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.

01 June 2017

Electronic Bills are Evil

I hate the move towards electronic records.  I get it. Save paper right? Save postage costs right? So everything in electronic form is good? And somebody decided to do automatic opt-in. Seems like a smart thing to do. Environmentally friendly and all that.

The thing is, when there is a printed copy mailed to me, I read. But when it's electronic, all I get is an e-mail notification. Then I have to go login, multi-factor authentication, clicking a whole bunch of menus, before I get to the electronic record. So I don't bother.

So recently, I finally realised that I have not been receiving my monthly credit bills because the records have gone electronic. And to my disgust, I realised that I was charged an annual fee without me realising.

Shitz. Shoot me. WTF.


29 May 2017

An Ubery Experience - 3's a Crowd, and High End Uber

I've pretty much stopped taking the conventional taxis these days. Grouchy drivers, strange driving habits, uncertainty of flagging down any when I most need, smoky oxygen-deprived cab, #hotlikefxxxbutairconcantgetanycolder - just too many downsides to name. Nothing personal against honest drivers making a living. But really, I don't owe them a living. So if there is a cheaper and (to me anyway) a better alternative, I'm just going to switch camp.

Uber or Grab? Up to you. I've tried both, can't quite tell the difference in price. But Grab's UX sucks, compared to Uber. Simplicity is good.

Anyways, I'm cheapo. So I usually take UberPool. On lucky days, I end up travelling alone. Most days, I would be sharing with one other. Encounters ranged from complete indifference (ignore the stranger) to best buddies (as if we knew each other).

But this one day, there I was - the third party on the ride. 3 persons, 3 destinations. Geez, it was a looong ride. But a very cheap one. I was the last person in his drops. Took an hour. I might as well have taken the bus-and-train option for 1/6th the price. Sheesh.

On the last leg, I was comparing notes with the talkative Uber driver on Ubering in Singapore and in London. I mentioned about taking a Uber that was a Mercedes Benz in London. He told me there are Uber vehicles of high-end models in Singapore as well - Jaguar, BMW, etc. Huh? I was surprised, and have not encountered any so far here. Why would somebody who can afford such cars want to offer themselves for Uber services?

He said I will NEVER be able to get any. These are always driven by guys, and they hang around places like Clarke Quay on ladies' nights in the wee hours after midnight. They will only take bookings from ladies. Oh! 

Apparently, phone numbers do get exchanged, on occasions. Oh boy. It's an underworld. A different world. Are society norms evolving, or is it simply emergent behaviours from a complex adaptive system? Dunno. But I wish them well.

p/s: The way Uber and Grab is shaping the local scene, I can't quite figure out how Comfort Delgro is going to do well in the longer term. Disruption afoot. Perhaps another Xerox in the making. But for now, believe Uber is not even profitable. So judgement is still to be seen.

23 May 2017

A Trip, a Fall, and a $115 Bill

My daughter is pretty enthu' about badminton. So in pursuit of her interest, she had joined her school badminton team. The twice a week night training span 3 hours each time. A typical session will see them doing all kinds of dexterity and stamina exercises before proceeding to skills training and practices. I think it's good for her. 

On one such occasion recently, they were jumping over shuttlecock casings serving as makeshift obstacles. I guess her dexterity was low that day. She mistimed her jump and tripped over the casing. It toppled, and rolled onto the side. She landed on it awkwardly. That was it. Accident. Injury.

Dear oh dear. Limp limp limp. 

As concerned parents, we sent her to the nearest hospital A&E. My guess was that it was nothing more than just a sprained ankle. But how to tell? Better safe than sorry.

2+ hours plodding through the hospital system of admission, triage, X-ray, seeing the doctor, getting bandaged, settling the bills and discharge, collect medicine, and LOTS (and I mean LOTS!) of waiting. Eventually done. 

Fortunately, nothing more than a common sprain. Of course, her ankle was looking like an elephant trunk by then. But, not too bad. Nothing broken, nothing more serious. Relief.

The bill? Apparently $200 for the A&E services, which seemed to be inclusive everything. But there was a $85 government subsidy. So the final bill was $115.

It so happens that one of the insurance policy I had previously bought for my daughter has an add-on component that covered any injury for medical claims up to $1,000 for each accident/injury. 

My insurance agent came over to collect the original receipt and took care of all the paperwork. I hope to see the cheque soon.

Guess I should put off terminating this policy. For now.

19 May 2017

Paying $1 a Day to Reap Half a Million

My son has started his National Service (NS). As he charts his journey serving that nation, progressing from boyz-to-man, it's perhaps also timely to set him on the journey to manage his personal finances.

As a national serviceman, he is entitled to sign up for the MHA/MINDEF group insurance scheme with Aviva. It is really a steal. $500,000 term insurance coverage (inclusive disability benefits) is only ~$20 per month. Enrolling onto it was easy as he doesn't even need to do the extra work of medical check ups given his NS status. We added on another $100,000 of personal accident insurance, so there's some added cost for his coverage. Renewal seems to be annual. In fact, it seems like his spouse and children can sign on to the same plan too in the future.

I did something similar for my daughter, signing her up with AIA for $505,000 term insurance and total permanent disability, plus $150,000 critical illness. Works out to under $480 a year for a 30-year term. That will cover her till age 47. Don't ask me why the odd $5,000, but it was quoted as such. It was pretty hustle free too.

I made it clear to both of them that this term insurance will not benefit them directly. After all, the only returns to be collected is upon morbidity! Rather, it is to protect their 'dependents'. In the near term, that will be us, the parents. In the longer term, their own families when they are married. And if nothing is ever collected, it's a good thing!

The whole point of term insurance is to replace the lost income when one dies too early, and family members are dependent on you. So it suffices to cover till one reaches financial independence. Obviously, as one builds up his/her own investment portfolios, the amount of term insurance coverage needed decreases over time. So it probably makes sense to have multiple term insurance policies, each ending at different ages. Effectively, "reducing the coverage over time".

I figure that they may want to add on another $300,000 or more when they are older, and to have term coverage that will span them till their estimated retirement age. I don't know when that will be for them, perhaps 55, 62, 65? Who knows. I shall leave that to them to figure out when they are older. The term insurance is therefore to cover the gap till it can be met or surpassed by an investment portfolio to provide the desired income for the dependents.

But for now, they can be assured that they are duly covered for $0.5m each.

Next, time to terminate their existing whole life and investment-linked policies, and free up the cash to put to better use!

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?

Stock
No. of 
Shares
28 Aug 15
3 Oct 16
Value
OCBC
1,300
$9.280
$8.650
$11,245
Keppel
1,700
$7.200
$5.300
$9,010
M1
4,200
$2.920
$2.440
$10,248
Boustead
14,600
$0.855
$0.815
$11,899
Kingsmen
15,200
$0.820
$0.650
$9,880
VICOM
2,100
$6.000
$5.720
$12,012
HourGlass
17,000
$0.735
$0.650
$11,050
GKGoh
14,900
$0.840
$0.810
$12,740

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!

Related:
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.