17 June 2019

Switched to Keppel Electric, Saved Some

The liberalization of the electricity supply market has thrown up a multitude of options for power suppliers and consumers. Each of the suppliers has tried to differentiate from the rest. So of course, that makes it really hard for consumers to figure out what works best for them.

I decided to go with Keppel Electric on their fixed price plan, betting on the assumption that prices will only keep going up. I mean, does it ever come down? Ever?

Got a bit confused with the billing system.  During the transition period, I continued to receive the ol' SingPower bills. These were for the rest of the services - e.g. gas and water. It took some getting used to Keppel Electric, and I thought they weren't billing me initially. I eventually realised that I was receiving the Keppel Electric bills. They had gone all 'digital' - strictly via electronic means. That took some getting used to as I am more used to checking my bills that come in the through snail mail.

Setting up payment was quite simple though. Their Internet application is basic and simple. It was straightforward to set up routine GIRO or Visa payment arrangements.

So am I getting any saving by switching?  My average utility bill (power, water and gas) was averaging $230 prior to this. Since switching (based on 3 months data), it looks like it's now averaging $200. So presumably the switch has resulted in $30 saving from the energy bill.

p/s: The energy bill is on the high side due to heavy use of aircon in this household.

14 June 2019

What the fish? There goes Boardroom out the door!

What the fish.

Boardroom's parent company, G K Goh, through its Salacca vehicle, is carrying out a "voluntary unconditional cash offer". That's another good stock exiting.

Can you feel the increasing preponderance of the recent trend?

  • Good company bought out and exits from SGX.
  • Shitty company hitting rock bottom and suspended.

At this rate, all we will have left soon will only be the mediocre.

Sigh.

On the bright side, that's more spare cash with which to hunt another fish.

10 June 2019

Phone Smashed in the Land of the Rising Sun

Wifey and I went to Japan for a couple of weeks, not too long ago. Hanami season and all that. Yeah. Nice. Really. Should go if you have not. Go, go, go.

Our last stop was back in Tokyo as we were flying out from Haneda to return home.

So there we were, on the last evening of our wonderful holiday, standing at that amazing crossing at Shibuya. Throngs of people, including dumbstruck tourists like us, adding to the bloody mass, er mess.


And of course, holding on to our mobile phone to take wonderful pictures for momento. [Who still use cameras these days?]

Then, all of a sudden (deja vu of primary school essays?), some random guy ran past us, bumping into my wife along the way. Shit. Literally, coz that's what wifey said.

Guy in suit. Looked like a local. He apologised. BUT DID NOT PICK UP THE PHONE THAT HAD GONE FLYING!  WTF.  Bloody hell.

On hindsight, I realised why you shouldn't pick up someone else's phone that you had caused to go flying.

The phone was all cracked up!! We were not laughing. Should have seen the look on my wife's face.  She was damn angry with me. She couldn't get angry with the random stranger mah, coz he had run away.  Haiz, time to replace her iPhone.

On a more positive note, we were reminded that we could claim damages from our travel insurance. Oh yes. Forgot all about it. And that's another story still waiting to unfold.

06 June 2019

Quit Like a Millionaire, by Millennial Revolution



I'm quite a fan of Millennial Revolution and have been following them for awhile They are on FIRE! The couple (FIRECracker and Wanderer) hails from Canada and travels the world quite a bit.

While the circumstances of Canadian investment and personal finance options may be different, nonetheless, there are useful ideas that are useful and relevant.

I heard them on the radio once when I was in Australia. Or was it New Zealand? I can't remember. [Early signs of Alzheimer? *shrug*] It was so fun to hear them live. Bubbly interview.

They have just published a book that they have been working on, entitled "Quit Like a Millionaire". And it is at the pre-ordering stage.

So here's a shout out for them.  I am so getting a copy.

p/s: There are some freebies for pre-orders. Check out the instructions at their link above.

03 June 2019

$3,000,000 for Retirement; How about $1,750,000 instead?

So there was an article in the papers a few weeks back that said a $3,000,000 portfolio is needed for retirement. That seems daunting. Scary. Seemingly beyond the possible.

I presume that magic number was derived based on a need to generate $120,000 per year for 4% extraction from the $3,000,000 portfolio.

But this can be reduced significantly for a Singaporean couple who can max out their CPF accounts. If both husband and wife (assuming of same age) can meet the Enhanced Retirement Sum ($250,000 to $275,000), they can collectively generate close to $50,000 per year from age 65 from CPF LIFE payouts (CPF LIFE Estimator).

That being the case, the investment portfolio will only need to generate the remaining shortfall of $70,000 per year. That means a portfolio of $1,750,000.  Seems far less daunting.

So all in, that is a combined investment portfolio of $1,750,000 investment portfolio, plus $250,000-$275,000 each in CPF-SA account.  More do-able?

For more info on CPF LIFE:  How much CPF LIFE payout will I receive?

p/s: Ok ok, so if you math it up, it should be $2,250,000 to $2,300,000 in terms of net asset value.

27 May 2019

The Scary Situation of Being on a Denied Entity List

Effects of being placed onto a US Department of Commerce's Entity List are just beginning to filter through for Huawei and to consumers.

And looks like it has caused some level of panic for owners of Huawei mobile phones? The P30 30x zoom for the camera is great. But without all the apps that make the mobile phone great, who wants the phone? And in this scary digital world where bad guys abound, the apps need to be constantly patched to maintain cybersecurity. Software and hardware need to go together.

It also means that companies supplying to Huawei in whatever business nature cannot do so with any US-origin technology, be it hardware or software.  Companies that are not careful will soon find themselves in trouble if they inadvertently supply US technologies that ultimately end up in a Huawei product or services.

The long arm of US export control regime extends beyond their national boundary. You either live with it or suffer the consequences like Huawei.

Looking ahead, I doubt if the local telcos are going to continue selling Huawei mobile phones. And like the rolling effect of [bad] S-Chips, will it affect consumer preparedness to consider other China brand mobiles too?

Who benefits, and who loses in this situation?


20 May 2019

Amazon Prime - The Scam (a.k.a. Electronic Bills are Evil 2)

I have to say it again: Electronic Bills are Evil.

My daughter is a Gen Y.  Gen Ys can't be bothered to check their bank accounts regularly. They snapchat, and everything is just a passing memory. Am I generalising or am I right?

Anyways, happened to check on a random day and realised that she has been charged since January 2019 for Amazon Prime membership fees. Yet apparently, she had terminated her membership since mid-2018.  Seems for the past three months, she has been billed GBP3.99 by Amazon.  That's randomly ~$7 a month. Sneaky. Scam?

The good thing is that she was able to the Amazon website and chat online with a service representative.  She was redirected to do so with Amazon UK via their UK website online chat as her account was from UK.

To Amazon's credit, they recognised there was an error and she has since been refunded.

Do you use Amazon Prime service?  Or have you been paying them even though you do not?  Check your kids' accounts!! 

We are living in a scary digital world.
[Wanted to say "virtual" but that's so passe; "digital" is all the rage these days.]

p/s: I gather Amazon Prime service itself is a pretty good service if you are seriously using it.

16 May 2019

How Much Do We Need in Retirement?

When you start getting old (older), you start thinking about this kind of question. But really, should start thinking early. The trick is to start early. Very early. I've been thinking about this a lot more. And it's a pity I started late.

Anecdotally, it seems like a comfortable retirement lifestyle will require $3,000 per month.  That's a number I came across a couple of times.

Of course, if I'm going to live a retirement drinking only tap water, living on a remote isolated kampung on a distant island, and eating fish fished from the sea everyday cooked any number of ways, maybe I need a lot less. But that's not the kind of lifestyle I'm thinking of.

For a couple, that works out to $6,000.  And for each additional dependent, a.k.a. kid, that's $1,000 each. I've been tracking our expenses down to the last cent, and it is surprisingly accurate.

BTW, it is quite easy to keep track of expenses when all your spending either appear in your bank accounts or credit card bills. I use very little cash. That's the trick. Go SMART NATION!

So, for a family of four, that works out to $8,000 monthly, or $96,000 annually. Circa 2019.

DOES NOT INCLUDE EXPENSIVE HOLIDAYS OVERSEAS and other loan commitments (e.g. housing, car, etc).

Stacking on $24,000 for holiday expenses, that's $120,000 per year.  Those are numbers for my family at least. 

What works for you?

13 May 2019

End of the Road for Travel Smart Rewards

So sad. I've been clocking points that get converted as cash rebate to top up my transportation card (see Insinc with the Times; subsequently changed to Travel Smart Rewards). Effectively discounted travel.

But I have just received this e-mail:

--

Dear Travel Smart Rewards user,

Thank you for your support of the Travel Smart Rewards (TSR) thus far.

The Land Transport Authority (LTA) has reviewed the Travel Smart Programme to take into account rail network enhancements in recent years and changes to commuter travel patterns. Following the review, we will be concluding the TSR programme. Please see http://bit.ly/2VWe2rt for more information.

Current TSR users can continue earning points for trips made on the rail network until 31 May 2019. They can convert their points into cash rewards, or use the points to win more points or cash rewards through the game on the TSR portal (The Ride One) until 25 June 2019. Points which are not used by 25 June 2019 will no longer be valid. For further information, please see https://www.travelsmartrewards.lta.gov.sg/faq

Once again, thank you for your support all these years, and we look forward to your active participation in other LTA schemes

Happy commuting!
Travel Smart Rewards Team
--

Long story short, no more. Boo hoo.

07 May 2019

MOM Foreign Worker Tenant Enquiry - The Resident Who Isn't

Foreign worker with address tagged to your home? Scary. Worth checking out if there has been something fishy done.

Check it out:
Ministry of Manpower - Foreign Worker Tenant Enquiry

I'd absolutely HATE to have something like that happen to me.

I'm sure MOM will close whatever loophole that allowed such things to happen, presuming it did indeed happen and it wasn't some Fake News.

02 May 2019

TPG, the upside

Facebook, Instagram, YouTube. There are plenty of bandwidth hungry apps that consume massive mobile data. It's pretty addictive. I guess it's a form of lifestyle inflation? Or is it a practical reality of digital norms, a sign of "progress"?

And so TPG (https://www.tpgmobile.sg/) appeared on the local scene, coming in as the 4th Telco. The net effect was that my Singtel shares went south, somewhat. Starhub is already struggling from their self-induced escalating impact of high dividend payout in the past. And M1 was taken private.


The saving grace is that TPG is offering a one year $0 plan as they aim to seize market share, even as they are gradually rolling out their network. Really, ZERO. Coverage is not great for now. But can't complain right? It is ZERO.

I signed up and got my hands on the TPG SIM. And voila, Samsung phones can take in two SIM cards! So I downgraded my current Telco plan (not ready to risk switching), and configured my mobile phone mobile data to feed off TPG's. Infinite data, infinite. To infinity and beyond! No need to hunt for a free Wifi and conserve usage. Yeah.

The trade offs? No coverage in underground buildings and MRT lines. Live with it.

Let's see what happens in a year's time. And hopefully I haven't become a bandwidth addict by then. Meantime, it's saving me cold hard cash every month.

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.