Thursday 30 November 2023

Month of November 2023

A Dutch friend dropped by in town and we met for a quick catch up over lunch. He's much more travelled and experienced than me, when allied with his effusive nature, shared interesting perspectives of what's been going on in his life. One of our topics referred to the conflicts in Ukraine and Israel. He was quick to rebut what his government had done. As we know, much of Europe relied on Russian gas for their energy needs. Add that to the intention of being a climate friendly nation and thus the Dutch government decided to reject natural gas for cooking. By next year, most homes must stop using gas stoves. Petrol vehicles are also being phased out. The Dutch are big proponents on human rights as well. So obviously, they are sympathetic to refugees and protesters alike. But according to my friend, there's been much abuse of the system. In his city, once a week, a group of people hold sit down protests. Their choice of location is usually at a busy or major road, blocking entire traffic for hours. That's because the police can't disperse them easily. No water guns, no tear gas and not even pushing people off the streets. In the end, someone came up with the idea to create human trolleys and cart them off. A laughable solution. Worse, such people are usually unemployed and yet they continue to receive benefits to the tune of around S$2200 per month. Compare that to a service staff who earns S$2500. Our conversation sometimes drifted into his business. He's as passionate as ever, with plans to explore opportunities in Asia. If things go well, I'll probably see him again next year.

There's been a rather alarming rate of announcements with regard to people getting scammed. Singapore is among the top nations in terms of amount lost. I have received a fair share of phone calls, emails and social media invitations and been fortunately safe thus far. What I have done is especially to keep a close eye on credit card transactions, checking them monthly and looking for odd vendors in the list. However, something else happened. Recently, I was walking along Marina Square and just window shopping while waiting for my wife. A voice called out in Chinese, "Hey brother, hey.." I looked back, saw a pair of mother and daughter and the former waved at me. They looked like tourists and likely needed directions. I walked over and nodded. The mother said, "We just arrived in Singapore and waiting for a friend who's late but we're hungry and have no money. I'm not asking for money but can you treat us to a meal?" The time was around 4pm. I paused to think and the daughter quickly added, "It's fine if you can't help. We'll just wait." They appeared decently groomed. The mother maintained her smile towards me and probably saw my hesitant look. "Well, tell me which hotel are you staying at?" I replied. Now it was their turn to turn hesitant and the daughter, a little impatient, tugged at the mother's hand to pull her in the opposite direction and her parting words were, "That's ok, we will be fine, bye." It was a strange encounter.

Tip: Ratafia Solera 90-16, nutty grape with tea infused wood

Wednesday 15 November 2023

Finance Investment Movement 39

Given the current state of global economy, it's difficult to predict amid many significant factors in play at the same time. Over the past month, I gather there's two wars, uneven corporate results, multiple ongoing trade politicking, high profile bankruptcies and persistent interest rates. To make things worse, the weather in Singapore was scorching and I see food inflation everywhere. Well, my wallet's mood isn't that good at the moment. Sure, there are always two sides to a coin. One could read this as a volatile environment, either ripe with opportunities or traps. Singapore, being the sampan in the sea (as what DPM Heng described), has to find a way to stay afloat in the changing tides. This is how I feel about my portfolio as well. I reviewed my assumptions of a mild recession this year and concluded it won't happen. But what about next year?

Therefore, the challenge now is to build up my net asset value when investments are marked down while expenses climbed. Luckily, there's comfort in the strong SGD and having disposable income although the former is surely a temporary effect. So I have been looking for places to park cash and then two heroes, Scb and Hsbc, stepped forward with offers of 3.7% yield in return for $100k deposits. The timing is not ideal as I don't have enough floating cash to move around. I did a redemption of an older SSB to reinvest into the next tranche. Put together, it's almost at the halfway mark of achieving my goal of $250 payout per month. I'm putting some renovation on hold as the quotation is quite steep but likely only delayed for another few months. Meanwhile, a TCM package was purchased for $500 which I consider as money well spent!

Tip: Harugokoro Tokubetsu Junmai Another Series, a slow burner that shows soft water and minerals