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