Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Red Wine and Reflections for the Day

Opened a bottle of red wine yesterday to have with my food. And there was still quite a bit left over in the bottle so I am sipping some right now. Apparently, Robert Parker gave this vintage of wine 90 points. And that is perhaps the only reason why I bought the bottle of wine.

Today was quite a wretched day. I was suffering from some kind of flu but still went to office nonetheless. And time just seemed to whiz past while I was at work. Before I knew it, it was time to go back home. And I wasn't even sure what I had accomplished the entire day.

Flipped through the papers to catch up on election news and other trivia. Logged on to facebook to check on the latest status of all my friends and adding the random comment or "like" to the 1001 statuses.

Life is almost blissful and simple. And reading up on the latest new about the person who commented about heartlanders in Holland Village suddenly made me realise that I am very much one of those heartlanders. I live in a HDB flat, take the MRT to work, eat at hawker centres, and wear my flip flops to Holland Village. Drats, I have slowly transformed into a heartlander without knowing it. Of course, I don't speak vulgarities. But I guess I am one of those persons the higher rungs of society do not want to associate with. Thanks for the wake up call whoever you are. Just the other day, I drove up to get my car valet park and the guy manning the valet stall looked at me increduously and asked whether I was looking for the public carpark which was just ahead. Classic!!!!! My car small means cannot valet park issit??? It reminds me that there is still much to strive for in my life, career and personal growth (i.e. anger management and not comparing with others). Good thing I was in a hurry and did not give him a good dressing down (which I would not have done given how timid I really am).

Reminds me that I have not written about personal finance for some time which I probably should. But right now, personal finance matters seem so distant from my mind. I mean, I earn so much and spend so much. Is anyone really interested in that when Japan has suffered a terrible earthquake and is now facing like radioactive problems? I over heard a guy speaking to his Japanese colleague the other day how Japan should explore other forms of energy. My mind was going: Give your Jap friend a break! With people dying out there, it is just too easy for us to analyse the situation from afar and say what Japan should or should not be doing. That being said, I am definitely against Indonesia building a nuclear plant anywhere near us. If they want a nuclear plant, build it in Antartica please. If Japan is having problems dealing with this situation, everyone should re-think their nuclear strategy. Especially if you are situated so close to a fault line. But who cares? Noone cares about what I think.

I have also realised how stupid I am. It seems that everyone around me are all so clever. Actually, I used to think that I was above average in intelligence and looks. Then slowly over the years, I realised that everyone thinks the same way. Most people think that they are above average. Problem is: If everyone is above average, who is average and who is below average?

I have concluded that I am actually a below average Singaporean with a below average intelligence and below average looks living with a below average salary. But who cares? What is important is being happy. And I do not mind being below average. Okay, at least not for the salary part



Monday, March 28, 2011

Revert Does Not Mean Reply and Mistakes that New Bloggers Make

Many people confuse the word "revert" and "reply". Very frequently, we see in emails whether personal or work where the sender asks readers to "Please revert by....". And most people actually do not realise that this is the wrong use of the word. In fact, I have been guilty of this mistake for many years too. It wasn't until recently that I realised my mistake. The confusion between these two words and the misuse of them is common.

Back to the main topic of mistakes that bloggers make. Just yesterday, I wrote about how the news had reported bloggers that can earn up to $5000 per month. I am almost certain that this will spark some youngster to pick up blogging as a hobby. Some might even do it at the expense of studying or working.

I am not a full-time blogger. But having blogged for a few years now, I thought that I should at least "impart" whatever I have learnt and clear any misconceptions that some may have about blogging. So before you proceed to set up a blog and become a full-time blogger, here are a few things that you ought to know:

Blogging is not as simple as it sounds.

They hype about people making money from blogging always sounds too good to be true. It sounds like pretty easy money. Why not? Just sit at home and type and wala! Money appears in your account. The problem is: It is not as simple as one thinks.

Blogging is actually a lot harder than one thinks. Apart from issues like Writer's Block, you also have to deal with the many other problems that come with it. Bloggers also have to struggle with how much privacy they hope to achieve or whether they want to keep their blog a secret. What if you realise your friends are reading your blogs? Will you still write it? Blogging is not like tuition or some hourly part-time work where pouring in more time equates to more effort.

In fact, writing a single post a day probably makes little difference (in terms of ad revenue) to writing 2 posts a day. In fact, there are article writers out there who are willing to charge $3 for a 300 word article. And why are they not setting up their own blogs to publish those articles? Because a 300 word article will not actually make you $3 in ad revenue. And that is why article writers will sell you their articles. In fact, most people are better off churning out 300 word articles for $3. You would probably earn much more from writing articles for others compared to blogging. So churning out 10 or even 100 posts a day on your blog is not going to translate to a multiplier effect. It most probably will have little effect.

So remember, blogging is not as simple as it sounds. Putting in the time and effort does not guarantee success. Unless you are already a celebrity, it is going to be awfully difficult to reach that $5000 per month figure. It is achievable but I believe only the best bloggers in Singapore are able to reach that amount. And that means bloggers like Xiaxue or people who have managed to amass a huge following. And that usually means hours and hours of hard work. Definitely not as simple as you would like to think.

Blogging Requires Passion.

Blogging also requires a certain amount of passion for writing, sharing, and of course, the topic that you are going to write about. In my few years of blogging, I have seen countless cases of bloggers who beg for a link exchange only to stop blogging after a few months. It is just way too common. The amount of time required to blog is more than you can imagine. And to keep it up for years is even much much harder. Most of these bloggers think they will earn money from blogging but then realised that after 1 year of blogging, they are better off focusing on their jobs and working part time (or perhaps just selling their articles to others). The money is simply better than what they can earn from their blogs. Basically, blogging requires a lot of passion. And that means blogging even if you don't earn any money from your blogs. If you can't do that, you most probably would not make it as a full-time blogger.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Full Time Bloggers Can Earn Up To $5000 Per Month

Just recently, I wrote about blogging and its misconceptions. Basically, I was commenting on the fact that many readers have misconceived ideas about who I am and what I do due to "historical" drips and draps of information that are scattered over this blog and which I have failed to update. Thanks for bearing with all the confusing information but sometimes it helps if readers just visit the most current posts to find out where I am in life. Of course, there are certain issues which I blogged about and failed to update all later. So it seems like I am still struggling with that issue but perhaps I have already gone way past that and did not see the point in blogging at all. For info, I have a full time job now and am quite happy with my life.

Anyway, it was interesting to read the news today to learn that more Singapore bloggers are going full-time. Nuffnang had indeed revealed that the top bloggers in Singapore can earn up to $5000 per month. Of course, that is quite a tidy sum of money and I am assuming that most of this income is derived from ad revenue. Of course, there must be other sources of income. I reckon that celebrity bloggers are earning somewhere close to that amount. But compared to international bloggers, the $5000 per month figure is of course quite low.

The only fear I have is that many more people will jump recklessly into the blogging bandwagon. Of course it is possible to make a full time career out of blogging but it is probably not as simple as it sounds. And the picture painted might make it seem so rosy: Work from home, flexi work hours, good money. It is not that simple. And I am sure the full time bloggers will attest to that.

For every blogger that is earning $5000 per month, I am pretty certain there are 1000 others who are earning less than $5 per month. Remember, $5000 per month is not the average, it is what Nuffnang considers to be the higher earners. So these are really the outliers and not your average bloggers.

Anyone here knows of a full time blogger? How much does he/she earn?

Friday, March 25, 2011

Blogging and its Misconceptions

It seems almost like eternity since I started off blogging. Well, this blog really isn't my first blog. I had some other blog which I think got deleted away after sometime because I did not post for too long or something.

Anyway, I realised that many people have misconceptions about who I am. Perhaps they read a post or two in this blog and thought that I am somebody that I am not. The problem with a blog is that some information is really historical and if a person lands on one of those historical pages where I was perhaps ranting about something, they get the idea that I am still in that situation or something.

Some of the emails/comments I have been receiving include the following misconceptions:

1. That I am the billionaire Peter Lim and I can somehow give them advise.

2. That I am still looking for a job.

3. That I was/am an engineer.

I do not know why people have such misconceptions. Perhaps they read something that I wrote and made certain assumptions. Sometimes, I am aware of these misconceptions but the lack of time just does not allow me to clear the air either by replying those emails or commenting back.

Hopefully, this post will clear the air once and for all.


Sunday, March 20, 2011

HDB Home Value Will Not Go Down

After contemplating on the option to buy a 2nd property or invest in real estate investment trust (REITs), I have more or less come to a conclusion that investing in REITs is perhaps the more viable option for me now. And that is the reason that I bought some AIMSAMP REITs into my portfolio recently.

I was also heartened to read the news today where Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew opined that since 85% of Singaporeans lived in HDB flats, the government would strive to make HDB homes the most valuable possession they own. In his words:

"85% of Singaporeans are living in HDB flats and we intend to keep the values of these homes up. It will never go down."

This was spoken as the MP for Tanjong Pagar GRC announced the 5 year master plan for Tanjong Pagar which includes upgrading programmes. Since I live in a HDB flat, I am glad that the government is committed to making the value of my home rise. In fact, I am glad that I am an owner of a HDB flat as I have witnessed the value of my home increase significantly over the years.



Monday, March 14, 2011

Bought AIMSAMP REIT

Just entered into AIMSAMP REIT. It is a REIT that nearly went bankrupt during the financial crisis. After asking for some advice on whether to buy a 2nd property or just invest in REITs, I think I pretty much know the answer.

I don't earn enough and have enough savings to buy a 2nd property just yet. Thus, the only option is for me to invest through a real estate investment trust (REIT). The benefit of investing in REITs instead of a direct property investment is that I do not need to invest a large sum of money and I also do not need to take on additional debt which banks will not lend to me (since I earn too little).


Buy a 2nd Property or Buy REITs?

Should one buy a 2nd property or invest in Real Estate Investment Trusts? I have been thinking about this for sometime. The minimum occupation period for my HDB flat is almost up. That means that I can actually sell my flat in the open market pretty soon. At the same time, I really love the place where I am staying at now. So it is going to be a tough decision.

The remaining mortgage on the HDB flat is now $238,000. Market value based on a similar size flat sold at the opposite block is estimated at $600,000. Bought the flat for slightly over $300,000. Currently monthly mortgage loan is $1096. Right now, I have been thinking about the following few options. Family's gross monthly income is around $5600 (really average!).

Option 1 - Sell the HDB and Buy a Private Property

This will mean selling the HDB flat, giving it up and buying a new private property. It is going to be difficult as I will have to buy a private property that is less than $1mil I guess. If I can only take 35% loan based on family's gross monthly salary, that means the maximum monthly mortgage loan that we afford is around $1900+. As we are still paying for the car we bought, it probably means that we can only afford a mortgage loan of around $1,400. I don't think the banks will be willing to land us to much. I figure that means we can only borrow around $350k (pls correct me if I am wrong). Selling the HDB and buying a private property also means that this does not count as my 2nd property and I am not obligated to set aside the 50% minimum sum in both my wife's and my CPF account. We can probably use the gains from selling the HDB to pay for the private property.

End of the day: I am probably saddled with more debt but have effectively upgraded to a more expensive property. There will be less money to spend as I have to pay more each month for mortgage.

Option 2 - Keep HDB flat, Buy a Private Property to rent out.

This is option 2 which I have been thinking about and which I am leaning towards. But it seems almost impossible to do this. This is because of the following reasons:

1. No money in CPF-OA to pay for it. Will have to use all cash to pay for the downpayment. Even if all assets (stocks + bank accounts) are liquidated, I figure that we only have slightly over $220k. Not too sure how much the bank will actually lend us for the 2nd property but I guess it is around 60-70%.

2. Will also have to rely on cash to pay for the monthly mortgage. That is impossible considering that existing HDB loan is already $1096. It means I can only get around $800 per month more in mortgage loan. Will also have to repay off the car loan so that I can borrow the $800 per month more in mortgage loan for the 2nd property. That leaves very little options for me as I won't be able to find such a cheap property that only costs $800 per month!

Option 3 - Keep HDB and Buy REITs.

REITs are easily liquidated. I also collect dividends. This seems to be a very feasible option with little downside.

Option 4 - Sell HDB and Buy 2 Pte Property

Lately, I came across this strategy which advised to sell 1 property and buy 2 properties. In this manner, you can rent out 1 and stay in the other. Not too sure whether this strategy will work at all cos it will probably mean that I have to buy 2 really small pte property.

Wise folks out there. Any advice on all the options???



Sunday, March 13, 2011

Recycling in Singapore

In Singapore, recycling takes on a different form. Having been overseas before, I have always been impressed with their efforts at recycling. Well, in Singapore, there are recycling bins around. But I don't really think that has been particularly effective as I have witnessed many times people actually "looting" these recycling bins for their own personal gains. I guess they must have sold the drink bottles and cans to the recycling companies directly to earn some extra cash.

Anyway, I heard the karang guni man as he came over to my block today. There are lots of these karang guni man plying their trade at my block and it seems that they are coming almost everyday. The karang guni man is basically a person who works for one of these small recycling companies that collects old newspapers, electronics, and whatever you can think of. Anyway, I wrote about the karang guni man sometime back. I guess those people who stay in private apartments or condominiums in Singapore perhaps never get a chance to meet one.

Today, I sold 5 kg of newspapers to the karang guni man. That earned me a small tidy sum of 50 cents. Not bad I must say.

Just doing my part for recycling and I get to earn money at the same time. But there is a question that I have. If the recycling man pays me 10cents for 1 kg of old newspapers, I wonder how much he actually earns from re-selling it. Anybody knows?

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Japan Earthquake and Tsunami

Read and watched the news last night. It was actually quite frightening to see the impact of the earthquake and the tsunami. It wasn't too long ago that the last tsunami stroke. That was boxing day in 2004. Only 6-7 years have passed and another tsunami has occurred. Watching the videos on BBC, CNN and CNA just gave a deja vu feeling. It also felt almost like the end of the world kind of feeling. As we often read in the Bible:

"When you hear of wars and rumours of wars, do not be alarmed. Such thing must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places, and famines. These are the beginning of birth pains."

It really makes me thankful that we live in a safe place like Singapore. Where there are no earthquakes, and we do not face the threat of tsunamis.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Dividends for March 2011

Received dividends from a few of the REITs that I have been holding. Total amount of dividends collected adds up to $278. Not really a lot. But guess it is better than nothing.

Have been pretty weary the past few weeks. Running about and busying myself with things that do not really matter. But they still need to be done. Weekends always seem to come and go so fast. And then the new week comes. Hardly feel rested at all.

Week after week just seems to pass and it does not seem that much has been accomplished. Already, we are into the 3rd month of 2011 but I don't really have a clearer picture of where I am actually headed in life. It is really just living day by day and week by week.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Old Book from Ebay by James R Rutland


This is a picture of the book (that I bought off Ebay) as requested by one of my readers (LP) . This book really looks like any other ordinary book out there. I am pretty sure an online version exists since the copyright most probably has ceased.

Anyway, it is just cool to know that I am holding a book that is out of print. Using eBay to carry out my transactions is also something that I am pretty comfortable with since I have bought quite a number of items using eBay and so far, all the items have been shipped and are always in good order.

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