30 July 2015

A Taxi Driver Who is Far Richer Than I Am

Drained and tired after a day of non-stop brain work, I was feeling really exhausted. As I waited for a taxi, a fellow colleague appeared, queuing behind me. She said, "So late?"

I paused as I contemplated how to answer her. I was thinking, so was she. But I could only utter a "Huh?" Told you I was tired.

She went on to say, "If we're leaving when the sun is already down, it's late." Couldn't agree more with her definition. I nodded in agreement. We managed to flag down our taxis soon after.

It turned out to be yet another interesting taxi journey. I recognised the driver by his voice. I was pretty sure I had taken his taxi before. When I mentioned this, the driver said enthusiastically, "Yes, I recognised you too!"

With most taxi drivers, they were usually (a) the silent type, (b) the chatty type who talks about anything under the sun, or (c) the anti-PAP type. This gentleman was the chatty type.

He volunteered that he was emigrating to Australia next month. Curious, I asked how much did he need to emigrate. His answer was a cool $5 million, and went on to add that he had $20 million. I was dumbstruck!

"If you have that much money, why are you still driving a taxi?"

"I'm just hardworking." He chuckled in reply. Seems he owned four properties and was collecting rental from three of them. He was a former Forex trader and had made quite a bundle. With more than enough money, he was looking forward to enjoying an easy life in Australia. He had bought a plot of land in Melbourne and was planning to do some farming. That didn't quite sound like an easy life to me. I'm more sedate I guess.

His two kids were grown up and already working. They would be joining him in Australia as well. I wished him well. Guess I am not likely to take his taxi again.

WTF, with $20 million, who needs to work? If I had only one-tenth of that, I would have happily retired. WTF. Ok, I'm obviously envious. I should have asked if he wanted to adopt a godson.

$20 million at 4% would have reaped $800,000 a year in perpetuity. That's tons more than I earn a year. It's enough passive income to buy a new house every other year, even by Singapore standard. It could also fund a retirement for somebody every year. That's a lot of zeroes. WTF.

For another taxi ride story:
Condo, wife, kids and a taxi

29 July 2015

Supplementary Retirement Scheme - No Need to Liquidate Anymore

Looks like there is no longer a need to liquidate SRS investments during withdrawal. I suppose this means shares and unit trusts can simply be transferred out. The 50% taxable amount will be based on the valuation at the point of transfer.

That means we wouldn't have to cash out and then reinvest, suffering from double payment of transaction fees. It's a good policy change. More cost avoidance for the retirement investor. That can only be a good thing.

See the official MOF website announcement:

SRS - One way to avoid paying more tax
Maximising returns with minimal risks
SRS Booklet - summarised version (from MOF website)

17 July 2015

The Best Entertainment is Free

In recent weeks, we have been given the opportunity to experience uniquely free entertainment. Many have taken advantage of these.

It usually cost quite a bomb to get tickets to an airshow, such as the bi-annual Singapore Airshow, to witness high performance aircraft carrying out flying displays. But at the ongoing National Day Parade rehearsals taking place each Saturday evenings, we are getting it for free.

50 aircraft, ranging from helicopters to fighters, fly in tight formations over the Marina Bay each weekend. The full array of the RSAF is on display. It is quite impressive. As the aircraft fly over Marina Bay Sands in the evening hours of the setting sun, the view is simply majestic.

Likewise, it is only at theme parks that we might get some hope of seeing a fireworks display here in Singapore. But at the same NDP rehearsals, it's fireworks extravaganza. The cacophony of streaking streams of lights, exploding into colourful spectra of fireworks is a sight to behold. If only we had the music that is meant to go along with it.

Take a MRT train down to Raffles Place Station and stroll across the underpass at Fullerton Hotel to One Fullerton. It's a short and pleasant walk. Any spot along this strange is a great spot to watch everything as they unfold.

For those who prefer, there are also numerous waterfront restaurants for gastronomical delights. An outdoor seat is really a great choice. Enjoy a wonderful meal while enjoying the spectacle as it unfolds. As the sun sets, the reflections off Marina Bay Sands changes in tones. This gets even more magical during the fireworks!

If you want to experience the "shock" effect of the 21-gun salute, hang around in front of the Merlion. The gun battery sails in to the bay on their float bridge/pontoons (M3G) and positions itself there. Trust me, when they fire, it's quite a shock effect. The audience gets a kick to see the "O" shaped smoke formed whenever the guns fire.
[Warning: Not suitable for the little ones as they may get frightened!]

The flypasts take place between 6pm till 7pm. The fireworks appear in surprising spurts between 7pm and 8pm, with the grand finale sometime between 8pm and 8.30pm.

Check out the NDP Rehearsals schedule and do take note of the road closures.

My pick for the SG50 event of the year. Have fun!

In Times of Fear, How Did You React?

In recent weeks, there was much hoolaboolah with the Greek debts as they danced around the European partners, and the collapsing China share markets as the unwinding unfolded. These were accompanied by a fear of contagion of the deadly MERS virus in the region following the spread in South Korea.

The Singapore stock exchange saw some downwards movement, but never quite breached the 10% mark. At the individual stock level, most were in trend with this. Cries of a correction and bear market could be heard. At our Singapore Zoo however, our bear was flat out and enjoyed his snooze.

So what did you do during this period? Did you sell? Did you buy? Did you do nothing?

If you sold, was it because of the fear of further losses with the collapse in 2008 fresh on your mind? Did you then suffer regrets when the same stock you sold started rising again? It seems like every time you sell, it was at the lowest point?

If you bought, did you experience worries when the stock continued diving? Or did you experience glee when that happened and continued to buy more?

If you did nothing, was it because you were gripped by fear and uncertainty. You felt a sense of "I did the right thing" when you saw the stock continued to slide, and then felt a sense of "Damn, missed an opportunity" when you saw the stock climb?

The behaviour during this interesting period sheds interesting insights about the kind of investor we are. It probably helps to understand whether one is a speculator whose mood peaks and troughs with the market barometer, or is one a value investor who looks for opportunity and continues to focus on the company and its business rather than how the market is reacting.

The wider market is just a voting machine. Does it matter if the stock price goes down whereas the business continues to generate profit, experience positive cash flow, gives out dividends below its earnings, and maintains a rising trend of dividends? Or a proven management team that has proven itself over time and doesn't over reward itself, a business that can face off competition and dominates its segment, a business that provides products and services that remains relevant now and moving forward, insiders who continue to hold and buy their own stock; those are many other factors that give us greater confidence on the viability of a business.

For me, it's been a buyer's galore these past weeks. All that I need is a lot of cash. Lots.