Friday 31 December 2021

Closing Out 2021

It's 28 Dec 2021 as I wrote this piece. Christmas dinners were barely over and now preparing to celebrate the new year. Still in the midst of feasting and working, caught in between two different mindsets at the same time. I guess many people are making up for lost time to meet close relations as much as they could in case any new restrictions appear.

One of my 2020 wishes actually got fulfilled. Work from home continued to be default for much of the year, so I've been spending time at home, doing things in a leisure manner and got used to no travel for the first time in many years! Given the Omicron situation looking quite stable, I reckon things will begin to normalize soon. The signs are out there. In Singapore, shopping malls are crowded, restaurants mostly occupied, events have ramped up... elsewhere in other countries, despite increasing infected cases, governments are not locking down and instead encouraging vaccinations as a first line of defence. Generally, prices are rising and the inflation giant looms in the background. Petrol, rental, shipping, materials and basically anything unsubsidized would have seen new baselines being set. It is this anticipation that I decided to renew my electricity plan early and already I can expect 40% extra cost next year when it's in effect. Similarly, before interest rates go up, I did a reprice of my DBS home loan and locked in for three years with 1.8% rate cap.

Looking ahead, I think the personal theme for 2022 is to hedge. Nobody can control what happens outside, whichever country wants to launch an economic war, overload its healthcare system, boycott Olympics for political gain, reduce asset buyback program etc is beyond my business. It's therefore even more important that one judiciously scrutinize areas within our control. Living expenses, strategic investments and health matters come to mind. I will be looking to invest more towards kids education fees, expand revenue streams, looking after mental well being and living a more meaningful life.

Tip: Balvenie 16 years Cask 9077, smooth tangerine with tinge of smoke ending with slight pepper

Thursday 30 December 2021

Month of December 2021

Singapore has a new badminton world champion in Loh Kean Yew. Big congratulations to him for such an achievement. Years ago, I had heard about him and noted his usual early tournament exits. It reminded me of Ronald Susilo who was a decent player. Sheer hard work certainly paid off and it was in the past year that I began hearing more of him in the news with positive results. The Olympics was where I actually sat through an entire match watching his exploits, concluding that he was physically good but lacked the quick movement or explosive smash of top players. Therefore, I was one of those disbelievers when he entered the world championships, convinced that one of the Danish players stood a better chance. But I'm glad Kean Yew proved me wrong.

There were some opportunities to tweak my investment portfolio as prices came down and other promotions were in place. So I setup a Futu account to enjoy some free perks and after two weeks, my impression is that it has much similar interface with Tiger Brokers. I got the hang of using both and likely to keep them unless some major disincentive appears. Meanwhile, Coinhako has a new earn program which I subscribed to for Eth and Dot. Let's see how well does this compare since I also have Nexo on an interest rolling basis.

This is the last month of school holidays and I'm glad to have brought the kids for a game of badminton at Suntec City, luge at Sentosa and boardwalk at Upper Pierce reservoir.

Tip: Tenpoichi Dry Junmai Daiginjo, crisp acidity with short finish and pleasant undertone

Wednesday 15 December 2021

Finance Investment Movement 16

It's coming to the end of the year and while the festive mood is warming up, the markets certainly hasn't taken much of a breather. There's been much volatility observed in the crypto space as NFTs come to the fore which I think is very much infant. More and more corporates, celebrities and investment houses are buying digital land to reserve a spot. At this juncture, I don't intend to wade in. Maybe spending some time in play and earn online games might persuade me later. Instead, in a bit of a haste, I purchased Solana just to participate in this project. My entry price of US$198 wasn't ideal but no point fretting now. Coinhako has also rewarded me with 11000 tokens of Shiba but with the value being so small, I'll just keep and forget, deep down hoping it will rise in future.

Few days ago, I finally set up a Futu account with $2800 to enjoy the free Apple share promotion and also to compare the platform versus Tiger Brokers. Previously, I wondered if the promotion would be further sweetened but it seems unlikely and better to get in before it's too late. Entire process was as smooth as Tiger's so it's a tie for now.

For good measure, after observing the stock for more than 10 years, I got reacquainted with Ho Bee at $2.80. Many moons ago, my memory tells me that my last trade made me $200 with prices around $1.40, this was certainly a new leap of faith. I bought with the conviction that the major shareholders had been buying at the same price and public float is low so hoping for one of two things to happen. First, a privatization offer which I rate as slim because the company probably prefers to stay listed as a matter of prestige. Second, a spin off of assets into a commercial reit which makes good sense since this is a good way to unlock value for shareholders. If nothing happens, then just pray that it continues to pay 3.5% dividend annually and I'll take it. If its price was to drop further, I don't mind adding.

Tip: Petrolo Torrione 2015, a medium bodied beauty with fresh berry expression and smooth tannins

Tuesday 30 November 2021

Month of November 2021

Updated finance page.

Two weeks ago, I was fretting over the aimless direction for my investments. Then, news of a mutated Covid variant dropped in from nowhere and became the focus once again in our already battered world. With experience and adapted mentality, I feel most people would have accepted this quickly and gone on with life. My guess is, this new variant will spread faster but kill lesser. That's what viruses do, infect as many hosts and find a way to cope with the changing environment. Following this, we can expect to endure another six months of discomfort during the discovery and recovery phase.

Last week, I went to Far East Flora and bought a 5ft live Christmas tree. It used to be an annual thing until last year's break. Usually, I would have gone to Island Landscape but they were sold out and only took in pre orders. Even so, Far East only had 2 trees left by the time I got there. Without hesitation, I placed the order and chose a European Noble Fir. Many of the more beautiful looking ones had already been taken. As I made payment of $155, the tree got wrapped and eventually placed in my car boot. On the way home, I was thinking it's a rather lucky day to be able to secure a tree for a decent price (previously it cost $120) though the choices were limited. After placing the tree in the living room, I cut open the wrapper net and then realized this wasn't the one I picked! It's a USA Noble Fir, 6ft tall, nice shape and had a tag attached with the name "Joseph". Well, it's obvious the packer at Far East took the wrong one. So to Joseph, thanks for the good choice you made and hopefully you are given a similar one once they rectify the mistake.

Tip: Tenuta Lavite Lucente 2017, jammy with blackcurrants and full bodied

Monday 22 November 2021

Finance Investment Movement 15

I found it quite difficult to decide where to allocate funds during the month. Markets were in a sideways consolidation mood with cryptos spiking early before losing steam to give back all gains. Therefore, rather than spend money, I decided to save more money by setting aside cash for vacation next year. At the same time, I made some purchases of $450 for Luna and Xrp tokens with the latter sent over to Nexo for interest earning.

Unfortunately, I couldn't sort out the LPA details and will have to wait for my donee's information and signature.

Tip: Chateau Brown 2015, pencil lead with menthol, bright berries

Saturday 13 November 2021

Learning Week

In the past week, I had attended several days of events related to Singapore and China relationship, fintech and the digital space. My brain was simply overloaded with the volume of information and opinions till my eyes were straining to keep open. Don't get me wrong, the amount of new things I learnt were exciting, intriguing and certainly enlightening. New jargons such as Web3.0 and metaverse, along with hot themes like sustainability and green finance, were cross referenced and discussed repeatedly from different perspectives.

So before I forget, this post serves to jot down points that I took and summarized into a narrative.

The world has 3 major issues.
1) Climate change is a common goal that everyone has to seriously action now.
2) It may be aging but Asean's population is about 50% young people, that's a big incentive for change.
3) Covid disrupted lives but we should not be distracted from longer term goals for the future.

The key is to ensure sustainable development. Countries must come together with resolve to push agendas into actual realities. There are many aspects to work on. Part of this involves people changing lifestyles and getting out of a comfort zone. Another part is to use resources in a manner that does not over extract or pollute, yet improve people's lives with minimal wastage. Fintech is one enabler that's being highly researched. More innovations are required. The creation of crypto assets arose out of trust deficit issues from the financial crisis in 2008. A new global finance system will emerge. Likewise, new workplace and living models. Fintech embraces all of these and improves the digital world. This is the result of technology going faster and being reliable in all forms of transactions. Artificial intelligence and quantum physics stand on the cusp of a breakthrough to elevate computational capabilities. Once in place, there would be better ways to predict nature phenomenon, allocate resources, achieve logistics excellence and improve personal experiences. However, the difficulty now is to convince enough people to bear with short term pain and countries to share knowledge freely. We live in a rapidly changing world where there's no choice but to be plugged in.

Tip:  Delta Estate Sauvignon Blanc 2019, crisp grass and lemon on the palate with raspberry

Sunday 31 October 2021

Month of October 2021

Updated finance page.
So what's new? Or rather what's the news?

This month's goal was to avoid tipping the scales due to the many birthday related meals that I ate, including my son's. To counter, I increased the exercise frequency in the last 2 weeks by covering more distance and doing extra static exercises. Please, I hope to lose just a few kilos.

It seems like things in the house are taking turns to break down. Now it's the cloth dryer and was swiftly replaced with a $489 Elba machine, not the most popular brand around but one that I recommend for its fuss free function. In any case, the shelf life of appliances nowadays is like 3 - 5 years so it makes sense to spend less and buy new when required, extra warranties are just not worth it.

I came across a set of Youtube videos featuring the current Taipei Mayor, Ko Wen Je. Previously, he was just a name that I heard on variety shows with people copying his talking style. Now I have a totally different perspective of him after knowing his background and anti-populism thinking. Here are a few points that made an impression.
1) Failure is the norm, success is exception
2) To be wealthy, a person can be born in a good family, have luck or simply must work hard
3) Money is nothing to shout about when at the end of the day, what you eat comes out the same
4) Life is a process, seek the best things one can do. Enjoy it, have a good heart and follow through 

Tip: Chateau Larrivet Haut Brion 2017, fresh and approachable without much decanting

Friday 22 October 2021

Finance Investment Movement 14

I have been waiting for a dip to do some purchase but the market has been unforgiving in constantly setting new highs. Dow Jones, bitcoin and commodities are flying to the sky as if the world is no longer virus infected. The pertinent question is whether to be brave and go in or continue to be sidelined.

Instead of looking for things to invest, I spent some thoughts on making of a will and LPA. My financial adviser friend provided some useful insights on the conditions and relevance of certain wishes eg getting someone younger preferably to be trustee, someone financially savvy to be estate manager, whether to have joint executors etc. One point uncovered was the lack of funds to provide for my family's expenses in case I'm the first to leave. I just realized how inadequate and vulnerable my family would become based on our current lifestyle. So I urge everyone to seriously spend time looking at your situation before it's too late. The first draft of the documents are being crafted and should see a conclusion next month.

Tip: Hepburn's Choice Royal Brackla 11 years, orange peel, raisin and peppery

Thursday 14 October 2021

Exist Yet Unseen

As Singapore begins to normalize life patterns, I have made some new observations. The healthcare professionals have been exemplary, F&B staff have been putting in a great effort and tourism folks are coming out to play finally. The government is looking like it will soon relax restrictions further and treating this pandemic as endemic with home recovery and hospital resources managed carefully. However, there is a group of people affected badly that's not been reported.

What happens when one is ART positive and feels relatively well? Naturally you would go to an approved clinic to do a PCR test for confirmation. It takes at least a day for the result to be out so in the meantime, where does one wait?

My colleague encountered the above dilemma when he felt unwell in office and got a positive ART. As it was rather late, the clinic advised him to come back the next morning so he went home. He stays in his sister's HDB flat with 8 others. They rejected him and asked him to hang around the void deck instead. It was 930pm and he had not showered or taken dinner. With nowhere to go, he called our HR colleagues for help. The situation is a personal one so the question is, to what extent should a company help. We called MOH hotline and they offered first to speak to his family to persuade them to let him home or find a community facility to house him. After an hour, they replied they were powerless to do much as his family had their concerns while hospitals couldn't take his case. Desperate, we quickly booked a hotel for 2 nights and he checked in at 1130pm. This colleague is not well to do, therefore the company extended a goodwill to offset his transport and accommodation expenses. In the end, he tested positive for PCR and was conveyed to the hospital.

This incident made me realize how a good intended policy with blind spots can result in much anguish. The home recovery idea is a good one but how many households can spare a bedroom with toilet access. The stigma of cohabiting with a potential Covid person can cause even families to turn away from each other. It's further exacerbated when one is poor, old and left with no options but to find your own way out. It's heart wrenching but it's the hard reality of life.

Tip: Misha's Vineyard Impromptu Pinot Noir 2019, light strawberry fragrance and lime

Thursday 30 September 2021

Month of September 2021

One month ago, dining out was possible for groups of 5, now it's back to 2. More Covid cases are spreading in the community and we are told to learn to live with it. So why go back to the restriction? I feel for F&B owners and their associates. It's really a hard earned living with disruption upon disruption. When you hear well-loved hawkers throwing in the towel, it's really a regrettable loss and many tears are shed.

It's not good for the economy, environment and social aspects if the world continue to live in a restricted way. Rather, we should learn to curb excesses, rethink priorities, recalibrate living expectations and protect Earth.

This month, I managed to spend time in the sun with the children, lock in a round of golf, met new friends and caught up with old ones. Also, spent money to repair a wall leak ($350) and replaced a hair dryer ($599).

Tip: Urlar Sauvignon Blanc 2018, earthy fruits with a slight citrus finish

Thursday 16 September 2021

The Net Is About To Come Out

I refer to the Straits Times article published on 14 Sep, "Time to Consider Wealth Tax for Singapore".

As the Parliament debates proceed during the week, I thought the above couldn't have been a coincidence now that Singapore is on the way to economic recovery while tackling many rising social issues. Key areas are aging population, income inequality, foreign manpower, education pressure and job security. I mean, these are so prominently featured that one can't possibly miss them.

To sustain or improve the situation, there's one matter for any government to solve, that is, where to find money to fund the programmes.

This piece is not about the merits or demerits of a wealth tax but rather, point out the purpose behind it. As the article noted, it's about "addressing significant wealth polarization" because "Singapore's wealth is distributed in a highly skewed manner". Where in the initial years of nation building, the government put forth meritocracy, justice and equal opportunities as a societal leveler. Now, it has to calibrate measures to help those on the lower rungs of society to keep them afloat for example via GST vouchers or differentiated subsidies. I think there's nothing wrong to that. It's the natural order of things that occur as a result of a developed nation. It's time for the wealthy to show how civilized and compassionate a society that we can be and be a good example if this comes into reality.

It may sound counter-intuitive but China is also in a similar situation. Its government handles this is a different manner. By banning cryptos, censuring big corporations, curtailing young people's game time and hitting "bad" industries such as tutoring. These hard and patriarchal measures serve to protect society by keeping the wealth gap from expanding, creating homogeneity and improving quality of life instead of the intense focus on study or work success. The good news for China is the economy is still growing and will continue to do so for many years, therefore money is not the big issue, unlike Singapore. Both countries seek to achieve social harmony through regulations and interventions when required. The wealth tax is just another tool, along with many other tools, that may help the less abled to live a meaningful life.

Tip: Yuzu juice with soda

Wednesday 15 September 2021

Finance Investment Movement 13

My enthusiasm in trading Dow Futures dropped a notch as the market consolidated and gave no chance of entry points. It's well known that September is a month to stay away and it's proving so as I look elsewhere for some needed inspiration.

The only notable activity in crypto portfolio was a purchase of Aave as its price retracted in accordance with the trend. There seemed to be brewing unease over potential major regulator intervention especially when stablecoins are seen as systemic risk to the financial system. I lean towards the same feeling since many of these companies claim sufficient fiat or equivalent coverage for liquidity purpose but ultimately this is unaudited. So in the interest of transparency, I hope the information can be verified and would be a boost to crypto credibility.

Last week, I had a chat with a property agent friend as we reviewed rental or purchase options in the market. While she advocated "now is the best time to buy", I can't help but feel it's more about buying something one truly likes instead of buy to flip. Maybe I'm too emotionally attached so it becomes hard to let go when the time comes.

Tip: Tsingdao draft beer

Friday 3 September 2021

If You Only Have A Split Second

Took me about two months and I just completed another book by Malcolm Gladwell. That came about as my previous reading was also by him and I liked his observation and writing style. It's anecdotal, simple and delivers an insightful message at the end of each example. Again, I was impressed with the amount of research which then distilled into digestible story bits in the book, "Blink".

Throughout, Malcolm drew upon examples from long ago and recent history. I guess it's to tell the reader that humans, a highly cognitive animal, make decisions on a spur in the same way. Given a question or situation, the instant reaction comes from years of mind preparedness which is instinctive, no matter how educated he/she is. Say a person does not practice gender bias, the reality is he/she will make an assumption based on experience. The desire to be fair and neutral all the time is almost impossible. So either we learn to recognize this inherent trait or ignore at one's peril. Decision making is not easy and even more pressurizing if you only have a moment to decide. A suggestion is to make deliberate analysis if a decision is a straight forward one between given choices, otherwise it's better to go by gut feel when there are too many variables. So I guess if you want to outwit an opponent, you must understand conventional thinking and go against it in order to spring a surprise so that a standard reaction becomes ineffective. Most importantly, learn throughout your life and you'll be prepared when the time comes.

Tip: Myokosan Junmai Daigingo, balanced sweetness and medium bodied

Tuesday 31 August 2021

Month of August 2021

August has not been a good month, financial and health wise. My car's air conditioner leaked ($1050), son needed an MRI scan ($760), sofa set needed replacement ($1370), renewed golf license ($340) and TCM for my backache ($300). All one time expenditures and hopefully no more.

The good news is, to pay for the above, my delayed company bonus finally got paid out. Another happy moment came when the Covid measures were loosened and dining out was possible again. So I met two groups of friends and had a great catch up. Also did my annual NS medical screening to be certified for IPPT. Time to put in some training hours. At least EPL is back to cure some bored moments.

Tip: Fern Ridge Sauvignon Blanc 2016, grassy with nice minerality

Monday 16 August 2021

Finance Investment Movement 12

So I finally took the plunge, or rather a toe dip into the world of futures trading. One of the reasons for doing so was that I had been looking for a way to trade US market but did not want to stay up late to monitor. Dow futures thus became an easy way to gain participation over a broad market. Till date, its uptrend doesn't seem to abate and kept setting new highs with a Covid recovery theme. Moreover, the margins required to trade is small therefore limiting risk exposure. The downside is the spread is large at 10 points, so it takes a bit of guts and faith to press that Buy button.

The STI didn't present any nice entry points, presumably due to good corporate results and caused prices to push higher. In any case, there is money available to use, it's just where to deploy.

Crypto assets staged a rally and my paper gains were nice but who knows whether that was the new price floor or further drops might be in store. In any case, I am choosing to stay put without any movements for the past month. Maybe the only point worth considering would be whether to shift more coins over to Nexo for interest accumulation.

Tip: Fern Ridge Sauvignon Blanc 2016, gooseberry and citrusy with a little grass

Thursday 12 August 2021

My Daily Bread

The newspaper has been a great source of information through the ages. I picked up the habit of daily reading since school and could spend up to 2 hours going through every article in detail. It started with The New Paper then to Straits Times and Business Times. Somehow, time passes quickly and I always feel refreshed after that, perhaps because of new knowledge gained. This empowerment enabled me to converse across a variety of topics and it felt good.

Years ago, that joyful feeling seemed to have slowly disappeared and I only felt it when my wife said something recently. I was sharing with her regarding the number of Covid cases and situation when she remarked, "I know and news nowadays are so negative." That was a light bulb moment and sort of released the uneasy feeling inside which I had not realized. Finally, someone had given me an accurate observation and diagnosis.

So I spent the next few days reading through the papers. The headlines mainly dealt with death cases, natural disasters, crimes, political fights, accidents and so on. There was hardly any positive reporting and even if there was, these usually were found in the later pages with lesser paragraphs. I think it's because bad news are more sensational and perhaps humans are not a happy bunch. The world is feeling much pressure from climate change, virus infections and other existential issues. Our mental health is challenged and made acute through bad news. I just wish the journalists can switch the focus around and present more light hearted news. For now, I'll skim more and avoid articles that could make me unhappy.

Tip: Kitagawa Tomio Junmai Ginjo

Sunday 8 August 2021

Faster, Higher, Stronger - Together

When the Olympic committee confirmed the Tokyo 2020 edition would go ahead, my first thought was that the decision would backfire as Covid infection cases were still rising in Japan and the athletes would not be able to perform to their best. Worse, some of the best athletes and even sponsors pulled out before the games started. Most likely it would be dull. But having already delayed for a year, I guess the organizers were pressed to go ahead as an obligation under duress.

No matter, I watched part of the opening ceremony and felt for the performers as an empty stadium stood silent. The Japanese are stoic people and beneath the smiling faces, they must be sad as well but being the ever professionals, the show had to go on. Once the games got underway, I made it a point to watch a competition each day and took in archery, badminton, football, gymnastics etc for an hour each. It must have been my lucky streak after I witnessed several amazing games. One, women's cycling where the Dutch team got bamboozled by an unknown Austrian rider. "Anna Kiesenhofer" will be the spear in their hearts till the next Olympics. Two, Brazil versus Argentina, not football but volleyball. A superb fightback from two sets down to win in thrilling end to end stuff. Three, women's shooting where the score was so close until the last shot and both competitors fluffed their lines to hand gold to the lesser mistake. Four, the first ever mixed swimming medley at the games where tactics played a big part. Five, fine running in the women's athletics sprint events and long jump. In my opinion, the ultimate athlete is Ana Cunha of Brazil. I watched her race for forty minutes and wondered how it was possible to swim 10km in open waters. Even the commentators were running out of words to describe the proceedings as the entire event finished after two hours! We even had a representative, Chantel, who finished a respectable 20 odd minutes behind. Unfortunately, Singapore as a whole didn't perform to expectations but I applaud the mentality and determination.

This may not have been a normal Olympics but kudos to the athletes for giving their best efforts. I have thoroughly enjoyed the proceedings although there will always be that little asterisk in my mind, 'The bravest and healthiest won'.

Tip: Tempus Two Varietal Shiraz 2019, lemon tart acidity with strawberry and blueberry

Monday 2 August 2021

Suggestion to HDB

The HDB flat is the epitome of Singapore's success as a nation. It grew out of necessity after gaining independence and has not looked back with beautiful and functional flats spread across the island, some even winning awards! But within the nuances of policy lie a list of issues facing this generation. Among these, some 99 year leases are due soon, the wealth distribution effect is uneven, long queues are forming at BTO etc.

The mission of HDB is to provide affordable flats for the masses and that's been widely achieved. The crux of the matter here is what's meant by "affordable"? I think if the policymakers can resolve this, then subsequent issues will naturally have their solutions. At the moment, one of the condition for buying a new flat is the income threshold. That itself caps the limit on how much loan a couple can afford which in turn sets the upper ceiling of how much a flat should be priced. I would suggest tweaking the income eligibility by referencing the household median income as well. Lower the income threshold if need be. In that way, new flat prices would not be too expensive and remain accessible to majority of citizens. Regardless of asset value enhancing factors, new flats should use that as the benchmark. Another consideration would be to do away with showcase projects such as Pinnacle at Duxton to ensure no flat would become overly priced.

What about those people who are caught with higher income but yet unable to own a private property? My opinion is to scrap the Executive Condominium scheme and instead allow them to buy a HDB flat as priced above. The catch is, more stringent conditions would have to be imposed such as gains tax, cap on CPF usage and/or longer minimum occupancy period etc. Resale flat buyers should also be subjected to similar requirements.

Therefore, land with higher value should be allocated to the private sector that in turn will cater to the high income earners at prevailing market conditions. This create opportunities for real estate companies to find innovative ways to attract buyers while helping the government to pocket more due to higher land price. HDB can focus to build affordable flats within a certain price range that can address new entrant concerns while ensuring no one makes a profit disproportionately when it's sold. The aim is to allow a HDB flat to be purchased or recycled within a price range while allowing private housings to be based on market forces.

Tip: Balvenie 12 Doublewood, fine and smooth oak

Saturday 31 July 2021

Month of July 2021

Years ago, as I made a right turn at a cross junction on regular speed, I experienced an uncontrolled wheel spun. Luckily traffic was light in the early morning and no cars were beside me as I reacted to steady the car on a three lane road. That was aquaplaning in effect and for a moment, I was shocked. In the aftermath, I examined the Kumho tyres and recalled they were only about a year old and didn't look that worn out. But from that moment on, I resolved not to buy "cheap" tyre brands.

The weather was rather rainy during mid month and it showed up the car's tyres were getting a little squeaky for comfort. These Bridgestone Turanzas had clocked 47000km and worked its dues. The search for replacement began a month ago and I was ready to commit to Michelin Primacy at $135 a piece. On a Saturday morning , perhaps the iphone heard me and showed up a Facebook ad on a grand opening promotion by Stamford Tyre at Serangoon Gardens. They were going at up to 50% discount. Excited, I texted to get a quotation and was given $77 for a Continental Ecocontact. Good deal, I thought and decided to follow with a purchase order. But the reply was slow and it was last day of promotion so I drove to the store instead, hoping for an on the spot fitting. Queues had formed as expected and the staff was swift enough to offer a later installation date provided payment was made. Of course, I went ahead and now enjoy a new set of tyres with a peace of mind.

What's a telltale sign of getting old? When you exert a little strength to lift and feel a muscle pull.
Well, there's always a first time as some would say. When I used to be an active sportsman, the worst that happened previously was muscle strain from kicking a ball after some time out of the game. Although that pain was instant, it quickly subsided after a bit of stretching and I could carry on. This time, I was in a wrong posture and had began to exert a little effort before the muscle pull was felt. Although not immediately painful, I knew something was wrong. So I quickly sat down and observed. For hours, my concern lessened as I was still rather mobile. The next morning, I struggled to get out of bed due to a stiff back. That's when I knew the injury was more serious than I thought and planned for a trip to TCM. After an hour of Tuina and Baguan, the pain was manageable but this condition would take at least two weeks to recover.

Tip: Leoville Poyferre 2014, one of my favourite vineyards

Wednesday 21 July 2021

A Mixed Tuesday

The Covid vaccination drive is achieving the numbers intended and I want to congratulate the government for the rollout efficiency and low mortality rates. Compared with many countries, I think it goes without saying that Singapore is one of the safest place you want to be at now. When taking my second jab, I got to experience the well-oiled administrative execution from queue to crowd control. This was an improved version from a month ago which I thought was already good enough. The expected adverse body reaction luckily didn't happen and I declared myself all clear after two days.

As we continue to watch the infection numbers climb due to another unfortunate outbreak in the community, it was shocking to hear a newscaster announce that there was a death of a 13 year old student caused by a 16 year old. The charge given was for murder. What's happening here? Stress from Covid situation, bullying, mental fits? Whatever the reason, this case has claimed the unwanted number one status for such a school crime in our little red dot. The families of the perpetrator and victim need help to overcome such great anguish. As a parent, there is nothing worse than to mourn the death of your child, even more under accident circumstances. I hope the investigation can be swift and conclude the case so that all may move on. What's done is done. I'm sure the nation grieves with the families as this tragic incident grip our hearts.

Tip: Astrolabe Sauvignon Blanc 2016, good minerality with citrusy fruits

Thursday 15 July 2021

Finance Investment Movement 11

Just a week ago, there appeared to be no end to the crypto wave of downtrend. Much negative news had been delivered by regulators and to add fuel, another hack purportedly by Russian forces. When you have an action, naturally a reaction follows. That's what happened when pro crypto supporters came forth to opine on the resilience and tangible value that cryptos bring. Prices began rebounding and riding on this, I offloaded Aave once it announced news for a KYC enabled institutional lending platform, turning paper loss into actual profit of $100 within a short space of time. If there's a pullback in prices later, I am likely to load up again.

For the past month, I have been testing the Tiger Brokers platform and still getting used to the features. Managed a few small trades on Singapore stocks and gained about $25. Current verdict: the most attractive bit is the low fees which enables me to trade small volume, the stock voucher rebate is much welcomed whereas the statement display can be a little confusing. I'll look at allocating some more funds as I feel ready to make bigger trades and possibly dipping into the US market. Some recommendations I read are for Vanguard suite of ETFs, tech or value stocks.

Tip: Tenuta San Guido Alberto 2017, supple with raspberry and currants

Friday 2 July 2021

Crypto Pause

The crypto world has been rocked by much negative news especially from government regulators such as China PBOC banning transactions involving anything related to crypto. For a month, prices have swung from drop of 50% only to recover by 20%. The technical support levels were obliterated with little resistance and I hope it has at last found a comfort level to settle.

Prior to this hoohah, I had put some money into Matic and Aave after seeing drops of 10%. But it proved to be a wrong move as they have since sunk further. Luckily the amount I put was $650 and something I can afford to lose. Therein lies the age old advice of investing only with money that you won't lose sleep over. My intention was to trade it and not keep as long term so I guess I have to keep them for a while more.

As I continue to read with earnest on where crypto lies in the minds of regulators, there are more users coming out to support this technology, the biggest example being El Salvador who has accepted Bitcoin to be legal tender. In this regard, Singapore is more forward looking and helping to create a more inclusive system that I hope will be rolled out soon.

It's still a tug of war in crypto acceptance (Binance was banned in UK and Japan) and issues of hack or missing coins continue to persist. Therefore, I will take a step back, leave my current portfolio alone and focus on improving stock picks or other investments.

Tip: Sidamo Mountain Coffee, very fragrant, floral and non acidic

Wednesday 30 June 2021

Month of June 2021

Half a year has gone by so it's good to review what has happened.

At the beginning of the year, I was skeptical where this Covid situation and vaccination program were going. It turned out we are no closer to solving this global illness even though many developed countries had gone on to vaccinate large parts of their population. Singapore may be doing better but it remains only useful in the local context and travel will not return by year end, I think. My son asked when would it possible for him to see snow, I just replied hopefully soon with a mental footnote that it meant 2022 or later.

Looking at the impact of lockdown on retail businesses, it was a sobering reminder that older folks likely suffered the most as they were digitally lagging, unable to tap on online marketing, delivery and payment resources. Technology has taken on huge importance in business operations and it cuts across all industries, layered with environmental considerations on top. Like it or not, either you embrace this or risk being left behind. Personally, I had been doing more online shopping this year than all of previous years combined, that included new experience in live auction and sale types of purchases eg buying fresh fish!

As I look at my investment and saving goals, it's a rather disappointing picture. I'm only 20% into savings achievement, have less cash on hand and not being invested as much as I would like. The bright spots are continued CPF increments, tried new trading platform and generally good hold up in asset value. I am still trying to digest so many conflicting views regarding market directions and crypto legitimacy, hence shall not make any definitive adjustment to my portfolio.

Tip: Saint Clair Vicar's Choice Sauvignon Blanc 2019, tasty apple and lemon zest

Wednesday 23 June 2021

Gains From A Loss

The dentist lifted up the scaler and proclaimed, "You're done!", sending relief over me as the annual teeth cleaning ritual came to a conclusion. "Rinse your mouth first." Ok done as I sat up, ready for a few pointers before walking out of the room.

"Do you want to extract the wisdom tooth?"
He probably could see my slight frown and feel the hesitation. I mean, the tooth had been in situ for a number of years though I could feel the gradual deterioration with stuck bits every now and then. Irritable gums were also becoming irritating. The tooth was slowly decaying. Deep down, I knew extraction was inevitable eventually.

The procedure would take less than 10 minutes and cost $180. I accepted the proposal after some dallying. So he began the local anaesthetic process, it was much less painful compared to previous injection experience. After rubbing the injection site for about a minute, the dentist declared he was ready. Using a tool to grip the tooth, he tugged and rotated, exerting much strength till the assisting nurse had to steady my head from shaking. All the while, he commentated on the progress and reassured me to call out if I felt any pain. Just a few minutes later and the offending tooth finally dislodged.

I was mighty impressed with the short time and painless experience. Before I left, the dentist made sure to remind me not to consume hot food or any violent mouth gurgles. So I joked perhaps I could have a beer later to cool down. Indeed, I ended up at Wheelers Estate in the evening and ordered two Asahi whites in my continued support of local food businesses.

At night, throat and gum soreness bothered me enough to give in to one dose of panadol. The next day, I was more than 60% recovered. To anyone having this problem, I think I would make a good ambassador helping to convince. The gains from this loss of a tooth were better than expected. I look forward to better gum health, less tooth sensitivity and banished the thought of a scary wisdom tooth extraction.

Tip: The Owl & The Dust Devil Malbec 2017, good table wine with sausages

Tuesday 22 June 2021

3 Free Benefits In A Day

Given the times we live in, we should be celebrating any little bits of joy as health is most important to be able to enjoy life in the moment.

The school holidays end in a week so I decided to take a day off and bring the kids out. Arriving at 930am, we began the trail walk at Thomson Nature Park. It was our first time and given a distance of 3.8km, it shouldn't take too long to complete. It had rained the night before so I was a little worried. The route was well marked and shaded. Luckily it wasn't as muddy as I expected. Going up and down gentle slopes, this was a relaxing way to start the day. Unfortunately, there was no sight of the Raffles Banded Langur or Black Spotted Squirrel. An hour and 100 calories burnt later, we went off to support the much awaited reopening of The Roti Prata House. How we missed sitting in a coffeeshop partaking simple food pleasures such as Teh Tarik.

After dropping the kids at home, the wife and I went off to Singtel Shop at Comcentre. We were there to return the TV box and cancel its subscription. This came about as we evaluated our TV habits and concluded that Netflix, Amazon video and Youtube had enough content to keep us entertained. This meant a saving of about $65 per month which can be better utilized. Then we went to The Glass House at Chijmes to support another reopened cafe. The coffee was brewed in a precise way for quick sips.

In the evening, met a friend with whom we shared common stock trading experiences. He had signed up for Tiger Brokers upon my referral and both of us just started using the account. I had done a trial trade earlier that day with the stock voucher and received $60 rebate. Nice way to earn some extra cash.

It was a day where I got to enjoy a unique combination of money saving actions through family bonding, change of viewing habit and sharing goodies with friends.

Tip: Cape Dreams Chenin Blanc 2020, good find with medium bodied tartness

Monday 14 June 2021

Finance Investment Movement 10

New month and new promotion came into my view. Previously I had considered but gave it up due to lack of funds. This time, I could come up with $2000 to kickstart my new Tiger Brokers account. The sign up was a little confusing at first as there was registration via mobile followed by account opening. Confirmation of the setup was received within hours and funding took a few minutes to show up in the trading account. I opted for the margin one instead of cash. The sweetener to this promotion was the 5 free Xiaomi shares together with 1 Apple share as shown below. For the other bundled promotion items, it's weird one has to click to collect or risk them expiring in 20 days.

It was rather exciting to take part in the first ever voting campaign for Nexo crypto token. Eventually an overwhelming majority voted in favour of allocating interest accrual for all account holders regardless of tokens on credit or at stake. The result was announced and dividend amounts were promptly disbursed. Great work there! It's got me thinking whether to put more crypto assets into this account.

Then over the weekend, I got a little fed up with Bitcoin that showed signs of further weakening amidst regulators scrutiny. Eventually, I decided to sell all while contemplating a new strategy. Small profit for a peace of mind.

Tip: El Puntido Rioja 2016, chocolate, good balanced berry and fruits.

Monday 31 May 2021

Month of May 2021

The dominant theme of this month was "Be Grateful".

Things that happened:

1) Entered ICT, prepared for impending exercise and government announced heightened measures. Exercise got cancelled and had to stay home for remainder of ICT which is unheard of.

2) Insurance bill arrived for wife's specialist consultation with hospital observation overnight. Claim was approved and had to pay co-deductible portion which I'm fine with. Medical issue was not deemed serious fortunately and hopefully she stays healthy.

3) Increased my stock exposure for dollar cost averaging during a month where some quarters would advise selling and staying away. Experienced see-saw price movements in crypto assets but at peace with what's going on, hence just left things to be.

4) Celebrated my birthday with the last dining out opportunity at Robertson Quay's Shunjuu Izakaya before restaurants closed.

5) Bought some nice wines at a promotion.

6) Finished reading a book and commencing on the next one.

7) Picked up an Edusave award for son's effort in school.

8) Bade farewell to a company intern who's enlisting for NS.

Tip: Tenuta San Guido Le Difese 2018, lovely bouquet of blackcurrant, cherry and oak

Thursday 20 May 2021

To Success

About a month ago, I was at Popular bookstore making a purchase when I came across a book by author Malcolm Gladwell. Somehow, I was rather intrigued by the book's title and gave it a second look. I'm someone who's always up for a good deal and it was newly released so I thought I'll wait a while.

That afternoon, I looked up for more information about the author. Turns out he's quite accomplished as a news reporter covering a range of topics. Now, he's also an author of six books while writing for the New Yorker for last few decades. His books can't be that bad, I thought. So, I decided to borrow one of the books, Outliers.

The setup was simple. Several chapters of factual examples of people's lives who were successful. They were singled out for being super smart in the eyes of many which led to their envied outcome. But the author countered that a person's success was not down to having high IQ but a confluence of many incremental factors that contributed immensely. That is similar to a Chinese saying 天时地利人和. The underlying message for anyone seeking to be successful was simply work hard, grab the opportunity when it comes and good luck in the circumstance you live or born into.

This book was engaging and made me curious to look inwards on how to make my life a success. Things within my control are effort and focus. I hope this spurs me on.

Tip: Ornellaia 2002, somehow I got cheese on the nose then smooth berried fruits on taste. Great drink.

Sunday 16 May 2021

Finance Investment Movement 9

I think the market is starting to retreat into cautious territory with seemingly unabated Covid cases. This is in spite of an explosive earnings reporting season although to be rational, this is the result of a low base to begin with. I was tempted to start a new trading account specifically for US market but decided to hold back due to insufficient cash for any meaningful trade.

Instead, my focus was on STI and managed to pick up ST Engg shares at $3.81 for averaging and long term holding purpose. The day after, the price dropped to $3.73 and while no regrets, it served a good reminder of not rushing to buy in when market is trending downwards.

As for crypto assets, I will hold put on current portfolio and continue earning staked interest in the meantime.

Tip: Domaine De Chevalier 2009, nice perfumed aroma followed by a berried medium body experience

Friday 30 April 2021

Month of April 2021

Another 30 days just gone by, punctuated with hot mornings and heavy afternoon thunderstorms. This must be climate change in action. April wasn't a month supposedly like that but the weather patterns have certainly changed. I do get rather annoyed with people who proclaim global warming is a hoax.

Anyway, the Nexo account that I used to stake Eth had shown some nice returns of about 4% p.a credited on a daily basis but strangely, my advanced verification was still not completed hence unable to activate a higher level of staking. A week later, help request was sent and action taken within a day. Pretty impressed with the quick handling. So as I slowly navigate this space, I await to see what kind of risks and returns lie ahead

Just the other day, I added a new recipe to my repertoire of modest cooking for family dinner. This was a traditional Japanese household must-have that's passed down over the generations and it's Nikujaga! Simple ingredients to prepare, short stir fry and then let the cooking sauce complete the job. It warms the heart and the stomach especially for picky eaters. I'm going to try variations next time and hopefully discover something good.

Tip: Bodega Cerron Rabia 2018, good with lightly seasoned meats

Thursday 22 April 2021

Sport On A Rainy Day

The skies started pouring from 11am and I was stuck at home, thinking whether it would clear by 3pm. A little nervous and a little excitement as I planned to play golf after not touching the clubs for almost 1.5 years. For warm up, I went to meet a friend for range practice at 12pm, hoping not to "malu" myself later with a group of new friends. It was very rushed though as I went through 60 balls in half an hour and had to prepare myself for a last minute online meeting. The ball stroking felt familiar even though I had only been playing golf just three years ago. Meeting was over in an hour and we went to have a quick lunch, occasionally looking up to see the drizzly sky. Looks like the game may have to be postponed. But this thought was extinguished by a phone call from a friend who had already reached Mandai Executive Golf Course. There would be no refund for cancellation and no rebooking.

For those in the know, this course is notorious for its sub standard condition. Cow grass surrounds the fairways and the putting green can be uneven. For a rainy day, the condition is worsened by muddy patches and water pools. Worst of all, it is an all walking course only. So the game started on time. In front of a crowd waiting behind, my tee off was decent, a shot to the right of the hole that landed 40 meters away. Today's result should be quite ok. Second hole, I lost the ball after tee off even though I was sure it landed nicely among some trees. Never mind, I wasn't affected as throughout the game, I didn't lose another ball nor went out of bounds while mishitting some shots. Overall score was my usual standard. Even though the weather didn't play ball, I enjoyed a bit of exercise, regained game finesse and had good fun with friends. Best part is, the phone was kept in silo. Now my shoulders are aching and have a blistered thumb.

Tip: La Chapelle La Mission Haut Brion 2014, very approachable with no decanting

Wednesday 14 April 2021

Finance Investment Movement 8

After spending much time researching and trying to find a good deal, I finally got into the space of crypto staking. For years, I had held onto minute amounts of Eth via Coinbase and Coinhako. Then slowly converted some to Btc so they were almost equal in value. It was meant as product risk diversification since both were crypto leaders by a mile and I didn't know which to put my faith in. As some profits were made, some Eth were swapped into Xrp and Polkadot. Pleasantly, Coinhako had a special event where they gave free Doge for trades done so I managed to get some. Also, I made use of reward points to redeem for some Bat. Now, I hold these 5 coins and watch intently each morning I wake up to find out the latest valuation. It's just been too crazy as prices climbed relentlessly. I'm simply shocked that the crypto asset seemed to have a life of its own. Though I hope this doesn't stop, the reality is a drop is inevitable.

The next step was to open a Nexo account and place some Eth to gain interest and stake where possible. It's another area that's newly opened to me and I'm excited to see how this fares.

Other things I have done this month was to renew the fixed deposit with DBS at 1.15% pa, observe Syfe portfolio inching up a little and stalking certain local stocks for potential trade.

Tip: Attems Pinot Grigio 2019, slightly nutty and showing signs of going downhill

Wednesday 31 March 2021

Month of March 2021

Quite a number of events happened this month although mostly in a personal capacity.

One morning, my wife woke up and told me she couldn't sleep well. There was persistent numbness in her right hand and neckache. For quite some time, she had been having shoulder and neck aches. These were attributed to the aging body of a mother with children and housework. But this time, things didn't seem right. We quickly arranged for a specialist consultation and upon recommendation, were told to stay in a hospital overnight for a MRI and observation. The suspicion was nerve compression coupled with carpel tunnel syndrome. The stay was uneventful and result came back on a slightly positive diagnosis that she had slight lumbar compression on C5-6 area (probably age related) and mild carpel tunnel on a borderline sensitivity analysis. Surgery was avoided and hopefully, by dosing vitamin B12, the condition may be improved. I haven't got the full bill yet since it was supposedly insurance claimable but should be manageable.

I finally got to clear my IPPT window as the clock was ticking down. It was my first experience at Khatib camp with the automated systems. The test was conducted at 5pm and had rained earlier. I was a little nervous after hearing feedback that the static stations' counter was strict in that non-standard reps would be disregarded. The demonstration by the fitness instructor did indicate the system was rather sensitive. So, I stood behind the line and observed others. Quite a number of youngsters (about 10 years gap from me) struggled and later, I realized they were there to clock an attendance and left without attempting the dreaded 2.4km run. I managed to achieve the required static station points to give myself a comfortable target time to achieve, 14m45s. I dislike running on a wet track, much less one with some uneven surfaces. So we were flagged off and in my mind, I just wanted to do my own pace without relying on any marker. By the end of round 1, it was too quick! After round 2, still too quick! I must have sub-consciously followed the person in front of me who's obviously much younger and fitter. By end of the third round, I could feel the heavy legs and had to slow down. The final 3 rounds were quite a challenge as I pushed myself through the breathlessness. The end result showed 12m37s. Unbelievable! Way better than I wanted and even in my practice runs, I didn't even come close to 13min flat. No wonder I felt my spirit float away at the finish line. So I went home happy with money incentive (credited on my drive home, that's really efficient) while thinking this probably will not happen again.

The month ended on a very sad note. On 27 Mar, my wife and I were preparing to head out for a dinner gathering with friends not seen since Covid. This was planned 2 weeks in advance. As usual, I was getting a snack ready for our pet rabbit to head back to cage and saw him lying flat with hind leg twitching a little. He must be sound asleep like he usually does but when I got closer and called out his name softly to wake him, I saw a last heave and his tail contracted behind. He just passed away like that, softly without a struggle. Thinking back, we should have brought him to see the vet that morning as his appetite was non-existent. That was the warning sign. We couldn't contain the tears as we held his limp body. Dinner was skipped and a cremation ceremony soon followed 2 days later.

Dear Kimi, I hope you are in pet heaven with your favorite food and hiding spots to play with. I remember the times when you snuggle behind my back against the wall no matter if I am sweaty after an exercise. I love that you love the apples and went all out to pinch it from us by climbing all over. You were just a foodie like us. Your sleeping pose was the most carefree expression. I knew you felt safe in the house and only recently began exploring the rooms which were out of bounds. But you were too young to go and for that, it will always remain an eternal regret. Now, go roam free and be that happy boy who will always be in our hearts. Papa and Mummy miss you very much.

Tip: Peter Louis Guntrum Riesling Spatlese 2018

Wednesday 17 March 2021

Finance Investment Movement 7

In the second month of the Syfe Cash+ portfolio, the returns were less than expected, clocking a very poor 0.03%. Taken into consideration that the first month was spectacular, I guess it's a process of normalization since global bond markets had gone into a frenzy over increasing yields and inflation. Hence, instead of redirecting, I shall keep the fixed deposit money where it is upon renewal to earn a fixed 1.15% pa.

The topsy turvy cryptocurrency market continued to cause much anxiety to many potential/current investors. What's another 10% movement, an experienced one might conclude. My approach was to trade Bitcoin and sell Ether, resulting in a realized gain of $800. The mini war chest accumulated remains ready to be deployed as required.

At the moment, I am undecided whether the stock market euphoria is a false dawn or the real deal. Therefore, shall stay sidelined for a while more.

Tip: 100 plus

Monday 15 March 2021

Life Enrichment

Completed my first book of the year. It's "Has China Won?" by Kishore Mahbubani.

He's one of only two living Singaporeans who can entice me to stop all work and tune in to their speeches, articles or books. What fascinates me most are their intimate knowledge in many subject matters especially those related to China and India and their histories. Also, their candid ways of expressing an opinion without being too overbearing. Those are traits of a very skilled diplomat.

This book made several obvious observations about the state of affairs between US and China. It boils down to the age old question of whether two distinctly different civilizations can co-exist together. Even though they differ culturally and fortunately geographically far from each other, there are many areas of collaborations eg doing good for their citizens, climate change, combating terrorism. Hence there is much optimism to be had provided senior figures on both sides come to terms with each other's unique perspectives. Granted that there had been mis-steps made over the years, it's never too late to reconcile with the mistakes for the sake of the global citizenry.

The next twenty years will define how the world functions and impacts not much of me but my children. Singapore could be comfortably seated within the Asian prosperity sphere or peter out into oblivion. Being a long term planner, I do feel slightly nervous. This reminds me to continue the investment journey to be self reliant.

Tip: Isojiman Junmai Daigingo, melon and palette heavy

Monday 1 March 2021

Month of February 2021

Overheard on the radio, we are 10 months away from Christmas! Err... that's too early to think. Let's assess the global situation. The Covid pandemic is still much alive, vaccinations have not begun for many developing countries, airplanes are slowly taken out from mothball and worse, economies are stagnant with inflation on the horizon. So it doesn't look like we can see light out of the woods. Even in Singapore, the government's guess is to complete vaccinations by 3Q 21. That signals the end of travel dreams this year as I think other countries will lag further behind. But it's also possible for a bilateral agreement on a special permitted passport entry with vaccination stamp. In the blink of an eye, Christmas might be around the corner and hopefully, I will be planning an itinerary.

On the investment, I'm looking to trade more actively now that the festive season is over and full earnings reports are due. There's a new trading platform that I am keen to explore and potentially use it for US market.

2021 has already seen much negative news especially tragic ones like the Myanmar coup turning deadly, industrial explosion at Tuas, murders for love and some others. One particular tribute I would like to give is to a guy who was prominent in my childhood. In my generation, he's probably the favorite 3rd uncle (三叔)who kept us entertained during Chinese New Year period when his movies were released. He might not have been the lead actor but his contribution to the plot was immense. I certainly appreciate his comic talent and it's not something that can easily be learnt or copied. Therefore, I rank him higher than more established celebrities and feel the loss of someone so special. Thank you 达叔, you are a legend now in heaven.

Tip: Lepanto Brandy De Jerez, light and smooth, sherried

Saturday 27 February 2021

Recounting My Investment Journey Part 4/4

This is the final post for the recap series of my investment life so far.

New Technology - I follow
Nowadays, with the advent of technology, things have accelerated so quickly that it's becoming tougher to keep up with new inventions. Instead of rigid investment into one particular stock or product, there are many options available. As mentioned before, I have not touched unit trust since the first try. When robo-advisors came about, I had some hesitation since the concept sounded similar to unit trust. Yet I was convinced to give this at shot through Syfe. Two reasons are the much lesser management fee and execution via an algorithm instead of human intervention.

Finally, I would like to offer some dessert in addition to the stories shared. In the years before any investment took place, I wanted to earn some extra cash and so applied for a part time job as an account admin. I vaguely remembered the job interview took place in an office at Beach Road. It was quite dim and packed with people. Busy voices and many strips of papers were being passed around. I was ushered into a room table filled with other job applicants. The interviewer then told us to take a piece of paper and do some calculations. This was an aptitude test. The mathematical questions were related to the trades that the people outside wrote on the paper strips. The company was in commodities trading and I remembered my question involved pork loins. After getting the correct answer to the profit made for my question, the interviewer began sharing we can achieve this together if we put in our money. So if we want a job, that would be the first criteria. I walked out of the office after the sales pitch ended, pausing to look at the people at the desk talking animatedly over the phone and scribbling away quickly. Poor things, this is such a sham. What a waste of my time. Years later, I learnt that such trading actually happens for real, under the OTC exchange. Still, I think that company is a con job.

Another memorable incident happened when an ex colleague excitedly wanted to showcase his products that he sold part time. Again, I went to a shady looking office, this time with some friends. The moment we entered, one can hear the ambience noise level went up by many notches. There were salespeople bringing clients around the place, some were seated like in a seminar and some were chanting slogans. They were clapping enthusiastically and saying "NOP, NOP, NOP". This company's name was Number One Product. It sold vitamins, car related equipment, bracelets and to me, the most interesting was magnetic beds. Simply a ridiculous experience. It was amazing how the staff were all brainwashed, engaged in pressure sale tactics and spoke such glowing product reviews. While I did not scold this colleague for bringing me, I ought to thank him for exposing me to such an environment. It made me even more cautious of the odd investments that came later in life. Oil pods and land banking come to mind. I am glad to write that he did quit this job but not before struggling for years and ended up as a pilot!

Tip: Coke with salt

Friday 26 February 2021

Recounting My Investment Journey Part 3/4

To continue from my previous post...

Growing Up - I had responsibilities
Back to the person who told me to buy a property, that timing arrived when I got married and as with most Singaporeans, it was natural to have intentions to move out. While looking, my wife got pregnant. We were barely done with the wedding and honeymoon. As we needed help after the baby's birth, it was decided to stay with my parents since more hands would be available. Fast forward a little, we relocated overseas for the sake of my further studies. Later, we returned and the HDB idea reappeared. We applied for BTO at Ang Mo Kio and Yishun. Both times, the queue number was kind enough to buy that week's 4D but didn't strike any. Fortunately, by now, we were already staying in my parents' investment condominium and not in a hurry to move. Finally, after a few more years, we bought the current residence (not a HDB since salary cap exceeded). Looking back at this part of my lifeline, there is a sense of what-if and slight regret but also happiness. The short time spent overseas were the best time of our lives yet I could have applied for the Duxton flats or any other ones to have enjoyed the lottery effect that older Singaporeans would understand. Of course, I'm aware of my lucky situation but who doesn't want to have more money right? A few close friends did manage to buy their 4 room HDB flats (good location) for less than $250,000 which in today's context is impossible.

Playing With Money - I tried
Another investment I got involved was the world of foreign exchange or forex. It's more like trading since the time frame I played with was usually less than a few days. In that time, price movements can swing wildly. Forex introduced the concept of leverage and worked both ways. Generally, I could predict the overall trend but what I couldn't was the entry and stop loss price. Before a trade goes in my favor, I would already be stopped out. It was too exciting for my weak heart. I endured losses in the low hundreds and decided not to carry on. Ironically, it was around this period of time that I worked in a forex firm, not as a trader of course!

Tip: Royal Brackla 16 years, well balanced between sherry and slight oak

Recounting My Investment Journey Part 2/4

To continue from my previous post...

On My Own - I did DIY
As I needed a better direction to do stock picking, I turned to analyst reports and the newspaper for more detailed information. This was where I learnt PE ratios, PB, fundamentals, sectoral risks, EBITA etc. These were mainly numbers and it doesn't advocate any strategy. So I adopted the growth method of holding on to stocks which had good business futures. As my war chest was small, I targeted stocks around or under $1 so as to spread my risks. For about five years, my end report card was nothing special. Most were spectacularly good or bad. Call it a coincidence or not, majority of the chosen stocks either failed (eg ACCS, Biotreat, China Flexible, United Food) or outperformed (eg Ascot Residences, First Engineering, Labroy Marine, CWT). I held all of them till they died a natural death or got bought out for a handsome fee. There were painful lessons where I got zero cent back but also feel good experiences where I was proud to have picked the right stock. In the end, I understood better the workings of the stock market and that analysts are just paid fact writers.

Venture Out - Still more to learn
When I was older and had more cash, someone told me that I was at the investment peak. Puzzled, I sought further advice. His idea was I had a stable salary, this amount can only go up and any loan repayment period is the longest there would ever be. So, he told me to buy a property, specifically a HDB flat. But I wasn't about to get married for another two years at least. Instead, I continued to look at stocks since it was more familiar. Then one day, I saw a colleague working at the computer. He was a junior and when I asked what he was doing, he candidly showed me a deal that was just made. He had just closed a trade for OCBC for $300 profit. This happened over 2 days during the contra period and his stake was about $20000! Wow, I had never come close to putting so much money into one trade. Further, he told me he had been doing this for a while and earned quite a fair bit, sometimes doubling his monthly income. I was tempted to try short term trading. However, I knew I was not that kind of trader and stuck to stock purchase for longer period holding. By now, I could afford higher priced stocks eg Ho Bee, SC Global, Starhub. Another difference was instead of stubbornly holding on, if the price of a stock ran up and hit my target price, I would do one of two things. First, I could sell all and hope for a pullback to repurchase. Second, I could sell partially and held the balance for dividends. From then to now, fortunately I have not experienced another spectacular blowout.

Tip: Tudernum Le Lucrezie Umbria Bianco 2018, medium bodied with soft honeyed texture

Thursday 25 February 2021

Recounting My Investment Journey Part 1/4

It's been almost 20 years since I started my first investment. Along the way, I have experienced highs and lows arising from various interactions and thoughts at that time. Hence, I would like to recall some of these for memory sake.

To begin, one need to have money before seriously thinking about investing to make more money. I got that by combining Ang Pow money and NS pay. Took me about eight years to accumulate. Fortunately, my personal expenses were very low since home provided my basic needs. The below were what I invested in and the lessons learnt.

Safety First - I began exploring
The most boring investment made was in fixed deposit. Those days, the banks offered 2-3% interest and I even went walking around (internet was dialup) for best deals/promotions. One of those was by Keppel Tat Lee Bank near Upper Serangoon Road. Nothing fancy since watching money grow was wasting time. This was a staple until fixed deposit rates kept going down. I still use this, more for hedging purpose.

Getting Adventurous - I was recommended
I have been using POSB bank accounts since birth and remains a loyal client. One day, over the bank counter, a teller asked to introduce some investment ideas. So I listened, went home thought about it and decided to place some money into a hot recommendation i.e unit trusts with technology focus. I went to the branch at Thomson Plaza, met a lady advisor and bought 2 funds (Asia Knowledge and Something IT ). She presented some wonderful information that convinced me to part $2000 to each fund. I will never forget this investment, not because it was my first try with unit trusts but more so because after seven years, both funds were redeemed with a profit of $100+. AK returned 70% while IT tanked 60%. This taught me never to listen to bank advisor's recommendation (no CKA at that time) and I have not touched unit trusts since then.

Stepping Onboard - I wanted more
My grandfather was a keen stock market watcher. His TV was always switched on and tuned to Teletext. Press a page number and it scrolled to display a SGX price list. He must have made quite a number of investments since he spent much time screening page after page. That's my impression of the stock market and my father followed on by introducing his hot tips from friends and showing me how to calculate the profits and brokerage fees. He showed me the money! So I opened a brokerage account and tried to emulate him. But I failed. Later, I realized investing based on his "insider" news doesn't guarantee anything and all he ever invested were penny stocks, typically $0.50 or less per share. The gains were good but the losses were easily magnified as well. Investing requires better understanding of a company and its prospects. I was told to enter a trade and the rest was up to me. There was no proper strategy. Till now, I still receive his tips but always with a pinch of salt.

Tip: Chateau Gaudin 2011, drinkable for a daily dose if the price is right

Monday 15 February 2021

A Different Chinese New Year

Happy Lunar New Year!

It's always a date I look forward to since young. The excitement begins during reunion dinner when my grandfather used to start the ball rolling by getting all the grandchildren to line up and wish him in return for an Ang Pow. Over the festive period, the exchange of greetings, oranges and Ang Pows continue nosily amid tables of poker cards and mahjong. I really missed those times. Sadly, once grandfather passed away, things had never been the same at the house where my grandmother still lives.

This Covid disrupted year just served up another new experience. No effervescent Loheis, visitations limited to 8 people and general restrictions meant that the mood was mostly subdued. Although one can hear enthusiastic chatters in certain houses, it was typically done behind closed curtains and probably hoping there would be no strange knocks on the door.

The first day seemed to pass slowly. Then news report emerged that a group of 5 guys had sped down a road in the wee hours, crashed into a shophouse and were burnt to a crisp. The drama level increased when one lady tried to extricate the body of her loved one from the wreckage and got herself thoroughly burnt. What a way to start day 2. As information drips came through, a video clip incriminating the silly act of extreme over speeding began circulating. Speculations were rife that the car was modified, the driver was intoxicated, there was a dare to perform etc. Whatever the outcome, I feel pity for the 5 families who will alter their view of Chinese New Year from now on. Hopefully, it's a lesson learnt for many.

This year will be remembered and my biggest wish is peace and stability for all.

Tip: Chateau Giscours 2014, fine minerality with earthy undertones

Tuesday 2 February 2021

Month of January 2021

The year just started and already, I feel a little left behind in terms of my financial goals. That's probably because I have set rather challenging targets and instead of adding to my portfolio, I sold some assets, thinking it's time to cash in. Unlike previous years where I had vague ideas of what to invest, I hope by setting clear targets, I can enforce some discipline over the rest of the year.

Last week, I attended the Changi experience tour where one signs up under a group to shop inside the airport. The ambience was understandably quiet and it's quite sad to see retailers bravely opening their shopfronts to serve whatever little footfall they may receive. Roving ambassadors were out providing escort and direction services. They had continued full time work due to the airport's principle of keeping itself open for business. There were not many good promotions despite some products having the GST and import tax absorbed (comes with terms and conditions). When I saw the departure/arrival screens, it brought a little hope as there were quite a number of scheduled flights. I was fortunate to enjoy the Hennessy pairing event and discovered a pretty good cognac while learning some history of the world's oldest cognac distiller.

Tip: Hennessy XXO, elegantly smooth with candied overtone

Monday 1 February 2021

Something's Wrong With Society

In this increasingly borderless world that's so well connected through technology, it is nearly impossible to stay still, not expect change and hope things remain in good shape. That's why people and companies feel the pressure of sustaining business and life becoming high pressured, sometimes even suffocating. The irony is this happens regardless of a good or bad economic environment. In this Covid period of persistent general weakness, one often hears the situation of health decline, job losses and bankruptcies. Imagine there is no Covid and countries are booming, the narrative changes to improvements all over. The downside? Increasingly, many would feel out of reach that they can't keep up with the rat race. That also leads to angst and threatens the well being of a person. Humans are ultimately inter-dependent and this Covid virus broke that connectivity people need by creating an invisible distance barrier. 

With less interaction, social and business activities become curtailed. That goes against the human psyche. It's so tough to remain sane when we are constantly bombarded by information and get stuck in a limited physical space. Covid has taught us to be wary and also caused us to be weary. Look at the amount of disinformation, riots and lawsuits in the media nowadays. With lesser corporate news to write, the focus turn to people, their beliefs and disagreements. They relate mostly on a personal basis. The most important hit that Covid has inflicted is the level of trust among people is diminishing. Country leaders argue over vaccine allocations and ordinary folks squabble for attention to their plight. The news diet we have now is unhealthy and negative. The world has become a very disunited one.

The only way out is to repair the trust deficit. We need visionary leaders who can persuade the masses to do what's correct and therefore unite societies. Individually, each person can be an ambassador of goodwill and help spread a little cheer all around.

Tip: Bird Pinot Gris 2019, well rounded fruits with a medium body