18 January 2019

ElderShield - A Severe Disability Insurance Scheme

Well, so as expected, and rightly so, CPF Board cannot release information of its member without being authorised by the member. [Dilemmas Dealing with End-of-Life]

But what CPF Board was able to accede to was to check if she is covered under ElderShield.  Must say CPF Board was responsive and helpful. 

So here's an extract of their response:

"ElderShield was first launched by the Ministry of Health in September 2002 as a severe disability insurance scheme which provides basic financial protection to those who need long-term care, especially in their old age. It provides a monthly cash pay-out of $400 for a maximum of 72 months to help pay out-of-pocket expenses for the care of a severely disabled person. The maximum entry age to be eligible for ElderShield cover is 64 years old.  Your mother was not covered under ElderShield since she was above 64 years old when it was launched." 

Unfortunately, it turned out that my mother was not covered.  Too old lah.  Oh well.  *shrug*

p/s: Are you covered?

07 January 2019

Dilemmas Dealing with End-of-Life

It's complex enough building up a wealth portfolio towards financial independence. I think the end-of-life part gets equally complex and deserves attention.

Here's the scenario and I welcome any suggestions how to go about it ...

My 90-year old mother lives with two of my siblings. She has not been in the best of health in recent years. Most recently, she suffered yet another fall at home and was evacuated to A&E. While at the hospital, she suffered a stroke. She is now bedridden and totally unable to communicate, or do anything whatsoever on her own accord. 

Nobody in my family knows whether she is on ElderShield.  If she does have ElderShield, I am quite sure she would qualify for the payout.  She satisfies all the conditions.  But how can we go about checking if she has ElderShield?

[Else, any ElderShield insurance she may have is as good as useless?]

Nobody is aware if she had made a CPF nomination.  There is a general consensus that she did. But nobody has a clue who she nominated. Is there some way to check?  The thing is that I was entrusted with a sum of her money to take care of for her.  Her CPF Medisave Account is apparently depleted. So I thought, why not top up her account with some of this money so that there is ready cash to pay her mounting hospital bill.  And if unused, it would earn 4%+.  But then one of the siblings pointed out that if she should unfortunately pass away, the CPF balance would get distributed to whoever was nominated.  And this may be inconsistent with her Will (for which she did do one). Is there any way to check who she nominated?

[It led me to think. If my wife and I made CPF nominations, and we both knew what each did. But our children don't know. Should one of us have passed on and the other is bedridden, how will our children be able to deal with the situation?]

What can be done now?

01 January 2019

10 Years @ 8.6% and a Year of Zero

So ends 2018, and with that, my 10th year of investing in the stock market. I guess 10 years can be seen as long term enough for investing?

For 2018, STI has been down -9.8% (not inclusive dividends). My portfolio has achieved -6.4%. Kind of oxymoron to use the word "achieved". After all, what is achievement here when it has been negative? Can I console myself that I over-performed the STI by 3.4%? Oh wait, but my dividend yield for the year happens to be precisely 3.4% too. That means I only matched the market? Nope, most definitely a C- year.

Compared against 10-year average out-performance of 5.6% (or 2.33% given average yield of 3.27% dividends), 2018 has been a drag on my 10-year outcome.

Overall, the 10-years internal rate of return achieved has been 8.6%.  Not too shabby, since my FIRE planning norms was based on 7%.

Against the backdrop of the recent downturn, what has been my reaction? Excitement! Yet another opportunity to pick up things on the cheap.

Happy New Year 2019!  Great health and good wealth.

27 December 2018

Bit by Bit, the Coin that wasn't

So the euphoria of BitCoin and all variants of cryptocurrencies appear to be going the way of the dodo bird.

I must say it took a lot of conviction to resist from throwing some money into it when it looked like it was never going any way but up over the past two years.  Up, up and away.

But what kept me on the sidelines were those exponential graphs of its jet-thrust trajectory.  It reminded me of similar graphs of the Dot Com era, the S-Chips craze, etc. They always have the same consistent look.

All good things must come to a fiery end.

I hope those who threw good money at it did make some decent money somehow. If not, it's been an expensive jackpot game.

Meanwhile, I'm happy to learn how the Digital Ledger Technology actually works, code wise. Fascinatingly simple, to some extent - at least the basics of it.  Guess I'm a bit of a geek. 

22 August 2018

When My Luggage Went Wandering

Wifey and I flew from Singapore to Belfast recently on British Airways, transiting through Heathrow Airport. It was a luxe trip as we decided to go with business class for the outward bound flight. We figured we could splurge and have a decent sleep on the way there, especially as we would be arriving in the morning and had to drive up from Belfast to our eventual destination.

It was a decent trip.

The British Airways lounge at Changi wasn't something to crow about. Decent, not too crowded, but limited food options (although decent tasting) and we felt, drab looking design. Could do better.

Service on the British Airways flight was much better. Great, first class even! But the business class layout is rather strange and I didn't particularly like that. Kind of exposed on the aisle. And the chap in the inner cubicle had to walk over my legs when I'm sleeping. Damn strange. The movies were kind of meh. I didn't particularly like their selection.

Heathrow is a strange airport. The aircraft arrived early (rare thing?), but ground crew was nowhere in sight! Sheesh. Took awhile for the aerobridge to connect for disembarkation. Too early, no service. 

Transiting, we boarded the connecting flight over to Belfast City Airport. It was a short flight. The airport is a very small one. Luggage started streaming out and were steadily collected. One, two, .... oh wait, where's our last piece!? *groan* It never appeared.

We went to the bored looking ground desk and sought help from the lady manning the desk. The lady was helpful. I guess she finally had things to do at this sleepy looking airport. Clickity click on her keyboard she went, but no go, nothing found. But she assured us, "We're very good at finding these things, don't worry. We'll send it over to your forwarding address." We thought we might never see it again. But that at least sounded reassuring.

And so the chase started, since we weren't staying put at one place, but moving from place to place. Nothing was heard till the following day. I received a message that our luggage had been found at Heathrow and it was being flown over later that evening to Belfast. But we weren't at Belfast anymore.  We were north of Belfast and travelling 3 hours south to Dublin. But not too bad, there was a website to update the forwarding address, which I promptly did.

It didn't arrive at my Dublin hotel that night. There was a message later that night indicating that our luggage had arrived at Belfast Airport and a freighting company would be shipping our luggage over the next morning.

On the evening of the 3rd day, our luggage eventually arrived at our Dublin hotel. It had finally caught up with us! Yeah.

Fortunately for us, we had packed our items more or less evenly split into two luggages. So we actually had most things needed to get by for the first few days. The inconveniences had not been too major.

The best part to all this was that it was claimable from our travel insurance. There was a sum claimable for every 6 hours of delay, up to a maximum of $1,200. The claim submission was straightforward as we had a good agent who helped process the paperwork, with everything done via e-mail. It helped that I have a printer-scanner to print the forms and to scan in after filling. It was hassle free, and the insurance company replied that it was being processed a few days later. A letter came a few more days letter saying it was approved with a cheque enclosed.

I'm glad we bought travel insurance as always. Peace of mind in case of emergencies. In this case, absolutely yeah! Guess we got a discount for this trip.

Don't forget to buy travel insurance for your next trip!

17 October 2017

Age of Disruptions

Nothing lasts forever when change is a constant. Oh wait, that's a lot of cliche in one sentence. Overdose of it perhaps? Getting back to the subject ...

ComfortDelgro is being disrupted by the likes of Uber and Grab.

SPH's print media is being disrupted by digital media, even as it plays catch up while diversifying into retail malls and community care facilities.

SingPost snail mail is being disrupted by e-mail, while its eCommerce offers patchy slivers of opportunities.

Singtel is shifting from a pure play telco into a digital technology company.

It's hard for an incumbent business to adopt digital technology as it has to be accompanied by new business models. It's not just about bringing the traditional medium to a digital platform. The shift is hard.

Plus, there will be a lot of irrelevant work force that is ill suited for the digital age. Does the company stick to the past, or build for the future? With the workforce that is being displaced, what should it do? Should it listen to the heart or listen to the mind? Is there a place where both can coincide? There is too much at stake.

Will traditional consumer staples remain relevant? Can companies like QAF maintain its relevance in food if there is a changing pattern in food consumption? The fight against diabetes could have repercussions.

Will retail malls remain relevant with the increasing shift to eCommerce? Do consumers still shop?

Marine, oil and gas industries need no saying. While some may argue it's all about what Saudi Arabia chooses to do and that it's cyclical, long as it may lasts, perhaps it's also about disruptions from renewable energy?

Disruptions all over. Kodak moments, if you are even old enough to still remember Kodak.

Traditional Blue Chips start to look pretty blue ...

But it is in times of doubts and uncertainties that opportunities exist. Who will survive?

10 October 2017

Multiple Streams of Income

A stocktake of income streams ...

At age 55, excess funds in CPF after deducting for CPF-RA (to fund CPF-Life)
From age 62, Supplementary Retirement Scheme
From age 65, CPF Life

And throughout, complemented by passive income streams from ...

Savings accounts - interests (<0.5%)
Money market funds - interests (0.5-2%)
Savings account with special/high yield - interests (1.5-2.5%)
Shares - dividends (3-4%)
Preference Shares - dividends (4-6%)
REITs - dividends (5-7%)
Bonds - coupons (4-6%)
P2P Loans - interests (12-25%; effective interest is lower due to defaults)
Blogging income - click-ads (pathetic)

Additional sources with constraints ...

CPF-OA - interests (2.5-3.5%; subject to policy changes)
CPF-SA/RA/MA - interests (4-5%; subject to policy changes)

Everything starts to look more interesting as age creeps towards 55.

03 October 2017

No Taxis In Sight

You know taxi companies are in trouble when ...

- You land at Changi Airport and there's no taxi available to bring you home.
- You try the limousine/Maxicab service and it say no vehicles are available!
- When you eventually get into one, the driver seems to have difficulty breathing.
- The driver signals right and the signal remains 'right' all the way.
- You start thinking whether you should take over the wheel?

Uber and Grab have reshaped public transportation.
[Even if London has chosen to reject Uber.]

- My son decided not to meet us at the airport because surge rates had risen to more than $40 for the ride to the airport.

SMRT has already been taken private by Temasek Holdings. How about ComfortDelgro? Perhaps its relationship with VICOM will become reversed over time. Is that at all conceivable?

Speculating. Contemplating.

30 September 2017

Losing Weight is an Expensive Affair - Or Not?

There's somehow this idea that to lose weight, one needs to eat "healthy food" and that costs more. That's a whole load of crap! Perpetrated by those who want to profit from the ill informed.

It's a matter of eating less (which is actually enough), coupled with exercise. Everything consumed should be in moderation. For the occasional binge, exercise more. A lot more. So if you're eating less, shouldn't it cost less?

There's is really no need for all the fads of specialty diets. No need for some miracle "weight loss" chemicals.

But I have heard of an interesting explanation from a friend though. He never could find the motivation to eat less, exercise more. Instead, he found it works when it hurts his pocket. So he signed onto a programme. Because he has to pay for it, he felt compelled to follow through. I guess that's one way.

I know of a relative who said she was dieting. She skipped rice and ate everything else in moderation. Yet, she was not losing any weight. I wondered why. Found out the reason. She didn't mentioned she binged on potato chips in between meals! Guess what? 20 chips is about 150 calories. That's 3,000 steps of walking to get rid of (roughly, 20 steps = 1 calories). It all adds up. Munch on a packet worth and that's probably the whole day's intact allowance! No wonder her so-called 'diet' wasn't working.

Check out "Basal Metabolic Rate" on the Internet. It's a good topic to start with. Simple maths. Or chemistry. Or biology. Depending on how you prefer to read it.

Was having a Classic Angus burger at Hungry Jacks in the Land of Oz (Burger King in Singapore), it's apparently close to 1,000 calories. And that's without even the fries and soda! Phew. That's half a day worth of intake for most people. The koalas have it good. They munch and sleep all day, get fat, and still look cute.

But I'm no koala. Time to go for a walk ...

06 June 2017

Hitting Rock Bottom

Here's one advice in a recent article:

"... if the stock has hit rock bottom, but is set to rise aggressively, then it is better to just invest a lump sum to take advantage of the rise."

Oh right, that is so obvious. Surely.

But ...

How does one know that the stock has hit rock bottom? Only hindsight can tell.

How do you know that it is set to rise? That requires clairvoyance. God mode needed.

Conclusion: Got say like never say. Smart sounding piece of utterly useless advice.