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