Sunday 30 April 2023

Month of April 2023

There's an unpleasant theme being carried over from last month. My dad called me while I was in office. His eldest brother had just passed away in the hospital. Aged 74, leaving behind his wife, two married children and two grandchildren. Uncle H was a small built man with a healthy tan who worked the tough jobs in construction. As far as I could tell, he and my auntie went through a challenging life in raising their children. They could be considered below average income earners and Uncle H did odd jobs from his fifties after physical exertions took its toil on his weary body. Their livelihood was very uncertain and difficult. Yet, every CNY, they gladly welcomed us with a sumptuous seafood hotpot, until one year, we stopped visiting and I never saw them thereafter. That was about ten years ago. So I finally got to reunite with my cousins and auntie at the funeral. From them, it was established that Uncle H suffered from lung cancer that spread to the brain. One chemotherapy session later, he waived off further treatments and his condition rapidly deteriorated. From diagnosis to death was a mere six months. He was what a doctor call a classic case; heavy smoker and drinker since young who met his fate. Rest well, Uncle H, what's past is now over.

Then, I got to experience a surreal moment in a conversation with my wife. We were on the way to dinner and I was driving. She put down her phone after a series of texting and gave a little sigh. Our friend and ex neighbour just informed that she has stage 2 breast cancer that spread to the lymph nodes. Seriously, what is happening! She's in her late forties with two school going children. Fortunately, a treatment plan is in place and she's determined to follow through, even if it includes removing her mammary glands. There's a saying that bad news come in threes and I'm witnessing that within a month, all related to people whom I have known for a significant part of my life.

During lunch with a banker friend, he disclosed his recent medical check up results. It was part of his annual health screening that he passed without fuss for the last 20 years. This year, red flags were raised. He was borderline high on cholesterol and blood pressure but felt fair enough due to his nature of work and perhaps stress induced. What concerned him more was a similar pattern observed in blood sugar and that completed the trinity of the three highs! I could see his eyes getting a little misty, unbelieving of what was presented. He exercised twice a week, looked fit and was within acceptable weight. Absent of any signs, this was like suddenly falling into a deep hole without realization. Refusing medication, he's going to try to modify his lifestyle and watch the diet. I wished him the best.

Maybe it was coincidence that an insurance friend called me. We met up for coffee and she began by warning me that a newly revised policy on Medishield for cancer claims had been implemented. In short, coverage was restricted to MOH's cancer drug list and within individual claim limits. So a consumer has to decide whether to buy additional cover. My thoughts are the claimable amounts were too little and cancer seemed to be prevalent, even if medical advances meant bigger recovery possibility when detected early. Without hesitation, I purchased the Singlife Cancer Cover Plus (for my wife and I) which has an annual claim limit of $1.5m and allowed any medication. The official business was done and we enjoyed a great meal of rosti with ice lemon tea. I was impressed by the skillful cooking for a small cafe that focused on waffle and ice cream. My kids would love the many other delightful items and I hope to bring them soon. By the way, the name of the place is Carrara. A slight tongue twister and one that I almost mistook for the Porsche icon.

Tip: Kamimaru Junmai Daiginjo 40, good acidity, mellow scent and heavy body

Saturday 15 April 2023

Finance Investment Movement 32

A Japanese friend suggested to buy property in Japan for investment. His rationale is as follows. Interest rate is ultra low (0.5%), decent rental yields (5%), freehold and demand came from urban migration and young people cannot afford down payment. In the conversation, what struck me was the optimism regarding a foreseeable long period of low interest rates. It had always puzzled me how does the Bank of Japan manage to suppress rates when everywhere else are raising theirs. The revelation was a simple answer. More than half of Japan's debt is to its own people in the form of pension system, much like our CPF. Keeping interest rates low is key and by extension, inflation is also controlled. With its huge foreign reserves, it has bargaining chips when external debtors come knocking. Therefore, another important matter for Japan is to ensure competitive goods export while continuing to invest abroad with cash generated. No wonder the Yen is considered a safe haven and devaluation does not adversely affect its status. While I think a property investment is possible, it's not likely to happen soon since other instruments can achieve close to 4% returns at the moment.

Besides being allocated $5000 worth of April's SSB, there wasn't much financial activity as I continue to observe market movements.

Tip: Lawry’s Private Label Napa NV, blackberries to the fore, short and smooth finish