18 January 2016

The Gahmen is Always Wrong?

Once in a while the Gahmen pushes out a post on retirement planning and some basic guidelines, to encourage citizens to work out a viable financial future. Unfortunately, once posted on Facebook, all they're going to get is a lot of brickbats. Lots of random eggs go flying. The comments kind of irritates me quite a bit.

"Give me back my CPF and I would be fine"

How? Because the individual can do a better job of investing it? Sure, then use your CPF-OA to do so and prove it. Beat the 4-6% annualised over a time span. The ones who succeed probably don't need to depend on their CPF.

"Set a minimum wage"

Well, one company in the US did this. Ends up those who got squeezed in between became highly de-motivated as they found themselves being paid the same as those who used to be a lot less. Overall, it would mean an increase in cost to the business owner. Potentially, they could go out of business? Then no more job? But some could argue that it's a "scare tactic". I say it is very real. The less productive companies will die very quickly. And then there goes that job.

"Set my pay in pace with inflation"

Sure. But why say this to the Gahmen? Unless you're a public servant, they ain't the one paying your salary. If your boss ain't paying you right, time to leave. Else, it's really your fault. Either you suck (at what you do), or you suck (for hanging around).
"Gahmen should top up my pay"

Sure. They already do so through transfers to those who are typically poor or aged or in need of help. But perhaps it doesn't benefit everyone, so it's not felt across the board. Somebody has to pay for all these by the way. The Gahmen doesn't generate revenue from nowhere. Guess who's going to pay?

"Just give me my CPF when I reach 55"

Anything above the Basic Retirement Sum in CPF-SA and the minimum CPF-MA amounts can be drawn out then. So if one doesn't even have the minimum to provide that margin of safety, I'm not sure what's there to talk about. It's not about feeling rich and living like no tomorrow then. It's about the risk of living too long. Could be a happy problem, or a very unhappy one if health and happiness don't work out well. Don't know, haven't reached that point yet.

"I'm 85, it's too late"

My sympathy to the pioneer generation. That generation often have many kids. More kids is a diversification. But sometimes things don't work out well over time - parent's fault, children's fault, etc. If they never got married and have kids, that would be a zero. In addition, their education level was typically lower then. So job opportunities and the pay to go with it would have been a challenge. Help them.


The one that irks me the most was a remark that the cost of living has been going up (it's called "inflation" I think), especially beer. Oh please, stop wasting money and your health quaffing large intakes of beer. Drink green tea lah. It's called living within your means. WTF.

If you're living day-to-day, you will live poor, everyday. Fail to plan, or plan to fail? Having no game plan is just gaming away. Try Toto, might do better, if so.

11 January 2016

More Tales from Taiwan Trip II

Tale One

In a recent trip to Taiwan, wifey had an interesting encounter at breakfast. Actually, the exact word she used was, "Disgusting!"

There was a big China tour group at the breakfast place in the hotel as the breakfast came with the room package. One gentleman from this group, presumably a Chinese national therefore, walked over to the toilet at the restaurant. Guess he was searching for a door to the gents. But he couldn't figure it out, even though there was a symbol on the door. To be fair, the door wasn't particularly obvious as there was no door knob. You had to give it a push to enter. At that point, the gentleman must have decided that he could revert to his hometown custom, doing what apparently they do in certain parts of China. He proceeded to unzip his fly and prepared to pee against the wall! Good grief. Wifey happened to see this happening and shouted at him, showing him where the door was. Maybe she should have just walked away and let it happen?

I'm not one who is particularly keen in taking breakfast at hotels when overseas on holidays. It gets a bit too overwhelming as I would then tend to overeat. In addition, that's one less meal that I can go round experiencing the local fare for more variety. I guess with parties like this, it's another reason to avoid breakfast!? Yikes.

Tale Two

At another location near Yehliu, famous for its rock formations, I went to find a toilet to relieve myself. The doorway had a sign that basically said that it was a toilet and there were guys standing all along the urinal peeing. So it seemed to be the right spot. Lo behold, with my zip down and fluid release in progress, I then noticed a line of ladies walking by me heading to the cubicles! Oh geez, was I in the wrong toilet? Apparently not. The cubicles were unisex. Apparently, such a toilet design was not uncommon in Taiwan. Very liberal.

Tale Three

With such contrasting tales of toilet behaviour and practices, I was pretty resigned to a certain standard of toilets in Taiwan. Surprisingly, at another hotel, I discovered to my delight that it had those designs I normally see only in Japan. You know, the kind where you can press to auto-spray water to clean your posterior, and could even keep the toilet seat warm. Mmmm...

Concluding Remarks

It's a strange country with contrasts. Making a link to investment, I draw a corny lesson learnt as thus:

When you're in an unfamiliar space, it's better to scout around and find out more. We may not understand the practices and make the wrong assumptions. Ask if need be, before investing into something we don't understand. The mistake could be more than just an embarrassment. Besides, not all companies in the same industry are necessarily the same in terms of quality. Deeper examination is needed.


08 January 2016

The Market is a Bloody Mess!

So the headlines are now all gloom and doom.

What is Yuan may not be round

China devalues its Yuan and the rest of the world suffers a cold. As if Winter isn't cold enough for them. They need to export their cold to the rest of the world too.

Does it mean the Sing dollar will strengthen against the regional dollars? If so, then it's a good time to exploit the stronger exchange rate to go on holidays. I know, I know. Holidays are expenses. But what's life if we can't spend on gaining positive experiences discovering the wider world beyond our 700 sq km? Within limits of course.

At the same time, it's going to be bad for most local business as Singapore companies are often dependent on exports (Qian Hu). So that end of it doesn't look bright. I'd hate to be an exporter right now. Worse if you're an employee in a shaky company. Thy job is at stake too. Troubling.

What is zero can only go up

US Fed interest rate hike has taken the first step uphill and I'm sure the rest of the world will gradually follow suit. With interest rates going up, that means new bonds issues will be pegged at higher interest rates too? Sounds exciting for new bonds issue, especially since new rules are expected to be introduced soon to ease the issue of "seasoned" retail bonds in Singapore. I look forward to subscribing to new retail bonds.

The banks (OCBC, UOB, DBS) are suffering from heart attacks and are at incredulously low Price-Earning (PE) ratios. Is that a Big Singapore Sale going on here? Or are there more heart attacks to come? I think they are worth a close look. Very close. I'm suffering from irregular heartbeats from excitement.

What is going down must hit a bottom somewhere

The oil and gas, and consequently the marine industry (Keppel, SembCorp) have yet to pan out. The price of oil is now at a historical low. But the Saudi strategy of creating a glut to kill off its competition seems to be a long drawn process. It's bleeding oil until a turning point can be reached. The Saudis are patient people. Guess they have a lot of oil to spill.

How come the air tickets are still so expensive, and likewise the price of petrol at the petrol kiosks!? There's a de-sync somewhere. Somebody is making the money. And it ain't the consumer who are benefiting from the low price of oil (ExxonMobil, Chevron).

What is shiny may yet shine brighter

Amidst all these, we have a friend who has significantly faded in recent years - Gold. Is it now glittering brighter yet again? I'm not betting on it, but will keep watch. I might yet be blinded. Eventually.

Overall, as the Brits might say, "It's a bloody mess!"

06 January 2016

Portfolio of 8 Singapore Stocks - 31 Dec 2015

On 28 Aug 2015, I started exploring a portfolio of 8 Singapore stocks with a value of ~$100,000 (Portfolio of 8 Singapore Stocks). Although the actual value would have been $99,126, I am assuming for simplicity it would be $100,000 after accounting for transaction costs.

How has it fared? It's been four months and here's how it looked like on 31 Dec 2015:

No. of 
28 Aug 2015
31 Dec 2015

The portfolio is now $94,362 (dividends not considered) and overall deeply in the red after 4 months. Obviously not making any money. The split is now 2-6 in favour of the losers. HourGlass continues to hold the fort positively alongside VICOM. But everyone else is underwater.

Market sentiments continue to be bleak, so I don't think it's going to see daylight anytime soon. But perhaps it is a good time for more fishing when pessimism is most severe?

It is the new year. So I'll stretch my neck out with a prediction: that the portfolio will be positive by the end of 2016.

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!

8 SGX Companies to Keep Watch On

03 January 2016

An After Note on Ip Man 3

After watching Ip Man 3 (The IT folks prefer to call it "I-P-Man"), I can understand why it overtook Star Wars VII at the local cinemas.

The plot is simple. The characters are largely familiar to build upon. The new villians are introduced gradually. The action sequences are great.

But I can't understand the attempt at mandarin by our boxer man though. He's as bad as Sylvester Stallone at english, let alone mandarin. Interesting distraction nonetheless.

And who can say anything against that great punchline: that in the end, the only thing important are the people close to you? Awww, definitely a handkerchief moment.

And we have that rickshaw man who is good, then evil, then schizo but somewhat righteous. There is hope yet with humanity.

And for the cameo lead-in to the next story, we have Bruce Lee being inserted into the story line.

In another universe, Ip Man would have been a Jedi. He could feel the Force. The Force is strong in this one.

For investors, here's the weak attempt at making a connection: Stay the true path of values [investing and saving more than you spend as the one true path to financial independence]. But in the end, the most important thing is still the people who are close to you.

Corny. I know.

p/s: Boxer man is Mike Tyson. I prefer Tyson Chicken. Apologies to the Boxing fraternity and fan clubs.

An After Note on Star Wars Awakens

02 January 2016

An After Note on Star Wars Awakens

This is a spoiler if you have not watched Star Wars VII. You've been warned!

So I bought the Subway keychains. Done.

Bought a Star Wars discounted toy at Changi Airport on the way out of the country for holidays. Done.

Watched Star Wars. Done.

Now I understand why Ip Man has outstripped Star Wars VII locally. It's really hard for newcomers to understand the characters and the plot. There're just too many things going on. It's a space opera that requires understanding from previous episodes.

For somebody like me who has been reading some of the Star Wars storybooks, it is REALLY confusing as it seems like they have changed the characters. Anakin Skywalker Junior is "Ben"? And where are the twins: Jaden and Jacen Skywalker?

On the other hand, it came across as deja vu for me - I've seen it all before, with some juxtaposition!?


1. Rey is a scavenger who happens to be a hotshot pilot for the Millenium Falcon.

That's Han Solo, although he was a smug looking smuggler.

2. The evil guy (can't even remember his name in the show) meets his father.

It's another "I'm your father" moment. We saw that before when Luke meets Darth Vader in Episode V. Except that this time, the bad guy slices his father! Ingrate.

3. The good guys has to destroy the killer planet by taking out a single point of vulnerability.

That's what they did to the Death Star, twice (Episodes IV and VI). Although this time, it was more complex.

4. They come out with barely a few fighters surviving.

That's what happened at the end of Episode IV too.
[How would any force survive such high rates of attrition!?]

5. Rey flying off to search for Master Luke Skywalker to start her apprenticeship.

Luke Skywalker did that too when he went to search out Master Yoda likewise.

6. Master Skywalker has gone into retreat after a disastrous wipe out of the new Jedi Temple he established, because a key disciple turned rogue.

Yoda did the same thing after the wipe out of the Jedi Council in Episode III, following the betrayal of Anakin Skywalker (Darth Vader).

Originality sucks in this episode. Conversations wasn't witty enough. Harrison Ford was a saving grace. I like the new Rey character though. That's because she's nice to look at, somehow. Why does Finn give me an impression of a very gay emotional guy? Must be the acting. Action and special effects were good though.

Pick your poison.

Stock Take for 2015 on To-Do's - The Force Awakens!