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.

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*