27 January 2017

$Thousands Moved in a Minute

There is so much pent up demand to invest cash, even when the opportunities are basically short-term junk bonds.  Each time Moolahsense launches a peer-to-peer loan campaign at 2.30 pm on a "First Come, First Served" basis, the loans are fully subscribed within a minute.

My goodness, it has become a case of fastest finger wins!  A short pop by the toilet and I missed that window. What the shit, literally.  Want to lend money also difficult. Why do they launch these campaigns at 2.30 pm anyway?

What surprises me is that most recent campaigns have been in this format while offering a high of 18% interest. "Huat ah!"

I wonder why the companies do not seek the "auction" format where the interest is likely to be lowered due to competitive offers by lenders? Is this a sign of the extent of desperation for quick cash to tide over their business needs? These companies are probably in serious cashflow deficit situations.  Cash is king.

Of 21 loans I have participated in thus far, two have experienced late payments. Potentially, they could default. The business climate is difficult.

Most lenders put up between $1,000 to $3,000 per loan. The most extreme I have come across was $10,000.  So I guess most are taking the approach of spreading across many loans of small amounts. They are really junk bonds, so some defaults are to be expected.

As a lender, notwithstanding the defaults, it has remained profitable so far. Let's see how this keeps up.

Happy Rooster New Year! *squawk*

18 November 2016

Health365 and Counting

So I've been trying to clock 5,000 to 10,000 steps per day to walk off the calories. The logic being that 5,000 steps is approximately 250 calories expended. Doing that 30 days a month equates to 7,500 calories, which is about 1 kg of weight. [More on this: Investing and dieting - wealth and health]

It's not too difficult to reach 5,000 steps a day really. Walk to the MRT on the way to work. Walk out for lunch and back (I know, weather might suck). And again from MRT to home at the end of the day. A little each way and it all adds up.

But reaching 10,000 is an altogether different challenge. It means deliberately walking from the office to the MRT station without taking the feeder bus. In terms of time, it takes only marginally a few minutes longer. So it's not really a hustle. But it is a hustle doing so in working attire with a load in my bag, especially the laptop. Back-breaking killer.

I guess it helps to fiddle with the phone, catching a few pokemons and swiping at pokestops along the way. A mild distraction.

Wouldn't it be great if one could make some money doing this as well? Actually, there is. Not much, just a little.

The Health Promotion Board (HPB) started another season of the National Step Challenge not too long ago. All I needed to do was to download the Health365 app from the AppStore, and sign up for the challenge. With the S-Health app on my phone that does the step counting, I only needed to run the Health365 on some days to sync the step count.

[There's an alternative option of getting a free step counting device (Fitbit-like or a watch type) from HPB.]

The steps are accumulated. So every step counts. There are several levels of rewards as certain step counts are reached. A few click on the Health365 app on the Rewards page and an NTUC voucher gets mailed to me a few weeks later.

Free money for doing nothing more than keeping up my health. Isn't it great? Stay healthy yah.

03 November 2016

REIT on!

Owning a property can be a real pain, especially when you are still servicing a loan. Presuming it's rented out, then comes the pain of maintaining the property and dealing with the rent collection and such. There's also the income reporting and tax deductibles. Seems like quite a bit of work.

But there's an easier alternative of course. Outsource it! Let someone else manage it, and you are effectively engaging them to do it for you. Of course they take a cut, but you still get rental returns. With just one property, there's however no economy of scale. So the overheads involved can be high.

And then we have REITs. Effectively the same thing after all, but with the property manager handling multiple properties, collecting rents, while maintaining the properties. It's diversification.

I'm quite for REITs, particularly as they can serve to generate an income stream. It's not without risks though. There will be times when they raise funds from shareholders to fund some acquisitions. Each time they do so, they could very well be collecting whatever income they paid out!

And then, we now have the Phillip APAC Dividend Leaders REIT ETF. So we can own a slice of multiple REITs even! But I have some doubts if it's worth the while right now.

  • With an estimated yield of 5% dividends, its 0.5% management fee would drive it down to ~4.5% yield. I would expect to get 5-7% yield on typical REITs. So getting below 5% seems like a letdown.
  • Significant chunks of the REITs are non-Singapore based. While that offers country diversification, it comes with a foreign exchange risk.
  • And finally, it is a dividend-weighted ETF. If I understand it right, that means high-yielding REITs dominate. My sense is that a high-yielding REIT is not necessarily a good thing. Examine the local REITs and you can see that those yielding above 7% tends to be the ones whose total returns are huge negatives!

For now, I will keep to buying individual local REITs that are backed by parents with the muscle to provide a pipeline of properties to feed them. Capitaland, Ascendas, Mapletree. There are enough choices.

Reaping property incomes without owning any single property nor servicing any loans. I like.

03 October 2016

Portfolio of 8 Singapore Stocks - Oct 2016

It's been over a year since I started a Portfolio of 8 Singapore Stocks on 28 Aug 2015 for fun. How has that theoretical $100,000 portfolio fared after all the gyrations of 2016?

No. of 
28 Aug 15
3 Oct 16

The portfolio is now $88,084 (dividends not considered) and completely red. It's been a complete wash-out. I guess if I am a fund manager, I'm pretty much out of a job by now.

At the start of the year, I had stretched my neck out with a prediction that the portfolio would be positive by the end of 2016. Looks like I have stuck my neck out a tad? It's been a fairly horrible year. 

With only two months till the end of the year, is there still hope yet?  Perhaps a bridge too far? Time to recall the 1st British Airborne Division from Arnhem. The ghosts of Operation Market-Garden beckons.

Disclaimer: I have not bought such a portfolio on those dates. I am only doing this exploration for fun. But it is true that I do have all these stocks in my holdings and did buy more of some of them during Aug-Sep 2015. And I am certainly not clairvoyant, so I can't predict the future!

Portfolio of 8 Singapore Stocks - 31 Dec 2015

27 September 2016

When Junk Bonds Default

Opening disclaimer:
I should first declare that this is not about some oil and gas company going under!

It had to happen at some point. After a few months of trying out peer-to-peer (P2P) loan on Moolahsense, I've finally experienced the first delayed payment.

The company concerned made two monthly payments promptly for a 12 month loan, but it was only able to provide a partial and late payment in the third month. Not good. It is a potential default case.

As of now, I have 15 loans, each varying between $1,000 to $5,000. So it's still well within the 5% provision I made (see When junk bonds become my moolah).

It's still too early to count the rate of default. It's only been four months into this journey. Fingers crossed.

In 2005, when I first came across this form of P2P locally (Crowd funding comes to Singapore), the number of loan offers ("campaigns") were few and far in between. I guess those were its infancy. This year, the pace seems to have picked up quite a bit. Sometimes, there seems to be one every other day. Then it goes quiet for a period. Quite patchy. It's not yet a steady stream.

But once the portfolio has a number of loans made, it's kind of shiok to see notifications of payments almost every other day. It's probably mere coincidence that the loan payments fall on different days.

23 September 2016

An Uber Shiok Ride

I am a late starter I guess. I've been patiently waiting for taxis on evenings after work, to catch the ride home. But it was only last week that I got round to trying out Uber. More specifically, UberPool, which is potentially a shared ride.

The experience was seamless!

After keying in my pick up location and destination, I got a response instantaneously. The Uber cab was only 2 minutes away. Must be my lucky day. And on the app, I could see his vehicle number, car model, where he was at that moment, and the route he was taking. I could even make out that he was making a U-turn! Talk about real-time tracking and total situation awareness.

But as I was waiting along the roadside without an obvious landmark at the pick-up point, I was worried he might miss me. Likewise, I might not notice him in time since there would be no taxi markings. But no worries, the cab came with his headlights blinking away. That was his way of signalling to his passenger. How thoughtful.

Although I had booked it as a UberPool ride, there were no pick-ups along the way. So I was alone for the entire journey.

On reaching my destination, I only needed to get off. No time wasted fiddling around with my wallet and change. As my account was already linked to my credit card, the payment was automatic. Seamless.

Soon after, I received an e-mail detailing the ride, the path taken, and the final bill with discounts accounted for. The journey I took normally cost more than $25. The trip, even at a surge rate of 1.2x, cost only $23.90. And since it was my first ride, there was a discount of $10. So the final bill came to only $13.90. With the rate defined up front, there was no worries of variation depending on where he went, or conditions due to traffic.

Thoroughly seamless. And cheaper to boot! Uber-wonderful.

The driver was a nice chap to chat with. He was a retiree and was driving only to past his time. He typically drove 3 hours in the morning and another 3 hours in the afternoon. That was enough to make a few hundred dollars a day to supplement his income. As an Uber driver, he also enjoyed fuel discounts of 30%. Sounded like a damn good deal to me.

I gave the driver a 5-star rating on the app.

And in case you're as much a noob as I am, here's a discount code for your first ride: "8J72RG53UE". According to the Uber advert, you should get a $10 discount on your first ride, and I will likewise benefit with a $10 discount too.

Have a pleasant ride and a wonderful weekend!

21 September 2016

How Much Cash is Needed for a Hospitalisation?

So my aged mother had a fall. She is statistically above average in age. It's a blessing that she has been largely well all these years. But it had to happen, sooner or later. Any fall at this advanced age is likely to have consequences.

She has decided to forego an operation given her age. And she'd rather live with the pain and a slow recovery (if ever), rather than subject herself to the risk of an operation.

It's been a fortnight of hospital stay, followed by weeks in the rehabilitation ward at the adjoining community hospital. Hospitals can be quite seamless with this modern clustering design.

Class C ward can be a very noisy affair at the primary care hospital. Lots of fellow patients groaning throughout the day and night, the occasional smell of overflowed urine, the psychological fear when there is an unfortunate death, etc. Many negatives.

But the rehab ward was a different matter altogether - significantly quieter, a lot more airy, spacious and fascinating layout of eating and resting spaces that try to prepare the patient towards conditions that are closer to the home feel. The nursing care has been quite an eye opener and pleasant surprise. Such cheery looking staff! They are wonderful people.

What's the financial damage? Well, for a Class C ward, the total bill after Medishield was a few thousand dollars which was taken care of by Medisave. So that's been zero cash outlay so far. It's so important that we have these safety buffers.

08 August 2016

Pokemon-Go and what it means to daily life

Over the past weekend, the level of human activity in Singapore has surely increased significantly. There are visibly more human beings walking around, albeit a bit strangely? Never have I seen any product that could create that kind of impact on human behaviour overnight. Welcome to the Age of Pokemon.

Anyway, as I trolled around neighbourhoods, staring at my mobile phone and the battery draining Pokemon app, I had a few moments of insights ...

How is Pokemon-Go good?

- Long waits at Polyclinic may become more bearable. There're two PokeStops outside a Polyclinic I came across. May well be a bad thing too. People don't want to leave when their visit is actually done!?

- Parks are in fashion. It has encouraged more people to step out and about. There're numerous PokeStops around the park trails. Health Promotion Board and N.Parks should be happy.

- Quiet National Park trails become popular. I noticed a string of 10 or so PokeStops along that otherwise quiet trail off Casuarina (nearby the Prata shop). Don't fall off the trail!
[p/s: Don't bother with Coney Island though - nothing there except sand-flies apparently! Sheesh.]

- The Zoo is now worth more than the animals. Comes with virtual ones too. Kids are going to get thoroughly confused with the proper names and species of animals. Rats and birds will never be the same again.

- It's going to create an increased demand for portable battery chargers. Challenger will be most happy.

- You will feel like a celebrity, because people seem to be pointing their camera phones at you. Actually, they're just chasing Pokemons. Don't feel that your privacy is being invaded. You're not that handsome/pretty after all.

Time to start selling Pokemon toys and anything Pokemon? Sounds like a retail business.

Meantime, I've clocked more steps a day on average ever since. It's quite life changing. For now.

Oi, is that a rat in your ramen?

04 August 2016

When Junk Bonds Become My Moolah

Equity hasn't been kind in recent years. While a historical performance of 10-12% (with dividend reinvested) may have been the norm of past, it's been far, far lower of late. But income investing has remained decent with 3-4% dividend payouts while REITs have been giving me 5-6%.

With a combined family portfolio that has crossed seven digits, I felt that I can afford to ante up my risk palette. So I've started placing a small percentage of investment funds into a P2P platform, specifically, Moolahsense.

Spreading my investments into numerous blocks of a few thousand dollars each and across multiple loans, it's effectively creating a DIY junk bond fund isn't it? The nominal loan interests have averaged 17-18% across the portfolio so far. With many of the payments being made on monthly basis, after a while, it seems like there is an incoming payment every other day. Is that shiok or what?

But the shiokness can be deceiving. Logically, I would expect some percentage of defaults. I mean seriously, why would any company take up loans of 17-18% if they could borrow from banks at lower rates? It's almost as bad as owing credit card debts. Clearly, the banks see them as so risky that they are not even prepared to offer them a cent. So, everyone of them is a potential default case.

Like banks that make provisions for non-performing loans, I'm making a provision for 5% defaults. In simplistic sense, if a $100,000 portfolio is making 17%, that's an interest of $17,000. With a 5% default on principal, that's a loss of $5,000. But, the overall outcome would still be 12% gain in net income. Not bad.

But, if the defaults climb above 17%, I'll be in the red.

I'll see how this turns out after a year or two.

Supposing a portfolio of $1.3 million with a spread as follows:
- $1,000,000 of stocks @ 3.5% dividends = $35,000
- $200,000 of REITs @ 6% = $12,000
- $100,000 of P2P loans @ 12% = $12,000
That would generate a passive annual income of $59,000, or almost $5,000 a month.

01 August 2016

4 Apps and a Whole Load of Freebies

Digital wallets and e-transactions have taken some time to materialise. But surely and certainly they have. There now seems to be a myriad of options. I finally succumbed to this form of electronics transaction.

In truth, I didn't have much of a motivation to do so. Most, if not all, credit cards already have this pay wave option, and most transactions below $100 don't even need to be signed anymore.

I finally got round to installing Android Pay, but only because POSB/DBS has some offers to link their credit cards to Android Pay with the first five transactions offering 25% rebates till 30 Sep 2016. So why not?  Anyway, the installation and linking to my credit card was quite seamless and went without a hitch.

Using it, however, was another thing altogether. Must say I'm a noob on this. Wifey told me McDonalds was offering a further $2 rebate with payments via Android Pay. More discounts! So I gave it a go at the McCafe when we went to one outlet for breakfast over the weekend.

Took a few tries before I got it to work though. Other than switching on the NFC function on my phone, and activating the app, I couldn't figure out where on the reader machine I was supposed to place my phone against. Sheesh. Pretty embarrassing. Felt like an old fogey who couldn't handle technology. The staff was not much help, so I guess I sought some consolation in that. After some trying, it eventually worked. Looks like need to place the phone over the right corner of the reader.

Have a cuppa and enjoy discounts over discounts ... at least, for the first few transactions anyway.

And in addition to that, since I was ordering McCafe coffee, might as well use the McCafe app to earn the rewards to lead to a free drink. 5 cups of McCafe coffee will get you that freebie. Speaking of which, here's a trick when ordering at McCafe - you can order the normal McDonalds menu items too. Skip the lengthy queues at the normal McDonalds queue!

And since the McDonalds was at a CapitaMall, there's also their CapitaStar loyalty points programme. Snap a picture of the bill above $20 and get points that can be redeemed for a cash voucher.

So there you have it - 4 apps and a whole load of freebies: Android Pay rebates, McDonalds discount, McCafe free coffee, CapitaStar cash voucher.