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