Friday 30 September 2022

Month of September 2022

It took a while and I finally broke the duck by embarking on a first business trip since Covid. Travelling to Jakarta with a colleague, we squeezed in an exhibition visit and eight meetings over three days. We adopted a new meeting concept where all were held in the hotel lounge so as to minimize road journey time and avoid the notorious jams. The only downside was there were not much meal options in the vicinity but we were fortunate to meet local friends who drove us out to malls and other eateries. The food experience was memorable. I tried Sup Buntut, various Nasi combinations, seafood and the all important Avocado juice. Spicy as they were, I enjoyed every bit until the payback came with a fiery toilet trip at the end of each day. Only managed to clock one gym session which meant the pants endured some buckle pressure. The airport and flight experience were smooth and felt the same as before. 

The SMEICC conference was held from 13 - 14 Sep at Suntec Convention Centre. I had the privilege to attend and hear sharings by various industry professionals on their respective views on exploring new trends and innovate towards a challenging future. The best takeaway was in regard to artificial intelligence (AI). To most people, the first impression is a complex, scary and yet exciting field of discovery. The key to manage this is to understand that AI needs good data to operate and can only manipulate what's given. The speaker offered his view on two areas which I found interesting. One, the humanoid AI robot depicted in movies is not coming any time soon because we must first crack the brain function code and that's not even close. Two, the jobs of the future cannot be scoped on manual or plain processing role such as warehouse packer or accounts management. An AI machine can compute faster and at a precision level that no humans can compete against. So we must make effort to understand machine learning, operate it and offer a creative and human touch. The biggest worry of a rogue robot comes not from its self learning but the bad actor behind the controls.

This month also saw a few meetups with old friends from secondary school, junior college and ex colleagues. People whom I have not met for six months to 4 years. Some spoke on their dealings with toddlers while some mentioned their intentions to get married. Such a spectrum of life hustles and we are mostly around the same age. One guy commented on the need to create new memories instead of reliving old ones which I totally agree. Now, there are two different groups of friends proposing an overseas trip next year. It's been such a long time since I travelled with either of them. Looks like something potentially exciting could happen!

I was about to regret my procrastination but fortunately the LKY musical dates were extended. My wife and I found a compromised schedule to spend a weekday night giving support to a local production. It was played to a packed theatre and for over 2.5 hours, we were touched by the stellar performance although we agreed the role of Mrs Lee could have been explored deeper. To end the night, we bought supper from a porridge shop in Chinatown that we had not visited for many years. The warm and velvety taste was reminiscent of our dating times while the kids were young and asleep.

Tip: Silverado Cabernet Sauvignon 2018, fresh, fruity and medium bodied. Ready to drink

Thursday 15 September 2022

Finance Investment Movement 25

SSB for September is underwhelming at average of 2.75% pa. After getting allocation for the previous two offers, it looks like my plan of six consecutive applications will be derailed. I had wanted to create a continuous stream of monthly income but with such yield rate, I rather put the cash into better use elsewhere. Or perhaps I could replace this with the newly launched Frasers Property Green Bond offering 4.49% pa for 5 years. The issuer risk is of course the biggest differentiator to warrant higher premium.  

So I have begun saving up towards the 2022 goal of the kids' education fund. However, the tricky part is to decide how best to use these idle funds since they are not required till the eldest son turns 21 (assuming he finishes national service at 20). A financial advisor friend suggested a moderately high risk fund that focuses on global premium brands. Browsing through various fund's factsheets, I am rather tempted not least because the returns record had been fantastic but also I do not have such a product in my investment portfolio. Still sitting on the fence as I study the offer in greater detail.

I finally completed payment for an upcoming family cruise trip in November. Total amount came up to about $5200, including some perk add-ons. Standard Chartered happened to be running a cashback promotion for travel expenses and lucky draw for every $200 or above transaction, subject to terms and conditions. So after several installment payments, I enjoyed additional draw prizes and await the final tally at year end when it's disbursed.

Now that all banks are racing to increase savings interest rate to capture deposits, my DBS Multiplier account received extra $40 compared to previous months. My belief is that interest rates will continue on the rise until year end, led by the Fed's determined move to tame inflation. So it's better to have spare cash on the side to capture the peak rate. The first T-bill subscribed will start to mature in Jan 2023 and progressively over consecutive months, hopefully the timing proves to be accurate.

Tip: Uggiano Chianti Riserva 2017, slight acidity, fresh fruits locked in a medium body

Monday 5 September 2022

My View On Lentor Modern

A week prior, I managed to secure a preview on the opening day at 4pm. When I arrived near the showflat, the surrounding roads were fully lined up with cars. By luck, an empty spot was available and I quickly slotted in. My wife, her friend and I met up with the agent near the entrance and the atmosphere was ringing with excited chatter.

Inside the hall, we were introduced to the concept which the developer termed as modern classic. I can see why. The building facade is dark colored, balcony and rails are beautifully aligned across all units. Three blocks of 25 storey each stand out against the surrounding private estate and empty land, depending on which direction you are looking from.

This project has huge plus points for being integrated with a retail mall spanning 96000sqft and the only one with MRT right below. It is designed to keep out noise by having a 200m long pool laid out above the highest retail level and car park entrance is deliberately kept to the side. The best units are the ones facing the private estate as they would be unblocked even for the lowest level unit starting at the fourth floor. However, those units on the other side are likely to be obstructed once the opposite land plot is sold. In total, we were informed there would be eleven plots of land in the Lentor estate for private apartments.

Given three minutes each, we viewed the two, three and four bedroom units and they had common features of a high 2.95m ceiling, a flex space (which I think could have been part of a bigger bedroom) and good sized bathrooms. Kitchen and living areas were rather standard compared to other projects. Maintenance fees were averaged around $400 plus.

The project is likely to be priced close to Amo Residence, I expect a hot take up rate. For someone who values privacy and wants the convenience of amenities by the doorstep, it's a best fit so long the price is right. Personally, while I liked the overall presentation, I rather wait for the adjacent launch by the same developer who bought for a lower per sqft land and therefore, the price should be more palatable. It's right across a road and I wish they would consider to link to the MRT via an underground walkway, creating a truly integrated project and adding more retail space. No harm dreaming, I guess. The Lentor Modern sales launch date is near, I'm getting ready to be stunned again.

Tip: Azumarikishi JD Namagen, medium bodied, dry and easy with most food