Tuesday 29 December 2020

Closing Out 2020

Concluding 2020, I am a little reluctant yet grateful for whatever this year had thrown at us.

Why reluctant? Firstly, this blog wouldn't have started if not for the time afforded during the downtime when the virus appeared. Secondly, I got to spend more time with family as work from home became a normal feature which I like and had always wished for. Previously, one could only envy the Nordic work culture and as much as I tried to persuade my boss to transform in phases, it just couldn't happen until Covid handed a reality check. Thirdly, my physical condition is improving as I got back to active sports from almost a decade ago. Fourthly, money management became more focused as I read and plotted ways to build cashflow and assets. Fifthly, I cooked more times this year than I ever had (I rarely did before since I'm just not good). Now I can at least claim to be able to create something edible without referring to a cookbook. Sixthly, at the end of each year, I try to find out zodiac predictions for the next year just for fun and this Covid year mostly turned out to be true (well, except the travelling part)! Not bad for a non-believer. 

Therefore, it's been a rather positive year. I'm fortunate to have a job that didn't cut my salary, gave me the opportunity to tune out and basically took things easy. My view is the Coronavirus in whatever strain/mutation is here to stay and we just got to learn to deal with it as with other diseases. What would make 2021 another good year would be everything remains the same minus the viral fatalities. But I'm a pragmatist, if only 2020 can be further extended.

Tip: Franciacorta La Montina Brut

Friday 11 December 2020

Finance Investment Movement 4

Over the last two months, I have been gaining information on the terms and usage of various cryptocurrencies. By now, Bitcoin and Ethereum are probably household names in their unique digital universe. The value volatility of these products can be scary and moved around 15% during these times, whichever direction.

While I remain vested in both cryptos above, I thought there should be further diversification in my portfolio where I can own something different. The fundamental protocol of blockchain technology is designed to be open source and allow other use conditions to be programmed for specific needs. The type of usage is basically unlimited, only limited by what a client wants. That's when transactions can take place and digital coins are issued as payment for proof of work done. One of the industry expected to be greatly disrupted is the banks. The cumbersome nature of wiring process and exorbitant fees have been a bane for the longest time. As an example, just check out how long it takes and how much one has to pay to transfer SGD into USD and from Singapore to Indonesia. But that's where the banks had been able to earn fees for their services. So it came to my attention there is a company offering to replace this service at a faster and cheaper rate. That is a huge blow to the banks' business model!

Soon, it was reported that DBS would be the first bank in Singapore to step officially into the trading of cryptocurrencies. See below.

Therefore, my conclusion is put $200 into the digital coin XRP considering its growing acceptance and position as No 3 by market cap. It's a high risk investment given the uncertain future of where this could go. I expect to fully write this off or gain handsomely by holding for a few years.

Tip: Silverado Merlot 2016, pretty juicy and heavier than usual

Thursday 3 December 2020

DBS Multiplier Crediting Rate Cut

DBS has also joined in the savings interest rate cut, following similar ones undertaken by SCB and Singlife. Well, I have been impacted as the below shows.

Now, I have enjoyed the 1.5-1.9% crediting rate but these would be cut by around half in Jan 2021. I think it's futile to look for another cash guaranteed instrument with close to 2% yield. Therefore, the options would be to leave it alone or divert some funds into higher risk activities. I do need these funds to be as liquid as possible since they are also my emergency backup.

It's also the right time to relook this as I fine tune my financial plan for 2021. Heading to my planning room...

Tip: Teh O Siu Dai

Tuesday 1 December 2020

Month of November 2020

I'm very happy to say that I managed to achieve my goal of contribution via CPF this year. It leaves me one more month to siphon away some more bits into other savings measures or something useful.

On the health front, I did a proper bike ride of 47km along Changi Coastal Walk, on the pretext of testing out foldie bicycles provided by a friend. This month, I also took part in the Bloomberg 1 mile challenge with my team and clocked 8:06min which was slower than expected. I was also introduced to a new game, Pickleball, that works like tennis but in badminton court size with smaller bats. Very fun and moderately intense sport, I would highly recommend for anyone to try. Despite these efforts, my weight remained the same, an anticlimax to my hopes. Nevertheless, I am looking for a fitness watch to track my vital signs and it probably would act as my conscious self reminder.

There was a new sashimi fish that I got acquainted with. Its name is Hakkaku. Shaped like a flying fish with long fins, a scaly body and seahorse looking face, it looks hideous but I was surprised by the firm texture and oily taste. I suspect this helped to enhance the sake flavors by enhancing the sweetness and enjoyability. It's a winter fish found in Nagasaki area.

Tip: Sakuragao Junmai Daiginjo Nanbu No Shizuku

Thursday 26 November 2020

The Passing Of An Icon

My favorite sport is soccer and it influenced a huge part of my life. So it was a shock to learn that one of the most famous names in the game passed away at the age of 60. It's none other than Diego Maradona.

There's always the endless debate in any sport on who is the greatest of all time. Diego certainly ranked high in the list of soccer greats. I remember watching soccer in the late 80s and what a glorious era that was, even better than what's available now. The soccer pitches were typically cut up during a game, muddy balls bounced with awkward twists and metal studded boots meant a potential major injury any moment. Yet, the fans remained fanatical and acted as the 12th man on the pitch. That was the time when yellow card seldom appeared, much less the red one. Shirt tugging, incorrect referee decisions and cynical fouls were quite liberal with most not caught on camera due to the lack of video technology coverage. Despite these imperfections, there was always going to be a few stars who shined against the odds. The ones that made the most impression on me was Diego and some others.

I had the good fortune to watch Diego put on magical displays, dribbling with trickery and leaving many defenders behind. You get the sense of excitement when the ball is with him, I can't think of anyone close enough, perhaps Ronaldo (the original one) but even he's a shade behind. Diego's life story is an inspiration and I could relate to him due to our similar physical statures. I also started playing as a midfielder and had quite a good engine to run all over the pitch. That's where the comparison ends as he was obviously so much more gifted. But I learnt one thing from him. His fearlessness rubbed off on me whenever I stepped onto the pitch, going against bigger sized opponents and always up for an aerial or sliding challenge. Thankfully, I only suffered a few broken toe nails, sprains and minor stitches. The last time I saw Diego on TV was the World Cup game versus Greece where he scored a good goal (only good because he had so many superlative goals). It was held in the USA and I watched it live in the morning. Too bad the children of this generation never got to witness the more thrilling times of the 80s and 90s.

Even when he retired, there was always much news surrounding Diego wherever he goes. In a way, he never left the glittering lights that his career brought. He may have left the room but shall never be forgotten. He was just human, as imperfect as the game he played, and to me, the Greatest of All Time. Ciao Diego!

Tip: Any Malbec to toast the life of this soccer superstar

Monday 16 November 2020

CPF Top Up Nov 2020

It's a great feeling to achieve a goal, particularly if one spends months on it. Although a small goal, at least this hurdle has been crossed with my final CPF top up this year by $2000 and qualified for maximum personal CPF tax relief.

With the low interest rate environment, there are not many alternative investments that can provide guaranteed yield of 4%. Bonds, bank deposits and money market products are close to 1% while equities and commodities have topped my expectations at more than 20%. That depends much on level of risk taking, timing and selection. My portfolio still shows several red lines despite such euphoria which I continue to believe as irrational. The most outlier would be cryptocurrencies where the jury is still out on their viability in real world mechanisms.

Nevertheless, the CPF is a comfort cushion and I feel rather gutted not to realize this earlier in my work life. It was Covid that gave me time to read other inspirational journeys and plan for my own. A little late to the game and lots to catch up.

Tip: Horlicks, an old favorite in my primary years

Monday 9 November 2020

US Post Election

Barring any legal drama, Joe Biden will be the next US President. What a roller coaster event as the results trickled in over 3 days. That went against my prediction but it's ok. After all, it was more guesswork and some hearsay. I think it's good to restore sanity and reasonableness to a chaotic 4 years of Trump behavior. He wasn't helped by a terrible response to an unfortunate pandemic situation. However, going by the margin of loss and total votes gained, one can conclude Trump didn't actually perform that badly at the polls. It just means US citizens had became more vocal and polarized in their opinions, embodying the divisions of ideals and suffering.  Internationally, there were not too many forthcoming congratulations to Biden, most notably from China. To think I heard a Chinese professor proclaim last week that President Xi would be one of the, if not the first to send his warm regards if Biden wins. While the incoming President is a familiar face to Chinese leaders, I think they are as clueless on what to expect. Will there be a total unwind of trade policies or change in tone on security matters?

Hopefully, the immediate priority for both countries would be to restore communication and set a clear direction for all to follow. Certainly, there would continue to have contentious issues such as territorial disputes, cybersecurity, human rights etc. Any form of improvements are welcomed and be a boost to economic mood in such sombre times. I guess it's unlikely either country would want to be seen to concede by making the first visit, perhaps Singapore can showcase its usefulness once again by hosting a global event and inviting both leaders to attend, facilitating a side talk. This will be a long road towards any decent recovery and the 4 years Biden has may not be enough, by then he should be happily retired, wish him all the best.

Tip: Hanagaki Junmai Ginjo

Tuesday 3 November 2020

A Conversation On Trump

The US election will be huge for its impact on global recovery over the next few years. Being the world's only legitimate superpower and still no. 1 economy, many eyes are casting worried glances over who the new president would be. In my limited anecdotal exchanges, I gather Donald Trump (DT) has the backing to win it.

In one particular event, I heard the merits of DT and reasons for support. He is as loud mouthed as one could get, wearing his heart on sleeve through repeated proclamations of his determination to "Make America Great Again". By being openly hostile to China, he's actually forewarning the Chinese on his expected actions and leaving no room for negotiation due to the US superiority. In DT's mind, democracy is the only way forward for a conservative and communist China. If this happens, China goes into disarray and gets set back by a few decades. Hence, everyone except Xi looks forward to the direct clash that DT brings. But China is also secretly glad because DT reveals so much and fights internally, this allows defensive plans to be put in place as counter jabs. Another disadvantage China has is its aging population. Unlike the US who is an immigrant nation and still attractive to many potential migrants, China does not court foreign talent heavily. Over time, the economic realities would catch up if current trends remain. The US therefore needs to bide its time and in DT, it can exert a few years of pressure to create chaos for China. Domestically, while the Covid situation is not handled well, it's also a fact that mortality rates are not alarming and people seem to accept that by continuing life as normal. The greater issue is to get back on jobs and spurring economic growth which DT is seen as a stronger proponent.

So if DT really gets re-elected, expect fireworks and more roller coaster moments. I'll be looking for signs of flight from China eg funds outflow, increased emigration, business relocation. If that happens, DT would have considered his job well done. Nevertheless, even if Joe Biden wins, let's see how much of the above scenarios turn out.

Tip: Masumi Four Color Flagship Sake

Sunday 1 November 2020

Month of October 2020

This month was about testing and catching up. Looking for different ways to trade, I activated the demo account in IG and played around with different positions and products, just so to see the interest fees that's required in order to hold overnight consecutively. Whether long or short, a fee was payable and position rolled over. It's rather prohibitive for long term traders and does not suit my needs. Being a leveraged account, one has to be attentive and set clear targets, otherwise it's too risky. Financially, I chose to wait for more clarity leading up to the US election. The only notable transaction was a transfer to CPF Special Account. My Syfe account risk tolerance was tweaked to 22% from 17% previously as it seemed to be going nowhere since inception. It does not look like I will be adding funds to it anytime soon.

Business dinners had gradually resumed and I'm glad they were well controlled by restaurants having to cease service by 2230H. I also caught up with a friend whom I had not seen since Covid started. From a quick meeting, it eventually became a 4 hours chat as we reminisced about school days and latest status of friends long unseen. Another aspect that I'm pleased about was the increased frequency of sport activities thanks to a cousin organizing badminton sessions fortnightly. The body aches after each session highlighted the lack of exercise that I wished to address. We could gather because of free time afforded by business slowdown in our respective companies. Hopefully this can become a regular feature even when business sentiments improve.

Tip: Lamin De Sommos Calatayud 2015

Friday 23 October 2020

Restaurant Adventures 1

Over the week, I visited 2 Spanish restaurants for the first time. They are "The Winery Tapas Bar" at Chijmes and "Binomio" at Craig Place.

Both offered comprehensive lists of food/wine selections and while the quality achieved my required standards, the more preferred place would be Binomio. From a price point of view, then The Winery comes to the fore. However, it's not a fair comparison since I tried different dishes at both restaurants and it's clear the crowd is different given the table settings. The Covid situation may be bad but I'm happy to see full seating and hearty orders of big meals plus drinks.

When dining out, it's not only the food and drinks that I look out for. Typically, I spend at least 2 hours in any restaurant and in that time, it gives me the chance to observe the crowd flow and provides an indication on how well the economy is doing on a whole. It shows whether domestic consumption is vibrant and purchasing power is strong. This is similar to how some economists view a country's development status eg the number of Starbuck outlets, tourist arrivals and toilet cleanliness. Uncommon indicators but nevertheless very useful in my opinion.

Tip: Comenge Criaza 2016 from The Winery, full bodied berry plum with vanilla

Friday 16 October 2020

CPF Top Up Oct 2020

There was a news article published few days ago that mentioned the plight of a man who invested his CPF money and lost 95% of it, leaving him pittance for retirement.

It's a sobering and real experience that I can imagine happening to those with less financial know-how. I especially agree with the article's statement that if one needs to use CPF for investment and not spare cash, then it means he's not prepared to weather the risks. I neither condone nor encourage the use of CPF for investment. But one has to look at the circumstances of the day and make a call on whether it's worth to punt your risk free interest rate of 4% (in Special Account). All CPF investments typically come with fees and opportunity costs with an expectation of beating the paid out rate.

In the current situation, I chose to let my full CPF run its course in a riskless environment and therefore added $3500 which further helps in my tax deduction next year.

Tip: Ginrei Gassan Secchu Junmai Ginjyo, stored in snow conditions for a year before release

Thursday 15 October 2020

Passive Power

Given that most people are not full time traders and hold a job, it's actually better to let professionals manage your hard earned money. Unit trusts and ETFs therefore exist for this reason by pooling together investor funds under a common theme. Recent years have also welcomed the rise of robo-advisors. These investment options help the uninitiated to stay invested, save time and mitigate risks. Thus, if someone invests this way, we term that person a "passive investor".

By that convention, such an investment could be seen as rather tepid since the strategy is to buy and hold for a long time and let it grow. After all, I have heard the phrase, "Time is your best friend", many times. What I learnt recently altered my thinking of passive investing.

The various investment markets eg stock, bond, forex etc are highly liquid and inter-dependent for activities. The transactions are mostly made by active traders in both retail and institutional. However, given the high volatility in prices and seeming distorted valuations, why would a sane trader want to chase prices higher given that Covid is so persistent and damaging to global economy?

The answer could lie in the passive investor. By staying invested for the long term and possibly adopting a dollar cost averaging strategy, the funds representing the passive investor has to trade given their mandate. To them, current prices does not really matter since the idea is to apportion some funds monthly and keep investing. Hence, while general economy may be faltering and outlook is dim, investment prices are artificially kept high due to such passive fund inflows. The cycle replicates into various investible products since yields are low and after all, people may feel unaware of where to park their funds after rounds of quantitative stimulus. It seems the more governments splash the cash, the more these get channeled into the market froth through the regular workers and unsavvy person.

Of course there are other contributing factors in the investment markets but the passive investment community is actually a formidable group and it gets me thinking, this term is quite a misnomer and should not be misconstrued as such.

Tip: Sugarcane juice

Tuesday 6 October 2020

Personal Accident Insurance 2020

There are some insurance plans that everyone and their family should get. Hospitalization (via Medishield) is one and I think the next is personal accident plan, with a few others not far behind. Primarily, I look at insurance as a way to cover for large sum payments in the unexpected event. It's commonly heard that in Singapore, you can be poor but you better not be sick! I add to this thought that if you are not sick, then you better not get into an accident! Which is more likely to happen? 50-50 I suppose.

Hence, I had to look up the available accident plans in the market since the terms, premiums and coverages seem to change every year. What I am concerned are the coverage of infectious diseases and premium affordability for a family. With young children, the probability of accident is naturally higher and with so many diseases waiting to pounce (think dengue, zika, covid), it's most important to me that any insurance plan must cover these. Also, due to the creative ways employed to scramble up insurance offers, the pricing usually take some time to compare on a per head or per family basis.

This year, I narrowed the search to FWD, Manulife, Sompo and Aviva. I left others out for reasons such as not meeting my required coverage, high costs and bad claims experience (as heard). In the end, I chose Sompo PA Star Standard Plan for an annual premium of $288.90. It has a bit of everything i.e disablement, medical expense, hospital allowance, evacuation, mobility aid etc. This is a tradeoff for other benefits such as broken bones, taxi allowance, home modifications. Most importantly, it's to select an insurance plan that I need and can afford.

Tip: A&W Root Beer Float

Friday 2 October 2020

Singlife Crediting Rate Cut

Source: Singlife Website

Alas, Singlife has finally done the expected by cutting credit rate on its savings account, from 2.5% to 2% for the first $10000. In order to earn the 0.5% "lost" amount, one would have to clock monthly spend of $500 via the Singlife credit card.

Well, good deals never last and in my case, I have enjoyed the benefit for 6 months. In the beginning, I wondered how they would be able to pay such good crediting rate and surely unsustainable in the long run. From the email received, another amusing fact is only 180000 people have used the app (I assume that means as many accounts opened). That's a figure way below than what I thought it should be. Still, I intend to keep since there's not much better alternatives in this low interest rate environment. But I suspect even this would not survive the next review. Fingers crossed!

Tip: Regular Chrysanthemum Tea

Thursday 1 October 2020

Month of September 2020

Updated finance page.

It's been a rather uneventful month. Probably because work had left me feeling drained. Probably also because a dear friend of mine at my workplace left the company. Although I know he is moving on to better things, it will remain a regretful case of what-ifs. I sold him the company's prospect but it obviously fell short now. His supervisor couldn't get along with him and that was the cue to go. Like a Chinese saying, there comes a time when a gathering has to end. It's not the increased volume in webinars attended or zoom meetings but business activity is slow that I have to keep thinking of ways to motivate the team and make them feel gainfully employed. When the market condition is still overcast, it's difficult to talk positive while the back of the head keeps reminding, "The year is coming to an end, the time for tough decisions is near".

Fortunately, there were good distractions in the form of visits to new restaurants, Publico Ristorante and En Sushi. Both offer a comfortable and inviting ambience while being located in obscure locations. I mean, Singapore is so small but there are corners and roads one would not normally pass by unless for a specific intention. The menus are extensive and easily satisfy palettes that are looking for variety and sharing plates. The price is typical for their cuisines served and I would gladly go back if the occasion is right.

Tip: Hibiki 12

Wednesday 30 September 2020

CPF Top Up Sep 2020

The CPF rate will be kept at a base rate of 2.5%  till the end of 2021.

In a world hungry for financial returns, that is an extremely attractive deal. With bonus interest rates on the first $60000 and higher rates for Special and Medisave accounts, you don't have to think much if there's spare funds lying around somewhere. Therefore, this motivation allowed me to put $1000 into my Special account. There are not many months left to fill up the gap for maximum income tax relief.

Tip: Old Pulteney 15 years, salty and delicious honeysuckle

Friday 18 September 2020

The New Buzzword

If someone asks you, there is this word that either excites your senses or scares the life out of you. It has become such a prevalent verb used a lot by government officials, bosses and techies. It has the connotation that one must have a creative mind. Or there must be much resources at your disposal before an idea becomes feasible. Or it's somewhat binary where you do well or simply cannot do. There's really no in between, either you succeed or fail. The word is "Innovate".

In a recent conversation, I came away with a new perspective on how to view this. When you are given a task to innovate, often the approach is to create something new, like ditching a regular phone and in its place, make a smart phone. This is product innovation and probably most commonly heard. An "upgraded" version of innovate is to take the smart phone and find ways to produce it cheaper or add new functions to increase its appeal. This is known as process innovation. Yet another way is to improve the smart phone's sales probability by providing better marketing channels, technical support and delivery time. This is service innovation. The first two types deal with internal stakeholders while the last deals with the external.

Which of the above is the most difficult type of innovation? I think it's product innovation. I also have a feeling that most people correlate innovation with product creation. From a petrol driven vehicle to a fully electric one, this innovation leap is usually onerous and time consuming. That's what a person immediately feels upon hearing that dreaded word. He is defeated before work has even begun. I see much of this in my workplace. Hopefully, I would be able to share this new thinking with more people next time and reduce the stigma of what it means to innovate.

Tip: Masumi Sanka Junmai Daiginjo

Friday 11 September 2020

Push Towards Blockchain

The most exciting industry to be in now is probably technology related. Within it, the domain of cryptocurrency is the most intriguing. It's been 12 years since the first creation of Bitcoin and my guess is the majority of the world is still rather clueless about this technology and its potential advancement.

The Covid situation has taught the world some useful lessons. Medical demands were well beyond planned capacities, people couldn't get out of the house and business supply chains were severely disrupted. The simple message is, "We live in an imperfect world." And this is where I believe blockchain could help resolve some of the issues. Even as the infection numbers continue to rise, researchers are racing against time and desperation grows. Among these, disinformation is a great problem. Whatever numbers we hear in news are controlled. Be it death tolls, vaccine trial successes, job losses, funds expended to sustain businesses etc. I think faith in the government systems and trust in leaders are at a deficit. It's got to do with this huge unknown that the virus brought.

But life must go on and through every disaster, humans ultimately find a way to get up. In this instance, blockchain has a role to play. What it potentially brings to the table are borderless transactions, cashless payments, verifiable information, lower fees and much more. All these seek to improve transaction efficiency, bridge information gap and bring trust back to people to the world we live in. A cryptocurrency is just a product out of this brand new ecosystem. During this evolution, pain would be felt by those who continue to resist as they are forced into a new life/work environment. That's what a single virus could do.

Tip: Ippin Junmai Daiginjo

Tuesday 8 September 2020

Finance Investment Movement 3

I was a sceptic of the sky high prices of cryptocurrencies in general and did not think there was upside for something so volatile and vague. Years ago, I had dabbled into Ether for the hype and did not do much research. However, early this year, I decided to read more into this new digital asset class and trying to understand the future trend. By now, I am convinced that the blockchain technology, along with its associated currencies, are here to stay. If one was to treat a cryptocurrency as an alternative fiat currency, it's not wrong but the key is missing out on the underlying potential. There are not enough examples to show the disruptive impact of blockchain but I believe that day will come when a certain job, function or work becomes irrelevant. People will realize how real and perhaps painful that is. Thus, one of my goals was to invest in Bitcoin but the prices were persistently high around US$12k when I seriously monitored. Then, the stock market dropped last week and the cryptocurrency market followed suit. At US$10k per Bitcoin, I swapped S$500 worth of Ether into it and made my first ever move into this digital currency asset. At worst, I lose this money if Bitcoin becomes useless. But my expectation is in the many years ahead, this amount will multiply in folds beyond any asset class has to offer.

Tip: Loacker Tasnim Sauvignon Blanc 2012

Tuesday 1 September 2020

Month of August 2020

It's that time of the year to panic. By now, most companies would have announced their results and could determine what's left to do if the numbers do not look pleasant. I think it's fair to conclude 2020 would be a washout and better to survive while preparing for next year. When I hear stories of jobless friends struggling to cope and helpless people who lost their jobs, it's poignant to count one's blessings.

Personally, it's also the month of my wife's birthday and it gets harder thinking what to get/do. Fortunately, I managed to plan two surprise celebrations with different sets of her dear friends. Separately, I caught up with two ex-colleagues whom I have not seen in years. We spent three hours giving updates. It felt almost like yesterday, the topics flowed along interchangeably and was great fun. Then, at the end of the month, we received news that my wife's grandmother passed away due to old age. This was expected for some time and we were the ones who spoke to her for the last time by the hospital bed before leaving her to rest eternally. Goodbye Ah Ma, you have led an amazing life bringing up the kids and deserve to enjoy this final retirement.

Tip: Roku Gin, easy going on the palette with tonic water

Friday 21 August 2020

4 Days of Seminars

The SMEICC is an annual event for people to learn about the general business environment and issues of the day. I attended 4 webinars and learnt much from a particular speaker, so I thought it would be good to share.

The topic was about changing business and speed up the transformation process. My prior impression was it would revolve around adopting new technologies and mindset to existing businesses. What the speaker mentioned was along those lines but presented in a numerical and simple way that caught my attention.

2 main concepts were introduced. The first was in the world's labor market, 4% was involved in agriculture, 4% in manufacturing, 4% in high technologies and the rest in services. Ever since the second world war, all countries embarked on the peaceful development model and the equilibrium led to the resultant labor allocation. With upcoming technologies (AI, data analytics, robotics, digitization),  the great upheaval would impact the 88% labor providing different services. The second concept talked about governments would not allow economic collapse and the only way was to continue money printing. This will lead to inflation and widen the wealth gap. Therefore, the global money flow must conceivably go into assets of high value such as property and stocks. The latter would then propel companies with forward looking ideas such as innovative technology. That's why many entrepreneurs eg Tesla don't mind burning money to achieve their target, mainly because the funds come from the masses who believe in them. As the level of sophistication increases, menial labor jobs would be replaced causing great unemployment. This can be seen in retail examples like food ordering on a touch screen, online shopping and hotel service robots. No sector would be spared so it's imperative that people must start thinking about their value. The areas where robots have yet to develop are emotion, cultural understanding and creativity. As jobs become automated and mechanized, the older generation will likely hang on to their positions due to better health and ability to control the situation. This is a terrible combination if businesses were pinned to where they are, without technological upgrade. Hence, the future is bleak for young people who are regular employees or have high ambitions to climb the corporate ladder. Fortunately, amid the changes, Singapore is likely to emerge stronger as the trust premium is high, business environment is sound, government is stable and workforce is highly educated.

Tip: Suntory Premium Black Malt

Thursday 20 August 2020

Finance Investment Movement 2

I have an IG account for years though it's been pretty dormant as I used it previously to learn currency trading. So a reminder came to tell me that I have not done anything over the past 2 years and if this continues, an inactivity fee would be charged. Naturally, I logged into the account, funded it and placed a small trade, earning $4 in the process after a few hours. During the waiting time and monitoring the position, I looked at the stock market and read a few charts.

The market movement was slack and moving listlessly sideways. My take on the market is it's waiting for a signal from any source and blue chips were already battered down. Covid has been around for more than 6 months now and prices should have more or less moderated to include business impact. Therefore, to prepare for a recovery market play, the horizon to look would be longer term and cyclical stocks were a good bet. Hence, I purchased 1000 Capitaland shares to begin my first investment into a property counter in over 10 years! It has a well-diversified portfolio mainly in Singapore and China, trading at good PB of 0.6 and with expected improvement in retail/hospitality situation, I thought the downside risk is much covered. Even if the price was to drop 20%, I am likely to add each time that happens.

Tip: Yamazaki Single Malt 12

Tuesday 11 August 2020

CPF Top Up Aug 2020

After paying the credit card bills of last month, there were some cash surplus so I decided to put $800 into the family's CPF accounts. This is something that I started this year to realize the power of compounding. Also, it's the wife's birthday so this serves as an invisible gift to her. Hopefully, by the time she can start withdrawal, the amount would be something decent. At the moment, I have no particular target to achieve. As an example from an actual CPF statement I saw, at age 65, a person with $102000 can expect to withdraw $662 for the rest of life. My opinion is this amount is too little for our lifestyle which means I have to save harder.

Tip: Iced Kopi

Monday 3 August 2020

Month of July 2020

The tug of war between stock market bulls and bears is looking like an epic is about to start. In a month, USD dropped almost 2%, Bitcoin rallied 18.5%, gold and silver rose while STI sunk 3.2%. Banks were told to reduce dividend payout amounts, some corporate results were really poor eg Keppel Corp and a dose of reality was offered by companies such as Capitaland on impending news. I'm going to adopt a long term view and hold on to my investments. If there are insensible price drops, I will add anything that can conceivably give back 4% or more, just to beat CPF interest rates. 

Now that the dining out scene is making a comeback, I finally got to try Kaiyo Sushi & Grill https://www.facebook.com/kaiyosushigrill/. It's located among a row of restaurants so competition must be tough. Having spotted it almost a year ago, I have always wanted to get in there until the wife's intervention. Turns out the food is good especially the grilled items (special mention that these appear so quickly on the table after you order!). If you are a fan of fish head and collar meat, then the choices here are more than enough and with good value too. I managed 3 visits in a month. However, news have appeared that the owner of the row of shop houses is looking to rebuild the piece of land. Hence, my joy at finding this little gem may be short-lived. 

Tip: Alma Mora Malbec, 2018. Full of berry plums and oakey taste stands out. Great with meats.

Thursday 16 July 2020

2020 Post Election Thoughts

Looking back the past ten days, the election buzz didn't exactly catch on in a manner I thought it would be. Online rallies and political broadcasts seemed to be a subdued form of communication between the participants while the rest of us look in. Sure, there were a few notable instances with several candidates picked out for their atypical introductions, indiscretions, catchphrases or memorable comments. However, these doesn't portend the discussion of basic life and economic issues that could have been more in depth. Over the last few years, in conversations with peers and generally looking around, I could feel the anxiety and frustrations built up on the ground. Rising living costs, competitive society pressures and less than rosy future for the next generation were commonly heard. Maybe it's because I belong to the sandwich generation and the surrounding people echo these pertinent questions frequently. Therefore the result is as per my expectation. Out of curiosity, I would be observing the number of flags hanging over the next one month. Now that the election is over, it's back to focus on surviving this pandemic situation. Businesses are withering, barely hanging and yet with no end in sight. It's clear that Singapore is vulnerable, extremely vulnerable. A renewed level of trust is required between government and people to ride out of the storm together. This election hopefully provided the platform. The hard work must start now.

Tip: Iced teh

Monday 6 July 2020

Finance Investment Movement 1

The biggest news in the first week of July is it's election time! Listening to the various party speakers, I thought there were a few exciting contests with the retirement of several incumbents and appearance of credible opposition members. The downer is I live in a constituency that would be won by the ruling party hands down. No action then.

DBS decided to lower the interest rates for its popular Multiplier account but I'm not disappointed since it's to be expected in a low interest rate environment for quite some time. Thus I shall continue to hold onto it when no better alternative is available. Instead of adding to saving, I finally bought 1500 units of Suntec Reit after monitoring it over years. The factors that convinced me were its PB was low (0.7 times), expected decent yield (4.5%), good rental occupancy rate and recovery prospect in office and retail. The aim is to keep for 2 years but in the unlikely event that capital gain reaches 20%, that would trigger a sell bias. Lastly, I was considering the Syfe Equity portfolio but held back as the markets have run up too fast for valuations to match.

Tip: Hendricks Gin with Fever Tree Refreshingly Light Tonic Water

Tuesday 30 June 2020

Month of June 2020

Updated finance page.

The stock market is unbelievable. Even when Covid-19 cases continued to rise and re-emerge in some countries, people behave as if this was a footnote while egging on the indexes. From news outlets, I learnt many new brokerage accounts were opened and these retail investors probably had time on their hands to look at the markets.

Phase 2 in Singapore was implemented and the crowds gathered as expected. I chose to dine at Tuga (https://www.facebook.com/tugasingapore/), a portugese restaurant that served meats, pasta and potato. Interestingly, there were a number of eggs related dishes. I thought the roasted chicken was the highlight with tender pieces that slide open with a gentle pull amid well marinated sauce. Codfish was a little dry and picapau beef was slightly overdone. Everyone was after the potatoes that accompanied the mains. The manager had to nudge us to vacate and I understand the queue was healthily long. Overall, it was a pleasant experience.  

Life is also unpredictable. Two days ago, I received a message that an ex colleague committed suicide. Personally, I don't know him. He was a junior, we met maybe twice and our work locations were different. Still, there is a sense of sadness. By many accounts, he was a very likable character and left many stunned with no hint of the suffering he endured.

Half a year is gone just like that, people as well. Life, as with everything, is about balance.

Tip: Quinta Dos Carvalhais Alfrocheiro 2015, from Tuga above. Light to medium body, great freshness and smooth feel.

Friday 26 June 2020

Let the Party Begin!

How does it feel it have the weight of disappointment lifted?
When year after year passes by, that weight becomes heavier and there's nothing to do but hope and in the meanwhile, accept the taunts of others.
In total, 30 years of heart pounding and nerve racking moments.
This morning, the gloom finally lifted as Liverpool was crowned Champions of England.

Forget the records, put aside the recent titles. This one means so much more.
From the moment I watched football, I could never have imagined watching the last title triumph on the old SBC Channel 12 and witnessing the latest victory in the digital age of TV. Internet didn't even exist for me back then. I nearly lived the life of a footballer, training with the school team twice a week and then with the church team on Saturday before a match on Sunday. It was the routine for 6 years and mainly inspired by my professional idols. From the beginning, I tried to model my game on a certain GOD by practicing my weaker left foot and played almost all positions in order to gain tactical appreciation. But the title was still elusive and I "retired" along with another Kop legend, unsure whether I would live to experience success once again.

I can still recall the days of yesteryear heroes playing in the Candy sponsored jerseys, one by one leaving and pinning hope on newly recruited players complemented with local born ones. The reach for the title came close on multiple times and the heartache became stronger.

Today, I can go out wearing pride on the sleeve, telling all detractors that they have been wrong all these years. Just don't let me wait another 30 years for I would almost certainly not live to see it. YNWA!

Tip: Taittinger Brut Reserve NV Champagne

Monday 15 June 2020

Stages of Life

How Many Are There?

A pleasant surprise awaited me last Saturday as I went to maintain a lime plant that has been growing for 3 years. It's not the first time but still a happy feeling whenever these little caterpillars are discovered.

They belong to the Lime Butterfly species and strangely, the ones I found this time were at different life stages, meaning there had been a few visits from their mother(s) over an extended period. In total, eleven were present and will take about 2 weeks to transform into adults.

Separately, I have been observing the stock market situation intently over the past few months. At what stage is it now? Some experts mentioned a V-shape recovery, an inverted Nike swoosh, horseshoe etc.. in my opinion, it's more like an upside down square root. The scary bit is the market looks very much pumped up and peaking but the downward ride is yet to come. It would be steep and brutal. I better prepare for it by saving up.

Tip: Iced Teh-O

Thursday 4 June 2020

Dental Servicing

One of the things I missed during the Circuit Breaker was the availability of the dentist for general check up. How is this not considered an essential service? I heard a personal story where he had wisdom toothache for more than a month and yet had to wait.

In my case, a month ago, my gums started to bleed easily even with the gentlest of brushes. Normally, the bleeding would have stopped during day time but somehow, I could still taste minute amounts of blood seeping out whenever I suck on the gums. This just had to happen at the most inappropriate period and the only thing to do was to wait. Meanwhile, all food consumed had that extra bloody taste.

Finally, anticipating queues, I made an appointment two days ago. So I arrived on time, sat in the dental chair for thirty minutes and felt so relieved after the dentist proclaimed there was much plaque causing the bleeding but it would be fine from now on.

The cleaning fee cost $75 (reasonable) and as I was paying, the clinic phone rang. I overheard the conversation.

"What kind of service are you looking for?", the clinic assistant asked.
"General scaling and can I walk in today?" came the reply.
"No, we are full today and tomorrow. In any case, you have to make an appointment as we don't accept walk ins now."

Good luck to you who needs a teeth scrub, I hope your gums are not bleeding badly.

Tip: Asahi Draught Dry Black

Tuesday 2 June 2020

Saving VS Spending

Which way to go?
Which way to go?

It's been quite a while since the roads are crowded with commuters going to work or school. Besides a visual appraisal, the confirmation came as radio DJs repeatedly mentioned about broken down vehicles and busy expressway exits. This was to be expected of course. I'm sure many of us had been looking forward to this day. Is this the sign of things getting back to normal?

If one has been observing the stock market over the last two months, the initial losses were steadily being clawed back. This comes even though many sources reported shop closures, massive losses, expected rising unemployment and even affirmation of a recession by the government. Is this the sign that stock market participants know something to feel such optimism?

For me, I see the current world as one of savers versus spenders. Simply, there are now more savers, demand for goods and services are lesser and not good for economic numbers. So governments everywhere are throwing money into the system, lowering interest rates and creating jobs through fiscal investments to hopefully stuff your pocket such that you feel wealthy enough to spend freely. It's like the roads. Without an incentive, they just remain silent and empty with no productive use, like a dead economy. But there will always be people who take advantage of the situation and go out for a spin amid smoother traffic and cheaper petrol (not in Singapore's case). These are the ones putting their idle money to good use by spending in the stock market, looking for safe havens and income producing assets. When the size of this group grows, the party mood rises and the groove is on, like a champagne popping stock market. Sooner or later, as roads become crowded, the spenders will start to look for the next exit, only to find jammed arterial roads.

The reality is the world has a health situation that possibly cannot resolve quickly, an economic situation made worse by two alpha bears trying to outdo each other, various social situations impinging on people's lives and the next natural disaster looming. It's unique and in a tightly inter connected world, economic gravity will eventually catch up. Hopefully the spenders don't get crushed by its weight.

Tip: Coconut juice

Monday 1 June 2020

CPF Top Up Jun 2020

The mid year just begun and also indicate the final day of Circuit Breaker Singapore. Even though it's officially reopening the country towards normal operations, I feel indifferent. Most offices would be devoid of workers and even small gatherings are still not allowed. However, the next three weeks are crucial to test how well the system is implemented. I hope not to hear Covid cases start to increase.

I decided to mark this day by making a $500 contribution to my CPF Special Account. Besides, this will aid in my tax relief claim, attract early interest and forcibly lock away any spending thoughts.

So my updated CPF savings looks like this (Goal 2020).

Tip: Milo (3 spoons of powder, 1 spoon of condensed milk with hot water)

Sunday 31 May 2020

Upgrade Phone Plan

My mobile plan expired in January and I put off renewing any contract as my Iphone 8 was in good working condition and no promotions were attractive enough. With the onset of Covid, I guess telcos and phone manufacturers had to do something even with limited launches of new phone models.

The video is really sweet and concise.

Shopping around, I narrowed my selection to Iphone 11 or Iphone SE. My needs were simple; no fancy cameras, small, light and call me old school but I like the home button as compared to Face ID security function. Ultimately, the Iphone SE is similar to the one I was using except with improved processing power.

Next, I decided to upgrade the plan from Singtel Combo 3 to XO78. For $13 more per month, I got 30GB more data, free SIM card, free home delivery but less SMS and talktime. The sweetest bit of the deal was the $18 outlay for a new 256GB phone.

The delivery was made at the appointed time, I gladly paid in cash and did the setup the next day. 3 weeks of usage later, I'm very pleased with the purchase as the phone met my expectations at a super penny pinching price.

Tip: Four Pillars Navy Strength Gin with a dash of castor sugar, mint, lime and Fever Tree Indian tonic water

Wednesday 27 May 2020

Health Talk

If you look out of the window, what do you see? In Singapore's urban landscape, most likely concrete or into the privacy of your neighbor's room.  I'm quite lucky, I see a quiet road and a patch of neglected grass field needing a trim. Then about 2 weeks ago, the road and grass didn't look right. The ground appeared soft and shaky, could it be an earthquake happening thousands of miles away? Perhaps near Indonesia where there had been previous reports of mild tremors affecting parts of the island.

No, it cannot be. Because the feeling didn't go away for 2 days. My head spun and balancing was getting awkward.

So I did the dutiful work of looking for answers online. The potential issues ranged from an ear infection, low blood pressure to head injury. Quite a depressing combination. I don't remember any self inflicted damage and felt no pain. Then, something alerted me, the symptoms go away in the morning when I wake up. My body must be signalling that it's tired. It worked, I napped in the afternoon and woke up feeling good. But the issue soon caught up as I started doing the usual email checks, newspaper reading and Zoom discussions. Finally, I decided to visit a specialist and made an appointment.

The conclusion was stark. I had presbyopia. 2 sets of prescriptive spectacles later, I'm still adjusting to the routine and new image.

Tip: Prunotto Moscato D'Asti DOCG 2019. Honey burst with slight hint of fig.

Monday 25 May 2020

CPF Interest Rate till Sep 2020

The CPF is a very important instrument as part of my retirement plans. I truly believe it's one of the best policies that any government can provide for its citizens. Being forced to save a part of one's earnings is something not most are willing to do. So CPF steps in to fulfill the taskmaster role and you get additional contribution from your employer plus interest top ups.

CPF Interest Rates Jul to Sep 2020

My approach to using CPF as a retirement tool is not to spend it but add on wherever possible. Currently, I use it to pay part of my housing loan and nothing else.

Tip: Albert Bichot Chablis 2017. High acid minerality with medium body and short finish.

Tuesday 19 May 2020

Thanks, Covid.

The Covid-19 situation has definitely brought about a rethink of how our lives should be. It's been 43 days since movement restrictions were imposed. During this period, while everyone is still adjusting to the new way of life, there have been more unpleasant news but I feel it's expected.

So, rather than dwell on what-ifs, I'm going to share the positive aspects of this situation.

1) More time spent with the family and putting our hands together to learn new recipes
2) Reading more topics (mostly online) and having the space to think
3) Exploring investment ideas
4) Work from home has become a reality where previously it was disapproved by the boss
5) Planning the details for next vacation
6) Lesser load of washings
7) Breathing cleaner air
8) Receiving surprise gifts from friends
9) Finding lots of discounts across everything
10) Setting up a blog

Looking at other countries and then ourselves, what's the fuss of being holed up at home most of the time? You are safe, can rest well, there is no protest on the streets and away from the wicked work pace.

Bottomline is, we should be grateful for sprinkles of contentment. I know I am.

Tip: Matcha tea latte, home made.

Monday 18 May 2020

Welcome, come on in.

I have finally gotten off the couch and decided to organize my scatter thoughts into words.
You see, there is so much information out there and the human brain can only do so much processing.

So in order to guide myself, I have selected these topics as staples: finance, technology and lifestyle.
Essentially, I am a numbers person and these areas revolve and intrigue me the most.

History is a good teacher. Through this, I hope to revisit in future to "see" my old self and strive to better myself. Let the journey begin.

Tip: For starters, the liquid of life, water.