Saturday, October 17, 2015

Learn from a Fool: Investment Mistakes

Watching the world go by @ Berwick Upon Tweed, Northumberland

I have made many investment mistakes in my life.  And the stock market is definitely an expensive to pay "tuition fees" with your hard earned money.  But it is inevitable.  Most investors will tell you that they lose money from time to time.  Even the best investors make mistakes.  Here I share some of my mistakes and perhaps you can learn from them and not repeat any of these mistakes I made.

Right up there on my greatest investment losses is perhaps investing in S-Chips or Chinese companies that are listed on the Singapore Stock Exchange.  Two of the shares that I own are still in the deep red with perhaps no end in sight.  Let me give you the story of one of these "darling" stocks.

There used to be an old forum called WallStraits where all the people who stand by Fundamental Analysis used to hang out.  Perhaps some of you remember that forum.  During those days, S-Chips were new and they all had such good financial records, P/E, NAV, etc that some stocks were being rated as BUY by nearly every member in the forum.  There were the darling stocks that were well-rated by all.

I read posting after posting during my spare time.  And when I finally made the decision to invest, I threw in a whole lot of money (in fact all of my spare cash) into one stock.  As the mantra went:  "Put all your eggs into one basket and watch that basket closely".  What could go wrong?  There were people who had lots more of experience then me and who had also put their money where their mouth was.  The stock was supposed to be one of those stocks that Warren Buffet would buy (if he lived in Singapore).

Well, the stock price went up a little and then it went downhill from then.  I averaged down my position thinking that it was undervalued.  Everyone was crying out that it was undervalued and that they were targeting it to hit a two or three fold return in a few months time when the stock market recovered.

To cut a long story short.  The stock market recovered.  Almost every stock rose back to their original price or even higher.  This stock however languished and truly became a penny stock.  I won't reveal how much I lost on that stock but it made me a lot more skeptical about the wisdom of crowds. Just because everyone is shouting that a stock is a "BUY" does not mean that it is one.  Everyone could be sincerely wrong.

My failure to cut my losses when I should also worsened the situation and I was so stuck into the stock that I  could not bring myself to sell it.  Today, that stock still sits in my portfolio.  It is the first stock that I bought and it sits in my portfolio worth a lot less than what I bought it for.  It is there as a reminder to myself that hours of research and being very certain about something does not mean it is a SURE BUY.

One of the lessons I learnt through this was also about asset allocation (Read about Yale Endowment Asset Allocation here).  Putting all your eggs into one basket is really risky risky business.  I was so certain that the stock was undervalued.  But it turned out the other way.  I hope people will learn from my mistakes.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Singapore Civil Service Pay Scale

Trying to compile the salary pay scale for the Singapore civil service.  Somehow, I only managed to find the figures for 2011.  There are probably updated figures for 2015 so I will post it in due time.  Do bookmark this post. Or if anyone has the latest figures, do drop a comment and let me know.

These are the figures for 2011 Civil Service Salary Range

Job grade: MX9 (Superscale)
Job title: Deputy Director, Director
Pay scale: S$10,580 – S$14,550 / S$14,551 – S$16,540

Job grade: MX10
Job title: Assistant Director, Deputy Director
Pay scale: S$6,350 – S$9,050 / S$9,051 – S$10,400

Job grade: MX11
Job title: Manager, Assistant Director
Pay scale: S$4,100 – S$6,160 / S$6,161 – S$7,190

Job grade: MX12
Job title: Assistant Manager, Manager
Pay scale: S$2,550 – S$5,130

Job grade: MX13
Job title: Management Executive
Pay scale: up to S$2,800 for fresh graduates

The salary ranges indicate the basic monthly wages that a civil servant may earn, and the figures exclude the potential value of civil service bonuses. Based on past newspaper reports, bonuses for an average civil servant could range from more than 2 months to 4 months inclusive of AWS (annual wage supplement), depending on the performance of the economy and individual performance.

In 2012, there was a pay revision of around 10% for MX12 and MX13, and 5% for MX10 and MX11.

In August 2014, it was announced that most civil servants would get a pay raise of around 5%.

In 2015 (Singapore's jubilee year), civil servants also received a once off SG50 bonus of $500.

Mid-Year Bonus as announced by PSD
2016 - 0.45 months
2015 - 0.5 months
2014 - 0.5 months

Career Progression (non-scholars)
Promotion is based on both performance as well as potential. During every annual appraisal, supervisors would grade their employees based on both performance as well as potential. Word on the street is that performance ranking is according to certain bands and one would usually need two "Bs" to get promoted.  Performance grade also determines the performance bonus one gets.  A higher performance grade gives you a higher performance bonus.

A fresh graduate usually enters in at MX13 pay scale.

Promotion from a MX13 to MX12 is usually after one year of service. A typical officer can then be expected to be promoted to MX11 after two years (though some might take a little longer).

There are usually no managerial responsibilities for a MX11 officer. Promotion to MX10 is slightly more difficult and is dependent on performance as well as potential.  A MX10 officer will usually have managerial responsibilities.

Most non-scholar civil servants can expect to end their careers at the MX10 or even MX9 pay scale.

Video below by Lim Swee Say on why Civil Servants need not be ashamed of drawing a high salary:


Monday, October 12, 2015

New IPPT Format

MINDEF has adopted a new IPPT format. Under the new IPPT format, there are only 3 stations, namely push-ups, sit-ups and a 2.4km run (see image below).  To pass, you will need 51 points or more and a minimum of 1 point from each of the 3 stations.

IPPT updated standards

You can find the detailed scoring tables here on Mindef's website:

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