
Took me awhile to figure it out
But you’re the reason why I live my life no doubt

Chorus
And you’re the only one who makes me feel this way
I ain’t got no time to waste
Where I need to be is beside you
I spent so many years trying to find you, baby
(Woo, you baby, hey yea, hey yea, hey yea yea)

How you feel baby now that we’re having one
Yeah they telling me our life’s just begun
I look forward to this new life as a daddy that can handle his son
We ‘bout to have all kinds of fun
You’re a mother now (uh)
Who would’ve thought you would ever be a mother wow
It’s kinda crazy how things turned around
We went from living on the streets and being homeless downtown
And now we’re standing on our own too feet (yeah)
Hail Mary, come with me
My father’s up in heaven watching over me
Thanks for staying close to me
And in my heart I know that’s where we’re supposed to be
With a third heartbeat and live so complete (eh)
And we can start a family yeah
And we can start our family yeah, we can start our family yeah

And you’re the only one who makes me feel this way
I ain’t got no time to waste
Where I need to be is beside you
I spent so many years trying to find you, baby
(Woo, you baby, hey yea, hey yea, hey yea yea)

First Steps to Success as a Property Investor


Successful property investment requires a good knowledge base. It’s important to get a good basic grounding in all the practices of property investment, from selecting properties to management and financing. These are the real bread and butter elements of property investment. It’s extremely important to learn each aspect and understand the issues in each part of the process. This is a type of business where learning by experience can be very costly.

You will need some professional assistance with property investment, including legal support and professional investment advice, particularly if you’re buying high value properties. There’s a large range of issues involved in any purchase or sale of property, and this advice can both save and make you a fortune, quite literally.

The property investment market has a nasty habit of boom and bust cycles which need to be well managed to ensure profitability and good returns on investment. Losses can hit hard, particularly if you’re borrowing to invest, or you have an investment that needs capital commitment to be profitable in a falling or stagnant market. A good working knowledge of the right market strategies and tactics will give you an advantage in any sort of property market or investment situation.

Stage 1- Basic elements of property investment education

Before you make any investment moves, it’s well worth attending some of the professional property investment seminars. These seminars are particularly useful for investors in need of fundamental information regarding markets, risk management and investment strategies. Property markets can be quite volatile, and some local markets may be flat while others are booming. These are primary principles in property investment, and it’s critically important to develop a clear vision of the issues in your own property market.

Stage 2- Finding the right property investment advisory services

The best property investment companies offer a range of services which include:

·        Resources for property research- These include market reports, news and other up to date information which can provide valuable insights into your property investment options.

·        Property investment strategy advice and programs- The most successful property investors have a clear market strategy which sees them through boom and bust markets. Defensive and aggressive investment strategies have their benefits, and learning these strategies is a  

·        Consultation services- These services can be absolutely invaluable, providing full spectrum support for investors, whatever their needs. (Please note that in the early stages of investment, this consultative process is also very valuable as “advanced training”, because your advisors will be able to walk you through the issues and explain them for you and provide good options for each investment.)

Stage 3- Your own investment team, on standby

At the end of your education phase, you’ll find that you have excellent knowledge of your investment options, as well as a team of professional experts on hand whenever you need them. The most successful property investors in the world have professional teams to support their every move, and the best property investments are never accidental.

Talk to a professional property investment advisor, and check out their services. You’ll never look back.

 [The above is a guest post]

Monday, October 3, 2011

Poll Results: Starting Pay When You First Started Work

I polled my readers on this blog on what was their starting pay when they first started work. This poll was really started after I wrote the article on Starting Pay for Graduates. Anyway, here are the results of the poll:

57% of respondents reported a starting salary of less than S$2000 when they first started work. 27% of respondents reported a starting salary of between S$2000 and S$3000. The remaining 16% reported a starting salary of more than S$3000 when they first started work.

So how do you measure up?

Friday, September 30, 2011

Citigroup CEO thinks Another Financial Crisis Unlikely

Vikram Pandit, CEO of Citigroup thinks that the chances of another financial crisis hitting the global economy is unlikely, mainly due to world banking system that has been overhauled since the last global financial crisis in 2008.

He remains confident that the "Europeans will figure it out" and that there is no need to worry about a financial crisis. This seems to be a far cry from the doom and gloom that has been over the markets for the past few months.

He remains bullish about Asia as he thinks that the Asian growth story will continue to be robust, even if it is impacted by any global economic slowdown. It is quite surprising that Citigroup's CEO is so optimistic about the trends going forward.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Alpine Total Dynamic and Alpine Global Dynamic

Sold off my stake in Alpine Total Dynamic and Alpine Global Dynamic soon after buying it because I realised that the dividend payout had been dropping over the years. In addition, the dividend capture strategy that they are supposedly using does not sound robust enough for my liking. Anyway, I bought the stock just before the slight rally in the markets so I was able to lock in some gains.

It looks like my search for another monthly dividend stock will have to continue.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Posts to Read

Dear reader,

You might have just stumbled upon this blog and I thank you for taking time to go through it.  I hope you find lots of interesting articles even as you navigate around this blog.  I thought that I might as well just highlight a few articles which I have grouped according to topics to make it so much easier for you to navigate:  I must be frank that reading through some of these posts, I have entirely forgotten that I actually wrote them.  It almost feels like it was a different person writing some of these articles then.

Personal Thoughts and Reflections

  1. A Brutally Honest Post
  2. Lessons from Silas Marner
  3. Which is Your Best Income Source
  4. Conversation with a Millionaire
  5. Don't Run the Rat Race

Salary and Personal Finance

  1. Salary Discussion
  2. Starting Pay for Singapore Graduates
  3. Are You Ready to Manage Your Cashflow?
  4. Are You Ready to Take Charge of Your Healthcare Costs?
  5. 1001 Frugal Things to Do
  6. How Much to Get Married (Part 1) (Part 2)
Other Posts of Interests

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

How to Earn Extra Cash & The Hidden Difficulties

I read with interest a certain article on AsiaOne that gave ten ways on how one could earn extra cash.  The article was well written but I wasn't too sure how helpful it was to people who actually read it.  I mean what was listed down was really ten ways to earn extra cash but I guess the difference really lies in how difficult it is to make extra cash (especially if one holds a full-time job) and also what I would term as the "work-reward" ratio (i.e. how much work you have to put in versus the magnitude of the earnings/reward).

For example, babysitting was listed down as one of the ways to earn extra cash.  Sure, this advice applies well to stay-at-home mums but even if $1000 is paid out for you to babysit a child for all weekdays throughout a month, is it a worthwhile effort?  Likewise, Adsense was listed down as one of the ways but seriously, how long does it take for a newbie to earn $1000 through Adsense?

Why it is probably easier to babysit 

These are difficult questions and will probably require difficult answers.  But looking at it, I can safely tell you that it will be easier for most people to earn $1000/month doing babysitting compared to earning $1000/year from Adsense.  And the context is really important.  And the reason for this apparent difficulty or disparity lies in a really simple answer that probably plagues many of Singapore's local businesses too:  Singapore is too small.

Imagine an American blogger.  With a total resident population in the United States of 300 over million people and a high internet penetration rate, it is fairly easy for this American blogger to reach out to his target group of audience (i.e. customers) in America.  Even if he was only able to capture % of the audience per day, that will amount to 3 million readers per day already.  The same Singaporean blogger has no such luck.  If he managed to reach out to 1% of the residents per day, it only amounts to 50,000 readers.  Of course, the 1% target is really arbitary but it shows that for the same amount of effort, the Singapore blogger (with his/her Singaporean content only interesting to the locals) is placed at a severe disadvantage.

The Solution?

Well, the solution actually seems pretty straightfoward.  Go global!  Blog about things that the global audience can identify with and relate to.  But this is challenging and extremely difficult.  Unless you know what the global audience wants to read, you will probably find it extremely difficult to build up a site that will be visited by visitors.  This is not to mention the language barrier, culture barrier, and other impediments that you face.  And one can safely say that most people who try to eke out a living on the internet will rarely succeed.  But that being said, it is not entirely impossible.  There are good Singaporean bloggers who are making a living through their blogs.

How to Earn Extra Cash Passively

So I will give my own version of what I think is one good way to earn extra cash passively without much effort on your part.  . Well, surprisingly, I have found out that passive income is sometimes much easier to earn than active income (e.g. blogging).  I have earned a lot more from dividends paid out from stocks/shares I own compared to any other area.  Of course, this pre-supposes that one has sufficient capital to invest in stocks that pay out a good yield.  But this method has worked for me and has brought me fairly stable returns without me having to do a single thing.  Talk about earning extra cash without putting in much effort!

Of course, not all is rosy and one must expect that there could be a possibility of the dividends being cut or the share price dropping.  Nonetheless, dividends probably ranks pretty high up in my list of "How to Earn Extra Cash".

Monday, September 19, 2011

Are You Ready to Take Charge of Your Healthcare Costs?

I wrote about CPF's "Are You Ready" campaign recently and also did a quick check in my previous posting about "Are You Ready to Manage Your Cashflow".  Anyway, there is a contest also ongoing on the Are You Ready site and there are MacBook Airs and shopping vouchers to be won just by sharing your stories.  So do visit the site here and share your stories.

Anyway, thought I will do a continuation of what I did in the previous post and check my own readiness in terms of taking charge of my healthcare costs.  I went through the list of questions in the checklist and here are my answers (as honest as can be):

I Make/Receive Monthly Medisave Contributions

Yes.  My CPF contributions go towards the Medisave Account.  Thus far, my Medisave account has only been used to pay a certain part of the hospital bills when my first child was born.  I guess this question is really aimed at those who are self-employed and who ought to make contributions to their medisave account.

I Am Aware of the Importance of Medisave, Medishield and Eldershield

Wow, this is a pretty tricky question.  I guess I generally know these 3 terms mean thought I must admit that there might be some inaccuracy in my understanding.  But here it goes:

Medisave - An account held under CPF that can be used to pay off hospital bills (if certain criteria are met).
Medishield - A basic hospitalisation insurance plan.
Eldershield - A severe disability insurance scheme.  Especially useful if you require long term care in the future. It provides a monthly cash payout and is available when you are of age 40.

And the importance of them all, I think I can say I know the importance of them all even though I am too young to be covered under Eldershield now.

I am Insured by Medishield and/or an Integrated Shield Plan

Yes, I upgraded my coverage to an Integrated Shield Plan offered by Aviva.  I have covered my entire family with it.

I Exercise At Least 3 Times A Week

Errrr.........Okay, no.  I hardly exercise at all these days.  Have been making too many excuses not to exercise and this is a timely reminder that I should really be exercising more.  Maybe for a start, I will try to exercise once a week?

I Keep A Balanced and Healthy Diet

Well, generally, I would like to think that I eat rather healthily.  At least I do not have any health problems.  But I certainly think I could eat healthier (i.e. more vegetables, more fruits and less meat).  I am certain that I have room for improvement in this department.  Interestingly, somebody once did a guest post on this blog regarding the linkage between financial health and obesity so you might want to check out the article.

Conclusion

So done.  I have checked off the checklist and I think that while I am financially prepared to take charge of my healthcare costs, there is definitely room for improvement in terms of keeping myself healthy (by exercising) as well as eating right.  A good and timely reminder indeed.






Sunday, September 18, 2011

Are You Ready to Manage Your Cashflow?

Well, the IMSavvy site has recently launched an "Are You Ready" activity/movement/campaign.  And I was really glad that such a topic was actually chosen as it is a timely reminder for people to make sure that they are READY in terms of their personal finance.  It basically covers the 4 topics of:


•                      Managing Your Cash Flow
•                      Buying A House Within Your Means
•                      Taking Charge of Your Healthcare Costs
•                      Securing Your Retirement


Just thought that I would share some thoughts about my own personal experience regarding the first topic of managing my cashflow.  Based on the checklist provided at the IMSavvy site (http://www.cpf.gov.sg/imsavvy/ayr_list.asp?catid=1), there were a few questions and I hope to answer these questions as honestly as I can.  So here I go:

I Spend Less Than What I Earn Monthly

Yes, I do spend less than what I earn monthly most of the time.  The only times that I ever spent more than I earn was when I was either going on a holiday or spending on my wedding preparations/home renovations.  Otherwise, as a whole, I would like to think that for a typical month, I make a pretty conscious effort to spend less than what I earn monthly.  This discipline I guess was instilled in me since young - you never want to spend your pocket money before the week is over.  So likewise, when you are working, your monthly cash outflows should not exceed your monthly cash inflows unless for very good reasons (e.g. once-off big ticket items).

I Save At Least 10% of My Income

Generally, I would like to think that this is a YES for me too.  It really depends what is the definition of saving.  My definition of saving is basically income that is not spent on consumption.  So saving to me includes putting money in the bank, putting it in a regular savings plan or investing in stocks.  Well, some people will include their CPF contributions as part of their savings (and that isn't entirely wrong).  So different people probably have very different ideas about what actually constitutes savings.  For me, I do save >10% of my income over and above my CPF contributions.

Again, I must qualify that there are some months when I am a little less disciplined and splurge a little.  But with a regular savings plan that I have set up through an ILP bought years ago, more than 10% of my income does go into saving (at least based on my own definition).

I Have At Least 6 Months Worth of My Income as Emergency Funds

A big YES to this question too!  This was really something that I put off in the past and it was advice that I did not heed which I regret.  During then, I was young and rash.  I decided that the bank was paying me too little interest and decided to invest the majority of my money in stocks.  I had less than 6 months worth of my income in emergency funds even though I originally had set aside that sum of money.  Then came the time when I had to pay for some big ticket items and I was left with little choice but to liquidate some of my investments at a loss.  So if this is not good enough warning for you, please do set aside 6 months of your income as emergency funds first before you even start investing.  The last thing you want to do is to be liquidating your investments at a loss when a certain crisis (e.g. job loss) hits you.

I Pay My Credit Card Bills and Other Debt Obligations, in Full and On Time Each Month

Generally yes.  All my debt obligations are paid through GIRO so I do not lapse on it.  I do pay my credit card bills in full at the end of each month though not always on time.  This is simply because I forget to pay them or miss the due date as the credit card bill was lost in my stack of letters.  I usually call up the bank to waive the late charges since it is basically an oversight. I must have done that more than 5 times but they have always been more than willing to waive it.

I Have Adequate Financial Protection

Well, this is perhaps the toughest question to answer.  And my answer to this is probably a "MAYBE".  I know that I ought to be insured to certain levels (e.g. 10 times my annual pay for death coverage).  But all these are really rule of thumb calculations.  My protection level is slightly below those levels.  I would like to think that I am adequately insured with coverage for death, TPD, critical illness, hospitalisation and personal accident.

This is perhaps a good time for me to dust off the dust on my insurance plans and see whether it is time to review the insurance coverage for myself as well as my family members.

So how did you fare in answering these questions?  Any action you need to take if you have answered a "No" to any of the questions above?  Are you ready to manage your cashflow?

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Another Hoax Email

It is amazing that I have literally thousands of email to clear in my email account. But what never fails to interest me are the number of hoax and scam emails that I receive. One that I received today is attached below for your reference:


Hi,

My name is Mrs. Mutsakorn Chauvinist, the wife of the former deputy Prime minister and finance Minister Suchart Chauvinist who died of cancer. Due to the death of my husband as you can read from the Bangkok post news website to this linkhttp://www.bangkokpost.com/news/politics/26113/suchart-69-dies-of-cancer. I am very worried over the political crises and I have decided to contact you to help me to move some funds to your country, and go into investment with you. My warm regards to you and your family, as I wait to read from you. Please treat with utmost confidentiality and secretly.

Regards,
Mrs. Mutsakorn Chauvinist,
Bangkok, Thailand.

Starting Pay for Singapore Graduates

Well the news about the starting pay for fresh graduates is out. Based on a July 2011 survey by Hay Group, fresh graduates can expect to command a higher starting pay compared to their 2010 cohort.

Engineering jobs command the highest starting pay at S$2,745 per month for degree holders. This was followed by S$2,738 and S$2,728 for jobs in the legal profession and production respectively. The average starting pay for other jobs was around S$2,500. In 2010, the "hot" jobs were pretty similar and could be found in legal, engineering as well as R&D. The average starting pay for diploma holders was close to S$1,800.

And in a separate survey by JobsCentral, National University of Singapore (NUS) was the government employer of choice, beating Singapore Tourism Board to the top spot. STB had held the top spot for the past 3 years. The ratings were as follows:

1. NUS
2. DSTA
3. EDB
4. STB
5. A*STAR

For private companies, Apple retained the top spot. The survey results were based on 3000 over respondents from NUS, NTU and SMU.

When queried about the expected starting salary, most respondents actually picked a range of S$2,500 to S$3000. 33% expected a starting salary above $3,500 and 21.9% expected a starting salary of above $3,500.


I also remember reading the  Straits Times recently and was surprised to realise that there are NTU 2011 fresh grads out there that are earning $20K per month. I don't know what line they are in but $20K for a fresh grad sure sounds like a high figure to most people. I am assuming that they are probably in sales or perhaps working in some investment bank. It is good to know that local grads actually stand a chance of earning such a high salary. One would think that such high salaries were only possible if you study in a good university overseas.

Just the other day, I also wrote about Singapore's 40 Richest. Apparently, the richest people in Singapore have increased their networth again over the past one year as reported by Forbes Asia. I was trying to find out the common points they had and realised that property is perhaps it.

Have started my own little survey regarding starting pay. Feel free to take part in the survey. All submissions will remain anonymous.



Friday, September 16, 2011

Manchester United IPO in Singapore

I know this is old news but apparently, Manchester United has gotten approval from the Singapore Stock Exchange to be listed. This was after news that SGX managed to grab this IPO when it was originally headed for the Hong Kong Stock Exchange (?).

Apparently, the Manchester United fan base in the region is one reason why the stock is being listed here. But I truly wonder how much that will really translate into actual fans investing into the club. They are fans alright. They might stay up to watch Manchester United play. They might buy Manchester United jerseys. Some might even travel all the way to Old Trafford to catch a game. But will they really invest in Manchester United as part of their investments?

Passion about a football and support for a club however might not necessarily translate into a investment decision / action. While investors like Peter Lim once tried to buy Liverpool, I wonder whether the interest for Man Utd IPO will really exist among the retail investor. Sure. There is a certain novelty factor of owning part of the club that you love. But will true Man Utd fans really invest in their club?

This I really wonder..

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Wells Fargo & Company

The stock market has been really volatile the past couple of weeks. Have been trying to follow the news about the potential QE3 which most people are expecting though Bernake wasn't really clear in his speech that there was going to be a QE3. But with the unemployment rate still hovering around 9%, it is pretty certain that there are possibly rough times ahead for the market. But then again, the market is really forward looking so I could be wrong about that too.

Nevertheless, it seems that the market is really going down south right now and most people are taking a really bearish attitude. Warren Buffet has however added Wells Fargo and Company (WFC) to his portfolio over the past 1-2 months. Thought that it was a pretty interesting that Warren Buffet still seems to have quite a lot of confidence in the US economy considering that he has also pumped in billions of dollars into Bank of America (BAC). But of course, his investment in BAC is not available to the normal retail investors and he will most probably be paid off quite nicely at the end of the day.

If WFC continues to drop, I might just be tempted to take a little stake in it since one of the investment gurus of our time is quite heavily invested in it. WFC was last trading tat $24.20 and I might consider entering if the price drops some more.

Mood: Defensive; Bearish

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Added Alpine Global Dynamic Fund to Portfolio

During the recent market crash, I managed to buy into Alpine Global Dynamic Fund (AGD listed on the NYSE) for a price of US$5.64. This is one of those monthly dividend stocks and the dividends for the next few months is at US$0.06 per share. Not a bad yield considering my purchase price. This should add to my passive income stream quite a fair bit over the next few months.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

I am Powerful Beyond Measure

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

How powerful am I? Beyond measure? The sense of inadequacy tends to set in especially when I am day-dreaming. Or sometimes, it hits when I am reflecting on life as a whole and I see where my peers are at and where I am compared to them. It is then that I feel entirely inadequate.

But I know deep down inside that I am powerful beyond measure. I know that I can change the world , one word at a time, one action at a time and one step at a time. And that is my deepest fear. That I am actually powerful enough to move the world and make it a different and perhaps a better place.

But how can this be? I am a nobody. If you saw me walking down the street, you will not recognise me. Even though you read this blog day in and out, you do not even know me. I am a nobody and yet I am a somebody. How amazing and ironical is that?

Today, I decided that there are areas in my life that I want to do more. And I know that I can do and contribute in so many ways. Here is my list of things that I hope to accomplish or contribute:

Giving to NUS

If you have found this blog useful in one way or another, you could donate to a few organisations of my choice. (Of course, you can donate it to me too) Ha..ha..

Well, the first organisation that you can make a contribution to is the National University of Singapore. Visit the website for more information. Any donation no matter how big or small will help in ways that you cannot imagine. Remember, our actions can change the world. One bit at a time. So do donate.

Club Rainbow and Straits Times Pocket Money

Well, if donating to NUS is not something that you had in mind. Then may I recommend you another 2 options. They are Club Rainbow and the Straits Times Pocket Money Fund. I learnt about Club Rainbow when I ran a $10 donation contest to ask people to pick their favorite charity. That was when I heard about the charity Club Rainbow. Club Rainbow basically helps children who suffers from various chronic diseases.

You can learn more about this 2 organisations/funds in the links below:
So do visit those sites and make a donation today. No matter how small the amount, it is the thought that counts.

Thanks.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Tiredness Sets In and US Dancing with Debt

Phew... it has been a busy week. I have been doing some of my own research on REITs in Singapore but was too frightened to enter into the market during the recent weeks due the US "debt crisis". On hindsight, I guess we should have all figured that the Republicans and Democrats would have struck a deal in the end. But hindsight is always 20/20 and I guess at that point in time, no one could really tell.

Regardless of the "good" news that the debt default is no longer a worry, the next concern will be the potential downgrade of US credit rating by the various rating agencies from AAA to something probably lower.

Somehow deep inside me, I know that the US debt crisis is actually a time bomb waiting to occur. There must be seriously a lot of wastage in terms of public spending when a government starts to rely on debt to finance its spending.

I wonder what will the impact and how the markets will look like in the near future with the less than optimistic forecasts ahead. Dark clouds perhaps?


Monday, August 1, 2011

US Likely to Avoid Debt Default

It seems that the US will avoid a potential debt default. After weeks of following this issue on and off, I was quite amazed at the amount of politics at play here. It seems that congressional leaders will most likely approve a deal to raise America's debt ceiling. And somehow I don't think the deal was what President Barack Obama wanted as he was initially calling for one, broad debt agreement that included cuts, entitlements and also taxes.

The final deal that will go before Congress this week seems to be a compromise which includes cuts of about $1 trillion and also relying on a bipartisan congressional committee (I will take that to mean comprising both Democrats and Republicans) to propose by November another $1.5 trillion in other deficit reductions that could range from cuts, entitlements or tax increase. This new dealwill pave the way for US to avoid the Aug 2 default.

With this good news, gold prices decline from their record prices while oil prices continue to climb. Will the Singapore stock market also respond positively to the news once the final agreement is reached? It is scary to think that one day away from the deadline, the most powerful nation in the world is leaving it really till the last minute to finalise something as important as this.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Singapore's 40 Richest

Singapore's 40 richest are now apparently worth a collective total of US$54.4 billion based on a Straits Times report that cites the rich list published by Forbes Asia. It somehow shows that the wealthy have managed to increased their networth despite a turbulent economy and a very weak stock market.

At the top of the list with US$8.9billion is the family of the late Ng Teng Fong. This was up by US$1.1 billion. Their wealth is tied closely to their 2 largest property holdings - Far East Organisation and another Hong Kong listed property firm.

Second on the list is family of the late Khoo Teck Puat at US$6.7 billion. They are invested in Goodwood Park Hotel.

There were also newcomers to the billionaire list.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Wide Awake at 12:52AM & Random Thoughts

Why Scrambled Eggs Matter and What They Tell

What a weekend! Was really looking forward to Saturday after a hectic week in the office. (Well, work is always hectic for me in a sense..) Breakfast was nicely done at SimplyBread. Had the delicious ham steak served with scrambled eggs. Felt that the toast was sort of burnt but the scrambled eggs were really good. Anyone who can cook scrambled eggs better than me definitely deserves praise. And there are really not many places in Singapore that serves good scrambled eggs.

I am not really a foodie. But when it comes to discerning good food - especially "Western style" breakfasts, scrambled eggs is the sole criterion by which I judge whether a certain cafe or stuff deserves a second visit. Scrambled eggs is like fried rice. If you can find a good zi char stall that sells good fried rice, its other dishes ought to be pretty good as well. It is really the basic dishes that sets the good apart from the rest. And when it comes to breakfast, it is really the SCRAMBLED EGGS.

You see, I am not much of a cook myself. I hardly step into the kitchen. But one dish that I think I can cook pretty well is scrambled eggs. I am not sure where I picked up the recipe for scrambled eggs but I guess it must be my mum or something. Of course, watching Gordon Ramsay and Jamie Oliver must have added some of its influences on me as well. Of course, eating scrambled eggs at Bill Granger's restaurant in Sydney must really be THE MOMENT for me in realising how a simple dish really tells so much about a place.

And the fact is that scrambled eggs needs to be cooked with butter and of course, "stirred" continously. It should never be cooked like an omelette where you literally fry it (I have witnessed some egg counters in certain hotels/resorts do just that) !! That is a strict No-No for scrambled eggs. It needs to be continously stirred under low heat in the most loving manner. And that is what makes it scrambled if you ask me.

After Breakfast Happenings

Well, that is so much for breakfast. There wasn't really much that I wanted to do afterwards and there wasn't really much to do after a satisfying breakfast. Went to Hort Park for a walk to soak in some nature. It didn't help that the weather was almost scorching hot. In short, it was a bit too hot for my liking. Lunch was at Burger King. Pretty simple fare and I somehow realised that I don't enjoy fastfood as much as I used too in the past. I used to love fastfood - like I thought it was really yummy- even though I know it was unhealthy and stuff. Nowadays, I don't really like it so much anymore. Perhaps it is just changing tastes. I very much prefer my chicken rice or wanton mee than Macs or KFC or Burger King.

Wasn't able to get an afternoon nap as the little one was kind of cranky the whole day. We ended up eating a really really early dinner if you ask me. I wasn't too hungry but ate anyway. End up taking a nap at like 7pm and woke up at around 10pm only to find that I could no longer put myself to sleep...

TV and the Latin Epic Poem

Watched a bit of NatGeo Wild and it was quite silly to spend an entire hour seeing some person try to figure out whether sharks were inhabiting some part of some river in some part of South Africa. It was really quite a waste of time since they could have easily cut the chase and went straight to the findings.. Got a bit irritated just waiting for them to reveal WHICH shark was actually inhabiting the river...

When one is wide awake at this hour, there isn't really much to do. I don't Facebook as often as I used to and I don't really get much time to hang out with friends nowadays. It is really just me and the internet or me and my books. Have been struggling to complete Virgil's The Aeneid. Yes, I have been spending my time on such frivolous readings - books which really just delight me and which I do not really spend to much time to analyse or think about.

After reading the Iliad, I decided that I was really quite fascinated with all these ancient epic poems and stuff. These were definitely books that I would not consider reading in the past but now...I actually enjoy them... it is really weird. Maybe I am growing more "artsy fartsy".. hahah...or maybe it just gives me a sense of accomplishment to read this supposed classics. The wife sniggers at me when she sees me reading them . She thinks that I am reading them because of their cover and their title. Well, she might be correct to a certain extent but the truth is, I actually do quite like the stories (or maybe the translator's story since most of these were written in Greek and Latin so I am probably reading a translator's interpretation of it).

Random Thoughts

Well, lots of random thoughts. I just spent a good hour of my time watching magic on youtube. I never really liked magic. Or perhaps it was my exposure to David Copperfield kind of magic in my early days. I could never quite tell whether it was clever film editing or stuff. Besides, I don't really like the parts where they put their lives on the line to saw their bodies in half.

But lately, I have been quite interested and intrigued with the simpler magic tricks. Those involving the simple cups and balls, cards, coins, rope and stuff. And if one must watch any magician, I recommend Slydini. Wonderful sleight of hand techniques and misdirection. I can't even tell how he does some of his tricks. Ricky Jay is also pretty good with cards (not to say being a very entertaining comedian at the same time). Bebel is quite slick too even though I don't understand French. But I could serioulsy spend hours just watching them perform their tricks over and over again. Even though I know how some parts of it are done, it is really amazing to watch this people perform it in such an artistic manner. The sheer amount of practice required is truly amazing.

Song of the week in my head: Hope of all Hearts by PlanetShakers
Mood : Uncertain about the future

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Stop Letting Work Define Who You Are

We often fall into the habit of letting our work define our entire being. And it is difficult to get out of this mindset. Sometimes, I wish I were a little braver.. That I will be able to stop living life the way others have defined it for me, break out of the moulds, get out of the silly rat race, and start truly living life.

But then, there are bills to pay. And someone has to feed the family. So I put off all my wildest dreams of like travelling the world (on a really shoe string budget), or setting off to some far flung place and anchoring myself there for like the rest of eternity...

And i know that slowly the bright spark in me is dying and slowly fading. I am very much less cheerful nowadays. I prefer to be left alone. I desire for something more than this seemingly mundane life. I am not making a living. I am making a "dying" literally.

Don't get me wrong. It is not that I am not happy at my job. But sometimes, I just get the sense that this isn't what I should be doing. Reaching home past seven pm on each weekday is not something that I desire. (Of course, i know there are those of you who reach home much later than I do).

I need to find new inspiration, set new priorities, find my purpose and live my life with passion.

So my dear friend: Please don't let your work define who you are. I am trying hard to do that. We deserve so much more than all these.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Paper Chasing in Singapore and Choosing a Job that Makes You Happy

I wrote about the Paper chase in Singapore a few days back. I must admit I got a bit side tracked from writing about how much one needs to get married where I wanted to share more about the costs of getting married in Singapore. I promise to get back to that once I am done with my ranting on the ingrained mindset of paper chasing in Singapore.

ARGH! THAT WAS ME IN THE MIRROR

I seriously could not believe that when I got home today, I actually spent a large amount of time researching on the various masters courses that I could take in Singapore. A good part of my evening was gone just researching on SMU, NTU and NUS. I even contemplated signing up for other courses like ACCA or CFA. But then I got lost in the myriad of requirements and stuff. This pretty much sums up the Singaporean obsession with paper qualifications. I have seen the enemy and I am one of them! I am just like any other Singaporean who focuses too much on paper qualifications.

Choosing a Job That Makes You Happy

It was definitely timely to read an article about choosing a job that makes one happy. Am I happy in my job? Do I have passion for it? I can't be certain. Some days I wake up gearing to go to work. Then there are other times (long stretches I admit) where I simply don't fill the urge to go to work at all.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

The Paper Chase in Singapore

Singaporeans I realised are obsessed with the paper chase. Qualifications seem to be the sole criterion by which we judge others and almost everyone else. Who went to which grad school and blah blah blah. It annoys me to the max sometimes how superficial we all get. And it is worsened by the fact that people actually think real education is only obtained in the better universities. In fact, I would like to think that most of us are not educated at all even after we leave university.

But the paper chase in Singapore is here to stay. And it seems like those who command respect are usually those who have made it into the top universities overseas. No matter how much I would like to deny this fact, it remains the fact and will most probably remain as such. And it is sad that we as a society place such high value on paper qualifications.

Sigh. This is a sad fact of life. And I better learn how to live with it or ship out.


Wednesday, June 29, 2011

How Much To Get Married (Part 2) - HDB Flat

A few days back, I wrote about the cost of getting married in Singapore. In that post, I gave a brief outline on the items that a typical Chinese couple in Singapore would spend on. One of the big ticket items I identified was one's housing.

For most couples who have just started working and are probably not earning a lot (or born with a silver spoon), they will most probably opt to buy a HDB flat. This is perhaps the cheapest option unless you are willing to rent or stay with parents/in-laws.

When to rent

Some couples might opt to rent a flat or a room instead of buying their own HDB flat. This is usually due to cost considerations or because one is able to get a flat of choice. Others might simply want to be debt free and so choose to rent instead of buy. As a guide, one's mortgage loans (plus other debt payments) should not exceed 35% of the couple's combined salary. Most couples who have been working for 1-2 years should be below the $8000 combined income ceiling and should be eligible for a HDB flat.

In my personal opinion, it does not make sense to rent a HDB flat for long term since the HDB owner will most probably rent it out at a rate much higher than his or her own monthly mortgage payments. For e.g. if my monthly mortgage payment for my HDB flat is $1000, I will definitely rent it out at above $1000. This is common sense and so renting a flat is most probably a short term plan for most couples since it will be more cost efficient to pay the lower mortgage payments compared to the more expensive rent.

Buy A Flat

Buying a HDB flat is most probably cheap if you have money in your CPF. If both couples have been working and have build up sufficient amounts in their CPF-OA, they most probably will have enough to pay the deposit for the flat. Occasionally, some might have to top up the amounts with cash as they might not have sufficient amount of money in their CPF-OA.

In other instances, when buying a resale flat, the owner might ask for cash over valuation. Understand that this ranges quite a bit depending on flat type and location. But as a guide, I don't think that one should be overspending in this area. For me, $20K will be the maximum cash over valuation that I will be willing to pay now. This is because the HDB has just announced that it will be building a huge supply of flats. This flats will be ready probably in 2012 onwards. Based on that, one can expect the prices to come down a bit so if you can afford to wait, do wait. But for me personally, $20K is the maximum cash over valuation that I will be willing to pay.

What do the rest think? Is $20K a reasonable sum to budget for cash over valuation? Or is it too much/little?

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

How Much To Get Married

A common topic amongst my single friends is the amount of money that they require to get married. Many of them lament that it will cost them a bomb to get married. Big ticket items include paying for the house (cash over valuation), renovation, holding a wedding lunch/dinner @ a hotel, buying the engagement ring and of course other miscellaneous expenses. Some of them reckon that they need as much as $50k and above to get married in Singapore!

Surely there must be a cheaper way to get married in Singapore and still enjoy the perks of all the above. Let's do a rough breakdown of the expenses and perhaps in my next few posts, I can touch on how one might save up on each of the big ticket items.

As mentioned above, the big ticket items are as follows and estimated costs are also shown:
  1. Buying a HDB flat (Cash over valuation) = $20-$50k (Rest is usually paid by CPF)
  2. Renovation = $20 to $40K
  3. Wedding dinner/lunch = $20k to $30k (depends on hotel and no. of tables)
  4. Engagement ring = $1k to $10k (depends on the depth of the guy's wallet)
  5. Photography + Wedding gown/suit = $1k to $5k
  6. Miscellaneous lunches, hongbaos = $1k to $2k
  7. Honeymoon = $500 to $10k (depending on where and when you travel)
Anything else to add to the list?

Monday, June 27, 2011

Weekend in Monochrome




Do we see the world in black and white, then paint the colours in?

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Weekend in Black & White and the visit to ColBar


If there is no right and wrong, all things are grey. Arguments are meaningless if there is no such thing as an absolute right and wrong. If wrong and right are just references that are subjective to each person, we will not be able to agree fully on certain issues. Life is always much simpler when you view it in terms of black and white. - Random Philosophical thoughts

The weekend was spent lazing around different places in Singapore. Visited the Colonial Bar or ColBar for short for dinner during the weekend. Ate Chicken Curry with rice. Wasn't too bad though it did leave me wondering whether $10 was too hefty a price tag to pay for just one piece of chicken and rice. I guess the owners must have factored in the ambience of the ColBar.

ColBar is tucked away in a really secluded part of Singapore where many old colonial houses are still found. It is located along Portsdown Road (exit via AYE before Alexander Road). The residences there are simply worlds apart from the Singapore that I live in. It is almost like stepping into another era, another timezone altogether.

There, I saw expats living in a totally different world, children bouncing on trampolines, swinging on swings tied to large trees with overhanging branches. It was simply peaceful, serene and so away from the normal hustle and bustle of Singapore. It is no wonder that many expats love to stay here. I think I hardly saw a single local in my walk around the area. The houses were the usual black and white colonial era kind of houses. There were garden parties going on. This is a world detached from Singapore. Detached from all the cares and worries of modern Singapore.


Friday, June 24, 2011

Hitting 10,000 Unique Visitors and Some Blogs are Meant to be Savored

Hitting 10,000 Visitors Per Day

Blogging. I have probably written lots about it before and the targets that I have set for myself previously. Loyal readers of my blog will most probably know the targets that I have set for myself in terms of blog traffic and stuff. I realised that I have not been pursuing those targets that I have set for myself previously and that has somehow resulted in me being haphazard in my approach towards this blog.

It all starts with the mindset that goes: "Forget about those targets, let's just do what I want and blog about what I want to." Come to think of it, targets are actually not that bad. At least they help me to stay on track and be focused.

My target for this blog is to get 10,000 unique visitors per day. Will I be able to achieve such astounding numbers? I do not know. Currently, the only "medals" I have to show for from this past time and secret hobby of mine is as follows:

1. Blog link on Mr Tan Kin Lian's Blog. Most Singaporeans will know that Mr Tan Kin Lian is one of the current 3 Presidential Candidates for Singapore). Yes, my blog link is actually on his blog! Wow, I am surprised that he actually placed my blog link when I asked for a link exchange! =) Coincidentally, all the presidential candidates have surnames "Tan". Dr Tan Cheng Bock, Dr Tony Tan and Mr Tan Kin Lian. Ha..just realised it when I was writing this post.

2. CPF IMSavvy Blogger. I actually made it as one of the guest bloggers on CPF's IMSavvy site.
Well, I must say that I must be one of the lazier bloggers there cos I haven't really found time to write lately. But I promise that I will do more to make personal finance as interesting a topic as I can to many Singaporeans. I don't profess to be an expert but rather think that there is a lot we can learn from each other's experience. Theory helps but I think practical advice and real life experience is what most Singaporeans can probably relate to better. And that is why I have been rather open about taboo topics like my income and expenditure. Hopefully, that paves the way for better conversation surrounding the topic of personal finance. Some of my guest posts there can be found in this link here: Guest Posts on CPF IMSavvy

3. People are willing to put up guest posts on my blog. I have been getting emails from various sources requesting for me to feature guest articles on my site. Browse through my blog and you are sure to find some of these guest posts which I thought my bring a certain amount of "freshness" to this blog. Do let me know if you would also like to contribute a guest post. Just drop an email to sgfinancialfreedom@gmail.com.

Some Blogs Are Meant To Be Savored....

Yes, hitting 10,000 unique visitors might be a target that I set. But I still hope that this blog will be as personal as possible. And that readers will find something that they can relate to here. My achievements in life might not be many but I do hope that there are articles and posts here that people will be able to draw inspiration or strength from. The last thing I want readers to go away with is this crazy hunger or greed for money. While this blog is titled "Financial Freedom", I certainly do believe that there are probably many many more things in life that are more important than being rich/achieving financial freedom, etc.

As always, I welcome feedback. Any feedback that you might have. Please let me know how I can improve this blog by commenting below or just dropping me an email. Thank you and have a great weekend ahead!!


Sunday, June 19, 2011

Father's Day Reflections

Wishing all readers (who are fathers) a most happy Father's day.

Being a father, I now understand the pain and unspoken sacrifices that many fathers take. The journey is not always easy so give yourself a big pat on the back. Even though you feel that you might have failed your family in one way or another, don't be too hard on yourself. Being a father is never easy. Being a good father is even harder. We are all fallible human beings. We get tired, make mistakes, and sometimes neglect the more important things in life.

So take a breather.. and just wish yourself a happy father's day. Nobody is perfect. But as a father, we all try to be perfect for our children. Even though we might fail many times.

Happy Father's Day.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Self employed? You need income protection!

If you’re self employed, you’ll be very aware of what your dollars can do. You’ll also be extremely conscious of the possibilities of your income drying up on you if you’re unable to do the work. That does happen, and it’s something you can cover with income protection insurance.

The risks

Even a minor situation can put you out of the loop for contracts and new jobs. That’s the nightmare, and it’s no joke for anyone who’s self employed. Something as simple as a minor injury can take you out of your income stream quite easily. If you’re a graphic artist who’s broken something, you can be stuck with sitting around waiting for things to heal, while your bills come in regardless.

This can hit cashflow in all the wrong ways. If you don’t have any cash on hand, or more likely if your cash is tied up in your business, the lack of cashflow is potentially destructive. Equally important, your clients may be “on hold”, waiting for work while you recover. That situation can often be fixed by subcontracting or outsourcing things you’d normally do yourself- If you have the cash to do it.

Not having the cash is likely to be the sticking point in any version of these scenarios. That’s also not including the domestic expenses, which can also be caught out in the sudden drying up of the income stream. Power bills, rates, you name it, they add up to a situation where plenty of money can be going out and none coming in.

Dodging the financial bullets

These situations are all quite avoidable. A good income protection policy can cover you for your expenses and in many cases even your medical needs. That’s useful cover when you need it, and it’s also a very good way of staying clear of those interesting “surprises” when you find out how much you have to pay for these things.

The cost of the income protection cover isn’t particularly expensive. You can get something like 75% of your income covered upfront, for a small, bearable outlay. You can also get packages that include serious full coverage for things like disability and related benefits.

Important: It’s a good idea to apply directly for quotes from the insurers, and get into a dialog about your needs. There may be a range of options available to you to lock in some good cover for your issues, and this extra effort can pay off very well in terms of providing comprehensive cover when you need it most.

Take the time to really think about this:

What are the risks of suddenly losing your income stream? These things include loss of business, too, so you need to consider a worst case scenario, to fully assess the situation.

What can you afford as an outlay for insurance? Cash outlays can be a little complex for self employed people, particularly if you’re just starting out, so try to pin down a good level of cover, relative to a viable outlay that you can live with.

When you’ve figured out what you need, talking to your insurer will provide a range of options. You can get it all done in a few minutes, and have some added peace of mind.

[The above is a guest post. If you are interested in contributing a guest post to this blog, please email sgfinancialfreedom@gmail.com with your proposed article. The topic of the article should be related to personal finance.]

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